Some of the most brilliant insights in life are simple to understand but not always easy to act on.
For example, growing a funeral home business is simple… but not easy.
You connect with a family who has lost a loved one. You offer services related to disposition, gathering, and ceremony. You charge more than your costs and repeat as often as possible. It sounds simple enough…but we know it’s not easy.
I believe three factors make growing a funeral home business pretty darn challenging (aka NOT easy).
Factor #1 – Difficult Arrangements
When faced with the loss of a loved one, those closest to the deceased experience a personal trauma. During this time, basic decision making becomes extremely difficult.
When funerals always followed the same basic pattern, the decisions were pretty limited. What kind of casket? When do we schedule visitation? When is the church service? Etc.
Clients often tell me that making arrangements has become far more difficult over the past decade as families move away from the traditional funeral model.
Rather than a thirty-minute arrangement meeting with the decision makers, they are now faced with a two-hour session with the entire family trying to reach a consensus.
The Funeral Director’s role has shifted from scheduling to becoming an event planner with a dash of family therapist thrown in to keep the peace.
Arrangements….simple but not easy.
Factor #2 – Serving multiple generations
In the course of a week, you may care for someone from the GI Generation, Silent Generation, Baby Boomer, Gen X, and even a Millennial.
When a young person has died, the funeral takes on a whole different vibe as the friends and family gather and mourn in their own way.
But the same is also true for other generations. For example, a Silent Generation funeral is very different than what a Baby Boomer wants.
This means that the funeral home must be extremely flexible and ready to adapt to meet the needs of every generation. You’re staging a custom-designed funeral experience for every family. The days of cookie-cutter funerals have passed.
Meeting the needs of multiple generations….simple but not easy.
Factor #3 – The changing world of marketing
Something I hear all the time from new clients is, “I can run a great funeral, but I don’t understand this whole marketing thing”.
It makes a lot of sense since the vast majority of owners started as funeral directors. Their exposure to marketing is typically limited to a few college courses if that.
Unfortunately, this leaves the owners susceptible to a smooth-talking media salesperson who often plays local funeral homes against one another.
The Yellow Pages sales reps used to be masters at this game. They would encourage one owner to buy a half-page ad because that is what their competitor ordered. Today’s digital media marketing companies play the same game.
In a previous newsletter, I mentioned that every funeral home owner needs a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). It’s the same as how your CPA acts as a Fractional Chief Financial Officer (CFO). You don’t need this person full time, but you need a slice of their time to keep your business headed in the right direction.
The world of marketing is constantly changing. Either the business owner needs to become a marketing master themselves, or they need to hire a Fractional CMO.
Marketing is all about acquiring a new customer in a constantly changing world. It’s a very simple concept…but it’s definitely not easy.
Many funeral homes are struggling these days. The root causes…
- Difficult arrangements that result in too many direct cremations
- Struggling to meet the needs of each generation
- Trying to keep up with the constantly changing world of marketing
But it doesn’t have to be this way…
One of my clients has gone from 142 calls in 2015 when we started working together to 220 in 2019, and they are on track for 250 this year. Not bad at all, considering they are in a very traditional market with some strong competitors.
I’m not claiming credit for the growth, merely pointing out that growth is still possible even in today’s turbulent market.
Growth may not be simple or easy, but it is possible, and it is definitely worth the effort.
Until next time
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