December 2006


I’ve been on a quest. 

A quest to find the best portable speaker system for an MP3 player.

I strongly suggest you invest in an MP3 player for services.  Not only will you be able to store all your music on a VERY small device, but you’ll be able to carry it to the graveside or a church with little trouble.

Plus, when a family asks for a new song less than an hour before a service, you can hop onto iTunes or another online music service to download it right away instead of sending a lackey around town in a desperate search for the right CD.  And rather than buying a $15 CD with lots of useless tracks, you can buy just the track you want for less than $2.00.

BACK TO THE QUEST:

I FOUND IT!  The perfect set of speakers.  (I tried to get one free, as a tester, but they made me pay full price.)  See them here
iLive IBCD3816DT Portable 2.1-Channel CD Boombox with iPod Docking Station (Black)
This unit runs off AC power (a cord) or 10 C batteries.  It’s large enough to put out some great sound (will work well for large gatherings) but it’s extremely portable.  It also comes with a remote.

Go get one today.  If you go to our Amazon Webstore, you can get it for $20 less than what I paid in the store.  And I had a coupon. 

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If you’re flush with cash this year, you might be hearing an earful of advice from your accountant.

Our accountant suggested a few big purchases to offset our rather surprising profits this year.  (If you haven’t seen the quilted cot covers we make, shame on you!  They’re beautiful, more functional than a regular cover and inexpensively priced!)

If your accountant is also urging you to make a few end-of-year buys, consider the following tips:

1.  Make sure the company you’re ordering from knows that you intend to pay with 2006 money.  They might be willing to ship before 1/1/07 or at least date the invoice for 12/31/06.
2.  Have the company give you an exact amount that will be due so you can write a check before the new year.
3.  Consider ordering items that you KNOW you’ll use in the coming months.  This way, you’re moving your expenses to 2006 (to help cut down your tax burden) and will still be sure to use them.
4.  Consider purchasing items to replace worn out products your currently using.  A new quilted cot cover (shamelessly plugging our product – sorry!) will make a big impact on your clients, especially considering the age and appearance of your current one.  New drapes for the lobby or a new watercooler will also be immediately noticed.
5.  Use a new purchase to add great services to your funeral home.  If you’re not already providing coffee, soda or cookies for viewings, now’s a good time to buy the stuff you’ll need.  And if you do serve coffee, but only provide styrofoam cups – STOP IT!  Provide ceramic logo cups.  At least for the families who are meeting you to make arrangements.  (Good rule to use:  treat families exactly as you would visitors to your personal home.)
6.  Make sure your accountant knows what you plan to purchase.  Some items might not qualify for tax deductions or might be better 2007 purchases.

I’m sure you’ve heard (or had) the argument before:  a computer in the arrangement conference will greatly speed up the process.

The other side of this argument is the fact that computers are inherently IMPERSONAL.

The halfway point of the issue is the fact that computers convey a sense of impartiality and accuracy.  By typing important information (like death certificate info) into a computer while the family is present, you cut down the risk of a later mistake.

I believe that any offense to the family you’re serving can be mitiaged or avoided if you change your arrangement conference practices.

First, you should never start an arrangement conference by gathering death certificate information.  Yes, most funeral directors were taught to do this.  And it makes sense to get details ahead of time.  But you’re leaving the family on edge and nervous about the actual arrangements you’re going to make with them.

Ideally, you’re meeting the family at the door (or if you’re adventerous and want to impress, meet them in the parking lot).  Then, offer a quick tour.  If they’ve never been to your facility, they’ll probably accept.  During this time you can ask the family to describe the deceased.  As they talk, ask further questions.  After you’ve got an idea of the person, then you can ask about the type of service they would like to hold.

After this short talk, you should discuss services and merchandise.  If you’re still on the tour, you can lead them to the selection room.  If not, take them there or, if you showselection books, escort them to the arrangement office.  Of course, make sure you’ve given them the appropriate price lists during this time.

Only after you’ve done these things should you start on the boring parts.

Imagine a similar purchase experience:  furniture buying.

You walk into the store and are greeted by the salesperson.  We’ll call him Frederick.

FREDERICK:  Welcome to Acme Furniture.  Please come to my office.

YOU:  But we wanted to look at furniture.

FREDERICK:  We’ll do that later.  First let’s get your info and run your credit.

YOU:  See ya later!

If you’ve treated your family like a guest in your (funeral) home, they won’t get upset when you enter their info.  Even if you enter into a computer.

 THINK ABOUT IT.

I found a most-intriguing article posted on FuneralWire.com.

Written by Mark Krause, the article makes a persuasive argument for fewer funeral homes in the United States.

Read the full article here.

As a strong believer in free enterprise, I hesistate to embrace any efforts to deny business owners the right to do their jobs badly, as I believe that the public will, through the power of the US dollar, choose better businesses and drive the bad ones from the marketplace.

On the other hand, I have seen the adverse effects that a bad funeral home can have on the community.  Since most consumers contract with funeral homes so infrequently (five or ten years between uses) a junky experience can change their outlook toward other funeral homes severely.

I think the only responsible thing to do is to look at your own operations.  Are you providing families with the experiences that they really want?  Do you listen to their requests and direct them toward the best options?  Or are you a bad funeral home?

The only real way to move the already-speeding consumer shift toward a path that benefits funeral directors and provides people with the kind of emotional experience that they want and need from a funeral is to make sure that meaningful services with outstanding customer service are our standard offerings.

red rose
After re-reading yesterday’s post on funeral home naming conventions (during which I found a typo and removed it!) I thought about the line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.

So maybe I shouldn’t make such a big fuss over the name you give your funeral home.

BUT THEN… I figured that if it was called a putrid rumpflower, no one would ever stop to smell it.  And it would have the same effectiveness as if it had never existed.

So I’m back to believing that a name is important.  Insofar as it attracts the “bees” that will polinate it and allow it to grow.

dj

I regularly recommend to my funeral home clients that they invest in proper music systems (MP3 players, good speaker systems, etc.) and yet I don’t know much about the legality of music played in the funeral home as it relates to copyright infringement.

As I understand it (and here’s the disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer, am not offering legal advice and will NOT claim expert status in any court) music licensing fees apply when you use music to sell a product or you sell the music itself. 

Does this mean that you wouldn’t pay a fee for music played in the background during a visitation, but you would for a song sung at the service by a paid singer?  Or should the singer pay copyright fees to the musician?  Does the fee go to the musician who popularized the song or to the writer?

It’s very confusing, to say the least.

But now funeral home owners can indemnify themselves with a yearly music license.

ICCFA (they just added the second C to become “International Cemetery, CREMATION and Funeral Association) offers one for just $232.

You can see the full list of their Frequently Asked Questions here.

I’ve heard the questions and I can imagine that you have them too.  Namely, WHY DO I NEED A LICENSE?

I would suggest that a music license is much like a catastrophic insurance policy.  The odds that you’ll ever have to consult the policy (license) or use it are pretty slim.  But we’ve all heard the stories of parents being sued by the music industry because their kid downloaded songs illegally.  We’ve read the accounts of businesses losing business, time and cash to fight a legal battle against superfluous charges.

So I say get the license.  Maybe not from ICCFA, if you’d rather go through another trade organization.  But for $232, the amount of profit you make off even the cheapest pine box, you can idemnify yourself for the whole year.

The most persistent part of your marketing strategy is your name.  I’d also argue that this is the least expensive marketing choice and the most important.  “What You Call Yourself” is also what your community calls you.  And what your community will have to remember to find you and recommend you to others.

 THE “INSERT NAME HERE” APPROACH:  “Smith Funeral Home” is effective in that it gets the point across.  But it does little more than convey ownership information.  When choosing a funeral home, I would need more information about the Smith who owns the place, to decide if it’s right for me.  Now, if John Smith is well-known in the community and created the “John Smith” brand by his actions in the community, it’ll work.  But he’s done two potentially damaging things by building a personal brand rather than a funeral home brand. 
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