The 3 Biggest Threats To The Funeral Profession… EXPOSED

If you ask funeral professionals what the biggest threat is that’s facing their profession, 9 times out of 10 you will likely get cremation as your answer. In the last few years alone, funeral directors have seen cremation rise from a second-choice funeral service option to families’ most popular pick for end-of-life services… and that trend is not slowing down.

In fact, NFDA reported that the rate of cremation is projected to be 56% in 2020 and 71.1% in 2030 (which is not nearly as far away as it sounds).

But while the funeral profession has been busy focusing on what they can do to stop cremation from threatening their traditional way of doing things (even though we believe it’s time to embrace cremation once and for all), a number of new threats to funeral service have popped up and captured the attention of the families they serve.

However, many of these funeral threats are not new concepts. In fact, most are celebration and personalization-focused services that have been around in the event space for years as options for people planning weddings, anniversary parties, you name it.

What’s new about these options (and what makes them threatening) is that families are beginning to look to these services they’ve used in the past as options or replacements for their funeral plans. And as they continue to shift their thinking from a traditional funeral service to a celebration of life, these alternative options are at the top of families minds.

So what can funeral homes do to take personalization and life celebration back into their own hands, before families begin to question whether or not they need to go to a funeral home at all? First, take a look at these common threats that are facing the funeral profession, then learn how you can best fill the gaps that they are taking over in your service model:

1. Event Spaces

Hotels and banquet spaces are some of the most popular options when it comes to holding a big event, such as a wedding or a shower. Why? Because they can hold a lot of people, they are setup to accommodate services like catering and live music, and they are easy to personalize with elements like custom table decor.

Now think about the requests that today’s families are approaching your funeral home with… completely personalized decor, space for custom or live music, or simply a comfortable, large setting to host their family. If your funeral home isn’t able to accommodate each of these needs, families don’t have to settle. They will simply move on to a location that can offer them what they’re looking for, even if that means that they are not using the facilities of a funeral home.

As Doug Gober put it best at ICCFA 2016, “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.”

How funeral homes can compete: Funeral homes need to start being uniquely different if they want to be better than the competitors around them — including their local hotels and banquet facilities. They need to put funeral personalization and customization at the forefront of all that they do, and go above and beyond for their families. This includes updating both their facilities and their services to catch up to today’s changing families.

To learn more about what your funeral home can do to compete with “big funeral business” and even bigger event spaces, check out our full recap of Doug Gober’s talk at ICCFA 2016 → How To Make Your Funeral Home Win Big (Live From ICCFA)

2. At-Home Funerals

Many of today’s families are not only rethinking the way that they look at funerals, but they’re also going back to their roots and beginning to question when and how we have funerals in the first place.

“When did funerals move away from the home and into a funeral home? Why can’t grandpa’s funeral service be held in the place where he grew up and made his home?”

As families begin to research more about the origins of funeral service and the benefits of a home funeral, many are deciding to bring this super personal, important life event back home.  Why? Because having a funeral at home can provide extra comfort when families need it most, and it allows family and friends to feel more at home then ever in an otherwise uncomfortable situation… because they are actually at home.

How funeral homes can compete: It’s no secret that funeral homes can sometimes feel uncomfortable and cold to families who are grieving… it’s just the nature of the business. But that doesn’t mean that families should miss out on the immense value and benefit that funeral homes provide during a time of loss. The key is to bring celebration and comfort back into the funeral home by making it feel more personalized, hosting post-funeral celebrations that are comforting, and ultimately doing whatever you can to encourage memory sharing and celebration, so that your space feels more like home.

For tips on how you can do just that, check our our three-step process for making your funeral home feel like home → How To Bring Storytelling And Celebration Back Into The Funeral Home

3. Outside Memorial Companies

It has never been easier for people to share and sell the personal, unique things that they create — from custom home decor and photos, to homemade cards and booklets — thanks to popular websites like Etsy and Pinterest. So when families begin to do research on funeral services and products and learn about things like funeral programs, custom memorial cards or tribute videos, they immediately go to these sites to begin looking at their options.

Little do they know that they can actually go to their funeral home to request all of these products (and more) in a completely custom, beautiful and personalized design, thanks to programs like Life Tributes. Instead, they spend the days leading up to their loved one’s funeral rushing to get custom printing done and trying to compile a video slideshow, when they should be spending that time exchanging important memories and stories with their family and friends.

How funeral homes can compete: Life Tributes’ all-in-one personalization software makes it easier than ever for funeral homes to offer beautiful, completely customized funeral printing for the families that they serve. Not only can funeral homes design and create stunning print designs for memorial folders, prayer cards, bookmarks, thank you cards and more, but they can also create amazing Hollywood-style production memorial videos… all in under 30 minutes.

Don’t believe us? Try Life Tributes out for yourself with a FREE 30-day trial! All you have to do is click here to start designing your personalized printing and memorial videos.

What do YOU think are the biggest threats to the funeral profession in 2017 and beyond? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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  1. Christopher Harvan

    In mid-Ohio, a wily funeral director I know purchased an additional facility in his town for events to circumvent competition from the other event spaces. They use this larger capacity facility for celebrations of life, of course, but the additional revenue stream using already honed skill-sets is so smart. Additional real estate may not be on option in many cases but consider adaptability.

    At-home funerals aren’t for everyone, but for those that lean that way, FDs can choose to provide service and support to their community in these situations or get shut out of it. Not profitable? The immediate opportunity cost of not being a solid rock that your constituents can depend on, regardless of their preferences, is not insignificant.

    Bringing celebration and comfort back is worthy endeavor but a long game – one that I believe has more to do with the interiors of most funeral homes NOT being transformative portals for the living to access their grief and memories of the deceased. Even the word “home” should be stripped of “funeral home.”


    People already have homes. Why not “Sky Temples” or “Afterlife Jump Zones”? I don’t have an appropriate replacement word yet, as you can see, but either way, celestial aesthetic aspirations while being grounded in earthy materials and plenty of natural light might create an environment beyond the notion of “home”.

    What do I know, though? I am just a person born to act as a conduit from the place where inspiration comes from for others to access the divine within the context of all of human culture.

    Outside memorial companies may be able to pick off direct sales here and there but we lack the retail front. Funeral directors are the gatekeepers and most of us want to keep it that way – mostly.

    We don’t want a bricks-and-mortar retail operation. The design/production of remembrance products and services requires an entirely different type of person than that of running a death hospitality business. I can dream up an amazing facility for your guests to begin their journey of grief, but I sure do NOT want to run it or do removals at inconvenient times (you people are saints, really).

    I will admit, I am hell-bent on putting our product in the hands of the people whom you are being told want new, different, inspired, personalized options. You’ll have to see us as an asset rather than a threat to create this triple-win situation:

    customer gets a product worthy of their memories without spending hours scouring the internet
    funeral home makes profit they otherwise wouldn’t have on higher quality remembrance gear while creating a better experience for customers
    unique, passionate upstart supplier is able to keep delivering you product or service that increases or creates revenue streams and a greater inclination for repeat business from duly impressed customers

  2. John Arnfield

    Here in Australia we don’t see cremations as a threat. Over 80% of our Funerals are now Cremations. The Services are usually held in Crematorium Chapels which can cater for large numbers. They usually have facilities for after Service catering and also have huge Memorial gardens where ashes can be placed.
    As a Funeral Director of over 18 years experience I have seen the changes in the Industry from Burials to Cremations. Our Funeral Home provides all the extras such as DVD’s of the life of the person, cards, Funeral service sheets or what we call “Orders of Service” sheets, ALL printed in house.
    We work with the Crematoriums to make sure the Service is a fitting farewell, and a memorable occasion. In a very competitive market we have a large number of Funeral providers that have no facilities for Services, being only a “shop front” business. They rely heavily on using the Crematorium Chapels for Services, or in some cases, the local Churches. A number of these smaller Funeral operators farm out their body preparations to other larger Companies, just collecting the body, already encoffined on the day of the Funeral. We now tailor our business to suit the ever growing Cremation market and have successfully reduced running costs because of streamlined proceedures.
    Embalming is not the norm in Australia and the average price of a Cremation is around $6,500 Australian. Burial is around $8,000+ as most cemeteries are owned by local Councils who have adopted a “User pays” system so that the cost of running the graveyards are not passed on to residents.