The Top 3 Reasons Families Choose a Funeral Home - And What This Means for Funeral Homes Today

Posted March 8, 2016

6 min read

Danielle Thacker, of Thacker Caskets and blogger at The Funeral Gal blog, sat down with us to explain the concept of a growing segment of consumers that have no loyalty or preference to a particular funeral home. Thacker explains what funeral directors should know about these families, including what funeral professionals can do to better market and build relationships with this growing pool of consumers and the 3 core reasons a family looks to select a funeral home today.

Q: You’ve talked about a concept of “the undecideds” and how this segment of consumers is increasing. Can you share with readers what you mean by the concept? 

Thacker: The “undecided’s” are the group of families that have an equal chance of using any funeral home that serves the community, and these families typically have no loyalties or preference to a particular funeral home. A funeral director once explained to me the competitive landscape from this perspective. Picture a traditional “Venn diagram” – yes, that’s right, take yourself back to third grade when you probably learned about these things. Think of each circle as a different funeral home. 

Back 15, 25, and even 50 years ago, families primarily selected funeral homes based on heritage (Irish, Italian, etc.), religions (Catholic, Protestant, etc.), race (African-American, Caucasian, etc.), and/or church affiliation. Back then, funeral homes served very segmented based on these groups and families were very loyal to those funeral homes. The circles were set far apart and the area in which they all three touched, or the pool of “the undecideds” was very small.

Fast-forward to now, the pool of “undecideds” is quite large and only getting larger. Inter-faith, inter-racial, and inter-heritage marriages are occurring now more than ever. Because of this, the American public is losing its strong identity with heritage, is less and less affiliated with specific churches, and often choses spirituality as opposed to religion, etc. 

Thus, the traditional reasons a family would select a funeral home are getting blurred as the American public is slowly losing its identity with the traditions of the past. As a result, the circles of our Venn diagram are being drawn closer and closer together, with the “undecideds” becoming a larger segment every day.

Q: How can funeral directors be proactive in dealing with the “undecideds”?

Thacker: The first step is acknowledging that the pool of undecideds is growing due to factors that you cannot control – and there are more of these families out there than you think. 

Typically, undecideds exist in the Baby Boomers, Generation X’s, and now Millennial segments. So, every age a funeral home sees has a segment of undecideds. One way to start reaching them is to move away from traditional methods of advertising such as the Yellow Pages, Church bulletins, fans, and calendars to more progressive forms of advertising such as social media, Internet radio stations such as iHeartRadio/Pandora, and more. This is where you will find the “undecideds” hanging out. Ask the various generations in your family where they get their news, music and entertainment from, and follow that path. Also, make sure to have a cohesive online presence from your website to Google Reviews/Yelp to social media, and more. Figure out what channels are best for your firm.

Q: What are the top reasons you are seeing that families choose a funeral home today?

Thacker: There are three reasons a family looks to select a funeral home today. Interestingly, those reasons have not changed, but the context of these reasons has changed and constantly continues to change: 

  1. Prior relationship with a funeral home: This is still the most often reason a family will select a funeral home. However, the number of families that have a prior relationship with the funeral home is slipping, and a given family having a relationship with more than one funeral home is on the rise – thus the number of “undecideds” is rising and a prior relationship with a funeral home is losing ground to other reasons.

  2. Word of mouth: Has a family seen a very creative, personalized service at a particular funeral home in your community? If so, that would give reason for that family to choose. Was that family able to have an all-comprehensive day at the funeral home? This means visitation, funeral service, catering/food event, and more. Did that family feel like they got a dynamite value for what they paid? The definition of word of mouth has changed – and word of mouth (good or bad) can reach many more people and at a very fast pace nowadays. 

  3. Developing opinions out of convenience: As an example, a family might peruse a website to develop an opinion versus visiting a physical location.  Or another example might be that they use Google Reviews/Yelp Reviews, etc. instead of actually asking people they know for a reference.

Q: What else should funeral directors recognize as they seek to improve their relationships with families?

  Thacker: The definition of a “funeral” is changing. And as you can imagine, if the definition is changing, there are plenty of new trends that are surrounding the “new” consumer.  We need to understand that our “new” generation of buyers is the Baby Boomer generation and younger. The older WWII generation/Greatest Generation era who is still involved in the arrangement process is also relying heavily on their children and grandchildren in this process. The Baby Boomer (and younger generations) are skeptical, they have no issues reaching to the Internet for information, and receive their news/entertainment/music in different formats then previous generations. The younger generations also don’t mind doing things differently than their parents. In fact, it seems they want to break the traditional mold.   We should be looking to these generations as a window to the future for the prearrangements that they will make for themselves and what they will write in their wills for their own service. Do they want a traditional church service or do they want a party? Do they want a minister/priest or do they prefer a celebrant? Will they use the church banquet hall for a reception or do they not have an affiliation with a church – thus leaving a gap in who will host a meal? These are all the questions we need to ask ourselves.  

About Danielle Thacker

  Danielle Thacker is VP of Sales & Marketing for Thacker Caskets. Thacker works with funeral homes across 17 different states, strategizing to help maximize their success. Working with funeral homes, she works to help turn negative pressures that plague the funeral industry into sources of opportunity. Find more actionable insights from Thacker on her blog, The Funeral Gal, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Categories: Industry


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