Mark My Words

Mark Pennington Bio

Mark Pennington's blog

Posted by Mark Pennington on October 1, 2016

  I’m an old dog…teaching me the tricks to survive in this business climate has been tough. Maybe you’re there with me, trying to accept and stay profitable against a sea of changing requests and expectations. I still hear a lot of grumbling about cremation, even now when it’s a fact of life and nearing the 50% mark.  Funeral directors dislike the idea of direct cremation, but listen, I think there’s a problem with semantics – all cremation is Direct – the question should be, “Would you like the service before or after cremation?”

  I care a lot about successfully marketing cremation. Sure, it’s a big part of my business, but it’s also the way death disposition is heading. Right now, the rate of cremation by state spans a range of just under 20% to a fraction under 75%! What’s the answer? I believe individualizing the memorial can significantly add to your bottom line.

  Consider this: Proper Memorialization will create an income flow which will turn “direct cremation” into a “Cremation Service.” Direct Cremation is a term coined by funeral directors not by families. You can assume a service by asking their preference of before or after. Families will pay when there is a perception of value – an urn presented on a velvet “jeweler’s pad” flanked by candles, a beautifully engraved urn with a unique symbol or verse that is meaningful, memorial jewelry or keepsake-sized tokens offered to family members, specialty services for veterans with honor guards, processional flags, or military salutes. Ceremonies geared to a specific civic group, nationality, religious preference – all of these have meaning and therefore perceived value and are worthy of expenditure. And remember, the service is not complete until the cremation urn has been picked up and the customer has left. Don’t let this important moment be just a delivery!

  A friend of mine had a family choose cremation just a month or so ago. As Catholics they were concerned. They didn’t want “just a box or bag handed to them in the back room”. This is how my friend responded. He asked lots and lots of questions about the deceased, his personality, hobbies, associations, funny quirks, what things were special to him, what characterized his life, what did he love? Then he showed the family all the ways he could be remembered through personalization. He showed them value – through his patient asking of questions, through the variety of memorial items he displayed, through his sensitivity in helping create a truly memorable service. This “direct cremation” became a celebration of a life lived uniquely. The family? They were very happy to purchase and participate in designing the most appropriate memorial.

  Ask questions. Offer options. Be interested and listen to their requests. There are many, many ways to cultivate both a memorable, and profitable experience.


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