Business

A niche market. . . .to pursue or avoid?

I read an interesting article the other day from the Washington Post that you can read here about the death of a 77-year old man in Washington state.  It is an interesting article about a family’s decision to skip the funeral home and bring the man back to his home for three days of visitation before being cremated and having his cremated remains scattered.

As I read the article I was taken by the family’s dedication to what they were doing.  To them it was the only way that any memorialization seemed right.

However, as a past majority owner of a traditional funeral home — one that went from almost 100% earth burial when I started to a business that now serves a majority cremation clientele — I wondered if it was the type of case that, as a business person, I wanted strictly on a profitability basis.  And, that thought goes against all I stand for because I have always served regardless of family clientele decisions or financial resources.

But the question is. . . as funeral service continues to evolve. . .can we continue to be “all things to all people” and continue to be profitable?  For, the bottom line is, if you cannot be profitable then you cannot keep the doors open to serve.

I think it is much easier in a major metropolitan market to avoid the niches that are not very profitable.  If you don’t want to do direct cremation, price it high enough so no one calls you for that.  I’m a firm believer that we will have more and more niche funeral homes in these areas. . .direct cremation, water cremation (alkaline hydrolysis), green or environmental funeral homes, ethnicity funeral homes, and possibly LBGTQ funeral homes.

However, if you are in a more rural area, what do you do about these types of calls?  If you are called, there is a deceased body under your licensed care for three days and at the end of the day the services you have provided are removal and direct cremation.  I guess you can charge enough to make it profitable and an amount that is enough to cover the costs incurred.  Or, when someone asks for this type of care are you willing to tell them “That is not a service we provide”.

It is somewhat of a dilemma because it is out of the ordinary services that you do provide.  Maybe I’m just “old school” but when I really get down to the decision, I’ve learned that “it is the Service that provides the profits”.  I guess that I would serve that family every time, regardless of the time it took.

Like I said, maybe I’m just old school.  But, over the years I came to believe it was those extraordinary efforts that brought the families to my door and the willingness to go above and beyond that eventually provided the profits.

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