As a vendor to funeral homes and cemeteries, I attend a lot of conferences and trade shows each year. Some are smaller state shows, and others are national events drawing attendees from around the country. For the most part, the attendees are the same each year. That is bad for funeral service.
I understand many funeral directors are not able to come because they have families they are serving but that’s not the real reason. If it were, they would go sometimes and then not when they are busy. The funeral directors I am talking about never go. Ever.
The only answer is they don’t see value in attending. That’s a mistake.
When you operate inside an echo chamber, you don’t learn, and you don’t generate new ideas. You believe you know everything and therefore never look for ways to do things better.
Stale isn’t a positive attribute; it’s the beginning of the end.
You don’t know what is going on in funeral service if you never leave the funeral home. Even if you subscribe to all the trade magazines and have long conversations with your chemical or casket rep during their routine visits, you’re still missing the advantages offered by a well-run convention. There is no substitute for leaving your funeral home and joining colleagues at an organized event.
I love to talk about this business. I like to learn about the trends, and I am genuinely interested in what my funeral home customers are thinking, what they are worried about, what they are excited about and how we can shape our products or services to help make them more successful.
I also love to talk with other vendors. I like to look at their offerings and think about it as if I were a funeral home owner. Would I use that? Does that help my funeral home run more efficiently? If I used this product or service, would it cause me to make more money or reduce my expenses? Will it give me a competitive advantage?
Here are three things you miss by staying home.
Get ideas from the exhibit hall
The expo hall is like window shopping for ideas. Of course, every show will have the standard vendors, but there is just no way to know all of the innovations and ideas (whether valid and useful or not) unless you walk the hall and talk to the exhibitors. And don’t only speak to the vendors you already know, try to find something new.
When you see a product or service that’s interesting, stop and listen. Find out why the exhibitor believes it will be helpful in your funeral home. Every vendor has a reason why their offering can help you, and they want to share it with you. Stop and listen.
Get ideas from the speakers
The speakers are typically your colleagues in funeral service or vendors serving the industry and provide thoughtful ideas and actionable insights that you can use to grow your business.
Get ideas from other funeral directors
I’ve learned over the years how competitive this business is and funeral directors are better friends if they’re 100 miles apart. The natural inclination is that nobody is going to talk to you about what they’re doing in their funeral home. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most are willing to openly share what is working and not working and collaborate on ideas to serve families better. After all, who else can understand both the joys and fears of running a funeral home than others who are doing the same?
Early in my career, we had a sales meeting every morning, and it was explained that, regardless of how well or poorly you were doing, you needed to be at that meeting. In short, if you were struggling to get leads and close more sales, you needed to be there to learn from those that are doing well. If you were doing well, you needed to be there to share with others what you were doing. I think the same applies to funeral service. If you are struggling in your funeral home, you need to go to a convention. If you are a successful funeral home, the conference needs you to be there.
Make it a point to go to a convention this year and join the conversation; you’ll be glad you did.
Ellery Bowker is the founder of Aftercare.com, an automated program that helps funeral homes and cemeteries stay in touch with families during the first year following their loss. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org