How To Make Your Funeral Home Win Big (Live From ICCFA)

Last week, the funeralOne team was in New Orleans for ICCFA 2016! Throughout the 4 days of this exciting funeral conference, some of the most innovative people in our profession gathered together to share their views on the future of funerals. (Including our own CEO, Joe Joachim – stay tuned for our recap of his educational session coming soon!) Unable to make it to ICCFA 2016? You’re in luck – we’re sharing some of our favorite sessions of the conference so you can write the next chapter of funerals with us!

funeral home

Some people question whether or not staying in the funeral business is a good idea. And the truth is, for some people it is, and for some people it’s not. It’s all about how you look at the future of funerals.

For Doug Gober, founder of Gober Strategic Capital and long-time funeral service professional, there is no doubt that right now is the golden age of the profession. “I believe that there has never been a better time to be in this business than right now,” he said during his live session, ‘Why Bigger Is Better,’ at ICCFA 2016. “Some people still don’t believe that. They think business has passed them by and they don’t like the way that this is going. But in any business, there’s a winner and a loser. You need to decide where you want to be.”

Show People, Don’t Tell People

Sure, there are a lot of things threatening the funeral profession… declining traditional service, declining customer loyalty, and declining traditional religion. Yet funeral professionals still keep building their funeral chapels to resemble churches, and arranging non-religious families with ministers to lead their funeral service.

We say we are ready to change the way the world thinks of a funeral, but we keep trying to convert families to the traditional way of thinking that we have known for decades. Instead, we need to change our own mindset. If we did, we may just see that there are a lot of people in the funeral profession making money in funeral and cemetery business today. It is possible.

The people that are winning in this business are willing to put their money where their mouth is, and they are finding big success. And we’re not just talking about the big-name, multi-location funeral homes… The average-joe, middle funeral business is the one being under served today in the United States.

Today’s families want a different experience. They want multiple options for their services and different location choices. They want a service that is modern, casual, distinctive and flexible. They want a funeral service that is bigger than their grandparent’s funeral.

How To Grow Bigger and Better

“In today’s funeral profession, you can’t afford to be mediocre,” Gober said. Your biggest competitor is no longer the funeral home down the street… it’s the new Hilton Garden Inn they built by the freeway. “Today, you have to be able to compete with big spaces, elegant facilities and flexibility,” And, thanks to the internet, even if you’re the only firm in town, you’re still not safe in your traditional funeral ways.

Change is happening all around us, and it’s affecting every funeral business. And once people start to make these changes – arranging services online, choosing to hold a life celebration over a traditional burial – they’re not calling the funeral home anymore. “Funeral homes are looking around saying, ‘Wow, these baby boomers sure are healthy,’” Gober said. “But the truth is, they are going somewhere else.”

We’re at the point where funeral homes need to do something uniquely different in order to be better than all of the competitors around them. Because eventually, someone is going to get this right, and have a higher quality service, broader offerings, and a better experience… so why shouldn’t it be your funeral home?! If you’re ready to rewrite the future of funerals, here are three tips that will help you win big…

1. Put service before anything.

What’s the one thing that funeral homes will always be better at than the internet? Providing an emotional, personalized, in-person experience to the people walking through their doors. Therefore, you need to be genuinely better at this than anyone else around you. Your customer experience should go so above and beyond that it is instantly recognizable by people who are coming into your funeral home (and the people who may be your families in the future). After all, the best way to market your funeral home is to make sure that the people grieving and coming to your funeral home know what you do there.

You also need to offer people an experience that they can’t get anywhere else. For example, you should never tell a family that you are sorry for their loss. They should get more from a funeral professional. Instead, recognize that you are about to embark on a journey together, and let them know that you will be right there beside them to help them through. It’s your job to offer them something more than “I’m sorry for your loss.”

2. Recognize why bigger is better.

Many funeral professionals turn away at the thought of a “big funeral business.” In fact, many have probably already stopped reading this article because they want to believe that focusing on the family is enough to bring them success. But the ugly reality of a small business is that the market no longer supports the strategy that a small funeral home thrives on. Families want options, customization, and place that can support every want and need they can imagine. “The only way a small firm can survive is to be mortgage free, have a family staff with substantial wages, have housing included, and live in an isolated marketing – either geographically, culturally or economically,” Gober said.

Plus, a big funeral home doesn’t mean a small focus on service. In fact, it means just the opposite. Big funeral homes have resources, credibility and management depth. They still have all of the resources to do what the small, intimate firms do, such as be nimble, personal and entrepreneurial. But they can also offer the large-scale features that today’s families crave, like an outdoor celebration space and the ability to go above and beyond with personalization. Don’t let your facilities live in the past. Your facilities, experiences and staffing need to catch up to today’s changing families.

3. Be the one to reshape the game.

Instead of ignoring that the funeral profession is changing, or waiting for the profession to catch up with today’s families changing needs, reshape the game yourself. Don’t wait until your competitor is literally knocking down your door and your families are demanding something different. Get in front of them and improve your strategy now. How can you do that? Expand your market, buy a competitor, evaluate your services and your prices, see what your local families are looking for form their services… Whatever you need to do to get there (buy it, sell it or improve it), just don’t stick your head in the sand. Hope is not a strategy.

If you are ready to stop talking about improving your funeral business and start doing, we want to help. Click here to sign up for a free demo of our funeralOne solutions, and let’s write the future of funerals, together.

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  1. Paul

    Nice blog post. Thanks for sharing this blog post.

  2. Rilee Chastain

    Thanks, Paul! We’re glad you enjoyed it!

  3. idontgivafucck@gmail.com

    I’d like to be standing up in a corner. Can this be done..NO CASKET NEEDED…IDONTGIVAFUCCK….

  4. Rilee Chastain

    Actually, this can be done! Several people have had wishes to attend their own funeral: http://bit.ly/1QqMgER You may be surprised by the amount of personalization options that are available for your funeral service. If you have a specific request, it’s always best to put your wishes down on paper or pre-plan with your funeral director! 🙂

  5. Alan Hillsberg

    Hi Rilee,

    Thanks for the article but disagree with a part of it. You said, “Families want a different experience. They want multiple options for their services and different location choices. You go on to say, “they want a service that is modern, casual, distinctive and flexible. They want a funeral service that is bigger than their grandparent’s funeral. Families want options, customization, and place that can support every want and need they can imagine.”

    In my experience working with funeral directors, planning a funeral is not like planning a wedding. It certainly feels that way in the paragraph above. It’s not a happy time in life. Funerals are often somber affairs and pre planning at best is a responsibility.

    In fact, most families never think of a funeral home unless they have an immediate need. I have had funeral directors that have told me families have drove by their building for years and never saw it until they had to make arrangements. When a loved one passes, most families (certainly not all) are in a state of deep grief and confusion, customization, different location choices and a service bigger than their grandparents funeral are usually not front and center on their minds.

    I 100% agree with the fact that our industry is changing. Declining traditional services and declining traditional religion at the forefront. However, today’s funeral director needs to guide the family into the various options available to them. I don’t believe the majority of families know what they want; rather it’s up to the creativity of the funeral director to explain the many options available to them. And yes; There are many new ideas available to families than the traditional methods so widely offered today.

    You say today’s families want a different experience. I disagree with that. I feel today’s families would be open minded to a different experience but need the help of a funeral director to explain those forward thinking options to them.

  6. Rilee Chastain

    Hi Alan! Thanks for the great feedback! We agree that funeral directors should be a big part of the planning process, to help explain to families that these extraordinary experiences are available to them, and they don’t have to have the cookie cutter traditional funeral they have always known. However, we disagree that a funeral has to be a somber affair. A funeral is a unique opportunity to celebrate a person’s life, and we have seen a strong trend in families choosing to have memorial celebrations that honor a loved one in an upbeat, celebratory way, rather than the dark, somber funeral that their grandparents had. And thanks to the internet, many families are going online and researching these forward-thinking options for themselves before they even speak to a funeral director. Funeral directors no longer can wait for families to come to them to learn about their services, they have to market the value of what they do to today’s online consumer who is actively seeking out information and education.