Indy undertakers on the counter-attack

Charles Cowling

Saif’s  IPSOS-Mori price comparison survey published in February 2010 was dynamite. It showed that independents are generally cheaper than two big beasts of the industry, Co-operative Funeralcare and Dignity. Had Saif got the message out to the funeral-buying public it would have hit the big beasts’ bottom line bigtime.

But the message never got out, not in a big way – an eyebrow-raising non-occurrence considering the price obsession of British funeral consumers. Saif didn’t bang the drum and blow the trumpet. A number of its members are cross about this. All that money to create a weapon of mass destruction only for it to hastily hidden under a bushel. What a waste, they said.

Is Saif dumb or did it have its tongue cut out? The story cannot be told for fear of litigation. There was a rumour swirling that one of the big beasts put pressure on Saif’s suppliers to take sides: either you ditch your indies or we’ll ditch you. I don’t think we can attach any credence to that.

The advance of the clunking conglomerates has been inexorable. They have circumvented the nobody-does-it-better claim of the independents and fought the war instead on the unpropitious battleground of financial planning, employing expert messagemakers to seduce consumers with sweet-talk about empowerment. As a result, the future now belongs to the big beasts: they’ve got the paid-up pre-need plans to prove it. It’s been a strategic masterstroke. Who wants today’s car, phone, anything tomorrow? No, we want the upgrade, next generation, as-yet-undreamt of. And yet… the funeral planners have conquered obsolescence . Hats off!

How to reverse this? By playing the big beasts at their own game? Golden Charter is fighting the good fight pluckily enough, but is beginning to look like the British army in Basra. In any case, there are far, far better ways of making provision for funeral expenses, ways which do not disempower those left behind.

No. The way forward is to get back onto the battleground of value for money, quality assurance and individuality. At a time like death people want to be looked after by a brilliant boutique business, not Funerals R Us. It ought to be easy enough.

It will need concerted action, though. Ay, there’s the rub.

So it’s really good to see a togetherness initiative come out of last week’s discussion of the new Co-op website MyLocalFuneralDirector. It was sparked by Nick Armstrong. He spotted that the Co-op had failed to buy mylocalfuneralservice.co.uk and yourlocalfuneralservice.co.uk.

“I’ll give you a guess who has just bought them. I’ll get a list of independent funeral directors on there as soon as I work out how to do it. Ill post back on here when I have a template up and running.:-) … It won’t be a quick thing as I want to get it right but it will be honest that’s for certain! If anyone has any ideas on compiling the database easily please let me know.”

His challenge was taken up by Andrew Hickson:

“Nick, here’s an idea off the top of my head. Follow it up, ignore it, change or work on it, I shan’t be offended by any of them!

It seems that there’s a fair bit of animosity and dislike of the website that is being discussed here, so, how about we, ourselves, research and compile a database? By this, I mean every reader and follower of this blog, each contributing what he or she knows.

I’d be surprised if between us we weren’t pretty well-informed of the true identities of a huge number of companies.

An immense task, and one which would require every contributor to be really focussed. But, very exciting, and think of the satisfaction when it was complete.

I’d be happy to help out wherever I could, so do let me know your thoughts!

This could be big if we all made it so … the start of a collaboration of FD’s willing to challenge the boundaries of the truth with which we all contend on a daily basis?”

Nick has responded:

“Hi Kingfisher. I’m game. Any help on content etc would be appreciated as well as any help with compiling a database. Thinking of a searchable google map with premises photos and branch info might be a good start. Bit more interactive than a list.

I’ve been doing one on my website with local churches, cemeteries etc. http://tinyurl.com/2v54rzz

I’m happy to build and host the site(s) and any info would be greatly appreciated.”

So there we are then. The go-to man is Nick: office@funeralhelp.co.uk.

Let’s make common cause!

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Nick
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Nick

Hello. I have a rough 1st page up. This is hidden from search engines etc so its just for those interested to have a look at and make comments. There is only one page so far. If we think it looks ok then ill start on the other pages. Ill think of a simple logo idea too. Let me know what you think. 🙂

http://www.yourlocalfuneralservice.co.uk

Claire Callender
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Has Charles not covered this with The Good Funeral Guides list of
funeral directors?

Melissa
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I’ve left the following comment via their ‘contact us’ on the Co-Op’s (sorry mylocalfuneraldirector) site.

This site has nothing to do with local funeral directors. Its a database of Co-Op ones. Don’t you think that’s a bit misleading! You don’t mention green funerals on the site either so I won’t be using you.

Melissa
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Love that slogan!!

Count me in as a helper. I can help with some FDs I approve of in Wales and Scotland and I’m shit hot at most things technical!

Claire Callender
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I’m in

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Not shit-hot at databases and stuff, sorry; but to be going on with, how about a slogan swap, eg;

“Tomorrow’s funeral in today’s old clothes? Over my dead body!”