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Serving New Funeral Consumers: Reclaim Your Identity

June 16, 2020

Feature image of Serving New Funeral Consumers: Reclaim Your Identity

By Josh McQueen, Vice President of Product 

Over the years, society has been affected by a myriad of changes. Society and the funeral market have been influenced by the technological revolution, dispersed families, society’s limited experience with death, and shifting religious views. Consequently, preferences and behaviors of funeral consumers have also shifted. According to a study conducted by market research firm McKee Wallwork + Co, funeral consumers can be split into six different groups. This article briefly describes these six types and includes information about which groups are growing and which are shrinking.  

This current series is all about positioning your funeral home to be intriguing to new funeral consumers, specifically the growing types: Solo Secularists and Click & Callers. Last week, I discussed the importance of “Creating Focus and Clarity” for these consumers. In this article, I will shed light on how reclaiming your funeral home’s identity will set you apart from your competitors. 

The Big Question 

Is your funeral home a service-based business or merchandise-based one? When I ask funeral directors this question, they resoundingly (and sometimes defensively) tell me that they are a service-based business. So, I’ll ask you a follow-up question. If I were to randomly select a contract from a family you served in the past year, would a majority of the contract be for services or merchandise provided? If I had to guess, I would suspect it is the latter. 

From Service-Based to Merchandise-Driven 

The issue of identity has plagued our profession literally since day one when the first funeral homes were born out of furniture makers’ shops. The funeral home has always been a servicebased business, but the business model has almost always been a merchandise model. This worked for about 100 years when the vast majority of people were being buried, and families had to select which casket they wanted. With the shift towards cremation, though, the merchandise-based business model doesn’t work anymore. For example, my 78-yearold, Baby Boomer, Polite Farewell grandmother recently asked me, “Why would I want to buy a $3,000 piece of furniture just to have it buried in the ground?” This is becoming the prevailing thought across all of the consumer types. As a matter of fact, the number one sentiment they shared towards funeral homes is that caskets are overpriced. Therefore, you must reclaim your identity by explaining the value of the service 

Sell the Service 

Let’s say you brought your car to the mechanic because you needed your transmission to be replaced. You’ve already done a little bit of research and found that you can buy a new transmission at AutoZone for between $1,200 – $1,800 and that labor for the replacement should be between $250 – $500. You then talk to your mechanic who gives you a quote for $3,000 for the new transmission and $100 for labor. Wouldn’t you leave that mechanic’s shop scratching your head and looking at different options? Your consumers are experiencing the same exact thing! You might be inclined to pay more if you received top-notch service. For example, if the employees offered to drop you off and pick you up in company vehicles while your car was in the shop, you may be more inclined to see the value in doing business with them. See where I’m going with this?  

Reclaim Your Identity

If you want to successfully serve the new funeral consumer, you need to analyze your service, which means taking a long, hard look at your price list and aligning it with the value you are actually providing your consumer. Of course, low-cost providers will be working to disrupt your business, but what can you do now to reclaim your identity and create value? You do something your competitors cannot: you host unique, meaningful services with your caring staff. Leading with service will invariably lead to conversations about the merchandise anyway, so do what you do best: serve.  

Join me next week as I discuss another way to cater to new funeral consumers: create custom experiences.  


For more information about the shifting market and the six funeral consumer personas, download our free eBook titled “The New Funeral Consumer.”  

Be sure to check out the other articles in this series, including: Create Focus and Clarity,” Plan Custom Experiences,” and “Embrace Technology.”