9 Valuable Lessons Funeral Service Learned in 2012

December 27, 2012
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Guest article provided by: Joe Joachim, CEO of FuneralOne

2012 is almost over!

It was the  year where social media exploded, cremation continued to rise, and the Baby Boomers took over our demographic more than ever.

But before we put our party hats on and count down into the new year, let’s look back on 2012 and see what we can learn from it.

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Without further ado, here are 9 valuable lessons funeral service learned in 2012:

1. Change is here to stay.

In Lajos Szabo’s blog, 5 Years Into the Future of Funeral Service, we learned that not only is change here to stay, but it’s forcing us to rethink everything – from our arrangement process to our pricing models.

His prediction is that within the next 5 years, a new major player will create out-of-the-box opportunities, online funeral arrangements will boom, and a new business model will emerge. So far this year, his predictions seem to be eerily true…

2. Create your own market.

There are some key players in this profession who are innovating at their funeral homes by paying attention to things their competitor’s aren’t necessarily thinking about yet. In Kim Stacey’s blog 5 Ways Your Funeral Home Can Freak Out the Competition, we learn about some different products funeral homes are creating to do just that.

Some examples are:
– A “Relaxation Bag” which contains a candle, tea, cookies and bath products
– Entertainment-based grief programs such as Erlewein Adventures
– Informational sessions for caregivers at Hospice Centers

What we can learn from these initiatives? That if you create your own market, it will be risky in the beginning, but by challenging the status quo, you’ll set yourself apart from your competitors… and become an innovator in the profession.

3.  Content is king.

It took a few years for us to catch up, but the funeral profession has finally started to embrace inbound marketing (blogs, social media and educational content) this year. In the blog 28 Eye-Popping Stats that Reveal the Future of Funeral Marketing, we learned that through inbound marketing, we can attract more families in more ways than we’ve ever been able to before.

One funeral home who has successfully leveraged inbound marketing in 2012 is O’Connor Mortuary, whose blog has positioned them as the go-to in their community. Other funeral homes have begun writing eBooks on preplanning to help educate their families so they can make better-informed purchasing decisions. The biggest lesson we learned in 2012 about social media and content is that through educating our families with them, we empower them to realize the value of our services.

4. Funeral service is about relationships.

In 2012 we learned that our business isn’t about expensive merchandise anymore, it’s about the relationships and networks we create with people. In order to adjust to this change, you need to rethink the process in which you approach families. Don’t tell them about the wonderful red oak casket you have after someone has passed – guide them through the decision-making process before the death has even occurred.

In the blog The Conversation Project: Why Funeral Service Missed the Boat, we realized the opportunity there is to get involved with organizations who can benefit from our profession’s expertise. It’s simple, really: the more people you know who can benefit from you, the more successful your funeral home will be. Consider getting involved with hospices, senior care centers and other organizations to grow your network (and hopefully your business).

5. You can make money from your funeral website.

Until recently, there’s been a lot of doubt that funeral homes can actually make money from their website. After all, we don’t want to “nickel and dime” our families more than we already have to. However that all changed when a new tool emerged in the funeral profession called funeral eCommerce.

In the blog How to Generate $1,000’s From Your Funeral Website (Without Doing a Thing), we learned about Wasik Funeral Home’s success with funeral eCommerce. Since they’ve integrated an eCommerce solution that allows them to sell flowers and sympathy gifts from their website, they’ve been able to generate more than $20,000 in additional revenue.

The takeway? Funeral eCommerce is definitely a tool you should look into integrating for the new year – it’s valuable, free and helps you grow your business without any extra time or effort.

6. Cremation can be profitable.

With the cremation rate reaching about 41% in 2012, it’s about time we figured out some ways to make it profitable. At NFDA this year, Bill McQueen from Graystone Associates shared some interesting insights on why cremation has risen, and what to do about it.

Some of Bill’s suggestions include renovating the funeral home, focusing more on funeral guests, and to stop offering temporary urns. His family funeral home, Anderson McQueen Funeral & Cremation, implemented many of his tips and have been successful in making cremation profitable. You can read all of his suggestions here.

7. We’re merchants of hope.

This year, particularly at NFDA, one question was very prominent, and it was: what is funeral service really selling? Many presenters at NFDA explained that they’re not quite sure what the answer to that question is anymore. In his blog What Funeral Service is Really Selling: A Lesson from HGTV, Lajos Szabo answers that question.

His answer: we’re merchants of hope.

He explains his answer when he says: “We need to show them what a hopeful future looks like. We need to show them before-and-afters a la HGTV. We need to show them real people struggling, but somehow, with the help of experts (read funeral director here) they get through to an amazing result.”

What we can take away from Lajos’ insight is that it’s time we figured out why it is we do the things we do, and focus on that “why.” This will make for a more meaningful approach with our families – making us the “merchants of hope” we should be.

8. Boomers want to talk, and want you to listen.

The Funeral Service Foundation released some very valuable information this year on how Boomers feel about funeral service. The bad news is that they think traditional funeral homes look and feel like a tomb (literally). But the good news is groundbreaking…

Through one-on-one interviews with hundreds of Boomers, the Funeral Service Foundation found that not only do Boomers have an extreme interest in talking about their end-of-life wishes; they want their funeral to be their “crowning performance.” In the blog New Insights Into Ways Consumers Really Think About Funerals Al Creedy offers some great advice on ways your funeral home can act on these findings.

9. And finally… don’t let life pass you by.

7th Generation funeral director Caleb Wilde, most commonly known for his blog “Confessions of a Funeral Director,” admitted this year in his guest blog that when his wife gave birth to their first son in the spring, he had to “re-evaluate myself and my priorities.”

What we can learn from Caleb is that while we’re busy keeping our businesses afloat, we’ve always got to remember to worry about the most important thing in life, and that’s our family and friends.

Our work here is valuable, but as funeral professionals, sometimes we forget to think about the nature of our business. We spend our whole lives helping people look back on memories, but do we ever think about how we will we want to be remembered when it’s our time?

My final thoughts for 2012

Looking back on 2012, what are your favorite memories? Did you take enough time to enjoy life this year, or are your most memorable times too far and few between?

Although it sounds impossible at times, you can’t always be a funeral director – you’ve got to be a husband, mother, aunt or brother, too. You’ve got to worry about you,  because at times like these, when it’s time to reflect, you need something to reflect on.

This year, I hope you do.

What was your most valuable lesson learned in 2012? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

CDFuneralNews

CDFuneralNews

ConnectingDirectors.com is the leading online daily publication for funeral professionals with a reader base of over 45,000 of the most elite and forward-thinking professionals in the profession. With ConnectingDirectors.com we have created a global community through an online platform allowing funeral professionals to Stay Current. Stay Informed and Stay Elite.
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