Freshly returning to the Command Post (East) from #NFDA2016 in Philadelphia, I’m providing an After Action Review of what I saw, didn’t see, and my experience perspective this year. From the logistical front, the NFDA team could not have selected a better venue that provided a huge Expo floor with easy access to educational seminars and walking distance to many hotels. Also, the NFDA app was a stroke of genius! I give the entire NFDA staff a salute for a well-executed and attended event.
From my perspective, the biggest influential segment of this year’s event was Social Media and Technology. Facebook was on fire with posts, selfies, and live updates from attendees as well as vendors. Homesteaders Life and Disrupt Media sponsored a Social Media Lounge providing attendees a venue for all things social. Live feeds by Funeral Nation TV were given and frankly, the funeral world is turning a corner and starting to “get it.” Technology abounded, with website developers adding new services and add-ons. Funeral home software continues to permeate the norms of doing business and my choice of the best was Passare with their collaboration platform connecting families to the arrangement process with their easy-to-use program. There also were some “newcomers,” attempting to breach the market with very narrowly and poorly thought-out “new funeral apps;” however it’s obvious they did not do their homework, as most redundant offerings have failed to gain any traction in the past.
From a product standpoint, there was noticeably larger presence of foreign casket providers than ever before. The Sich Casket booth was full continuously and I have to give them the “win” for marketing with their surprise “God Bless America” flash mob and free coffee stands. Urns were everywhere and I’ll admit, I saw some unique designs that are “upping the game.” What struck me was the flood of “same old stuff” in many booths. (Are consumers still buying these relics or are the vendors trying to dump inventory?) Outer burial containers didn’t offer any new “wows.” I have to say the most personable was the Darby Family at Trigard Vaults. You are always guaranteed hugs and hairdos with them! At the Pierce Chemical booth I watched (and took video of) an artist bringing life to the lifeless. The Pre-Need Builders after care program was also a breath of fresh air in the service market.
Speaking of the art of restoration/embalming, I heard some rumblings about the lack of embalming subject matter presented in seminars. However, this is indicative of the focus in perhaps the most important segment that needs to be addressed to funeral home owners/directors: financial health. Consumers are dictating the direction of our profession. Adapting to better business practices, understanding consumer needs, how to better communicate to and reach families, along with becoming profitable for the swelling tide of cremation, are topics that were at the forefront of the majority of seminars.
The Foresight Companies had a “free money grab” at their booth which again makes sense; if a funeral home is not making great profit at least you can have a chance to grab free cash. From the financial services segment I noticed the lack of new companies present. The representation of pre-need companies seems to have leveled as well as that of the insurance assignment firms. The largest footprint of assignment companies was from C&J Financial and American Funeral Financial (shout out to Jackie Williams and Chuck Gallagher for their new “live stardom”).
I did not see companies like Save My Ink, Trey Ganem Designs, Qeepr, DNA Memorial, The Help Card, and many others. In the competitive funeral industry product/service marketplace and although they may still be operating, the lack of presence along with top-mind advertising is pretty much a kiss of death (no pun intended)…you have to BE there!
I posted It’s about the relationships, not the productivity this week at the onset of the Convention. Truly, relationships are the defining factor of funeral business. Seeing longtime friends is a bonus for me personally at these events. Talking with clients and receiving accolades in person that our work makes a difference in their lives is irreplaceable. Conversations with prospective clients and listening to their situations of working in such a tough environment bring me excitement, because we have solutions. The bottom line is that we are all in the funeral business to serve families at one the most difficult events in life: death. How we as an industry intertwine our businesses, relationships, strengthen financial heath, and bring the most positive light to our profession is the key to long term victory.
The synopsis of #NFDA2016 is of a huge success from the many observations shared above. Watch Ryan and I next week on Funeral Nation TV for a full follow up of this year’s event. Today is the “new funeral year,” so it’s time to get back to work. From the Command Post (East) with my comrade Rat Terrier at my side, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander