October 2006


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I have heard it literally hundreds of times:  “We can’t afford to hire anymore people!” 

It usually comes from the funeral director who’s trying to get by with just a secretary to help him run a whole funeral home.  A good friend of this blog doesn’t even hire drivers.  He rents cars from a livery service which provides the drivers.

But he (and you, if you’re one of these people) is missing out on one of the best parts of hired help:  making ambassadors out of your low-wage hourly workers.

You can talk and talk and brag and brag about the great service your funeral home provides, but people will recognize you for what you are:  a salesperson who receives GREAT financial benefit from their patronage.  However, if the guy or gal in the trenches who’s getting paid $7 – 10 per hour raves about how great you are, people will pay attention. 

Everyone wants to like the place they work.  The secret here is that even part-time retirees who work just five to ten hours a week for you will still tell all their friends how much they’re enjoying it.

Can you afford not to have ambassadors in your community?

Anyone planning an exciting Halloween event at your funeral home?

It seems to me to be the best holiday for a funeral home tie-in. 

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I know, it’s a little late, but here’s something to think about for Halloween.

Why not host a big shindig at your funeral home?  People will immediately get the connection and be interested in attending.  There are two ways to go with this:

1.  Teenage and adult audience with a scary theme.  Maybe you have a big garage area that you can turn into a cool haunted house.  Or you sponsor a costume party for adults.

2.  Kid friendly entertainment without the scary stuff.  This will help you NOT offend people in your community who don’t want to see your funeral home turn into a spectacle.  You could scatter pumpkins in a field and have the kids search for certain marked pumpkins (colored stickers on the bottom) like an easter egg hunt.  You could give rides in the hearse.

You could find a company to make reflective trick-or-treating bags with your logo on them. 

Of course, all this requires preplanning.  So watch what your community does this year and think of a way to be involved next October.

Funeral Words blog had an interesting post today about baby boomers and the belief that there will be a HUGE surge of money being spent on their funerals.  (Read the full story here.)

 It reminds me of all the really misinformed advertising salespeople who used to call when I ran a small funeral home.  The pitch is always the same:  “We’ve got a great publication that targets wealthy retirees and high-income baby boomers in your area.  Don’t you want to reach such a lucrative market?”

What the salespeople don’t realize is that these types of consumers are not interested in expensive funerals.  Big, expensive funerals are held for one of three reasons:

1.  To honor the family and family traditions.
2.  Because church traditions require it.
3.  To impress the neighbors.

High-income boomers have fewer children than their parents did and spend more time working.  Fewer attend church as “faithfully” as their parents did.  And they have fewer friends to impress because they’ve moved from town to town following a career.

If cremation is the choice, even less money will be spent.  A funeral director friend shares that he once served a family that complained about the direct cremation price of $600.  They knitpicked each part of the fee.  He explained all the charges and was able to retain the call.  When it came time to pick an urn, the family selected a $2500 cast bronze.

If you’re serving middle-class or lower middle-class families with strong religious and family traditions, you will sell traditional full burials all day long.  But if you’re reaching out to upper-class wealth by pushing tradition and honor, you’ll strike out.

Hope you remembered to set all your clocks back one hour (for those of you who observe Daylight Savings).

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This is an ATTITUDE idea.

Fact:  Cremation is on the rise.  Fact:  Cremation traditionally yields lower revenues and profits.

So you should be scared, right? 

WRONG!

Cremation usually yields lower revenue because the public mistakenly believes that direct cremation is the only option.  The truth is that cremation is just another disposition option that opens up a lot more revenue streams for the funeral home.

There are three things you MUST do if you are serious about making good money from cremation.

1.  Stop trying to compete on price.  Price-focused consumers have already decided that there is little difference in the quality of services offered or that quality is unimportant to their decision.  You will lose a lot of the price-shopping calls, but you’ll have more time to devote to families that will spend valuable money on your goods and services.

2.  Educate your community.  You must, must, must tell the community the truth about cremation.  Stop turning your nose up at people who ask about cremation.  Talk to the news media about cremation options, write letters to the editor about the confusion surrounding cremation.  Offer yourself to local schools as a “cremation expert.” 

3.  Forget what you thought you knew.  You have to approach each new client family without preconceptions.  Stop assuming that cremation means low profit.  Next time you have a family call and tell you they want cremation, prepare as if they have asked for a full traditional burial.  Walk them through the same questions and options.  Make sure they know the full extent of what services you can offer.  Consumers can tell when you don’t expect them to buy a product or service and will follow your lead.  (You’re called a DIRECTOR for a reason – so direct!)

The NFDA is looking for speakers to present at the 2007 Convention in Las Vegas, November 7-10. 

If you’ve got a great presentation or discussion group in mind, go tell them about it.  And don’t think that you can’t participate because you’re only a funeral director.  An informal count of the 2006 convention shows that more than 10 funeral directors were presenters for workshops or seminars.

Click here for NFDA page and to submit your idea!

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We all spend countless hours each day trying to make our businesses run better or figure out why we lost a client to another funeral home. 

But if you follow these five steps at least once every few months, you’ll stay happier.

STEP 1:  Appoint a trusted employee to be in charge for a full day (and night!).  Give instructions that you are not to be disturbed unless it’s a catastrophic emergency.
STEP 2:  Give your cell phone to your spouse or one of your kids.  If a caller is persistent, they can answer and politely explain that you are unavailable.
STEP 3:  Go to the movies or a play or to a concert.  Find something to do with your family that would normally be interrupted by your work.  Your kids will appreciate it!
STEP 4:  Don’t think about your funeral home!  At all!
STEP 5:  Repeat as often as needed!

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