Making over the undertakers

Charles 5 Comments


Following this post by Andrew Hickson of Kingfisher Independent Funeral Services in St Neots, we at the GFG sense we may spend some of 2012 talking about how funeral directors can improve public perception of themselves and differentiate themselves from their competitors by communicating the good news about themselves appropriately and effectively. Andrew himself is going to start the ball rolling. Well, he already has.

We can already foresee lots of lively discussion. The content and quality of marketing communications from most funeral directors  is abysmal. In an age when most of us gather information online, most undertakers’ websites (where they exist) are dismaying to look at, clumsily worded and littered with spelling and grammar mistakes. As marketing tools designed to inspire confidence, they do exactly the reverse. 

So here’s a tip for undertakers from the team at the GFG (there are lots more where this comes from). Have a look at the text on the home page of the Fitzgerald Funeral Home and Crematory of Illinois, USA. Read the first sentence: We are here to help you remember their story. Note  that it takes them no more than five words before they get to the ‘you’ word. ‘You’ is the most important word in any promotional text. Great copywriting is about dialogue. How long does it take to get to the first ‘you’ in your text?

When the business offer matches consumers’ requirements, everyone wins. One of the highest priorities of consumers in this economy-gone-wrong is cost. Yet this is an industry in which financially inefficient micro-businesses not only abound, but are growing in number. Consolidation, rationalisation, economies of scale, all would bring down costs. And yet no group has yet succeeded in establishing an acceptable national brand identity. On the contrary. And it’s not just the egregious incompetence of the big players which is to blame.

There are complex reasons why consumers do not want to deal with a corporate provider. It’s an unlovable model which smacks of bigtime profiting from the misfortunes of others. But it needn’t necessarily be so. 

Take the Specsavers model, for example. Each Specsavers shop is owned and run by an optician under a joint venture partnership with Specsavers. Specsavers takes the view that opticians like being opticians and probably aren’t so good at or keen on some of the boring, nitty-gritty stuff that goes with being a business. So Specsavers offers more than 50 services, including advertising, insurance, accounting, tax planning, property services, information technology and retail training, the back office administration, branding and marketing, leaving the opticians free to get on and do what they do best: fixing people up with eyeglasses. The optician pockets the profits and pays a fee to Specsavers. We all get good, cheap specs. 

No one has tried the joint venture partnership model in Funeralworld. It would offer ceremony-makers a way to make a decent living at last. Why wouldn’t it work?

At the opposite end of the scale, we note that many rural villages have formed local co-operative societies to run their post office, shop and pub. Why not their undertaker, too? A community response to death and bereavement can only be a social blessing. The vision of the Rochdale Pioneers may have been distorted beyond recognition by The Co-operative Group’s vile Funeralcare arm, but it remains unsullied and vibrant. According to Co-operatives UK “There are 5,450 independent co-operative businesses in the UK, working in all parts of the economy. Together they have a combined turnover of over £33 billion and have outperformed the UK economy as a whole, growing by 21% since the start of the credit crunch in 2008.” [Source]












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David Holmes
10 years ago

I have a good friend in marketing at specsavers, he’s given me some great ideas – some of which I will put on my new website. The funeral business is slowly changing – displaying prices on websites is a major first step. SAIF and NAFD could insist upon it, why not? It bothers me that funeral directors are content to keep their charges a secret. Competition is not encouraged, price reduction is frowned upon by the trade and the trade associations. No other business in Britain seems as desperate to protect their turf. The public badly need educating that choosing… Read more »

Deborah McGregor
10 years ago

However, from both personal and professional experience … how many people ‘shop’ around for a Funeral Director when they are in a state of grief, especially unexpected grief? Additionally it is still classed as somewhat ‘not done’ or undignified to bring money into the equation.

The most important thing for families is to be able ‘feel’ that when they walk through the door or bring up the website that they would ‘want these people to look after their loved one’ … so I agree, first impressions definately count.

David Holmes
10 years ago

As long as people feel that it’s not ‘the done thing’ to shop around – some funeral firms will exploit their customers.

Some of the biggest discounts from the larger firms apply simply because you called them before turning up to arrange a funeral. This may be how car dealers operate, but I believe that it’s inappropriate in the funeral business.

As long as the big boys are doing ‘free’ removals for the coroner, you know they plan on serving their captive audience with their highest prices. It’s wrong!

claire callender
10 years ago

More and more we are called in to be interviewed by a family which I wholly support even if it means driving for half an hour talking for an hour and driving back, mind you we haven’t lost one yet. One family recently had all 3 undertakers in town around, good on him.

I quite like the specsaver model I hate doing all that stuff.

We don’t ever get to the “you” in our text, cleraly where we are going wrong


[…] We’ve also looked at the joint venture model used by Specsavers – here.  […]