Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Funerals learn from Weddings

What can funerals learn from weddings?

The funeral business has faced massive changes and pressures from within and without over the past few decades.

This article which appeared in the March issue of the Globe & Mail's Small Business magazine describes those threats and more importantly features the strategies of the winners. A good case study for every small business owner.

The traditionally family run funeral homes were challenged by the corporate ogres at the same time as changing values and expectations from customers. Add to that the price squeeze from new competitors like Costco. Inside all that crisis lies real opportunity for the new market leaders who are willing to innovate. If you face some of those challenges in your business devour this article.

Enjoy this excerpt from that article - Grim Reaping

In trying to personalize the services to each family, the Creans are embracing a trend that many other independents have adopted to counter the cookie-cutter offerings of the chains. The path was blazed by one Brian Parent, a funeral director in Windsor, Ontario, who, 12 years ago, decided to offer people an entirely different way to die.

When Parent opened his funeral home, he turned to the wedding industry for inspiration. Wedding spending in this country has been rising every year (today, the average wedding costs around $20,000, roughly four times the cost of a funeral). He concluded that Canadians were willing to splurge on traditional ceremonies as long as they maintained control over the details. Paul Seyler, a New Orleans marketing consultant, has been preaching just that on the funeral convention circuit for years. His renowned session, "A $30,000 Opportunity in a $5,500 World: What Weddings Should Be Teaching Funerals," has convinced numerous funeral directors to rethink their business. Traditionally, funeral homes have derived the majority of their profits from caskets, which can run to $20,000 and more, and accompanied that big-ticket purchase with a few, inflexible package options. "Wedding planners allow people to pick and choose things and decide exactly how they want to celebrate," says Parent. "They let the customer customize."

With the Families First Funeral Home & Tribute Centre, Parent turned the industry's sombre image on its head. He invested heavily in high tech: a splashy website, big-screen projectors, even a full-time graphic designer to create custom guest books and thank-you notes. When it came to planning funerals, he scrapped all the customs. For a diehard hockey fan, Parent's staff decorated a room like a hockey rink, complete with fake ice, goalie nets and skates. For a dead movie buff, they installed a popcorn maker and lined the walls with film reels.


Read the rest of this article at the Globe and Mail - Grim Reaping

Lots of valuable business lessons in this article including that you often need to look outside your industry to find innovation and inspiration if you want to be a market leader.

PS: Brian Parent is a client. He is innovative and bold. He presents each of his staff with a copy of the book, "Raving Fans".

George Torok

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