This is the first in a series of three blog posts showcasing how small improvements can help you become a business leader in your community and industry. In this first post, we will cover essential traits for successful funeral business professionals and upcoming industry trends to watch out for in the coming year.
As a funeral professional, you often take care of a variety of functions in your business, handling everything from planning and executing funerals (obviously!) to accounting, human resources or even social media. It can be exhausting to say the least. So how do you find time to keep up with all of it? Let’s uncover the essential traits that successful funeral professionals need and our prediction on the top three key industry trends to keep an eye on in the coming years.
ESSENTIAL TRAITS OF SUCCESSFUL FUNERAL PROFESSIONALS
We put adaptability at the top of our list because we feel that it’s the most important trait a funeral professional can have today. With massive changes impacting the industry since COVID-19, you have no doubt learned to be flexible. Being open to change and willing to try new strategies and tactics to ensure your customers have a pleasant experience with you is one of the easiest ways to maintain and increase your business’s reputation. And it costs $0! Change can be hard, but having the flexibility to shift directions quickly when a customer makes a last-minute decision or requests something you’ve never done before can help you grow as an individual and business leader.
Many of today’s funeral services are quite a bit different than those toward the end of the 20th century, or even the last decade. Funerals are straying from the traditional and becoming unique to each individual and family. Clients are choosing never-before-seen venues, service and musical selections and even methods of body disposition. Planning a funeral may not come naturally for many of your client families. Providing unique options ensures that their loved one’s service is memorable, special to them and demonstrates that you took the time to really get to know what would be meaningful for them.
It’s no secret that the funeral industry faces a lot of turnover and burnout. Funeral professionals’ work is often rewarding but can come with unique challenges and stressors. Along with the weight of talking with grieving families daily, comes little to no work-life balance and an irregular schedule. Add these all up and you’re bound to experience burnout, which doesn’t just affect your well-being at work. It impacts your personal, physiological, emotional and physical health too; so how do you ‘keep your chin up’ in this profession? Resilience. Set healthy boundaries between work and personal life by taking necessary breaks and time away to relax, journaling, exercising regularly, spending time outdoors and practicing health self-care habits. You can only provide the top level of services you expect if you are at your best.
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top three trends in the industry
Now that we’ve covered the essential traits successful funeral professionals need to lead in this industry, here are our predictions on the top three trends to embrace in 2023, and ideas on how to incorporate these trends into your business to ensure your services meet consumer demands.
1. Embrace digital
When it comes to reaching your customers and showcasing services they need (and where these services are offered), “out with the old and in with the new!” Gone are the days of sending out a single (and generic) direct mail piece once a quarter and crossing your fingers that it’s enough to draw in new business. While direct mail marketing certainly has its place in effective funeral marketing plans and is a great way to reach specific demographics, digital options provide you with data and help you reach more customers. Incorporating social media, digital marketing and alternative communication platforms into your marketing plan is necessary to ensure your messaging gets through to the right customers. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, 61% of people age 65 and up own smartphones, and 75% of seniors said they use the internet. Embracing the digital movement could lead you to partner with an online funeral planning partner, offer live-streaming funeral services, participate in a text-based aftercare program or simply update your website.
2. Make data-driven decisions
Not every industry trend is worth the investment in time and resources, and not every trend makes sense for your business either. What works for large, urban-based funeral businesses with multiple locations may not work for a humble, rural family-owned provider. Ensure that you’re making sound and smart business decisions that are the best use of your time and budget by relying on data to drive your business decisions.
Are you placing overflow guests in adjacent rooms? Consider remodeling your funeral home to reflect your current needs. Have you reviewed client survey results and realized that most of your leads are through Facebook, but you don’t know how to utilize that platform? Hire a social media consultant to get you started and help manage your digital presence. Utilizing data now to make smart decisions will pay off in the long term.
3. Personalize, personalize, personalize
Today’s funeral services look a lot different than they did even last year. What is meaningful for one client family may not work for the next. Personalized services are exactly what most families are looking for because they want their loved one’s funeral to be as unique and special as that person was to them. Does this mean that you must accommodate every request put forth? No! But there are ways to ensure that you’re remaining true to your basic pillars of service while presenting a wide variety of options suitable for each family.
Did the family request that everybody wear bathing suits to the service because their loved one enjoyed the beaches of Hawaii? While this could make for a fun (albeit interesting!) service, kindly suggest that instead, perhaps you incorporate this theme into your centerpieces with seashells, hibiscus flowers and candles set in sand, or play Hawaiian music in the background during the viewing. Instead of instantly shutting down ideas, start by asking questions and truly listening to what they’re saying. These conversations can naturally spark inspiration for ideas to honor and recognize their loved one in a meaningful way. They may have talked about how their loved one enjoyed riding his motorcycle and belonged to a motorcycle club. Embrace this passion for motorcycles by suggesting that his biker buddies lead the procession following the funeral. Was their loved one’s favorite color hot pink? Discuss with the florist to have pink flowers incorporated into each of the floral arrangements for the service.
Whether you choose to embrace these ideas or not, staying informed and keeping up-to-date on leadership traits and industry trends are important to help you build credibility and value, and to ensure your business is heading in the right direction in the future.
What do you think will be a top trend in the funeral industry in 2023? What are some traits you admire in industry leaders?
To learn more about becoming the best leader you can, check out the other blog posts in our Leadership Series!