My thesis argument is a simple one. Innovations in funeral service have created a wealth of potential for business and personal success. So much so that funeral professionals simply cannot afford to be disconnected from the awareness of their positive personal and professional potential. That awareness is central to the pursuit of bigger and better things; if you don’t have it, you can slip quietly into apathy and a victim mentality. If you find the assertion credible, read on; if not, turn the page. (It’s okay; I’ll never know.)
There’s a lot happening in funeral service today. You have the really big (and big ticket) technological innovations like water resomation, the advent of online marketing tools, custom funeral home software products, ancillary sales opportunities, and web-based memorialization (interactive funeral home websites with built-in e-commerce features), and the continued growth of the pet loss services profession. Let’s not forget the elephant in the room: cremation. The rise in cremation arrangements was long seen as tolling the death knell for our profession yet, when you see it through the eyes of someone confident in their potential for success, cremation becomes a not-to-be-missed opportunity.
When I Was Younger
Do you remember a time in your life when you were not only aware of but deeply connected with your personal potential? For me, it was 1972, when I was eighteen. Set to graduate from Tehran American School (in Tehran, Iran) that June, I clearly saw my own potential and I was thoroughly excited about what was to come: a return to the United States to go to college and liberation from a solidly dysfunctional family home. Couple that awareness with my drive to change the world (many of us eighteen year old adults felt that way as we had just been given the right to vote) and you have a young woman who saw great things on the horizon. Chances are that you felt the same way when you were a young person on the edge of adulthood.
Then came the crash into reality. Slowly but surely, the potential I so keenly felt was worn away by the day-to-day tasks of adulthood. I learned to compromise and settle for less. I began to live the words of author Robert Fritz: “If you limit your choice only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.” Sound familiar?
I think we all (to one degree or another) become disconnected with our personal and professional potential. Add to this natural phenomenon the perspective that funeral service no longer offers us what it once did – that it is no longer a respectable or even profitable profession – and you have the perfect recipe for the adoption of a crippling victim mentality. Nothing good can be said about that. In fact, behavioral science academic, Dr. Steve Maraboli, said: “The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.” Heaven knows that none of us can afford to limit ourselves in any way.
The Potential in Recent Funeral Service Innovations
Earlier I spoke of five innovations, each of which has the potential to change the way you do business and change your funeral firm’s bottom line: the advent of water resomation, online marketing and ancillary sales opportunities, web-based memorialization, the rise of the pet loss profession, and (what many see as an enemy) cremation.
Now you and I both know that not every funeral home is allowed or can afford to add water resomation to their service offerings. (I think it’s a safe bet to say that this will change over time; as legislation changes, consumer awareness grows and system costs decline.) But, every funeral home, whether in New York City or Socorro, New Mexico, and every funeral home owner can take advantage of the other funeral service innovations noted.
Web-based Memorialization and Other Online Opportunities
The innovations related to funeral home website design and construction are too numerous to mention. It’s enough to say that ten years ago, when I started writing funeral home copy and content, the average funeral home website was little more than a tri-fold brochure. But, that has all changed. Today’s websites are engaging and interactive. Part of this interactivity comes from the online memorial.
You may have read an essay I wrote for this magazine, “Funeral Directors as Stewards of Emerging Traditions,” which focused on the advent of the online memorial. Viewing them in the context of social forces vis-a-vis change within funeral service, I wrote, “Perhaps the most pervasive change has come with the online memorial. From what I’ve experienced…there are two common reactions to the emerging trend of Internet-based memorialization. There are those who choose to either ignore it or reject it altogether…then, there are those funeral directors who…provide a dedicated online memorial to the families they serve. Yet, I think they can go one better than mere recognition and acceptance. I think funeral professionals can take their rightful place as stewards of newly-emerging traditions.”
With an opinion that strong, I think it’s obvious that I encourage you to embrace these fruits of the technology tree. The online memorial means you can effortlessly offer your families a higher level of service and at the same time (when hosted, not on a third-party website, but within your own funeral firm’s site), the online memorial is like a virtual doorway into your funeral home. Family members and friends can return whenever their heart calls them (or when prompted by an anniversary reminder email message).
And, if your site includes e-commerce features (like a sympathy store or flower shop) or chooses to generate additional revenues through the sale of virtual memorial candles, your firm is very likely to earn higher profits thereby fulfilling more of its potential.
Pet Loss Services
Twenty years ago, I doubt anyone would have believed that pet loss support would become a field where funeral professionals could shine. But, here we are in 2014 and the opportunities to fulfill your personal and professional potential by adding professional pet loss support to your funeral home service options (through your own brand or a secondary one) abound. Technology providers like Frontrunner Professional can provide your firm with an interactive website full of educational and promotional content directed to loving, responsible, and perhaps now-grieving pet owners. Combine this with your rediscovered awareness of your potential for growth and you have a winning combination.
You hear it all the time: cremation isn’t going anywhere. You can either choose to see that fact negatively (it will destroy my business) or you can see it for the opportunity it really is. Much like adding pet loss support services, fully embracing the social shift toward cremation by adding depth and dimension to your cremation offerings (perhaps it may mean operating your own crematory or offering cremation services under a secondary brand) could be the means by which you best fulfill your potential. Again, there are technology companies just waiting to support you in making this expansion.
We’ve Come Full Circle
Back to the idea of living up to your potential, can you honestly say that what you and your funeral home are now doing constitutes living up to your highest potential? While most of us don’t ever come close to doing so, if we don’t try, what’s the purpose of living? Fortunately for us, I have one idea that can help. It comes to us thanks to technological innovations: the Internet and the ubiquitous blog.
I’m referring to the well-loved blog, Zen Habits (zenhabits.net) where in 2008, Jonathan Mead, tells his readers to change your auto-response. In “7 Essentials for Living Your Fullest Potential,” he writes, “Many of our opportunities in life pass us by simply because we can’t make a decision. We’re wrapped up in an effort to figure out all the facts and gain enough experience before we take the plunge. The truth is, most experience comes from making things up as you go along. You’ll inevitably make mistakes and achieve less than perfect results. If you can develop a keen ability to ignore fear of the unknown, you can take years off your learning curve. Instead of thinking ‘I don’t know,’ think ‘I’ll figure it out.’ It will help you overcome your fear, and can be very liberating.”
What’s liberation? That’s simple: it’s the power (and opportunity) to live up to our potential.