Is Gen X the New Target Audience for Funeral Home Marketing?

It was one of those times when I had to shake my head and laugh.

At Christmas this year, our oldest son gave me an unexpected gift. It was an invitation to attend a Detroit Red Wings NHL hockey game, “his treat.” 

I took him to his first Red Wings game when he was eight, and we’ve gone to lots of games over the years. He’s 29 years old and makes a good income, but going to a game together as “his treat” was a new experience for both of us.

This week, we attended a game between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. The Red Wings are in a rebuilding phase and haven’t had a great year. We didn’t expect them to win, but we still hoped for a close game. Who knows…there might even be a fight or two.

The game itself was good. But our conversations before, during, and after the game were the best part.

His career is going great, and he recently landed a new job with a prestigious company. At one point, we were discussing his new company’s leadership team when he said something that made me laugh out loud.

“We could get a lot more done if we could get the Gen Xers to retire.”

Spoken like a true Millennial!! 

Here he was as a 29-year-old complaining about the previous generation. I remember feeling the same way at his age.

Every generation tends to blame the previous generations for the problems in society. So it’s predictable that they can’t wait for the day when their elders finally get out of the way so they can take over and fix everything.

But no matter how much Millennials may want, Gen Xers are not going to get out of their way.

And no matter how much Gen Xers may want, Baby Boomers are not going to get out of the way either.

I recently received an email invitation to attend an upcoming webinar hosted by Tribute Tech. The webinar’s title is “Gen X Takeover – Your Customer Base is About to Shift…Are You Ready?”

I’m sure a well-meaning marketing team spent a lot of time coming up with that title, but it still made me laugh out loud.

The “Gen X Takeover” webinar – presented by, you guessed it, two Gen Xers.

Mark Twain once said, “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Baby Boomers might paraphrase this and say, “the reports of my decline as the target market for funeral homes are greatly exaggerated.”

As much as the Gen X leadership team at Tribute Tech may want to declare that Gen X is “taking over”, they are at least ten years ahead of the curve. Gen X may want to take over, but you can’t rush the passing of time.

Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. In 2023, they will be between 59 and 77 years old.

Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1979. In 2023, they will be between 44 and 58 years old.

Eleven years ago, I published a video in which I said that Baby Boomers were now your target market. In response, I received the following correction comment from Michael Schoedinger, the owner of one of the country’s top independent funeral home companies at that time.

“Only a minority of people die before they are 65, and if a married couple dies, THEY decide which funeral home to use if preneed, and the surviving spouse decides if their spouse dies. So I market to people over 65. We can’t ignore the boomers, as you are right, the daughter is influential in all decisions. But we all have limited budgets, and if I zero in on who to market to, I believe it to be the baby boomers’ parents.”

Michael was right. I was confusing influencer versus decision maker. I won’t make that mistake again.

If, in 2012, the leader of a very successful funeral home business said that he wasn’t ready to focus on Boomers yet, is it now, a mere eleven years later, time for the “Gen X Takeover”? Probably not.

I agree that sometimes, a Gen X person is responsible for funeral arrangements. But does it happen every day? No. Does it represent even 25% of the families you serve? No.

According to the CDC, the current life expectancy is 76.4 years. So we’ve just started to serve the Baby Boom generation!

Funeral home owners cannot typically afford to market to everyone in their community, nor should they, even if they have the money. Funerals are something that very few people want to hear about, and you’re wasting your money if you market to the wrong person.

Should we ignore the Gen X generation for another decade? No, that would be a big mistake. But to build your business around serving a market that doesn’t exist yet would be a big mistake too.

Instead, it’s important to understand a Gen Xer’s role in the funeral process.

Sometimes they are the decision maker (but not very often).

Quite often, they have significant input, especially when personalizing the service.

And always, they should be encouraged to participate in the funeral service because that’s how they will experience the value first hand.

As Tribute Tech has declared, is Gen X really the new target audience? No, because your target audience should be the decision-makers.

Is Gen X incredibly important? Yes, because they are the future. 

The solution is to market to Boomers and ensure the Gen X family members and attendees have an outstanding funeral experience. That way, they never question the value of a funeral service (like their parents did).

Detroit beat Chicago 4 to 3.

Growing a funeral home business is like building a successful hockey team. Planning for the future is important, but if you worry too much about tomorrow’s opponent, you will lose today’s game, and you might end up with a black eye.

Until next time,

John

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