Why are new ideas so difficult to introduce in the funeral industry? The historic level of success for introduction, adoption and broad acceptance is low, at best. I’ve been around this market now for several years and have witnessed products, services and vendors come and go. At nearly every convention and expo, bright eyed newcomers rent booth space for display just knowing they will capture the hearts and minds of those that will share their ideas with the families they serve. The truth is, most fail.
One factor for low success is that most of the “new idea” people are from outside the industry. Consumer research may indicate opportunity will abound for success; however the stark reality becomes evident once launched. Standing in the booth hoping funeral directors and perspective buyers will show interest by taking time for the new exhibitor to share their ideas becomes a lonely and expensive lesson. Often if a cool and free giveaway is available, traffic will be akin to Halloween with open bags to take the trinket, but no real interest otherwise. A fishbowl full of business cards may provide a glimmer of follow up hope with the vendor measuring success by all the “contacts” made, but the reality is few will ever respond. Speaking of business cards, it’s hilarious to me how may attendees “forget” their cards and if one is in their possession, how many have no email address. I would venture to guess if these same folks were at a local church picnic, bake sale, pig picking, Friday night out at the diner or other “major marketing” event they would be handing out cards like methadone at a drug clinic.
Most of the naysayers including those that fill their goodie bags with “free stuff” along with the non-card carrying bunch have never created anything in their life other than a checking account for their check to be deposited. Thus not having any idea or appreciation for the difficulty bringing a product/service/idea to market. These same smug and often borderline rude people are the barrier between funeral consumers and innovation in the industry, however their stranglehold is weakening. I recently saw a great commercial from Go Daddy (which I use) that reminds me of this crowd…named the Doubters:
Unfortunately the “new idea” people are often ill prepared to launch for several reasons. The product/service has not been proven or beta tested in actual arrangement sessions. This is an important factor because without data and feedback from the presenter (funeral director) to the consumers they are meeting, it’s impossible to gauge consumer acceptance. Many new vendors haven’t a clue the intricate nuances that take place during an at-need arrangement session, nor are most directors willing to introduce something new outside their normal routine. Therefore, price points, presentation materials and the sales process are not vetted which is an uphill climb to any market penetration. I wrote a post Funeral Industry Entrepreneur? relative to starting something new in the funeral industry; it’ not for the faint at heart.
Another factor is need…what does the funeral industry really need? Frankly there is over capacity of urns, caskets, vaults, fluids, funeral coaches, paper goods, pre-need offerings, life insurance factoring, and such. Generally the same vendors are offering “new and improved” of the same stuff year after year. The relationships developed between suppliers and customers usually remain firmly entrenched. For funeral homes to make a change from one supplier to another usually takes place primarily because of finances; don’t kid yourself, it’s all about the money. The well funded deep pocketed suppliers will go to great financial lengths to retain or attract new business from a limited field of buyers which often squeezes out the “newbies” and smaller competitors (yep, I have seen HUGE discounts and rebates climbing over 40%). Many of the “big boys” are rearranging the chairs on their own Titanic due to the shifting consumer, increase of cremation, decrease of burials and their own lack of innovation. However, changing suppliers or adding new products/services also takes effort on the buyer side which deters many due to the sheer upheaval and operations of the “we have always done it that way” crowd. Even if “new or different” costs less, easier to use, provides better service, or fills a needed gap, the resistance to change generally rules.
What if the approach to launching new funeral related products and services changed? I think (I haven’t conducted much research on this) there are more living people at this very moment than those that are arriving at funeral homes. Huh? What if vendors/suppliers reach consumers prior to arriving at the funeral home creating demand for their particular product/service? Basically consumers walking into funeral homes asking for the product/service by name…would this conduct change the market? Of course, I can almost hear (even with some great Spotify tunes blaring on my speakers) “well, I don’t carry or do that, so you will have to choose from what I have to offer” from the before-mentioned “we’ve always done it this way” crowd.
The advent of Social Media has created a tremendous path to reaching and educating consumers about new services or products. FTC Funeral Rule actually stands in the consumers’ corner regarding their choices. Now this could create quite a quandary let alone great headlines for marketing of such products or services. So, you don’t think this is possible? Take some time to read about Invisalign and their launch into the dental market. Early adopters enjoyed success and competitive advantage for their new service/product innovation. The push-pull strategy has not been attempted in the funeral service industry…
But don’t fret! The Funeral Commander is developing a 5 Paragraph Operations Order that will have many scratching their heads and others proclaiming “well, I’ll be damned.” The truth is, there are other avenues of approach to effect change. For the early adopters, forward thinkers and those with the capacity to adapt for change, we have quite a great ride ahead. For the others, please don’t change, really we need you! From the thick smoke of a great cigar at The Funeral Commanders desk, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander #dnamemorial