A couple at a wedding

 

Written by Sarah Rickerd

 

When it comes down to it, wedding planners and funeral directors are a lot alike. Both groups of professionals are responsible for juggling hundreds of details at a time in order to pull off one-time services and events. And both types of workers handle customers during some of the most emotional times of their lives (though, at admittedly different ends of the spectrum).

 

So why is it that people understand and respect the role that wedding planners play, while the public perception of funeral directors remains low?

 

It turns out that there quite a few things that wedding planners do that funeral directors can learn from. Here are two important lessons you can apply to your business:

 

Wedding planners can articulate their value

In the words of April Chantel of April Chantel Weddings and Event Company:

 

“Especially with the current economic climate, everyone is pinching pennies and looking for a deal, but I’ve always likened it to this analogy: You hire a CPA to prepare your tax return, versus doing it yourself. The professional is aware of critical elements that can save you dollars, and that’s the same thing that a planner does. A good planner can save you five to 10 percent on your wedding, so sometimes it can come out where it’s an even wash.”

 

When was the last time you heard a funeral director articulate his or her value so clearly?

 

Most funeral directors are great at handling the paperwork that’s associated with death and they’re great at educating families on the different options available to them following the passing of a love one. But what they aren’t great at is emphasizing the value of the services they’re offering — the “why” behind the traditional funeral and all its accompanying rituals.

 

Not only does this lead to lower average sales per transaction, it also affects the reputation of the funeral industry as a whole. If funeral directors aren’t able to adequately convey the value behind practices like embalming, visitations and public funeral services, the only possible motives customers will see behind these pitches is a desire to make money.

 

So really, is it any wonder that the public sees the industry as a bunch of sharks out to profit off of death when we can’t even tell them why we do what we do?

 

The only solution is to change your sales process. Instead of simply handing over your GPL, get to the root of how customers would like to memorialize their loved ones with questions like, “Have you thought about how you’d like to celebrate the life of the deceased?” or “Can I walk you through the different service options that are available to you?” Then, communicate how your services can assist in the grieving process in the way that’s best for each individual family you serve.

 

Focus your conversations on the value you provide and you’ll find that customers begin to see you as more of a resource and less of a salesperson.

 

Wedding planners take pride in their ability to serve their customers well

Trust me — that grimace you thought you covered when your customer spent the entire arrangement conference talking about ideas for personalizing the memorial service? Your customer noticed (no matter how sneaky you thought you were…).

 

Wedding planners approach every event as an opportunity to delight their customers on some of the most important days of their lives. Funeral directors? Sometimes it seems like the thought of putting on even the most basic of funeral services is a burden on their time — let alone the idea of creating fully personalized services that truly capture the spirit of the deceased.

 

Clearly, it’s time for an industry-wide attitude adjustment. For some perspective, here’s how Cheryl Fielding-LoPalo, president of Cheryl J. Weddings and Events describes her work:

 

“I think just being able to get rid of all that and know that everything’s going to be perfect, everything’s going to be seamless and if it’s not, you won’t even know about it because your wedding planner will handle it. You can really enjoy and keep the romanticism of the engagement process because it’s a more pleasurable experience.”

 

Sure, funeral services aren’t really “romantic,” but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be every bit as meaningful as weddings. If, that is, your heart is in the right place. If you spend your time yearning for the old days of cookie cutter funerals, you’re never going to free up the time, energy and resources needed to provide the types of experiences your families are actually looking for.

 

And yes, that’s frustrating — but it’s also a fact of life in an industry that’s growing and changing along with the general population. If you aren’t able to deliver the kinds of events that your customers really want, you can bet that one of your competitors will. Maybe not today — and maybe not tomorrow — but at some point, somebody’s going to come along who will give your customers what they actually want (instead of a bare minimum level of service).

 

So the question remains, will you be the one to provide your customers with the level of service wedding planners give to their clients? Or will you wind up losing market share to the others out there who can make their customers’ experiences as magical and as meaningful as possible?

 

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