I’ve been out of owning and managing my own funeral home for eight years now. Funeral Director Daily keeps me involved with all that is going on in the profession, but sometimes the research I do makes me think I’ve become a little naive to some of the “dog eat dog” competition that is out there now for every percent of dollar margin in our industry.
I was lucky in my day of operations that margins were large enough from the base services that we provided with earth burial and cremation that we did not scrap for every little cent of sales we could get with ancillary items. We made our living off of professional services rendered and preneed commissions. At our funeral home we even sold caskets and urns at cost taking only our discount from the manufacturer that we could negotiate as a margin.
Lest you think we were just giving things away and not worried about profitability, one well-respected national funeral home consultant told me that my bottom line profit was such a high percentage of my total sales revenue prospective buyers would simply not believe his telling them the number until he showed them the financials. In essence, we simply concentrated on our services, charged for them, did them incredibly well, and concentrated on building more and more of them every single year. It was a pretty narrow business focus that did not count on the small incremental revenues from percentage of flower sales and the like.
Part of my feeling on that was that the total revenue of anicillary sales was so small relative to our service charges and another part of me felt that my local florists, who were my friends and neighbors, deserved that business. . . not some out of town third party provider.
However, I recently read this article from Wired entitled “The Morbid War over Online Obituaries“. The article goes into all kinds of details and allegations about several companies that I don’t want to repeat in my article. It does get into what is called “Obituary Pirates” who seem to be websites that “mine or scrape published obituaries” and then put them on a website for the purpose of selling flowers, memorial trees, or having friends of the deceased give to charities and more with the intent of taking a commission in those sales instances.
A death care attorney is quoted with saying this, “(they are) guilty of flimflamming the unsuspecting public into believing that the family of the decedent is somehow connected with the website”.
One funeral home marketing consultant, when asked why obituaries are highly valued by these website companies answered with this quote, “Obituaries attract web traffic“. The article estimates that Service Corporation International attracts over 160 million visitors annually looking for obituaries from their funeral homes. Another industry executive mentions that “at some smaller newspapers, the obituaries section draws twice as much traffic as the news section”.
Certainly, Service Corporation International and a company like Legacy.com, which partners with our nation’s newspapers to electronically offer a central web location for obituaries, as well as your own funeral home’s web-site have obituaries that appear in those places at the request of the families you serve. However, it appears that there are companies that have the technology in place to “just grab” those obituaries and place them on their sites, in some instances without any family or funeral home approval, and then work their way up search engines to get noticed.
It also appears, according to the article, that many of those sites don’t seem to care about the accuracy of the obituaries as much as just getting the decedent’s name so they can attract potential buyers of flowers and such. And, it appears that some families are not happy with that situation either.
The linked article just goes to show how, as death care providers, we need to know what is happening in this world so that we can protect the families that we serve.
More news from the world of Death Care:
- Why going from being a hairdresser to a mortician is easier than you think. Brisbane Times (Australia)
- Pointer: Cemetery restoration project a show of respect. Yambill County News-Register (OR)
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s body will be “aquamated” — a greener alternative to cremation using water and chemicals. Daily Mail (Great Britain)
- Chambers and James Funeral Home receive 2021 Pursuit of Excellence Award. The Weirton Daily Times (WV)
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