October 2008


I had originally posted a schedule of 2008 NFDA Convention stories, but I’ve had to back off of that because of my own personal commitments and all the orders we’re still filling from the convention.

Here’s a list of what I plan to write, without any promised publish dates:

2008 NFDA Convention:  National Urns
2008 NFDA Convention:  What NFDA Should Fix
2008 NFDA Convention:  DNA 11
2008 NFDA Convention:  Eternal Space
2008 NFDA Convention:  What We Learned
2008 NFDA Convention:  Best and Worst Booth Locations
2008 NFDA Convention:  Not-Yet-Ready-For-Primetime Products
2008 NFDA Convention:  The Tired, The Hungry and The Bored
2008 NFDA Convention:  10 Ways to Get Visitors into Your Booth
2008 NFDA Convention:  How Final Embrace Averaged 36 Sales a Day
2008 NFDA Convention:  10 Unique Booth Configurations and Features

Look for these in the coming days and weeks.

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I’ve tried writing this post three times and I can’t seem to make it a cohesive, single story.  So here’s a bunch of “bullet point”-type paragraphs highlighting the best aspects of this convention.

NFDA chose the right location.  With myriad theme parks and other tourist attractions, Orlando is a great place for funeral directors with families.  Many of the folks we sold cot covers to shared that their family was at a theme park while they attended seminars and training classes.

For vendors, the location was great because Florida is a “right-to-work” state, meaning many exhibitors could set up their booth without getting attitude from union laborers about who can plug an electric cord into an outlet.

They invited expo-only guests.  By inviting area funeral directors (with a free pass offered through exhibitors) to attend the expo, the NFDA got bodies on the floor, so to speak.  They received several hundred of these registrations, many of which, I would presume, were from people who wouldn’t normally pay to attend a national convention. 

NFDA still collected full-convention fees from those who saw the value in attending everything AND they were able to get new people to the floor to check out all the great new products and services.  Getting these folks onto the floor helped fill out their final attendance figures, but it also helped vendors with their biggest hurdle:  getting people to walk by the booth.

They combined the general sessions with the expo floor.  A few people were confused by this arrangement (“Wait – I go into the Expo to see the opening session?”) but it got people onto the floor and made the expo floor a place visit more than just one day of the show.

The opening night reception provided variety for expo-only visitors.  Because the next three expo-only sessions were during the day (9:00 am – 3:00 pm) the opening night “preview” was a good change of pace for area visitors who needed to get back their funeral homes Monday morning and provided something to do for out-of-town directors who arrived Saturday or Sunday and wanted to hang out and chat. 

While my company didn’t sell a lot of cot covers that night, we made some good connections with folks who returned later in the show to place orders and make our exhibit truly successful.

Allowing Boston 2009 booth reservations builds confidence.  Vendors who had a good show, like me, are more likely to work from the immediate success and lock in their spot right away.  This also gives NFDA a chance to capture repeat business (something that may have been a problem from last year) from the people (exhibitors) who help pay a portion of the convention bill.

Also, rewarding early adopters by giving them primo booth placement means better relationships with some “power exhibitors,” the folks who will help drive the show in the future.  Yes, companies like Batesville will still provide a lot of the show’s draw, but when someone wants to see new products or that small company that doesn’t travel to all the state shows, they look for booths like mine.

NFDA Staffers looked like they were having fun… most of the time.  I don’t know if it was part of Wynn Burke’s work or just the mood that Orlando helps create, but NFDA staffers looked like they were enjoying themselves.  From bright-colored “paradise” shirts (a management decision, to be sure, but it made them easily identifiable) to the easy smiles when asked a question, every staffer I met was cheerful, even when there were lots of things going on and many issues to address.

All in all, my experience at the 2008 Convention was great.  There are a few things I would change and some specific snafus that the NFDA needs to correct before next year’s show, but those few problems don’t change what I saw as a strong show with a good base plan to build on.

One of the other exhibitors I met at the NFDA Convention was Randy from RK Productions.

A veteran of the gift industry, Randy has decided to bring his expertise with carved stone items to the urns.

Randy’s urns are beautiful, like the “In Flight Urn” pictured here:

 Unique and high-quality, urns by RK Productions are different than what is currently available in the funeral industry.  I was especially impressed with the weight (carved from real stone material!) and the level of detail in each piece.

They also provide personalized engraving at an additional charge.

You can see the full line of Ever After urns from RK Productions here.

While I can’t disclose Randy’s wholesale pricing, I double-checked to make sure the numbers he quoted me were accurate.

Reasonably priced and beautiful, these urns are something truly new to the industry.  Call Randy today to find out how to get a few for your selection room.

RK Productions Inc.
Toll Free: 1-888-ARK-PROD(275-7763)

NOTE:  This is a free review.  RK Productions has NOT offered any compensation for this product spotlight.

Prior to the start of the NFDA Convention, I sent emails to all the vendors who were scheduled to exhibit.  The email invited them to a dinner, hosted by my company, at a local restaurant.

I also invited blog readers to join us to talk about the industry, enjoy a nice meal and make some business connections.

24 people RSVP’ed for the event, which I planned for Monday, October 13th at 5:00 pm.

We chose the Samba Room, a Cuban-inspired restaurant that features a moderately-priced menu and a full bar.  The folks at the Samba Room were very accommodating and set aside a large area for our group.

After a satisfying day on the convention floor (see ), I headed back to the hotel to get changed.  Robin Richter, one of our faithful blog contributors, joined me and, together, we stopped to pick up one of the vendors who had RSVP’ed.

By 5:30, we were joined at the restaurant by 10 other funeral directors and vendors, bringing our dinner group to 12.  And while the 12 no-shows was a bit high for a dinner, I was still glad that we got so many tired people to make time to attend our event.

As I introduced everyone around the table, I was heartened to see so many natural conversations already forming.  I purposefully made groups split up and made sure that we “sprinkled” our non-exhibitor guests among all the vendors. 

Conversations were varied and in-depth.  On one end of the table, a mortuary science student discussed 21st-Century funeral practices with an online memorial provider.  Elsewhere, two exhibitors talked shop over drinks.  I had a great discussion with Stephen from National Urns about the trials of starting a new funeral industry business while juggling other responsibilities.

The appetizers were delicious, the meal was awesome and the company was first-rate.  I was tempted to make everyone get up halfway through the event and switch seats, but too many really awesome conversations were begun to shake it up that way.

While I had organized one previous dinner (in Kentucky this year) and a Final Embrace Contributor’s Forum in Vegas, this event was, by far, the most successful. 

What else will we be telling you about the 2008 NFDA Convention?

My booth workers will share their thoughts, with Robin comparing this show to 2007’s NFDA Expo in Vegas.  Linda will tell us how our booth location and show experienced stacked up to this year’s Kentucky show, while Kim gives us a newbie’s take on the whole shebang.

Check out the blog titled Wesley Treat’s Roadside Resort, which recently featured a compilation of small cemeteries surrounded by parking lots.

It’s fascinating.  For their stories, visit the site.

I’ve got a lot more convention coverage coming for both vendors and funeral directors, but I wanted to take a moment to tell you what our success means for Final Embrace.

First, it means that our product (quilted cot covers) will be used by at least 100 more funeral homes and seen by their competitors and other colleagues.  The more often our covers are seen, the quicker they become industry-standard and the quicker we are able to sell them to all 20,000+ funeral homes in North America.

Equally impressive are the two new distribution relationships that we started with companies based in foreign countries.  Our ten-year plan featured a non-U.S. component and it’s nice to see that, as year 5 winds down, we have already begun to spread our product to other shores.

Because we run a no-debt company, the profit we make from this convention (yes, we made a profit even with all the cash we put out to exhibit and attend) will help us secure better prices for materials (buying more means less per yard costs) and we’ll be able to put more product on the shelf for stock.

More stock means less pressure to make product at the last minute (happens often with our more popular patterns) and a smoother work schedule.

We’re also taking the steps necessary to do more advertising, exhibit at more conventions and begin a direct mail program.

Most of all, the success at this show tells us that we’re on to something.  That no matter what business decisions we make (spend lots of money on ads now or continue to trickle along with word-of-mouth and press releases) our product is still viable and people like what we’re selling.

And the comments we’ve heard at this show will help to fuel our next generation of cot covers, as we’re using the input from funeral directors during the past year (at the IFDF, KFDA and NFDA shows and by phone) to design better features and more-useful covers.

So stay tuned.  We’re still early and there’s a lot more excitement ahead!

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