4 Industries Funeral Service Can Learn From in a Time of Change


Let’s pretend for a minute that you want to lose weight. Which choice of action do you think would lead to success?

a) Change your eating habits and start working out
b) Do nothing and hope for the best

I’m going to take a wild guess that you answered “a”.

A wise man named Albert Einstein once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

So, you get the point…  in order to make change happen, you’ve got to change the way you do things. But we both know I’m not here to talk to you about losing weight – I’m really here to talk to you about the challenges you’re facing at your funeral home. We already know that our families are changing, and that our profits are declining, so why are we doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results?

It’s time the funeral profession re-thinks the way things are traditionally done. I’ve attended numerous workshops, speeches, events and conferences where EVERYONE preaches about how things are changing and how badly the profession needs to change to adapt to today’s families.

But is talking about how bad we need to change going to get us anywhere?

No, it’s not. It’s time to take action.

Someone has to speak up around here, and today, that someone is going to be me. I’m no rocket scientist, but through the 10+ years I’ve been in the profession, I’ve able to draw a few parallels between other industries facing change and the funeral profession. And  trust me, we can all learn from them.

So listen up! Here are 4 industries who I think have undergone some pretty dramatic changes to adapt to today’s consumer, and what we can learn from them:

 Travel Industry



Long before Tripadvisor, Hotwire, Airbnb, or Groupon, if you wanted to travel, your number one resource was a travel agent. Travel agents were the experts who could get you the best deals and take the hassle out of trip planning for you. Travel agents are a lot like funeral directors in this sense – they both help you make a difficult task (in the funeral profession’s case, the most difficult task) easy…er.

Before, if you booked a trip with a travel agent, you got access to their “little black book” which was full of options you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to find anywhere else. Travel agents knew the best deals, the best locations, and the best hotels around. With a limited network and limited ways to find that information, travel agents were deemed as incredibly valuable. But now, all it takes is one search on Google and all of those options are laid out for you – no travel agent or little black book needed.

So what can we learn from the travel industry? We can learn that eventually, families will want to take more and more control over planning their funeral (they already are, really). My prediction is that within the next 5 years, consumers will expect to be able to plan their entire funeral online. It sounds scary, but as long as you have a website that clearly demonstrates your service options, reviews, testimonials, prices and contact information, you can benefit from this change in a way travel agents couldn’t. We’ve been preaching for a long, long time how important it is to show consumers your value online. In the future, this will make or break you.

My advice is to start thinking about the future sooner than later, and making sure your website presence clearly represents the level of service and professionalism your firm has.


Wedding Planning



It’s pretty easy to see the parallel between weddings and funerals. After all, they’re both “once in a lifetime” events that spark memories and emotions. But, the difference between wedding planners and funeral directors is that wedding planners have been able to position themselves as a valuable “must” for many consumers. In the article What Funeral Directors Can (And Should) Learn From Wedding Planners, we talked about how wedding planners show their value by:

– helping their customers save money
– going way beyond their customers expectations
– listening to their customers (not offering what they want)
– making the planning process easy and stress-free
– leveraging the internet to show off their work

Think about it… people who plan their wedding are okay with spending an average of over $30,000 for that one event, but they stick their noses up at the average cost of a funeral, which is one-fourth of the price. The things wedding planners are doing to show their value are fairly easy to adapt to your funeral home, so give that blog a read and start thinking like a wedding planner!


Newspaper Publishing Companies



This one’s a little off the wall, and I know when you read “newspapers” in this heading, you probably thought to yourself “but the newspaper industry isn’t thriving”, right? If that’s what you were thinking, you are correct… the newspaper industry still hasn’t figured out how to create a profitable business model. But, here’s the thing – neither has funeral service. So what can we learn from them? Well, in recent weeks, some pretty big names in the business world such as Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), John Henry (owner of the Red Sox) and Warren Buffet have been swooping in and buying newspapers like they’re candy. So what’s the deal?

These billionaires are going to try to save the newspaper industry (and this is where our lesson comes in, so listen up…).  What we can learn the most from this, is the fact that they’re taking the effort to try to save a dying industry.

Instead of just putting a bandage on the issues at hand, they have plans to get to the root of the problem and re-think the business model as a whole. So how can we translate this advice into the funeral profession? Let’s stop using bandages to cover the problem and start working together and figuring out how we can restructure our businesses to better fit the needs of our families and a new business climate. This same approach has helped the music, film and advertising industry – now thinking different can save our profession, too.


Business-2-Business Companies

marketing industry

Photo Credit: http://creativecommons.org


A huge phenomenon is happening in the b2b realm, and it’s called inbound marketing. Back in the day, if you wanted to market to people, you threw interruptive, one-way messages in their face via spammy email messages and telemarketing calls. Now, many b2b companies are using inbound marketing to educate their target audience into their buying decisions, rather than screaming advertising messages at them.

A good example of this comes from inbound marketing company, Hubspot. Through creating hundreds and hundreds of eBooks, white papers, webinar, blogs and social media updates, they’ve acquired nearly 8,000 customers. But more importantly, they practically invented inbound marketing and convinced the world, through educational content, that it’s the new way of doing things.

Obviously this example is a little extreme, but this advice can still be translated at your funeral home. Instead of investing your money into traditional marketing like the Yellow Pages, radio ads and billboards, start investing your money into social media, your website, blogging and other inbound marketing tactics. Not only will you be able to better educate your families on your value, but grow your business too.

For more inspiration…

We only discussed four industries funeral service could learn from here, but there are SO many other examples we could gain some pretty good insights from.

For some more inspiration on adapting to change, check out some of these articles:

–  5 Funeral Service Trends You Should Ignore

Why Funeral Service Isn’t Ready to Embrace the Future

Adapt Or Die: The New Client Family Journey

What Funeral Service is Really Selling: A Lesson from HGTV

Why You Need to Transform Your Funeral Home (Or Get Left Behind)

28 Eye-Popping Stats that Reveal the Future of Funeral Marketing

Have any other industries we could learn from in mind? Share them in the comments below!


Joe Joachim


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  1. Funeral Blog. The official blog for the funeral & cemetery professions. » Blog Archive This FAMIC Campaign Could Change The Future of Funeral Service » Funeral Blog. The official blog for the funeral & cemetery professions.

    […] A true shift in the public’s understanding of the importance of funeral and memorial services will only happen when we unite together to spread the message about a meaningful funeral in every city and town throughout this country. […]