It’s not often that you see a funeral entrepreneur on Dragon’s Den, but last night’s show shone a brief spotlight on an enterprise which, in an industry unaccustomed to innovation, is likely to elicit responses ranging from ‘It’ll never work’ to ‘Tcha.’ Theo Paphitis ruled himself straight out, no messing. But it turns out that death spooks him.
It’s one of those online planning sites (you know, the ones that never make it) with a twist. It’s more than a just passive repository of funeral wishes. It’s also a service comparison website which enables consumers to find the funeral director who’ll give them what they want.
The idea is that you plan a funeral online (with plenty of help), and your plan is then sent anonymously to all funeral directors in a geographical radius set by you. The funeral directors respond with a quote and a pitch. They name a price and they also say why they think they are best for the job. They can link to their website and anything else that makes them look good – third-party endorsement, a video clip on YouTube, whatever. You then choose the funeral director who seems both nicest and best value, and from there on it’s face-to-face and personal. If it doesn’t work out, you go back to the website and choose someone else.
How does it pay for itself? This is the bit that funeral directors are going to hate. You buy a coffin from the website at a cheaper price than you are likely to be able to buy it from a funeral director. The website pockets the margin.
Want to know more? Go to the website and try it out for yourself. It’s called CompareTheCoffin.com. Yeah, yeah, what’s in a name?
Is it likely to catch on? Don’t ask me; I don’t have a business brain. But I’d hazard a guess it stands a good chance of establishing a niche. More and more people are shopping around for a funeral. CompareTheCoffin does all the legwork for them and still almost certainly enables them to make a saving. It seems to have something of the win-win about it, for best funeral directors, too – but, as I say, don’t ask me.
I must declare an interest, though. When the originator of CompareTheCoffin, Steven Mitchell, approached me at the conception stage and asked me to write some text for his website, I did some drilling down, not in a Paphitis way, but into the ethics of it. I satisfied myself that, yes, this is an ethical business idea, Steven is a good guy, as is his web developer Akmal (this is a rare partnership between a Jew and a Moslem), and I set about earning a few meagre pence as a day labourer.
Whether or not CompareTheCoffin is a runner is something you are in a far better position to judge.
After last night’s show the CompareTheCoffin website came under what looked like sustained cyber-attack, which may perhaps be rated flattery. If it’s back up after its drubbing you can find it here. Catch the Dragon’s Den show here.