March 2009

Last week, I got an email from Spencer from, asking me if we’d be exhibiting at the 2009 Kentucky Convention.

To answer:  Yes, Spencer, we will be there.

We’ll also be at the Independent Funeral Directors of Florida convention in June and the NFDA show in Boston in October.  Spencer shared in his email that he is planning to attend the Missouri show this year and expand from there.

This brings up the exciting but often worrisome questions, “how many conventions should I attend?”  and “How do I choose the right convention opportunities?”

While I’m a big fan of “going with your gut,” I like to start any convention decision process by looking at the numbers.  That’s why I’ve created a spreadsheet to analyze exactly how much each convention will cost us and how much product we’ll have to sell to “break even,” so to speak.

Here’s the spreadsheet that I’ve been using:

KFDA 6/25/2008 $570 $490 $420 $240 $90 $187 $1,997 40
NFDA 10/12/2008 $4,800 $280 $100 $300 $100 $100 $5,680 114
GA Expo 3/1/2009 $550 $248 $110 $165 $50 $50 $1,173 23
Ohio FDA 5/25/2009 $650 $360 $325 $200 $50 $100 $1,685 34
IFDF 6/12/2009 $0 $260 $65 $85 $50 $50 $510 10
KFDA 6/24/2009 $570 $500 $300 $360 $50 $150 $1,930 39
NFDA 10/22/2009 $2,500 $550 $800 $300 $150 $600 $4,900 98

You will notice that I’ve included a few past conventions, to show you how we’ve done in the past.

For the 2008 Kentucky convention, I planned on spending less than $2000 and we did.  But I based my cost estimate on a plan to spend just $50 per cover sold toward marketing.  Since we only sold 32 covers, we actually spent $62.50 per item, exceeding my budget.

Of course, it sometimes works out for the better.  While the 2008 NFDA show was almost 3 times the cost, we sold 153 covers, making our per-cover cost just over $37.

The Georgia Expo was a success, as we sold 22 covers – one shy of our goal.  Likewise, the IFDF goal should be in easy reach, since a free booth (I’m presenting two seminars for CE’s during the conference) gives us just 10 covers to sell to meet our costs.

Of course, we also have to take into account the dates of each convention, the availability of staff and capital to invest in these events and the travel distance.

Interestingly, our sales to Internet shoppers and wholesale companies are dropping right now, no doubt because of the general economic slowdown and the uneasiness that most business people feel right now.  And I don’t see the trend changing within the next six months, so anyone selling products to funeral directors needs to find other ways to reach out and encourage a sale.

That’s why we’ll be attending even more conventions this year.  While I won’t be going to Missouri (just to far away for us to drive in a single day), we are hoping to add the Ohio Convention to our list and possibly pick up a smaller state show somewhere in between.

Stay tuned!

If  you want a copy of our spreadsheet, you can view it as a Google Document and copy the formulas.  Or email me at and we’ll send the original Excel version to you.


You may have noticed how little I’ve been writing lately.  That’s because I was working on the 2nd Annual Central Florida Fire Muster.  I told you about last year’s muster in the post, Advertising Before You’re Good Enough

But this year, I have video to show you what fun we had:

Often, when I’m worried that something I’m writing or sewing or building won’t work and try to strive for perfection, I think of this parable, as told by Alison Woods from the book, Art and Fear:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot—albeit a perfect one—to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

 I found this parable in a post on the blog, LifeClever.

 As a funeral industry consultant, I hear regularly from people who have a great idea for a product but are unwilling to share the information with other people to find out if it’s viable.

These folks suffer from idea over-valuation.

Truth is, ideas are pretty cheap.  And while it seems like everyone is looking for the “next big idea”, the people who get ahead are the ones with the nerve and patience to create the product AND do the hard work to actually sell it.

A few years ago, I met a man who had an interesting idea for a funeral-related product.  He decided to make it because his family liked it.  When pressed to get a funeral industry perspective, he visited his friend, a licensed director.

Do you think his friend was completely honest with him? 

Based upon his family’s encouragement and the (misplaced) kindness of his funeral director friend, he booked a booth at the NFDA show that year.

Yes, based upon the advice of twelve family members and one funeral directing friend, he dropped a few thousand dollars to attend a trade show.  And he made the biggest show of them all his very first true foray into the industry.

Last I heard, he packed up after show and went home in disgust.  I don’t know if he’s still selling, but he hasn’t exhibited at any other trade shows and I don’t expect to see him on the circuit again.

Why did this happen?  Because he was so intent on sharing his amazing idea (what was it?  Doesn’t matter; this stories been told numerous times with many different products) before anyone could “steal” it, he skipped the most important steps.

Having an “amazing new idea” is not new.  In fact, in happens to us humans on a regular basis.  Often, the idea is nothing special and we forget about it.  Other times, we come up with something truly revolutionary that makes a job easier or people happier.

Still, no matter how amazing, you still have to do the work of creating and selling it. 

When I started making quilted cot covers, there were already two people flogging a similar idea.  In fact, I think their early cot covers were better than mine. 

But I worked it and worked it and, yes, worked it until our covers became the amazing product they are today.  No matter how good the idea (a cover that looks like a quilt, not a body bag!), you still have to improve it and find out how it helps your consumer.  We did that, and now we are, arguably, the biggest maker of quilted cot covers anywhere!

Oh, and just to be clear:  we’re still working it.  All the time.  Because I don’t want someone else to work harder than me and take over the #1 spot.  And because I love what we do.

But don’t think, for even a second, that my competitors can’t or won’t study my product and borrow some of my ideas.  After we started offering our amazing FluidBlocker lining ( Introduces New Lining!), I predicted that we had six months to a year before we’d see our competitors offering a similar feature.  The post, Our Competitor, Quilted First-Call Covers, is Catching Up!, showed that we only realistically had 4 months head start.

Now, I’m not accusing any of my competitors of buying one of covers and figuring out what fabric we’re using (even Ferno isn’t copying it exactly), but what would have stopped them?  Not me!

Making a decent quilted cot cover is not difficult.  Consistently making them the right way and providing excellent customer service?  That’s a lot harder.

So I say you should share your ideas with lots of people.  Show them your great product (how else will you sell it?) and talk about what could make it better.  Encourage past customers and future customers to tell you how to make your product meet their needs.

Ideas have to be in the marketplace to thrive. 

(This post was partially inspired by the photo below.  And while there’s not a correlation between a freely-shared idea and this bicycle, I still think trying to lock up your ideas provides the same false sense of security that this bike’s owner had after slapping a chain on his Huffy and walking into Best Buy.)

fail owned pwned pictures

Here’s a sample of what my latest Google Alert sent me for the word “funeral”:

Funeral held for mom, baby slain in Alabama shootings – Breaking …
By Associated Press
GENEVA, — Funeral services have been held for a Geneva county sheriff deputy’s wife and infant daughter who were slain in a shooting rampage across two counties in rural Alabama. Associated PressSheriff’s deputy Josh Myers salutes the …
Breaking News from The Birmingham… –

Funeral for mom & baby in shootings|
FOX 10 TV is Mobile, Pensacola and the Gulf Coast’s best source for the latest breaking news and weather.

Update: Jade Goody’s Funeral Details : gossip
Submit your juciest link or just let everyone know which stories you heart or hate , then leave a snarky comment and go shopping. •. Update: Jade Goody’s Funeral Details ( submitted 1 hour ago by Sassys …
gossip: what’s new online –

WSYX ABC 6 – Ohio News
WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) — Hundreds were expected at funeral services for two adult sisters and three children gunned down inside their Cleveland home last week. The services were planned Saturday at The Word Church in suburban …
News –

03/15/09 Death notices | Yakima Herald-Republic Online
The funeral will be April 14 at 11 a.m. at Keith and Keith Ninth Avenue Chapel. Interment with full military honors will follow at 1 p.m. on April 15 at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Wash. Wanda Martirani Pollock …
Yakima Herald-Republic Weekly News –

Wichita pastor presides over Alabama shooting victims’ funeral …
SAMSON, Alabama (KSN) — A Wichita pastor drove 16 hours over the last two days to get to Alabama after the family of two victims of a shooting spree requested he preside over their funerals. Reverend Mike Clarensau of the Maranatha …
KSNW Local News –

Funerals that put eco minds at rest
By (Times (UK):…
NOTHING is certain except death and taxes, and in a recession that means undertaking is a good business to be in — especially if you are one of a growing number of companies offering “green’ funerals.
EcoEarth.Info Environment RSS Newsfeed –

I had an interesting conversation with “Urnman” on the NFDA Biz Exchange message board just a few weeks ago.  I was trying to figure out a new product he was talking about and I accidentally suggested there was a “gimmick” to it.

What I meant to ask was “what’s the hook that makes this thing a ‘must-have’ for families?”

Luckily, he was also attending the Georgia Expo last week and he brought a frame for me to check out.

Here’s what it looks like in person:

P1000558 by you.

The frame can hold a 4″x6″ photo and has a section below for either a computer-printed or hand-written epitaph.  The frame is weatherproof, with a neoprene seal for the access panel and a anti-condensation cover for the photograph.

Made of a strong, gold-colored plastic, this is one well-built frame.  It’s supported by a bracket on the back that will allow it to either stand, like in the picture above, or slip over a ground stake, turning the frame into a temporary marker.  Here’s a detail view of the bracket:

P1000559 by you.

If you look closely at the picture above, you may notice a button near the bottom of the frame and a speaker area on the right.  The button controls power to the motion-sensor on the front, that tells the frame to play “Fur Elise” by Beethoven when there is movement.

I told “Urnman” (Larry) that I’d retail this thing for $50 and show it to families when discussing marker choices for burial.  In Florida, funeral homes can sell markers, so I’d help the family design their permanent marker, then show them this beautiful frame and a plain, gray temporary marker, saying:

We give all of our families one of these simple gray markers to identify the grave space until your permanent marker is ready in six to eight weeks.  But we also have these musical photo frames that have space for a picture and can be taken home with you after the granite is placed.  The frame is just $50.  Which would you prefer?

Given the choice, at least half of these families will choose the more attractive option, in my opinion.

Check them out on Larry’s site,

P1000560 by you.

I just heard from my friend Jan from the Independent Funeral Directors of Florida; I’ve been booked to give two presentations!

First, I’ll give an updated version of the talk I presented at the OGR Conference in Key West last year.  The discussion centers around both “Good, Better, Best” marketing and how to merchandise the public areas of funeral homes.

Then, I’ll help funeral directors understand the new social media (MySpace, Facebook, blogs, etc.) with a 50-minute discussion of how to use the Internet to connect with client families.

The 2009 IFDF Convention and Expo will be held June 11-14th at the Renaissance Resort World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida.

Also, IFDF published their newsletter this month.  Check it out.

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