Finance

Catching up with Tulip Cremation

Last spring Funeral Director Daily published an article on the inception of San Francisco based Tulip Cremation.  You can read that article here.  In it, we had talked that we had been at an industry get together at that time and a lot of talk revolved around how Tulip Cremation, and its internet direct to the consumer business model, would play out.

As we wrote in that article, Tulip Cremation had launched and their web-site showed that they were operating in five states – Washington, Illinois, Texas, Florida, and California.  By all indications, we had heard that they were doing a remarkable job of taking care of the families that they served.

Then, not so long ago, I started getting inquiries from readers as to whether I knew what had happened to Tulip Cremation. . . as their web-site now only listed doing business in California.  You can see their web-site here.

While I have seen no official press releases on the subject, it appears to me that Tulip Cremation has been acquired, or at least is now operating under the umbrella of the Foundation Partners Group (FPG).  You can see here from the FPG web-site, the brands that they claim under their leadership and Tulip Cremation is now listed.

From what I can gather from public sources, Tulip Cremation is a cutting edge technology company that was founded with the idea of using technology to help families at the time of death.  It is a solid concept in this internet and cell phone age.  Here is a public relations piece done in 2018 on the company.

My understanding is that it was founded, at least in part, with venture capital according to this information from Pitch Book.  Our understanding, is that the company was partially funded by $6.7 million of capital provided by three venture firms.

Funeral Director Daily take:  I actually believe in what Tulip Cremation was/is trying to do.  The trends show us that there is a growing number of consumers who will be choosing the direct cremation/no services route.  From what I see, that is the Tulip target customer.

While there will always be direct cremation/no services provider selection by the consumer via word of mouth, relationships, location advantage, and the like, in the internet and smart phone age there is a growing number of consumers who want to just quietly make that decision and plan from their own home via these electronic means.  That fact, and the fact that Tulip is able to provide a guaranteed low cost to the consumer, will make this type of product/service relevant in our society.

The issue that Tulip Cremation – and now Foundation Partners Group – has to overcome is the cost of “Customer Acquisition” nationwide while still maintaining low cost to the consumer which makes it a viable choice for the services.  If “customer acquisition” gets too costly the business model does not stand.

I learned of the term “customer acquisition” about 25 years ago when I served on a regional Wells Fargo board.  One of my colleagues was a CEO of a public cell phone company that eventually was acquired by Verizon.  I remember asking him, “Why do we have to sign 2 year contracts?”  He replied that it took about 14 months of my “monthly access fee” simply to cover the costs to acquire me as a customer.  That short discussion opened my eyes forever on what my advertising was doing for me. . .at the end of the day all of those expenditures – newspaper ads, billboards, Kiwanis Club dues, etc. — were looked on as customer acquisition costs. . . they simply were not advertising or public relations costs anymore. . . .they were costs associated with “acquiring customers”.

Getting that dynamic right.  .  . . a low cost consumer price coupled with affordable, profitable customer acquisition costs. . . portends an incredible upside to the company in a national roll-out.  The cremation industry infrastructure is there for a national brand.  The upside is incredible, but the challenge is to get those customers without going broke with the advertising costs to do so.  Just think of the costs that the “hired help” company Takl has right now in bringing their company nationwide. . . . can a funeral/cremation provider cover those type of costs and still be profitable with a service that each consumer only uses once in their lifetime?

I actually think that there will be a national memorial brand in the not so distant future.  The demographics are there and so is the venture capital.  The death care consumer has changed and is continuing to change and there are those in the industry, such as Service Corporation International and its Neptune and Dignity brands, that have the infrastructure in place.  However, I would not count a company such as Tulip Cremation, out of the race yet.

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