Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a cremation presentation at the New York State Funeral Directors Association Convention. The title of the presentation was “All Cremations DO NOT Have to be DIRECT” by Mike Nicodemus; VP of Cremation Services with the National Funeral Directors Association, and let me tell you it was just as educational for me as it was entertaining. For those of you who have sat in on a presentation with Mike, it’s hard not to have a good laugh in there at some point. Or, as one of my colleagues who was with me, Jules Green said, “even for a squirrel like me, that was very, very interesting and I stayed focused. Who would have thought?”
It’s always great being on the other end of these presentations. Usually, I am the one at the front of the room teaching funeral directors, but this time I was there to learn and it was so nice to take some time to just listen to some incredible stats and listen and watch funeral directors in the room share their insights on such a growing topic.
I always say that you can use the Internet to get a message out to the masses, instead of just 100 people in a room. So, what a perfect opportunity to write a blog post on some of the things that I heard during the session and chuckled about (as some of it was quite comical). Let’s do a little recap of some of the major points that I personally thought were pretty important:
#1. In 1913, there were 52 crematories. In 2015 there are more than 3,000.
That’s a HUGE increase that’s only going to continue to grow. More and more direct cremation providers will pop up, more crematories will open, and more companies will be trying to service your families. But how much does it all really matter for your firm? Mike pointed out some very interesting stats about cremation: 20% of your consumers want low-end services, 5% want high-end, and 75% want the best value. Why let a $595 cremation guy that just opened up the street dictate your pricing? Only 20% of your consumers want that low-end, very cheap option. Mike said it best: stay true to who you are and why you do what you do and provide the absolute best value and service to your families.
#2. 31% of people choose cremation because it is “less emotional”.
While there were a list of reasons on the board for why a consumer chooses cremation such as most cost effective (68%), environmentally friendly (45%), more convenient/easy (42%), and dislike burial (37%), the one that jumped out at me was the fact that 31% of people asked said they chose cremation because it was “less emotional”. Mike made the room laugh by saying “what does that even mean?” but it’s true. What does that even mean? Is it because families are choosing to not have a viewing before so they don’t have that last goodbye? I would love to hear your thoughts on that in the comment section below.
#3. From a study of 150 Funeral Homes visited: “almost every funeral director I met with was almost apologizing for the cost of cremation”
I smiled when I read this on the screen, because so many funeral directors I know today are in this boat. While cremation is not something new to them, how they move from how things used to be to how things are today is challenging for them to say the least. It is something that many see as lost revenue. And it’s in their nature to not want to talk too much about profit. However, funeral directors need to be proud of what they do. They are running a business and families turn to them when they don’t know who else to turn to. They hire a funeral director because planning a funeral is not something they really know how to do. Use your website, your printed materials and your staff to educate and communicate with your community on all things cremation and gain confidence in this new form of disposition.
#4. Funeral Directors tend to think families don’t want to spend money, believe there is no value in a funeral service, are not religious, don’t want a viewing and their mind is made up. And they couldn’t be any more wrong.
As a funeral director, you really are there for people at one of the hardest times in their life. Most of you are there because you care and want to be there, with money being very much secondary. I speak to funeral directors from all over North America and I can definitely see these things and why they are a problem in funeral service. Often, the funeral director’s mindset, while in the right place to help, is used to doing things very traditionally, and with all of the changes, they almost cringe when they hear the word cremation. However, it is important to be aware of that and know that cremation is no more than a means of disposition. A family still needs to say their final goodbye, they still need to cherish their memories, and they still need to celebrate the life lived. Just because cremation is chosen, does not mean the life didn’t happen. It is your job to educate each and every family on honoring and remembering that life for themselves and for the community. Education is power and the worst thing the family can say is no.
The woman who visited 150 funeral homes also said: “All funeral directors assumed I did not want to spend money because I wanted cremation”. This statement just proves where consumers stand. Just because a family chooses cremation, does not mean they do not want your services. As Mike said over and over again in the session, consumers do not know what they do not know and it’s up to us to educate them.
#5. When asked, more than 90% of consumers said Funeral Homes either didn’t or they were unsure if they offered cremation. 9.2% said they knew they did.
Yikes! I was surprised to hear this in the presentation. I see this come out when working with funeral homes on the content for their websites, but I didn’t know that number was so high. The media, low cost cremation providers and changing consumers increasingly wanting cremation are the reasons for the rise of cremation, however when asked, more than 90% of consumers said they didn’t think or weren’t sure if the funeral home offered cremation. More and more funeral homes today are putting the word cremation into their business name and their domain name for this reason. If I were a funeral home today, I would be making sure cremation content was on my website, built into my name and domain name (with proper redirects of course), my social media strategy and my blog articles so not one consumer said “I didn’t know you guys did cremation”. This is vital for funeral homes today.
#6. 70% of consumers said that they would not return because of the quality of interaction of people that work for the firm.
While this is not directly related to cremation, it is important. This is something that I stress in all presentations; your staff are the ones representing your brand so proper training, incentives and treatment are needed to keep the ship steering in the right direction. I had to laugh during this a bit but it really is so true. Mike was talking about how it could be something as innocent as the hearse driver having a rough morning, the family standing close by in the parking lot, and the driver gets told to do something by the boss, doesn’t like it and slams the back door after putting “dad” in the vehicle. The intention here is not to disrespect the deceased, it’s just not what funeral directors do. However, everyone has bad days and something as small as closing a door too loudly could make that family say “Did you see the way they handled dad? I will never come back here”. Know your surroundings and remember that your actions as a staff member of the funeral home reflect on that firm – inside and outside of the building.
It all comes down to Education & Marketing.
Your consumers do not know what they do not know. But, one thing is for sure – when it comes to cremation and funeral options, they are turning to Google to provide answers. Most of you reading this likely have a website. But is it optimized? Have you done your keyword research to know exactly what your families are typing into Google to find you and your services? Have you developed a cremation marketing plan? Does it include creating a completely separate cremation business that serves your community?
If you need help in the cremation space and want to tap into this growing market, without hurting your funeral home brand, give FrontRunner a call at 1-866-748-3625. We’ve recently launched the nationally branded Simpler Times Cremation Business System to help you grow market share, and we can help turn your funeral home website into an optimized, well-ranked tool for your online cremation and funeral consumers.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the things read here. And once again, thank you Mike Nicodemus for an excellent presentation on this rapidly changing, and growing, cremation market!
Ashley Montroy, Marketing Director at FrontRunner Professional, has committed herself to helping funeral professionals understand and excel in today’s digital age. With a long-standing history in the funeral business and her father being a licensed funeral director for over 30 years; she grew up learning the family funeral business. Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree from Carleton University and diploma from Algonquin College. Today, she continues to speak to over 15 state and provincial funeral association groups each year on funeral marketing in the digital age and protecting funeral firms online using experiences and examples from working with thousands of funeral homes in North America through FrontRunner Professional.