Funeral plans driving business growth

Plan for Success
Anthony O'Hara
Anthony O’Hara

Anthony O’Hara is no stranger to the funeral industry. With 26 years of service in Dorset-based Nicholas O’Hara Funeral Directors, Anthony has seen many developments and changes first-hand throughout the last three decades.

According to Anthony, the most notable change in the ever-evolving sector is the rise in funeral plan sales. Over the last 10 years, he has witnessed a significant shift in customer perspectives and expectations, and he has ensured his business has adapted to the needs of its clients through the shift.

Anthony said: “It is important as a funeral director that you prioritise exploring ways to improve services offered to families, to ensure they stay with you no matter the preference of funeral. Over the last 13 years, funeral planning has been a major focus for us and now plays a huge part in our business, with one in seven of our clients having a funeral plan in place.”

Changing perceptions

He added: “There is certainly a notable shift in the ‘taboo’ around conversations about funeral planning in the public. We’re finding that increasingly conversations are more comfortable and fewer people are worried about talking about planning for end of life.

“If we compare the conversations we have with families and individuals now to 10 years ago, more tell us they would like a funeral plan as family members and friends have them in place, whereas previously they may have been the odd ones out for planning ahead. To me, that shows a dramatic shift in perceptions.”

Improving plan sales

Anthony recalls having a ‘lightbulb moment’ 13 years ago, following a conversation with his Golden Charter business manager who shared how many plans were sold each year, and the proportion of these that were being secured by large competitors rather than independent funeral directors. This conversation opened his eyes to the commercial benefits of focusing on funeral plan sales.

Since then, Nicholas O’Hara Funeral Directors has secured multiple awards for funeral plan sales and is leading the way in highlighting the positive impact that funeral plan sales can have, not only on the business’ success, but also on the offering provided to clients.

A clear focus on marketing and promotion of sales has been integral to the last decade and Anthony stated: “A large part of the funeral planning focus for us must be the promotion of plans and options available to our clients.

“As plans become more popular, we worry less about customers being completely blind to the idea of funeral planning and focus more on providing information and details on exactly how plans work and the choices available to them, ensuring they have full knowledge of options. A lot of our funeral plan business also comes from positive word of mouth and recommendations throughout our communities, however we cannot rely solely on this to accumulate into plan sales, so marketing plays an important part.

“Many of our clients and the wider community we serve know that our plans are with a trusted brand and that we operate in a regulated environment, increasing their trust in us and securing a Golden Charter funeral plan.”

Staying focused on a sales strategy

Nicholas O’Hara Funeral Directors is now one of Golden Charter’s leading plan sellers in the UK. Through investment in staff training and a focus on the financial benefits that plan sales bring to the business, it now has multiple staff across its locations to support with plan sales, meaning the responsibility is shared across the team.

Anthony noted how a dedicated focus on plan sales can support business growth, saying: “Funeral directors should be prioritising this every day. As we know we work in an extremely fast-paced profession, however dedicating time to focus on funeral plan sales is a strong way to ensure the future of your business’ success.

“For us, if we do not focus on selling future plans, and replenishing these at the rate they are being delivered, our business will simply not grow.”

To funeral directors who are struggling to dedicate time and focus to funeral plan sales, Anthony said: “Find a member of your team who is confident and give them an incentive to lead the funeral planning focus. Also, make use of low-cost and effective tools, like social media, your funeral home windows and mentions of plans in literature at the time of need, to open up the conversation with customers.

“Lastly, the support of Golden Charter is hugely important and businesses should lean on their plan provider to support the process.”

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