A Simpler Approach to Funeral Arrangements

A few years ago I was meeting with a husband and wife who operated a very successful funeral home. Like most successful people they were always looking for new ideas to help them stay in front of their competitors. To protect their privacy I’ll call them Bill and Jane for the sake of this story.

Over the course of our two days together we talked about a wide range of marketing topics. At one point Bill was asking my advice on his arrangement process. It seemed that he kept running into the same obstacles over and over again; families that said that Dad didn’t want a funeral, families that said they were told not to make a fuss, families that said they weren’t going to do anything.

We launched into a lively conversation at his white board where we mapped out the entire arrangement process. The board was filled with opening statements, responses, transitions and closing statements. If they say…here’s what you say….if they say that…switch to this…and so forth.

After watching us for about 30 minutes Jane started laughing hysterically. Here’s how the next few moments played out…..

Jane: “you guys are really over complicating things”

Bill: “what are you talking about this is brilliant?”

Me: “Jane, what do you say when someone says Dad didn’t want a funeral?”

Jane: “I ignore the men and turn to the eldest female in the room and ask her how she feels about that. We talk about her feelings, and the feelings of the other women in the family, and then I help her find a compromise.”

Me: “What do you mean by compromise?”

Jane: “The women always want to do something but they feel that their hands are tied. Their loved one said they didn’t want a funeral and they want to honor their wishes. But they still want to do something so they really just need a new option.”

I was curious about how effective her approach was so we checked some of their performance reports. Of the 5 people making arrangements at their funeral home she had the highest average revenue. In fact, the next closest was 25% behind her.

Bill and I had approached the problem from our male perspective. We had looked at the arrangement meeting as a negotiation and had carefully planned each step in the process.

Jane, on the other hand, approached the arrangement meeting as a conversation that included her and the other women in the room. The focus of the meeting was not the social security number or the obituary information or even the events surrounding the death. The focus was on feelings….a topic that makes most men run for the safety of the nearest Home Depot tool aisle.

As I mentioned earlier this experience happened a few years ago. Since then I have studied over twenty books on the topic of marketing to women. My favorite is a book called Why She Buys by Bridget Brennan, which I highly recommend.

In today’s society women control the vast majority of purchase decisions, especially when it concerns a family event (like a funeral). Gentlemen, if you disagree with me go home and have a conversation with your wife then call your sister to confirm. They will straighten you out.

If you want to see an immediate improvement in your business you do not need to go to an expensive academy to learn new arrangement techniques. You also do not need to bring in an expensive consultant (yes, that includes me). You only need to do three things.

First, accept that women are the decision makers. Second, learn how to have a conversation with them on their terms. And third, help them balance the wishes of their loved one with the needs of the family.

Learning how to communicate to women will definitely help your funeral home business and it may even help your home life as well. In my own study of this topic I have learned to be more comfortable talking about emotions but I’m also careful to spend adequate time at Home Depot just to keep things in balance.

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