I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon in the national, big advertising marketplace:  Good things come in threes.  No, I’m not talking about luck or pregnancies, but the forces of market choice and competition.

Chain hair salons:  Great Clips, Fantastic Sam’s and Hair Cuttery.
Discount department stores:  Wal-Mart, Target and K-Mart.
Hamburger-centric fast food giants:  McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s.

Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s have a corner on the wholesale club market.  In casual dining Italian restaurants you’ve got Olive Garden, Carraba’s and Macaroni Grill.  Want fried chicken?  Try KFC, Church’s or Popeye’s.  FedEx, UPS and DHL compete for your shipping dollar.

And while these companies compete with more than those among the big 3 in their category, they each have the advantage of visibility.

Hardee’s has struggled for years as the #4 burger chain and has recently changed their products and serving procedures to compete with higher-priced, cook-to-order establishments.  The US Postal Service struggles to compete with other shipping services that have more traction in the market.

And while regional companies occasionally command a share of the market (Little Caesar’s operates over 1900 stores in some markets as an alternative to the 20,000+ operated by Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s) many become the #3.5 choice rather than a true contender.  One big #3.5 is Jack-in-the-Box which operates over 2000 locations.

The marketplace seems to desire choice, with limits.  Choosing a restaurant, bookstore or hair salon based upon large scale advertising seems to require a limited number of options.  Too few possibilities and the market will fill in with other choices.  Too many choices and market forces marginalize the struggling competition.

So how does this apply to the funeral service?

I’d suggest that most consumers, when choosing a firm, consider three firms to be the most needed to make an educated decision.

Only two and they run the risk of making simply a yes or no choice.  Four or more choices mean too much homework.  Three choices allow the consumer to act as Goldilocks:  too hot, too cold, and just right.

If you’re struggling, maybe you’re #4.