Non-Conventional Conversations

conversation starterI’m just returning from another funeral convention and I would like to provide “color” on my observations.  I had conversations and meetings with many people from practically every facet of the funeral industry, however I am certain those conversations would not get published in any industry magazines…somewhat lends back to “The Truth” series I recently posted.

From vendors, the majority complained of a lack of attendance from buyers and decision makers. On opening day of the exhibit hall, a cannon could have been fired down most isles and not hit nary a funeral service provider.  Something new and never done before was the presence of a suicide prevention booth; however it was hard to get in as it was jam packed with new vendors/first timers seeking counseling trying to figure out why their booth is not full of buyers (I guess they failed to read and take my advice on being an entrepreneur in the funeral industry).  The non-conventional conversation among this particular crowd (vendors) was that “second tier” organizations should consider events with exhibits such as these perhaps every other year.  The cost to attend, lack of ROI, and dwindling attendance is going to force some tough decisions in the future from a vendor participation perspective.  Suggestions of one big annual funeral expo that covers funeral directors, cremationists and cemeterians would suffice with perhaps individual breakout sessions if needed for organizations.  The individual organization fiefdom is a drain on vendors, members and participants.  Every state has its own annual organizational gathering repeating the same madness but on a smaller scale.  The smart states have completely eliminated exhibits.  So my vote (and I’m sure lots of others if they had one) is to let’s quit doing the same thing the wrong way over and over again…what’s that called?

The speakers and breakout sessions had excellent content with relevant information.  Again on the notion of “one big funeral gathering” with many speakers and subjects would stop the redundant messaging under different flags…so maybe the presentations given at the “one big funeral gathering” could be recorded then retrieved in an archived library for those not attending.  That sounds like a smart revenue generation model with mass appeal, but what do I know?

Speaking of tough decisions, the funeral service providers I had the privilege of chatting with provided me with realistic reports of their experiences at providing services/products to the ever changing consumer.  Outside of the emerging Social Media, technology and of course DNA collection (yes, that’s a shameless but true plug) they saw nothing really addressed how to provide better service to the consumers they serve.  Think about that for a moment.  Basically, if the company/vendor is not providing or improving upon a technology based solutions (sales, service, arrangements, B2C marketing, operations, or product) then the relevancy to a funeral service provider is benign.

An interesting and emerging segment that was present in technology seems to be a platform for consumers to memorialize themselves using an online portal to capture their life stories, videos, etc. (I guess Facebook/online obits is just not getting the job done).  The fallacy for most is the choice some really odd names which I personally wonder how consumers find them in the first place.  One of those odd named providers makes claim that their product/service helps with the “family experience” but when I drilled down a bit I got the old “we’re still working on that” position.  Basically, capturing a life well lived is a great notion, in fact some of these cats have somehow found people (companies) to invest in this idea without a strong revenue generation model (you know, pay back investors’ money).  Aurora’s value added Be Remembered has all of the components for such a platform (at no cost to the consumer or funeral home) which leads me to believe that others fail to do any relevant market research before launch.

The best non-conventional conversations took place off the floor with a drink in one hand and a cigar in the other (yes, that’s my favorite environment for great conversations). I think that all would agree such funeral gatherings provide a platform for those in attendance to have all important face to face interactions.  During these important extemporaneous sessions,  I actually was made privy to a new product that I think is brilliant; cremated remains, the life story, storage and columbarium all in one…technology, sleek design and a solution.  Another was about a new brand of funeral service to consumers; a collaborative effort for a brand that will capture and address the majority market in America…the 75% that make less than $50,000.  Those folks die too, but we don’t talk about them much.  Finally, this is a big world but getting smaller.  The alliances of companies collaborating on a global scale are becoming more commonplace.  I personally had conversations with people from Canada, Australia, Spain, Italy, China, Ireland and even New Jersey.

In a nutshell, if it’s not a technology driven product at the exhibitions and expos that assists funeral directors to provide enhanced service to their consumers, the interest level is dwindling.  There is always some that will pine for the days of yore, but those days are going away with facsimile machines.  The from my vantage point, defined success for the future in the funeral industry is messaging, technology and collaboration.  That’s the view from the field and The Funeral Commander.  Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

7 comments
  1. Jacque Harbeson said:

    Right on!Sent from Yahoo Ma

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  2. Dave said:

    BeRemembered.com is NOT free to the funeral home. It’s $99 per month.

    Yeah, they failed that to mention that to me too.

    Dave

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  3. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Interesting Dave…I signed up for personal use and just revisited the site. I could not locate any mention of and fee…

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  4. David Shipper said:

    Associations serve a much bigger purpose than just providing a trade show venue. In this case, the philosophies of the organizations in the industry are so different that it would take a lot more than some “break out sessions” for organizations to function.

    Lobbying, producing useful materials, providing free consulting from outside experts on important issues and a host of other benefits not available anywhere else, including welcoming pre need sellers, are just some of the benefits of membership other than a trade show.

    ICCA has robust programming and is the only counter to Industry Associations that are merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    The trade show started unusually early and it was a long session so there were gaps in people coming by but vendors who are primarily trying to sell funeral directors are not going to do as well as more general business focused initiatives. In fact, I miss all the pure cemetery vendors who had developed equipment, products and services that made running a cemetery easier and less labor intensive.

    Aisles of urn and casket dealers are not going to be widely welcomed with their “me too” offerings. I don’t have trouble buying this stuff, I have trouble selling it to a cremation oriented public who have been so badly served that they don’t even want to go to a funeral home.

    I talked to at least 15 large vendors who had a “great show.”

    What the industry needs is companies trying to figure out how to sell things to the public not me. Thats a huge problem in this business. Someone makes a nice urn and they figure it will sell itself and arent afraid to tell me so. One vendor told me that they do “all the hard work” for me. I told him, I do ALL the work for him, he is just taking orders from me, what’s hard about that?

    The problems we all share are much larger than trade shows or Associations and the industry is breaking off in two directions. One where new carpeting or a new sign is the hoped for renewal of a buggy whip industry and the other is a non ideological path pointing the way to tomorrow.

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  5. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Well stated David. As written, the information provided in sessions and the speakers provide value from different perspectives. Agreed on your point that we, the industry as a whole, should concentrate on the consumer and their needs. Thank you for your response. Jeff

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