Sample Conversation in Selected's Forum

Adding Event Planning to Your List of Services

With the increase in families wanting minimal to no services and with the number of these families expected to increase in the next several years, we are considering adding an event planning option to our portfolio of services. In one of our weekly brainstorming sessions, we imagined cementing relationships with venues, florists, caterers, balloon release companies, etc. etc. In Massachusetts, we are not allowed to sell flowers or food, but we could certainly be the liaison for the family and have a cohesive package to present to families. We would, in effect, do all the leg work for them and could charge a fee for having all of this available to them in house. Are there any other members already doing this? If so, how do you market this service and what has the response been?

Response 1

We have been working on this for several years. It has been very slow going, but we keep working at it. We aspire to do as many unique venue memorials as any funeral home operation in the country. We operate in an area with a strong history of "cremation society" promotion of simplified services.

Check out our website through this link. (Link removed to protect member privacy.) Innovative services and "Event Enhancements" offerings lower on the page. In about 3 months we hope to have a revised website up with the attached (attachment removed to protect member privacy) memorial offerings included in an easy to use format including more professional images and enhanced search visibility.

Also check out our Facebook page for more photos.

We market the services through all the above and photos that are in the website and our Facebook page (and the attachments) displayed in our arrangement offices along with arranger listening for possibly receptive clients and bringing in our event planner. We are trying to educate the public with photos in our lobby showing some of the most unique services & memorials we have arranged. Most prospective clients for this type of service offering seem to have already decided how they will arrange the unique service or memorial they envision before they see us. We will keep working on it however, but feel there needs to be more promotion of our capability to help people with this service before they need our service. We also have done some SEO work on our website supporting this effort and have a small Google Adwords budget devoted to unique memorials.

Most of the work needed to accomplish a unique "event" is pretty straightforward and involves hospitality and organization skills.

"Like" our Facebook page if you want to see our future ideas and offerings. And check back in a few months on our Website which is being designed by an advertising agency outside our industry. And, our event planner is available to you if you need help.

Response 2

Thank you! This is really well done. Our program is still in its infancy and your established program gives us some great insight as to how a program like this can be organized and marketed.

Response 3

This is really good! Do you have any estimates at your firm as to the "take rate" by the public, even given the observation that those interested in such events want to do it themselves? Is the initial approach made by a funeral director and then handed off to your event planner? Just curious as to what you find is working!

Response 4 (from author of Response 1)

Thanks for the positive comments.

Couldn't tell you how low, but our "take rate" is very low. At times people allow us to provide enough information that they come to understand that we can simplify their situation and add value. We succeed more often when we have a personal relationship with the client and they inherently rely on us to give them accurate information. However even then, based on history, they have a predetermined sense of what they know we can and cannot do, which is a challenge. We also succeed in situations where the client has not had enough time to make plans, have not made decisions, and we can become a source of useful information including venue ideas. We also succeed when people are searching the internet and find our unique capabilities online.

As to the part about our mostly male arrangers & our event planner. Some of our arrangers have successfully presented these options, but we also need to get clients committed which is where our event planner comes in. She is introduced as a fundamentally different kind of person than a funeral director. My personal opinion - If you had a daughter, would you consider allowing a guy in a dark suit plan your daughter's wedding? We like the idea of a woman taking over the event planning. Any man or any woman could potentially do anything. We just think given the dynamics of most memorial planning situations people would be more likely to rely on a woman and with a different job title than something like "funeral director" to help them with their unique memorial planning. Eventually this will change. Please keep in mind that our situation is that the vast majority of people we serve are not our friends and they don't know us other than possibly through a referral. Our arrangers are generally meeting the family for the first time at the initial arrangement meeting.

Response 5

Thanks for the reply. You make a tremendous point, and one I haven't heard expressed quite the way you put it: "If you had a daughter, would you consider allowing a guy in a dark suit plan your daughter's wedding?" The answer isn't just "No," but "Heck no!"

Many of us have married off daughters, including me, and the wedding planner we hired was a late-30's woman with a lot of experience in planning such events. If the person that showed up to meet with us had been a male in a dark suit, I bet that we would have listened politely, and then quickly excused ourselves.

As a side note, the woman whose services we retained had absolutely NO problem running the bill up. She did it by presenting options, listening to us and what we (by which I mean, my daughter and my wife) wanted, and then showed us ways to accomplish that. On many things there was a good-better-best approach. My daughter's wedding was not extravagant by any means, but I still spent more than I had intended. And yet every step of the way, I not only agreed with the choices, but accepted each item enthusiastically - because - it all made sense.

How to get funeral arrangers - and just as importantly, the funeral consumers - to see funerals in the same way is a challenge. While the funeral is a significant life event, it is viewed entirely differently by the public. My wife and daughter happily worked on "wedding stuff" for at least a year with great anticipation. Endless discussion of colors, and settings, and the dress, accoutrements, and styles. The wedding planner was right at home in those discussions. A guy in a dark suit would have ruined it. And in truth, people don’t see funerals that same way. Nor should they, probably.

So the question is - in what ways can we translate some of that female-oriented event planning expertise into funeral planning….if in fact the general public event wants that from their funeral directors. In many parts of the country, a full-on event planner would probably leave the people wondering “why?” But more and more, folks do seem to want more than just a 10:00 am service on Tuesday.

Interesting discussion!

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