How The Funeral Profession Can Soften Its Image

In the spring of 2012 the Funeral Service Foundation engaged Olson Zaltman Associates to apply its patented ZMETTM research process to better understand the deep unconscious metaphors triggered in the minds of those consumers seeking alternative services and vendors.

The Funeral Service Foundation chose to target that part of the market that had chosen or was seriously considering alternatives to traditional funeral homes and services because they believed re-engaging them is the most important current priority. The study spanned:

  • Ages 50 to 70 with an equal balance of men and women
  • A range of ethnic groups
  • A range of religious beliefs from Atheist to fundamentalist Christian
  • A range of educational back grounds

In August 2012 the ZMENT Study was done for The Funeral Service Foundation by Olsen Zaltman Associates and was co-sponsored by Service Corporation International, Stewart Enterprises Inc., Foundation Partners Group LLC, Batesville, Trigard, Allen Creedy Business Advisors, Aurora, Johnson Consulting Group, Funeral Home & Cemetery Consulting and Mueller Memorial Funerals Cremation Reunion Centre.

The study was launched out of recognition by the funeral service industry, that it was troubled and needed answers, and it certainly wasn't inexpensive, drawing on a proprietary model, as well as “excellent“ experienced analysts.

The Olson Zaltman Associate’s patented ZMETTM Research is the “Holy Grail” of consumer marketing based on a model used by many progressive and very profitable firms in the technology, automotive and consumer packaged goods industries.

It is therefore very telling that they chose to end their study with a statement claiming that a person they’d interviewed seemed to say it all, with this exact quote: 

“When [my friend] died his wife asked us to come celebrate his life by sitting in a room with the possessions that had a lot of meaning for him. And we talked about Jim in a circle, his kids were there, his dog was there. I read a poem that I dedicated to him. We celebrated his life rather than marked his death."

A copy of the Olson Zaltman Associate’s Study done for the Funeral Service Foundation is available for download by visiting their Professionals Tools & Resources Page.

Everyone agrees that the funeral industry needs to do something to engage its customers about the reality of pre-planing the way they would like to be remembered.

E.G. The grassroots efforts started by The Funeral Nation TV Show,  The funeral Service Foundation and The FAMIC; Funeral & Memorial Information Council’s Talk of a Lifetime™ Campaign.

All have indicated that the funeral industry has a lingering image problem, is bogged down by old traditions and needs to look toward the future, as it has become a victim of the seven most expensive words in business. “We have always done it that way!”

Now, the most effective way to build a successful, sustainable business is not to ask what changes could affect it within the next ten years, but to instead ask yourself what won’t change and then apply your efforts toward building on those things.

As Abraham Lincoln said; “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

So, what’s the one thing that’s never going to change within the funeral industry in the next ten years or ever for that matter?

It’s the fact that every funeral we’ll ever attend is always going to be for either a person’s Grandparent, Father, Mother, Husband, Wife, Son, Daughter, Brother, Sister, Aunt, Uncle, Nephew, Niece or Friend.

As the growing trend toward the use of Funeral Celebrants has already proven, funeral customers, along with an aging generation of Baby Boomers in particular want to see, feel and celebrate these relationships, thus enabling them to come away with a sense of encouragement, hope, inspiration and comfort in the knowledge that perhaps one day someone attending their funeral could be provided with the very same kind of feelings.

Now imagine if you will, the foyer and hallways of a funeral home as a calm area of transition to remove our coats, adjust from the outside elements, as well as the mood and preconceived thoughts we carried in with us.

A place with a display of inspiring well-illustrated colorful funeral home and office wall décor, like the following examples that are in keeping with the sentiment illustrated below, allowing a person time to reflect before making a sea of very difficult important decisions regarding funeral stationery and service options.

    I believe the introduction of products to the funeral industry that evoke these kind of emotions whether on wall 

    decor, service folders, registry books, bookmarks & prayer cards or in bereavement books will not only create a 

    much more inviting funeral home environment, but also encourage consumers to begin talking to each other 

    about how they would like to be remembered, while reinforcing the fact that funeral professionals are incredibly 

    approachable, compassionate, trustworthy people who have empathy for those seeking guidance, comfort and 

    support, whether it be in their time of need or pre-need!

    Now it isn’t that unusual, as is the case with anything new or innovative to find nine out of ten people telling you 

    something cannot work. A person just needs to have enough persistence to keep looking for the one with the 

    necessary vision to see that it can. 

    A vision that is also in keeping with the belief that a person may not remember everything you say, but they will 

    always remember how you made them feel.

    About the Author: Richard Lawrence Belford is an Inspirational Writer, a father of two daughters and the eldest of three sons who grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He has been on a twenty-year creative journey that’s been fueled by his genuine desire to provide faith, comfort and hope to those in grief. His favorite parable is Footprints and just loves how its meaningful last line makes him feel no matter how many times he reads it

    Richard is the author of It’s Not Goodbye, It’s See You Later: a collection of his inspirational parables. A parable by definition is a symbolic short story that illustrates or teaches some truth, religious principle or moral lesson and trusts that his parables, along with these stories will stir some emotions in you that we’ve all felt, emotions that can help bring some small measure of solace to those grieving the loss of someone dear to their heart.

    Richard’s hope is to have his writings illustrated with photography on a collection of inspirational wall décor products and would like to partner with an international wall art designer, manufacturer & wholesale distributor. He can be contacted at: 

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