Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Obituaries & Death Notices

Who Reads them?  Funeral directors and Real Estate Agents
Why do Funeral Directors read them? It’s a “No Brainer” they can check up on their closest competitor without driving past his door.

Why do Real Estate Agents read them? So, they can second guess what houses or properties that may be coming up on the market.

All things being fair and equal an Obituary about a prominent person in the community can serve as a human interest story; After that they are simply a waste of money.
A little history is in order.

You need to understand, only as far back as the 1950’s not every family had a telephone. Early Television Stations as well as Radio Stations’” signed off” at Midnight and began the broadcast day at 6 or 7 AM the following morning.
Newspapers provided many services beyond just “All the News That’s Fit to Print” which incidentally was the motto of the New York Times since 1851. Newspapers were the world’s source for social media not just news. And, death notices and obituaries fell under the heading of Classified Advertising simply because it was not always easy to notify relatives and friends, and associates that were beyond your immediate area. Interesting to note, there was a great popularity of foreign newspapers in our country for the social and hometown local news that wasn’t covered by the World News Section of U.S. Newspapers.  Obituaries and death as well as weddings and birth announcements were important news from home that could only be gotten from the hometown newspaper.

In 1932, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had Clark Kent popping in and out of phone booths to become The Man of Steel, Superman. While I am sure some still exist the average kid today cannot fathom why anyone would need a booth to talk on their cell phone.
Today, immigrants and foreign visitors don’t need newspapers from home. Thanks to the internet, hometown news is just a click or two a way and with Skype they can even talk to family and friends left behind, including seeing them on their computer screen all in real time.

Bottom line, death notices are completely out of date and Obituaries are human interest stories about the life and times of prominent people.
It is the fair honest funeral director that explains the obsolesce of death notices to the families they serve.

It is the intelligent funeral director who doesn’t let himself get suckered into believing online death notices will increase his business

Five Years into the Future

Five years into the future? I’m lucky if I can predict what I am doing next week!! That being said, enjoy these prognostications! My first one is that many of you will wonder if I had to look up that 5 syllable word!

In no particular order, here is what I’m predicting the funeral profession will look like in 5 years:

Cremation Rate: The national cremation rate will hit 57%. No surprise there but I don’t see this trend changing until the industry starts addressing some of the underlying issues brought on by the shift in demographics and pricing strategies. And this requires change, something we have not been very good at. But we’ll dig into this in more detail in a later blog post.

Online Funeral Arrangements: 25% of all funeral arrangements will occur online and many funeral professionals will discover that this scary proposition delivers more education and value more easily than when dealing with an actual human at the funeral home. There is a belief out there that quality funeral service requires human contact. This will be challenged and new learning will occur.

New Business Model: A new business model will emerge that turns the conventional wisdom of funeral service on its head. It will attack the four major costs of the industry—people, facilities, advertising and cost of goods—and dispel the common thinking that these things “are what they are”, and there is nothing we can do about them.

Publicly Owned Companies: There will be two less publicly owned companies. Time will push people into a corner and grow we must!

New Major Player: There will be a brand new major player in the industry, possibly not related to the funeral profession, that will approach the challenges of funeral service from a different perspective. I know, I know this has been predicted or feared for some time but I believe their less conventional way of doing things will appeal to the critical mass of Baby Boomer decision makers, creating larger and more attractive opportunities.

Cost Sensitivity: 70% of the industry will head down the cost sensitive path. I am not sure if we will hit rock bottom but there will still be a large opportunity for firms who believe in supporting the emotional needs of those touched by death.

Pre-Need: Pre-Need will go through a major shift. The current business model is struggling and as a result appears to be working at odds with the funeral industry. This friction will come to a head, smart business minds within the funeral profession will focus on it and new powerful solutions will emerge.

Victors of the Future: To the victors go the spoils. The victors of the future will be champions of change and not afraid of risks. In fact, their battle cry will be something along the lines of “Fail faster!!”

For the most part we don’t know what we don’t know, particularly about the future! And I am sure I have demonstrated that point effectively. But take a look around. The challenges we see all around us are the seeds of future opportunities. Risk, Learn, Grow! And in five years we’ll see how we did!