Live from ICCFA: How Cremation Can Actually Bring You Success

This week, the funeralOne team is 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!


We all know that cremation rates are rising… most funeral directors see the real-life example of this trend every day in their own funeral home. But while many of us feel the impact of cremation first-hand, we still have a hard time seeing the impact of the trend outside of our own doors.

Luckily, the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) has made it their mission to understand cremation families better than anyone, and they sent Mark Matthews, CANA Board Member and President of Wiefels Cremation and Funeral Service, to give the attendants at ICCFA 2016 a glimpse into just how big of an impact cremation is having on the funeral profession.

According to CANA, the U.S. Cremation rate has nearly doubled in the past 15 years, from just 24.8% of cremations occurring in 1999, to around 46.7% of people choosing cremation in 2014… and these numbers are only expected to rise. By 2019, 2 out of 4 Americans will choose cremation for their loved ones. Are you ready? You better be… because the baby boomer generation that we’ve all been waiting for? They are spending less and less on funerals as cremation rates go up.

If you want to truly want to bring your funeral home success and give baby boomers the funeral service they want, it’s time to turn the table on cremation and embrace it once and for all. Here’s how…

1. Understand the reason your families are choosing cremation.

We all know that cost is a major factor in why families choose cremation over a traditional burial. However, many funeral professionals make the incorrect assumption that it is the only factor, so they don’t try and learn more about what cremation families are looking for out of their service. The truth is, there are many motivations for choosing cremation as an end of life option. Some of the most popular motivations include the range of options that cremation brings, the convenience of cremation, and how far a loved one is from the community they grew up in. (Why be buried in your hometown if you no longer have ties to the community there?)

Once you understand the reasons people are choosing cremation, you can customize your cremation packages to specifically target their needs, and even introduce them to cremation options they may have not realized were open to them.

2. Be open to new traditions.

“10 years ago, everyone said that they would never consider getting involved in a cremation society,” Matthews said. “But now, some of the biggest, smartest corporations in this business have a cremation society.”

It’s time for funeral professionals to let go of the funeral traditions they have become comfortable with, and learn to embrace the new traditions of today’s families. The truth is, once one family member cremates, the rest of the family members tend not to come back to the ways of a traditional funeral. Why? Because that one family member opened up the doors for the whole family, and showed them new options (and more personalized, customizable options) that they had never considered before! Now, before you know it, mom chooses cremation after dad did, and they have started a new tradition that no longer involves burial, or a traditional funeral service in general. If your funeral home does not embrace this new tradition, you may just lose generations of families that are making the switch.

3. Create a cremation strategy for your funeral home.

Even if your funeral home is open to cremation, you will never truly find business success until you create a solid, proven strategy for the way that you present cremation services to families. “If you don’t have a cremation strategy, you are slowing going to head out of business as cremation increases,” Matthews said.

For example, take a look at how many crematories are in your community, and consider whether or not it would be in your best interest to open your own crematory. (According to Matthews, the answer is almost always yes.) Not convinced it’s a smart move? Consider this fact… by 2017, the U.S. will see over 50% of all Americans choosing cremation, and by 2019, it’s projected that 1.4 million people will choose cremation. Can you afford to turn these cremation families away to another facility, when you could take the business in house?

Matthews also recommends reaching out to competitors and other death professionals in your community to see if they would be open to bringing their cremation families to your crematory if you were to open one. You may be surprised by just how willing your competitors may be to having a cooperative network to serve your rural area. “If you can do it conveniently for others, and can help grow your own business at the same time, why not?” he said.

4. Think towards the future

Last, but not least, Matthews left us with this quote: “Whether you prevail or fail depends more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you.” If your funeral home truly wants to find success in the ever-growing world of cremation, you need to embrace the future that is ahead. Some of the top-growing cremation states in the United States are those with many rural areas, such as Nevada, Oregon or Washington. Why? Because when local funeral homes put crematories in, they find that their families have been looking for this solution all along, and their business is quick to grow from the demand.

If you want to learn more about cremation statistics, including local statistics for your state, be sure to check out CANA’s website.
What do you think about the growth of cremation rates? Do you see this funeral service as the next “tradition” in the funeral profession? Be sure to let us know in the comments below! Also, stay tuned for more live blogs from ICCFA 2016 – coming soon!!

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  1. Robert Sarnie

    I enjoyed the article very much and I do so hope more funeral homes read it. I think beyond performing a cremation it may also be as important to mention the offerings that will bring the highest profits for the funeral home. Urns are simply not going to provide the revenue needed to sustain the home as people choose cremation. What other products are out there that fit the needs of both the funeral provider and the families?

  2. Barbara Rubel

    The needs of families are changing. In order to run a profitable funeral home, think beyond the way it has always been done. Yes, cremation is on the rise and so is the need for aftercare. For repeat business, aftercare is the answer. This is especially true for sudden traumatic death aftercare. Be better informed about the immediate needs of your families after a suicide, homicide or car crash death. Your families will reach out to you after future losses if they believe you were truly “there” for them.

  3. Rilee Chastain

    Really great insights, Barbara! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Joseph Earthman

    In my opinion, cost is the single most significant motivator behind a family’s choice for cremation. Everything else is tangential (or almost always). If a funeral home, as you suggested, doesn’t let go of relying on the old way of staying in business, they will very likely continue to chase one cremation gimmick after another.