What do people really think when they drive by your funeral home?  Do they think, “I hope it’s a long time before I ever need to call a funeral home,” or “What a miserable business to be in.  How do they do it day in and day out?”

As funeral directors, we have a lot of stubborn stereotypes to overcome, many of which stem from the way the funeral home business was run for centuries.  What this really means is that we have a lot of relationship-building to do.  The majority of people out there do not know what we do or how genuinely caring we are.  They assume that our emotions are somehow faked and that we are out to make tons of money off them when they are most vulnerable.  So they are suspicious of our motives before we ever meet them.  Most other businesses do not have this hurdle to overcome.  They set up shop, maybe advertise a little, and people just walk in, browse and buy.  Wouldn’t it be nice if our job worked that way?  Instead, our potential clients come to our place of business under duress.  They are reluctant, uncomfortable, don’t know exactly what they want, and have great difficulty making decisions.  Let’s see the owners of those other businesses be as successful as we are under the same conditions!

Since this is definitely an uphill battle not of our own making, we might as well take advantage of some new tools that are available today to effectively knock down the brick wall of misunderstanding that stands between funeral directors and the clients we seek to help.

Let’s Adjust our Perspective

The first tool is changing how we approach what we do.  Instead of merely offering families “closure” with a funeral service and burial or cremation, what if we viewed funerals as an event?  After all, births and weddings are major events in the life of a family.  Why not approach funerals as a major event as well? The trend today is to transform funerals into celebrations of the deceased’s life and to create fond memories of their personal experiences.  Some funeral directors are starting to present themselves as “event planners,” whose purpose is to create a memorable celebration with the family.  Maybe this isn’t such a far-fetched idea….

Compare our job to being a dentist:  Trying to get people to go to the dentist to have a tooth filled is like pulling teeth—no pun intended, but if you ask if they want to get their teeth whitened so that they will have a dazzling smile, they will line up at the door.   Our approach to designing funeral services should emphasize the positive reason for our existence—to uplift those who have just lost a loved one and start them on their journey of healing, to overcome the overwhelming sadness with precious memories.  The more clearly we express that purpose, the more likely our clients will become active and enthusiastic partners in putting together the funeral and integrating the services we can offer.  We truly are “event planners,” inspiring our clients to think creatively and offering unique and inspiring ideas that they can use in their funeral service.

Make it Simpler

The second tool to breaking down that brick wall of misunderstanding is used regularly by wedding event planners.  They have pre-designed packages that their brides and grooms-to-be can purchase or use as springboards for custom-designed events.  Think about how your business might benefit if you offered several styles of pre-set funeral services for your clients to choose from and priced them to fit a variety of budgets.   Most grieving families feel overwhelmed by all the things they assume they have to do, but if they have pre-planned packages with listed features to choose from, it will enable them to be more logical and less emotional about their critical decisions.  Laying out several options for them, so that they can either select one or choose al a carte, will give them a feeling of control and speed up the process.  What’s more, they will not feel that you are pushing them to buy the priciest package.  Once they have made decisions about the funeral service, they will be more willing to discuss the casket or urn and the rest of the arrangements.  They will also be more willing to trust you as you make suggestions for these purchases.  Have all of these options available for them to browse through on your website or in binders in your office.

One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Your third tool for breaking down that wall is having a gallery of photos posted on your website, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, and on Pinterest.  Take pictures of your funeral home and staff and start collecting shots from your creative funeral events (with permission from your clients).   Select pictures that highlight the effectiveness of your funeral “events.”  Use them to spark ideas in the minds and hearts of your new clients.  Your photo gallery will help them imagine how these elements might work in the funeral service they are planning for their loved one.  These pictures will enhance your online portrayal of your funeral home, as well as the binder containing your package options.

Go to a couple of wedding planning websites and see for yourself how persuasive the photos can be.  You might find yourself planning your daughter’s wedding before she even meets Mr. Right!  Use this same persuasive power to show your potential clients that funerals can be the start of healthy grieving and timeless memories for them and their families.

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