July 2007

Both Candace of In Repose and Carl of Confessions of an Executive Restaurant Recruiter have tagged me with the “Eight Things” meme.

First, let me explain the terminology.  A meme is an idea that travels through the internet (more specifically, the dinghy alley that is the blogosphere), bouncing from one blogger to others until it dies a well-deserved death on some forgotten webpage.

Sounds like I’m a little cynical about memes, doesn’t it? 

But I have good reason.  I don’t care about your ten favorite movies or your six favorite pasta recipes.

I do, however, want to know what you think about the future of funeral service.  And I care deeply about the three best ways you reach out to your community.

So in the interest of not being a jerk and because my two friends (Candace and Carl) asked me, I’ll share a variation of the “Eight Things” meme.

First, I have to post the rules.  So here they are:

1. Post these rules before you give you the facts.
2. List 8 random facts about yourself.
3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names (linking to them).
4. Leave them a comment on their blog letting them know they’ve been tagged!

Now, my version – Eight Random Things About Me That Have No Bearing On Anything

1.  I love football.  I mean LOVE.  And not the European, let’s kick a ball around for two hours and end with a tie football.  American football with trap plays and screen passes and pulling guards and free safeties and all the crap that goes with it.

2.  Before I broke down and bought a Nintendo Wii, I never played any video games that weren’t football.  I can seriously kick some butt on Madden 2007 or NCAA Football.

3.  I hate cheerleaders.  Not because they’re skinny twirps (which they are!) but because they distract from the game.  I’ve got spirit aplenty, so get off the field!

4.  I can’t stand music that doesn’t have lyrics or has lyrics that are in another language.  I love Josh Groban’s voice, but I can’t listen to the songs that aren’t in English.  But before you label me as a kook, understand that I listen to music for the story.  If I can’t understand the words, I can’t get the story.

5.  I also hate opera, because, once again, I can’t follow the story.

6.  While I’m at it, ballet sucks.  “Oh, I get it.  He’s a swan.  Who cares?!?”

7.  If I’m transcribing something, I usually type “F” instead of the number “5,” even in the middle of a phone number.  I also can’t type the name “Gerald” without first typing “Gerlad.”  Don’t know why, just a wierd compulsion my fingers have.

8.  I turn my foot to match the pattern when I step on a tile.  I can usually stop if I really try, but it’s difficult.  Worse, the main living spaces in my house are mostly striped tile which was put down with no thought to pattern!  What were those installers thinking?!?

There you have it, my OCD list.

Here are the people I tag:

1.  Robin Richter, Creative Memories Consultant
2.  Deidre Blair of Final Reflections
3.  Carolynn Duncan of The Hundred Dollar Business
4.  Kim Stacey of Kim Stacey Publishing
5.  Marketing Goddess Diana Bourgeois

You’ll notice I’ve only tapped five.  But there are three of you out there who I decided not to subject to this.  Just know that if you’re mean to me, you might get tagged, since I’ve got these three spares sitting around.


Trees of the Dead

(Picture courtesy of Trey Ratcliff, whose work ROCKS!)

While I can’t, in good taste, relate the whole story here (you’ll have to check out the article in The Economist), I can tell you that an old custom involving female corpses is making a comeback after years of Communist attempts to dispell the myths surrounding it.But before you think I’m publishing articles about necrophilia, hear me out, because while it is not nearly as disgusting, it is an extremely heartbreaking story of violation and broken morality.

You can read the whole story here.

In essence, folks who bury female relatives are having to watch out for grave robbers who sell the remains for as much as $5000 to a family burying an unmarried male relative.

A belief still held by some in China holds that a man and woman must be buried together.  Hence the “corpse bride” trade that continues to plague Chinese cemeteries.

Whenever I tell people what I do for a living (for those who don’t know, we make beautiful quilted covers for mortuary cots) they feel the need to share their own death story.

Not surprisingly, many of my fellow Floridians share that they didn’t have a funeral for their loved one because they were cremated.

So I take the opportunity to do a little education by asking:

Did you have any services or viewing for your mom before she was cremated?

Which is usually met with surprise or shock, as the person asks:

You can have a viewing with a cremation?

Funeral directors are so afraid that their families will choose cremation if they talk about it that they do little to dispell the common fallicies.

Unless you want to see all your possible cremation clients run to a direct disposer, you need to tell your community that cremation is more than a fast and cheap way to get rid of a “problem” or “inconvenience.”

Cremation isn’t just a cheap cardboard box.

Stop letting your price-conscious customers choose between either your high-priced burial or a no-frills rock-bottom cremation (with someone else).

Because the folks who see little value in the traditional burial you try to force on them are going to choose their only other option:  cheap, direct cremation.

Give your community a choice.  Educate them.

A few days ago I received an email request from Diana of Magic Touch Marketing to have one of her clients featured on Final Embrace.

Her client has recently begun blogging and needs some exposure.  And while the blog is definitely industry-related, there are only a few posts on the site, so far.

So I told Diana that we would be happy to feature the company once they get a few more articles on their own site, since I don’t want to send my loyal readers (you!) to sites with minimal content.

In the meantime, Diana has taken my advice and updated her own blog.  And she even followed a suggestion of mine and wrote about funeral marketing!

Here’s just an excert:

 Funeral services are always preaching about pre-planning for pre-need.  Take your own advice!

You see, marketing does take thought, planning, and insight.  You have to really understand the people you are trying to reach and then take the mountain to them.  Even if that means doing things in your field that others are not doing.

For the full, teeming-with-great-insight, article, visit the Marketing Goddess blog.

Yesterday I promised Glorianna Langely-Finch of Personal Wishes that I’d get around to answering her questions and giving some advice.  If you read my last post, about Deidre Blair of Final Reflections, you’ll get an idea how I feel about people who try to assist during funeral services, but I’ll elaborate here.

Glorianna, please read what I write with caution.  I have little experience with English funerals and the funeral industry in the United Kingdom.  The closest I’ve been to a English funeral home was during a recent trip to London when we passed a small town on the train to Hampton Court and saw a sign.  I snapped a photo of it on the return trip.  You can see it in the post, My Trip to London – Funeral Edition.

But I can speak from years of experience in the U.S. funeral industry when I say that few people are seeking another layer in the funeral process.

Consider the people already necessary for a simple burial.

1.  The hospital staff, nursing facility staff or hospice nursing staff.
2.  The removal personnel.
3.  The funeral director and his/her assistant.
4.  The minister or celebrant.
5.  Organist, pianist or soloist for the service.
5.  Family and friends.
6.  The cemetery salesperson or sales counselor.
7.  The Social Security (in the U.S.) office worker who will process a claim.
8.  Life insurance personnel.
9.  Bank associate (for fixing accounts after a death).
10.  Creditors (to notify of a death).

And that’s just for a typical service.  Imagine the funeral for a military veteran or someone involved in local charities or fraternal organizations?

Sadly, while a funeral consultant might be able to provide some important guidance during a difficult time, I keep wondering what funeral directors are doing after the death.

Are people in England getting such bad service from funeral directors that they need your assistance?

On the other hand, I can imagine your service might be very helpful to those who want to plan their final farewell in advance without involving a funeral director.  These folks might be unwilling to pay for services on a pre-need basis (can you do that in the U.K.?) or don’t want to be pressured by a funeral director into spending more than they can afford.

In the U.S., I can see a market for a simple pre-planning service:  a funeral consultant will help you get your papers in order, your wishes written down and various personalized services planned for a set fee per hour or consultation.

In this way, a consultant could sell “no hassle” consulting, without giving an open-ended invitation to drone on for hours.

To be fair, Glorianna, your website is pretty clear about the kind of services you want to help people arrange.  But I wonder why you haven’t become a funeral director, rather than attacking this need for better personalization from the outside.  Seems like you’ve taken the harder road.

Maybe I don’t understand everything you want to do, but I think you’ll get a lot of resistance from funeral directors.  And you’re going to have a hard time convincing consumers to add another layer to their already busy funeral schedule.

How close am I to your reality?  Let me know if I’m way off base.

This probably hurts a bit, because I’ve only detailed the reasons you’ll fail.  Sorry about that.  I’ll try to think of a few positive features over the weekend.

My friend and reader, Deidre Blair, is no stranger to the funeral industry.

A widow at the age of 36, Deidre used her experience as the owner of Awesome Events, an event planning company, to plan her husband’s memorial services.

Held at the first hole of his favorite golf course at sunrise, Deidre’s husband was honored and memorialized by friends and family who drove golf carts to the service.

After a few months had passed and Deidre had some time to reflect, she noticed that few funerals were as personal and specialized as the one she was able to provide for her husband.

So she did some research, readied a new division of her company and prepared to launch Final Reflections to the general public. 

A few years ago, when Deidre was launching her new service, I got a call from her.  She wanted to bounce the idea off of someone in “the know.”  To be fair, I’d never met her and was a little wary of this “outsider” pumping me for details about how funeral professionals think and how the general public would relate to her service.

At the time, Deidre was planning to sell her event services directly to the consumer.  She thought she could work as a liaison between the family and the funeral home.

I shared my misgivings with her.  And I asked her to consider a few things:

People already have enough to do when it comes to planning a funeral in a few short days.

Most people have never hired an event or wedding planner.

Most people are already wary of the price for a funeral.  Add in a special event that might cost thousands and you’ve got huge sticker shock.

No funeral director wants to split his possible profit with an outsider.

Funeral directors don’t take well to being told they don’t know how to plan funeral events.

I can’t imagine any funeral director will want to recommend you to a potential family.

Deidre listened and still chose to sell her service directly to grieving families.  She had hopes that funeral directors would share her brochures with their clients.

I got a call from Deidre in May of 2007, updating me on her progress.  Turns out some of the things I said were true.  Others, not so much. 

But instead of giving up her plans, she altered them.  She figured that she needed some experience, so she went to work for SCI at their largest area location, learning how funeral homes (at least SCI) run funerals and how they interact with potential clients regarding special memorialization options.

She also found a few areas where her expertise would come in handy.

So she’s relaunched her service, this time making funeral homes her prospective clients.

Deidre Blair and Final Reflections now offer event planning advice (through her great blog) and provide turnkey systems for funeral directors who want to offer post-funeral receptions and specialized funeral services.

Check out Deidre’s blog here.  And if you’ve been thinking about offering receptions to your clients, give Deidre a call at 866-254-6691.  She’s got some great ideas and the skills to back them up.

(Editor’s note:  Deidre has graciously agreed to write some short articles for Final Embrace.  Look for those in the coming weeks!)

Many of you don’t read the comments on the site.  That makes sense, because the one below is a pretty strong indication that even I (Tim Totten) make mistakes: 

I read your website most days, and have commented a couple of times…

also asked your advice … but -(

Also I often tell other businesses about you and would like to sell you cot covers here in the UK..

Check out our website please..

Glorianna Langley-Finch of Personal Wishes Funeral Consultants

Turns out Glorianna asked for advice a few months ago and I never got around to giving it to her.

I broke a trust, and that drives me crazy.  Because at the least, this website is about having a conversation about the changing funeral industry.  And I broke the conversation.

So Glorianna, please forgive my mistake.  And expect a response tomorrow.  I’ll be giving some feedback on your site, the role you hope to fill in the funeral industry and your specific question, listed here:

I have started a company in the UK, bring the concept of Funeral consultants to this country. I have had so much postive feedback, with many companies from the USA helping me.

My biggest problem despite the banks agreeing it is a great idea is rasing finance. I have designed and had printed all the brochures and advertising material, had free editorials in magazines, but don’t know where to go from here


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