A stack of old black and white photos

 

Written by Matt Frazer

 

The death care industry is one that’s always found itself straddling two different worlds – the desire to cling to the respected traditions of the past and the challenge of updating and accommodating a changing customer base.  Unfortunately, the sad reality is that some businesses manage this balance better than others.

 

No business wants to find itself behind the times, yet many funeral professionals willingly bury their heads in the sand and hope for a return of the older, “easier” days.

 

But those times aren’t coming back.  The Baby Boomers taste for personalized and meaningful celebrations (and their desire for lower price points to accommodate their declining savings rates) will continue to be a defining force for the foreseeable future and for generations to come.

 

And given that most markets are oversaturated with funeral home coverage, it’s clear that some shifting and consolidation is going to happen in the future.  Will your funeral home be one that survives and thrives in this changing marketplace?  Or are you so stuck in the past that you’re doomed to irrelevance by consumers who are no longer interested in your services?

 

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Ask Yourself These Questions

To find out if you’re still stuck in the past, ask yourself the following ten questions:

1. Has it been more than 5-10 years since you’ve updated your funeral home’s decor?

2. Do you actively discourage families from attempting to personalize the funeral services conducted at your business?

3. Do you try to persuade families away from less-expensive cremation services?

4. Do you attempt to pressure families into embalming, even if it isn’t legally required in your area?

5. Do you use outdated, overly-salesy phrases like, “This is really the last thing you can do for your mother”?

6. Do your staff members spend more time whining about the past than actually doing their jobs?

7. Do you dismiss new funeral industry technology products out of hand because, “the way you’ve always done things has worked so far”?

8. Has it been more than three years since your website had a makeover?

9. Are you unfamiliar with the benefits of inbound marketing, blogging, and social media marketing?

10. Do you keep paying for the same print advertisements over and over, even though their ROI has been dropping steadily?

 

If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, there’s a good chance your funeral home is stuck in the past!

 

If you find yourself in this boat, don’t worry.  You can change things, but the window to do so is limited.  Now is the time to start making the necessary changes to shore up your business’s long-term prospects.

Freshen Up Your Facilities

Today’s consumers respond to dated funeral home decor in a visceral manner. If you have the money to invest in a full remodel, that’s great. But if you don’t, that’s not a problem either.  A few simple tricks can freshen up your facilities without blowing your budget:

  • Replace heavy drapes with light sheer curtains – These will maintain a sense of privacy while letting in natural light.
  • Swap out old wallpaper for modern paint colors – Look to home decor magazines and TV shows to get a feel for today’s hottest colors and bring a sense of up-to-date style to your business.
  • Reupholster dated-looking furniture – If the sofas in your funeral home look like they’d be more at home in an antiques shop, finding a qualified upholsterer to swap out the fabric can freshen up your facilities without costing you a fortune.
  • Get rid of overly ornate picture frames – Today’s design aesthetic is all about clean lines and minimalism.  Over-wrought frames only contribute to a dated look that will unnerve your guests.

Use these pictures for inspiration. And remember, your funeral home doesn’t need to LOOK like a funeral home. But rather a clean, modern, and comforting home in which you welcome the community.

 

decor 1  decor 3

decor 2 decor 4

Develop a More Supportive Sales Process

Try an overly-pushy kind of sales approach on today’s consumers and you’re going to get shut down.  Not only might you send these shoppers running to your closest competitor, you might turn them – and all the close contacts involved in the funeral planning process – off from traditional services entirely.

 

The key to supportive sales comes down to three major factors:

  • Listen more than you speak – Arrangement conferences should be an opportunity for the families of the deceased to tell you exactly what he or she meant to their lives.  The more you talk, the more you contribute to the perception that you’re trying to take advantage of this grief.
  • Match your recommendations to the consumer’s circumstances – Recommending products and services that clearly exceed the family’s stated budget isn’t a kind move.  Stop trying to pad your bottom line by selling families things that they don’t want and can’t afford.  Be sensitive to financial constraints and make it your personal priority to deliver the best possible service within these guidelines.
  • Think personalization – Make it a point to personalize every funeral service you conduct in at least some small way.  Not only does this cater to what today’s families are actually looking for, it’ll earn you loyal customers and future sales. Check out these 15 ways to personalize a service on a budget.

Get with the Tech Times

Funeral industry traditions are incredibly important – the last thing we want is for you to walk away from this article thinking, “I need to change everything about my business.” There’s absolutely a place in today’s funeral culture for many of the death and dying rituals that have kept your business going for generations.

 

But clinging to the idea of tradition while rejecting modern technology isn’t a smart business move.  Even though you used to keep funeral records using a pen and paper, you’ll save tons of time and energy by transitioning this data to an electronic system.  In the same way, maintaining a stock inventory of pre-printed funeral stationery just doesn’t make sense when products like Frazer Consultants’ Tribute Center can allow you to print more than 500+ designs directly from your existing printer.

 

With any potential change to be made to your funeral home, there’s a balance that must be maintained.  By respecting the value of tradition while still looking for ways to update the products and services you offer your customers, you’ll avoid the declining sales and poor reputations of businesses that remain stuck in the past.