Funeral Marketing


If you don’t keep up with Connecting Directors, I question whether you’re really connected to this industry.  When Ryan, the site’s prime mover, first contacted me for help getting a press release in order, I wasn’t sure about his chances.  Running a daily site for any industry requires a lot of stamina, but putting out interesting stuff for funeral directors every 24 hours is an even tougher task.

Why?  You know why: because funeral directors are so busy with all the other things in their life that getting them to read a blog or website every day or even once a week is a very difficult task.  And Ryan has done that, day in and day out for several years now.

I say this because I certainly haven’t been as active as in past years.  This blog sits silent most days.  Other times, I begin to write and find that I don’t have much left to say.  The tank’s not empty, not exactly.  It’s just that I’ve already talked about all the topics that I know much about.  I mean, how many more times can I tell you to educate your community about cremation?  If you’re a regular reader and you haven’t been pursuaded, then you are probably beyond my grasp.

It all started when I stopped working in a funeral home.  I don’t have the daily interaction with grieving people or the task of dressing and casketing remains.  I make cot covers now.  Yes, they’re really good ones, and the customers (funeral directors) who buy them are on the frontlines of the industry,  but I’m not “hands-on” anymore.  And that makes it difficult for me to spout my opinion.

So I find myself reading a lot of other peoples’ work.  I’m following the stories on Connecting Directors.  I watch how Brian Hanner at Geib Funeral Homes interacts with his clientele, I have paid special attention to Dale Clock’s insights and commented (probably too often) on his blog.

I will still post here, as I’m doing today, but please consider getting your regular “industry news” from sources like the ones I’ve suggested.

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I didn’t write a lot for 2010, so here are the three posts I think you should take a look at:

Our Cot Cover Business Ends 2009 Better Than 2008

Is OGR Having Trouble Filling Annual Expo?

Overheard at a Visitation – 2010 Edition

Will 2011 be better?  Who’s to say?

October 2010 saw the arrival of the NFDA Convention and Expo to the city of New Orleans.  This was our fourth year attending as a vendor.  Below, you will find my overall impressions of the event and some insights into how the convention benefited us.

I hadn’t been back to New Orleans since Katrina hit the city in 2005.  My only pre-hurricane visit, during a Carnival cruise that also stopped in Grand Cayman and Cozumel, had only lasted a few hours, with our entire experience restricted to the French Quarter and the cruise terminal.

So like many Americans, my impression of New Orleans was tourism and, thanks to news reports, flooding.

On the Saturday before the show, we drove from our base in Florida to Slidell, Louisiana.  The drive took just over nine hours and brought us within 30 miles of downtown New Orleans.  We crashed at a recently-built Best Western, which was beautifully-appointed and very clean.  (Good rule of thumb when picking a cheap hotel:  the name doesn’t matter so much as when the building was erected.  An old Radisson is probably going to be less pleasant than a really new Red Roof Inn.)

We got up Sunday morning, had a nice hot breakfast and drove into New Orleans.  As we crossed the low bridge into the outskirts, we started to see signs of hurricane damage.  Second floor apartments burned out, abandoned houses with broken windows, signs for water damage experts.  It wasn’t so much a wasteland – from what we could see from the highway – as much as it was clearly an area that was still trying to recover.

Of course, the downtown areas where the money is made was in better shape.  Our hotel, which was one block from the convention center, was located in a converted warehouse.  Here’s a picture of our room, with it’s 16-foot ceilings:

We spent Sunday morning setting up our booth in the convention center.  We had a great location, just steps off the main aisle with only a large, see-through booth in our way.  We’ve gotten good enough at setting up the booth that it took us less than two hours to go from bare, concrete floors to this:

The show itself didn’t start until Monday afternoon, so we had an opportunity to explore the city and had a great time in the French Quarter.  We had an awesome lunch (try a muffaletta sandwich, unless you absolutely hate olives) and explored the area.  We listened as a street band played an unbelievable set of blues and jazz music while the lead singer’s kid slept on a reclining lawn chair nearby.  We dropped some much-deserved cash in their donation jar (and we weren’t the only ones – these people sounded amazing!).

Part Two later.

VinylrecorddddddAlways wanted to “rock on” after death?  Why not have your cremated remains pressed into vinyl records?

The company, And Vinyly, supposedly makes records from cremated remains.

Check out their website at:  http://www.andvinyly.com/

According to their materials, a complete custom pressing, with music you provide, will cost about two thousand pounds ($3074.68 at current conversion rates) for about 30 of the vinyl discs.

via BoingBoing

Recently attended a visitation followed by a service at one of the local funeral homes.  The deceased was to be cremated, but the family saw the value in having his body present for viewing and a service.

As I was leaving, I chatted with the funeral director and complimented him on the service.  I even teased him that having to work such a late services (went until almost 9 pm) is hard on his own family.  Then he said something that reminded me how much change the trend toward cremation has brought to the industry.  He said:

“I used to spend four nights a week on the visitation team.  Now, we’re lucky if we can convince people to see the body before cremation.”

We chatted some more.  Turns out he misses how often he used to stand for visitations.  He wishes he had more visitations and he knows that educating his public is the only way to encourage more viewings in the future.

“My staff presents all the options and we tell families that we truly believe that some kind of viewing is beneficial for their friends and loved ones, but these economic times are really affecting my customers,” he shared.

At the end of the day, his bottom line is affected also.  Having a big funeral home with multiple viewing rooms and state-of-the-art technology isn’t cheap.  At the same time, he is worried that if direct cremation with no viewing becomes the norm, more than just the funeral industry will be damaged; he believes that the basic need to “say goodbye” is harmed, even if people, driven by the economics of it all, don’t realize what they’re losing.

I agree with him.  And while I have an awfully pessimistic view of the future of the industry, I think there’s a lot individual funeral directors can do to educate their community.  I just wish I had the answer to fix the problem.

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