I recently received this email from a new reader in the United Kingdom: 

We are a new, somewhat alternative, funeral directors in Stroud, Glos UK.

A good friend and secular celebrant turned me on to your website. I’ve enjoyed it, found it sensible, useful and inspiring. I appreciate your generosity in sharing so much information, and felt that you deserve a lot more feedback/comment than you seem to get for each of your articles.

Good wishes to you, Tim.

P.S.  How do we dig ourselves out from the default positioning we’ve landed in (Oh, you’re “The ‘green’ funeral company”), and get ourselves more into the mainstream of ‘personal’ funerals, where we belong?

Cheers, James

First, I appreciate how kind James is about this site.  Comments like that and the wonderful conversations I have with our readers are the reason I keep writing this stuff.

Now, on to James’ issue.

James needs to change the image of his firm from “green funeral home” to “personal funeral home.”

 I hesitate to give too much advice until I know what “green” and “personal” mean to his community.  But I’ll give you some general ideas and hopefully James will share more with us.

The biggest problem I see with such a conversion is that “green burial” has a very specific meaning.  Ask the typical consumer what a “green burial” is and he’ll tell you that it involves “natural” circumstances, whatever that means.  Someone who strongly believes in green burial and is seeking it will know much more about it and search out firms that use the lingo (natural, green, alternative, etc.) in their marketing.

However, a “personal” funeral is, by my definition, any funeral.  All funerals are personal, in the sense that they fit a specific person (if only because “Jane Smith” is uttered several times during the service for Jane Smith) and they are directed at persons.

Hence, calling your funeral home “personal” or “customized” paints a pretty wide picture and doesn’t differentiate your firm from the competition.

So here’s what I normally tell my funeral home consulting clients to consider:

You Are What You Think You Are.  Maybe not at first, but if you think of yourself as an “alternative funeral home that also does green burial,” you’ll make decision from that mindset and you’ll begin to morph into that type of firm.

You Are What You Say You Are.  Once again, this isn’t immediate.  But people have known you as a “green funeral home” because you talk about that.  Maybe your answer to the question “Do you handle green burial?” is “Yes, in addition to highly-customized alternative funeral services, we also handle green burials.”

You Are What Your Customers See.  If you always handle green burials, you’ll always be the “green burial firm.”  If, on the other hand, you’re constantly at the Catholic Church for Mass of Christian Burial, you’re a Catholic funeral home. 

Your image is mainly controlled by what people see and hear.  Clearly, James’ company has either done a lot of green services or they’ve told a lot of people that they’re the “green firm.”  And while they probably can’t control how many clients request green services, they can change how they think and talk about themselves.

Thanks for the great email, James!