10 Pieces of Horrible Funeral Service Advice

Bad funeral service advice

When you go to a convention, read a magazine, or chat with your funeral service colleagues, chances are there is no shortage of advice being given to you.

It seems like everyone, even if they just met you, is willing to tell you how to run your funeral home, format your business model, market your services… you get the point.

But I’m here to tell you that chances are, half the advice you’re getting either…

a) isn’t being given to you with your individual needs in mind.

b) OR isn’t going to work.

Don’t get me wrong, advice is great. In fact, that’s what this blog is here to do. But the key to giving and receiving advice is to take it with a grain of salt. You know your funeral business better than anyone, so it’s up to you…not anyone else, to call the shots at your funeral home.

After being in funeral service for over a decade now, I’ve got to admit that I’ve heard some pretty bad advice out there. And to keep you from following it… here are the top 10 pieces of advice I think you (and I) can do without:


1. “There’s no money in funeral service. Find another career.”

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me or a colleague this, I’d be a billionaire! It’s no secret that we’re in the middle of some huge changes in our profession. But please, don’t follow anyone else’s advice but your own when choosing your career. Money is not a sign of success, happiness is. Funeral service is a career you choose because it’s your life’s passion. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.


2. “You have to offer the lowest prices in your area to win.”

Funeral home owners who think they need to price their services lower than the competition to earn business got it all wrong. Let’s face it, this strategy is NOT sustainable over time. It doesn’t matter how low you cut your prices, someone out there is always going to be willing to cut his or her margins to be lower priced than you. Price is a battle you’re always going to lose. That’s why you should focus on the value you bring families instead.


3. “I know what you need…. a funeral home remodel!”

I remember overhearing a conversation at an NFDA Convention this year. One gentleman was telling his friend that his profit margins were getting lower and lower, and he didn’t know what to do. His friend suggested that he remodel his funeral home to be more appealing to the families of today. In a way, I understand why this man gave this horrible advice. Of course, re-modeling your funeral home could open some opportunities for new business. But let me tell you this… adding on to your shrinking profit margins isn’t going to fix anything. What you need to do is fix the root of the problem of your funeral business. If you haven’t found it yet, don’t give up until you do. And certainly don’t distract yourself with a project that will only put you in a worst situation than you began with.


4. “If it works, why stop doing it?”

I hear this come out of funeral professional’s mouths all the time. “We’ve always served our families this way, so we’re going to continue doing just the same.” No one likes to change the way they’ve been doing things, especially if they’ve been doing them the same way for generations. After all, in funeral service, traditions are important. However, at the core of any business should be continuous improvement. If you’re not growing or getting better, you should be testing ways to find out how you can start to grow or get better. The last thing anyone wants to do is become stagnant, so why make any excuses for your funeral home?


5. “Focus on your competitors.”

In today’s times, business is tough and competition is fierce. But that doesn’t mean you have to go head-to-head with your community’s competitor(s) all of the time. In my opinion, it’s wasted energy. Why not focus on offering your families a meaningful, memorable experience instead? Trust me, a customer-focused funeral home beats out a competitor-focused funeral home, every time.


6. “You can’t fire him/her, they’ve been here for 20 years!”

I can bet your bottom dollar that you have at least one employee at your funeral home who isn’t performing the way they should be. And I bet no one will fire them because they’ve been there for so long, or they’re a family member or friend. This is always a tough situation to face, and trust me, I’ve gone through it a number of times. But the most important lesson I’ve learned is to never make excuses for anyone. If any employee at your funeral home has your best interest in mind, they’ll improve if you ask them to. If not, it’s time to part ways. It’s really as simple as that.


7. “None of your customers are using social media.”

I hear it all the time… “my community isn’t on social media, they don’t use the Internet, so what’s the use?” While your families aren’t exactly social media-obsessed millennials, they are rather social media savvy. In fact, Baby Boomers were recently reported as the fastest growing group on Facebook. Sadly, only 47% of funeral homes currently use social media. That means incorporating social into your funeral home could be the competitive edge you need. You can find some tips to help get you started on social media here, here and here.


8. “If you use social media, you have to be on EVERY channel.”

If you want to burn yourself out and waste a lot of time and money, get your funeral home on every social media channel there is. But, if you want to see real results, choose a select few that bring the most value to you. When you’re first starting out with social media, keep it basic. Get on Facebook, Twitter, and MAYBE Google+ or Pinterest. Once you’ve mastered those, you can think about expanding your reach, but don’t muddy the water. When it comes to social media, it’s all about quality rather than quantity. Find out what works for your firm, and keep improving in those channels.


9. “As long as you have a website, you’re golden.”

If there’s one thing that will frustrate me more than anything, it’s when people tell me that they’re website is great the way it is. If I visited your funeral home’s website right now, would I find the most recent information on your pricing, offerings, contact information, etc? Would it answer all of my questions without me having to dial up your funeral home? Has it been updated in the last year? If not, it’s time to figure out how you can improve your website to better meet the needs of your families.


10. “That’s good enough.”

If an employee ever turned something into me that he said was “good enough”, I would send him back to his desk to make it better. If you’re going to put the effort into doing something, why not make it great? Seth Godin, author of the bestselling book “Purple Cow,” once said, “Good is the enemy of great.” To this day, that is one of my favorite quotes… and one I live by in my personal and business life. In everything you do at your funeral home, ask yourself “Ok… this is good. But how can I make this GREAT?” By doing that, you’ll find that your colleagues, friends and families will notice you going above and beyond… and you’ll probably find yourself being rewarded for it some way. For some great inspiration to becoming great rather than good, check out our post, How to be Remarkable: 4 Steps to Becoming a “Purple Cow!

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received at your funeral home? Tell us in the comments below!

Joe Joachim


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  1. Judy Cherish-Ceremonies

    I agree with all those points – although they are equally applicable to any business I think.

  2. Jeff Harbeson

    #11 worst advice: receiving advice from someone “in the industry” but out of touch and does not regularly meet with at need families or make funeral arrangements saying “Turn your funerals into a Disney experience and ignore all the national financial data that consumers are struggling to pay for funerals…trust me, the balloons, characters, and live animals in the show will make huge profits for your firm,”

    #12 worst advice: “If you put this casket on the floor with all these bells and whistles, families will pay more for it and you’ll make more money.”

  3. Krystal

    Hi Jeff, thanks for the comments. I have to respectfully disagree (to a certain degree) on #11 – I think if someone had $1 to pay for a funeral, these days, they will want to spend it on something that will make it meaningful, rather than just disposition. You see low-income people having meaningful weddings without paying an arm and a leg. To me, it’s beyond price… it’s about meaning. That’s what the families of today look for and find meaningful. The more time we spend marketing simply disposition methods, the more out of touch we become with families.

  4. Jeff Harbeson

    The point is that people that are giving funeral home owners/directors “advice” do not meet with, observe or have any part of families that are actually making these decisions.

    My comments were not about the money spent, but the emotion and anguish while making the decisions..especially when finances are a struggle. It is not a requirement to spend money on meaningful funerals and a funeral professional will always strive to provide the family with fitting services and products.

    We are continually bombarded by those that scavenge around the edges of our industry with no realistic view or understanding of what is truly necessary to bridge the gap between financial stability or the funeral home and providing families with the services they desire.

    I had a friend that played professional baseball and was a shortstop and lead off hitter. His coach told him to quit “swinging for the fence” meaning his job was to simply get on base and allow the others to “bring him around.” Basically my friend only had the skill set to bunt and get base hits, not home runs. My advice to those that want to give “advice” to funeral professionals is the same as the coach..”stick to what you know.”

  5. Krystal

    Thank you Judy! We appreciate it 🙂

  6. Krystal

    I understand your point of view, and thanks for sharing. You’re right. Only give advice on something you’re an expert in… otherwise it wouldn’t be very good advice, would it? However, I also want to note that looking at the way you serve families from a different angle or perspective is invaluable. I think commentary and suggestions from people in other industries should be regarded, but taken with a grain of salt.

    Thanks again for listening… AND for your commentary 🙂

  7. Jeff Harbeson

    Agreed…we have much to learn from everyone, but actually reading a book about combat does not make one a combat veteran. Keep up the good work!

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