Are you Afraid to innovate?

Funeral Industry News GROW April 13, 2012

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Are you Afraid to innovate?

This post originally appeared in eFuneral’s Funeral Director Blog.

In full disclosure, my background is likely a bit different than yours if you’re a funeral professional.  I went to business school – not mortuary school.  I learned from some of Ohio’s top technology entrepreneurs – I did not apprentice any Funeral Directors.  I’ve given back to my community by serving as my hometown’s official Entrepreneur-in-Residence – not by taking care of my grieving neighbors (at least not the way that you do).

In fact, my background is so different from yours – that it would probably be pretty scary for me to have to embalm somebody or to be turned upon to take care of an emotionally drained family who has just lost somebody that they’ve loved…at 3am.  After all, that’s not what I went to school or trained for.

For that very reason, if you find yourself as a funeral professional that is afraid to innovate – I don’t blame you.  But as somebody who has seen first-hand how technology can change lives – from helping calm patients dealing with traumatic hospital visits to teaching children learn new languages – I know that innovation is something to embrace and not be afraid of.

I’ve had the chance to meet some very innovative funeral professionals.  I’ve also met others who view technology and innovation with heavy skepticism.  If you are one of these funeral professionals – and find yourself wanting to embrace technology and innovation but are simply unsure as to how – consider these suggestions:

Conduct an experiment.

You don’t have to go all-in right away in order to explore innovation within your funeral home – or utilizing technology you’re not comfortable with.  With as little as a couple hundred dollars, you can conduct a very informative Google Adwords test.  Don’t know how to use Google Adwords?  Their team will literally walk you through setup over the phone – for free.  Google will even give you $75 in credit to use, minimizing your investment in conducting such an experiment.  Whether it’s testing with Google Adwords or a simple marketing newsletter – perhaps some families will find you that wouldn’t have otherwise.  What do you have to lose by simply trying?

Ask for help.

You don’t have to be the expert at everything.  There are likely students at your local university who know more about social media than many of your peers who are looking for professional opportunities, be it an internship or otherwise.  Host an intern in exchange for class credit.  You may be surprised by what you can gain in having a college-educated digital native helping you get up and running.  Better yet, get an expert to help you.  Ryan Thogmartin (who runs both Connecting Directors and Disrupt Media Group) would be happy to share more on how he has helped funeral homes embrace social media.

Take a step out of your comfort zone.

You are looked upon within your community as the leader within your field when it comes to funeral services.  Use that cache to get time on the calendar with other experts in your community – namely as it relates to technology and innovation.  Does your community have a couple of tech startups?  Take their founders to lunch and ask lots of questions.  Does your city have a university – be it state, private, or even community college?  Find out who the technology professors are and set up a meeting.  Believe me, they’ll likely be very open to sharing their perspective with another community expert such as yourself.

In this day and age, no profession is subject to immunity from the wonderful world of innovation.  Don’t be afraid of that – embrace it, and use it to build even deeper relationships within your community.