A Look Ahead to 2019
By Kris Seale, President & CEO, Funeral Directors Life
Funeral Directors Life is excited to announce that our SecurChoice Trust Annuity, a trust product offered through the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association (PFDA), will be going up 40 basis points to a 3.0% growth rate for 2019. As a result of a consistent, conservative investment approach as well as a rebounding bond market, returns have increased sufficiently to allow us to offer a very strong annuity rate for the SecurChoice trust option.
As we look ahead to 2019, there is no time like the present to think about a strategy to grow and expand both your at-need and preneed business. Here are a few questions and ideas I’d like you to consider for the future of your business:
- Where do you want your business to be by 2020 and beyond?
If you are like me, you probably have some goals and objectives for your business that you’d like to meet over the next year and beyond. Now, more than ever, it is important to plan for the future of your business. With rising cremation rates, changing consumers, and increasing pressure from low-budget competitors, growth is not likely to happen on its own. Make a plan now for systematically growing your preneed block of business and take concrete steps throughout the year to reach those goals.
- What challenges could keep you from achieving your goals for this year?
Once we have a goal, we need a plan—and we need to know some of the challenges that might keep us from carrying out that plan. Personally, I believe one of our biggest challenges in funeral service today is communication with the families we serve. In the consumer’s mind, the funeral is a commodity differentiated only by price. In the funeral director’s mind, the funeral is an opportunity to grieve in a healthy way and connect with the community during a time of loss. Sometimes, it seems like we are speaking a different language than our customers! If we want to get back on the same page with the families we wish to serve, we have to realize that:
- The needs and preferences of funeral consumers are changing.
- They no longer understand why funeral experiences are important.
- Solid communication, technology, and education must be part of our plan going forward.
We know how valuable a healing and meaningful funeral can be. When done the right way, a funeral ceremony can bring people together, help them express their grief, and even transform a community in the face of tragic loss. But families don’t know what they don’t know. It’s up to us to educate them.
- So, what are you going to do about it?
I have to be honest with you: most of our profession will do nothing to change the tide of consumer opinion or improve their communication with families. They have become order-takers who just do “what the family wants.” But if “what the family wants” isn’t really what they need, isn’t it our obligation to provide them with all the information they need to make a decision that is good for them and for their loved ones? I suggest that it is time to do something different if we want to see different results. If we do nothing, consumers will find ways to skip the funeral because they don’t understand the value of it. In my opinion, the risk of staying the same is far too great. So, let’s do something!
Our clients at Funeral Directors Life have started to see a turning of the tide as they implement new solutions that resonate with the families they serve.
If I were to boil it down to three big ideas that will make the biggest difference in your business in 2019 and beyond, they would be:
- Make it as easy as possible to do business with you.
Convenience always wins the day with consumers. Think of the rise of Amazon, Uber, Netflix, and so many other tech giants. They made it easy for customers to do business with them, and they became major disruptors in their industries. You, too, can win the day by communicating with families in the way they prefer.
- Educate families about why funerals are important.
Most families don’t know or understand WHY a funeral is important, so we have to tell them. This education can happen through social media, video, web content, brochures, lunch & learns, preneed and at-need appointments, and so much more.
- Serve families like no one else.
Many funeral home owners don’t realize how much time they spend on back-end processes, forms, insurance claim paperwork, and duplicate data entry, and reporting. These are time killers that keep you from being the kind of funeral director you want to be. If you invest in making your business run as smoothly as possible, you will have more time to invest in serving your families, leading to happier, more satisfied customers.
In order to survive and thrive as a business in the future, we need to adapt to the inevitable changes that are coming. That is where it can help to work with competent, innovative partners who are anticipating the challenges ahead and have already prepared solutions for you in advance. Funeral Directors Life is here to guide you through the changes that lie ahead. I encourage you to stay focused on the three areas mentioned above, and you will begin to take major steps toward achieving your goals for both your at-need business and your preneed business in 2019. Who knows? You may even find a renewed passion for serving others that got you into this business in the first place.
About the Author: Kris Seale serves as the Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of DIG and its subsidiaries, including Funeral Directors Life Insurance Company. In addition, Kris currently sits on the board of directors of the Community Bank of Snyder and the Abilene Youth Sports Authority. He is a member of the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants and is a graduate of Baylor University with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. Kris grew up in the funeral service profession as the son of a funeral director, the late Bill Seale, who served as a funeral director for over 57 years. He is passionate about inspiring employees, sales professionals, and clients to succeed in all aspects of life, from their spiritual lives, to their personal lives, to their business and work life. He is also committed to serving funeral directors and clients by providing them with valuable services and excellent products through DIG and its subsidiaries.