7 Funeral Merchandising Tips You Probably Never Thought Of


These funeral merchandising techniques will show you how to NOT be that dark, drabby funeral home everyone’s scared to walk into.

When you see the term, “merchandise”, most people think of the presentation of products in a retail environment, but I prefer to expand the definition… particularly when talking about funeral homes.  

Merchandising at a funeral home includes many techniques-  from something as simple as lighting to something as complex as offering information to environmental cues which are intended to convey a “message” about the subject matter. Frequently, the subject matter is products, but I believe merchandising should also hone in on the services and brand of the funeral home.

In the early days of my career, I set out to find the foundational pillars of funeral merchandising and called them the “Three C’s” – choice, comprehension and comfort. From my many years of research and practice, I’ve transformed those “Three C’s” into seven tips I have for merchandising your funeral home. Incorporating one or more of these techniques will have a positive impact on the way families perceive you, your brand, and the value of the products you offer:

Tip #1:  Get everyone on board

Before you start merchandising products, services or you funeral home, it is important to review your brand and to make sure your staff and your business infrastructure is aligned with the image you wish to project to your community.  Many times the best merchandising will be ineffective if your staff does not interact with it in a meaningful way.  Arrangement offices and selection rooms are littered with presentation materials and merchandised products that are largely ignored by the funeral director meeting with the family.

Tip #2: Remember your audience

Most of us in the funeral industry get used to the uniqueness of our environments.  We forget what it is like to visit a funeral home for the first time.  Ask a close friend that will shoot you straight to tour your facility and have them give their honest reactions and feelings as they do.  You may be surprised at their comments and responses. Listen carefully and see what you can do to address the negative perceptions that might be involved.  

I remember visits to funeral homes early in my career where I had this uneasy feeling while touring a funeral home because I wasn’t sure if I would encounter a body.  To me, every door and every curtain held the potential of running into the recently deceased.  Although I had empathetic funeral directors who would give me a heads up regarding the status and locations of bodies, your families don’t. The last thing you want to do is make someone feel anxious from walking into your funeral home, so be sure to think about these types of situations when merchandising your funeral home.

Tip #3: Make sure your selection room is consistent with your offering

Many selection rooms in funeral homes do not support the value of the products being presented.  Much like you pay attention to every little detail of your services, you need to spend that energy in your selection room as well.  Lighting is key here.  Make sure that there is sufficient lighting to present the value of the products show.  It will be more than you think.  

Tip #4: Get inspired from other retail industries

The next time you go to the mall, look at the methods that are used to present products.  Many of these techniques can be applied to your selection room.  In fact, most families will expect to see those strategies used –  particularly for products at the price point of a casket or a vault.  Pricing information and family comfort will help them understand the value proposition and increase the likelihood that they will match the money they spend with value they perceive.  They will take the visual cues of the selection room environment to help them determine the value of the products you present.  Make sure the perceived “price point” of the environment supports the price point of the products.

Tip #5: Don’t forget public spaces

Aside from the obvious notions of keeping your funeral home clean and neat, there are opportunities to convey the quality of your offering through third party validation.  Third party validation will often trump funeral director presentations because the third party is perceived as not having an agenda or having an agenda that is similar to the family’s.  One of my favorite strategies to accomplish this is to have a bulletin board of thank you cards in one of the public spaces.  After getting permission from the sending family, post the thank you cards and allow your prospective or new families to see all the other families that were grateful for the service you provided.

Tip #6: Don’t forget about technology

There are many ways you can use technology to your advantage to show families all the possibilities your products and services offer. Here are some technologies you can incorporate into your funeral home’s merchandising:

There are many ways you can use technology to your advantage to show families all the possibilities your products and services offer. Here are some technologies you can incorporate into your funeral home’s merchandising:

– TV’s: Want to show families some of your personalization offerings instead of simply telling them about them? Strategically place TV’s in your funeral home’s selection and arrangement meeting rooms and play tribute videos, funeral webcasts, and even marketing videos you’ve put together on them.

– Tablets: Tablets are a great way for you to streamline the arrangement process and show off your products in a way that’s easy for families to digest. First, tablets help you quickly enter the vital statistics you need from the family you’re serving. Then, you can  present your funeral home’s options in a layered fashion tailored to their wants and needs. You can show off everything from your funeral home’s social memorial websites to your latest urn offerings with the swipe of a finger. You can even send families home with a tablet so they can browse all of your funeral home’s offerings on their own time.

When considering using technology in your merchandising efforts, make sure your staff is aligned with this approach. The technology will be underutilized if it does not directly support the arrangement process that they use. Conversely invest in the training that goes with the technology to maximize the use and impact for your families.

Tip #7: Detail, details, details

I will contend that a significant portion of the impact of military honor guards is the attention to detail.  Every move is choreographed and it is easy to tell that a lot of time went into practicing these moves.  This conveys that these presentation activities are important enough to expend the time and effort to make sure they are right.  This attention to detail needs to be expressed throughout your facility.  

One small detail you could think about is cut flowers in the restrooms.  This need not be an expensive detail.  Since florists are coming to your facility on a regular basis and they frequently have leftover flowers that will go bad, ask them to drop off some of these flowers that they would normally throw away. Not only does it add a sense of color and life to your funeral home, but the uplifting scent of flowers in your funeral home will make families forget they’re even in a funeral home to begin with.


Final thoughts

As you can see, merchandising is all about details and effectively conveying your image or message to your families. I always like to think about it like this: if you’re proud of your funeral home’s brand, services, and products, don’t they deserve to be displayed in  a way that expresses that? It’s too bad that many funeral homes overlook these details. I can promise you that your merchandising efforts will not just improve your family’s comfort level and value perception, but they’ll also pay nice dividends from your brand and financial perspectives.

What merchandising tactics and techniques do you use at your funeral home? Tell us in the comments below!

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