Monday, June 29, 2015

8 Facts On Baby Boomers That Could (And Should) Change Your Funeral Business

security national baby boomers funerals

Article by Rochelle Rietow, funeralOne Blog A great American novel once said “you’ll never really understand a person until you consider his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” And this couldn’t be anymore true for marketing your funeral home, too. If you take a walk in a Baby Boomer’s shoes, there’s a lot of small details you might notice about how they think, purchase, communicate, and perceive your marketing. And today, we’re going to do just that. We’re jumping into a Baby Boomer’s point of view and looking at 8 facts that you need to know in order to effectively communicate with them, and get those shoes walking through your front door.

Fact #1:  In less than five years, 50 percent of the U.S. population will be over the age of 50
We knew the Baby Boomers were coming, but did you know how many of them you should be expecting? Yeah… try half of the population. Oh, and did we mention that they’ll control 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income within the next five years? Think about the kind of opportunities you’re dealing with here. All the statistics are telling us that funeral service is on the decline, but if we, as a profession, play our cards right and learn to adapt to the needs of the Baby Boomers, things could change around here. There is a world of opportunity coming our way, we just have to be ready to welcome them. (Source: Nielsen)

Fact #2: The Baby Boomers are the “Me” generation

The most obviously true fact here is also the most important one. With a generation who grew up in the world of the Beatles, psychedelics and the Vietnam War, “self-fulfillment” and “self-realization” are huge themes deeply rooted in their psyche. And just like you’ve been reading on the news and seeing at your funeral home over the last few years, they want their funerals to be an event that is all about them. And we don’t mean that in a selfish way either. In an article we published last year, we found that Baby Boomer’s wanted their funerals to be their “crowning performance” to a life well lived. That means they want to be the star, but also the director, the DJ and the stylist, and heck, some Baby Boomers are even introducing props into their funerals (think Star Wars, kitchen-scenes and bowling alleys). The bottom line? Your Boomer families are going to want a lot more than the average funeral, and if you haven’t drilled that into your head just yet, it’s time to! (Source: Gallup poll)

Fact #3: Baby Boomers who were born between 1946-1955 are spending more money on things they want, rather than things theyneed

This sounds like great news for anyone whose target audience is Baby Boomers, but there’s one question to ask: is a funeral something that Baby Boomers want, or need? If you’re trying to sell them on a casket, cremation options or the typical doom-and-gloom funeral package, this is probably going to be seen as a “need” rather than a “want.” But, if you sell your Baby Boomers on the “dream” – that is, a meaningful way to celebrate their life – their tune might change a bit. So rather than focusing on the nitty gritty details of burial options, focus on the dream. Get them to imagine the final event of their life, the event that will leave their legacy with their loved ones. (Source: Emerald Insight)

Fact #4: 80% of purchase decisions among Baby Boomers are driven by practical reasons

Baby Boomers, in general, are a pretty practical generation, so their spending habits are pretty practical, too. This means that they’re looking for cold hard facts – or value-driven statements – to get them to choose your funeral home’s services. It all starts with finding out how your services add value to your beloved Boomers, then finding ways to effectively communicate it to them. We came up with a pretty solid 5-step process for showing your value to families in the article Value Vs. Price: What’s More Important to Your Families?, so be sure to check it out so you know what your Boomers want to hear when they ask you about your offerings. (Source: Factbrowser).

Fact #5: Boomers represent one-third of all social media users

These days, it seems like everyone’s mother, brother, grandmother, and even great grandmother is on Facebook. So it should come with no surprise that Baby Boomers are spending a great deal of time on social media websites, too. They aren’t always the early adapters to new social-driven technologies, but once these technologies, networks and products go mainstream, Boomers are the ones who really drive a lot of them. So if your business is geared more and more towards online users, plan on Baby Boomers catching on and driving the success of your online business. (Source: Nielsen)

Fact #6: 89% of people aged 65 and up have a personal e-mail account that they use regularly

Since email is such a widely used medium among Baby Boomers, why not find ways to integrate this helpful medium into your marketing strategy? Now, we’re not talking about spamming them with your sales material each day, but you could send them emails about personalized ways they can celebrate their life, community events you’re hosting, or a blog article you recently wrote. The goal is to establish a connection with them online so that they trust you. Because in reality, who buys anything from someone they don’t trust? (Source: Pew.)

Fact #7: On average, Baby Boomers spend 174 hours a month watching television

While online marketing and advertising is certainly the way of the future, it is true that Baby Boomers still watch more TV than any other generation… except the Traditionalists (65+) who log 205 hours a month watching the tube. Why? Because the Boomer generation simply doesn’t have time (and they really don’t want to) sit down and read an in-depth, long, complicated article that requires them to scan around for the information they are looking for. Instead, they want it to be handed to them, in an easy-to-digest format. This is why many Boomers would rather watch a video that educates them about their products, rather than read a long chunk of website text about it. And this is why you, as a funeral professional, should be hosting educational videos on your website that explain your services.

Fact #8: One-third of Baby Boomers shop online and the 50+ segment spends almost $7 billion digitally
Why do Baby Boomers go online? Mostly to enrich their lives, and that means online shopping is something they’re not shy about when it comes to spending their hard earned dollars. Does your funeral home have an online store? Maybe a sympathy store that offers flowers and gifts? If so, don’t be shy about telling your families about it. Chances are it will make their lives a lot easier because it’s an added convenience. Plus, it’s another source of revenue for you. The best of both worlds! (Source: Nielsen)

Now what?

Well, my friends, comes the fun part.  It’s time to take this helpful information and apply it to everything from your marketing to your services. Particularly when it comes to bringing your funeral home into the digital age through online shopping and educational websites. Because, let’s face it, if your families aren’t finding value and education in your services through your funeral home website, they’re going to go to your one of your competitors that does give them this information. After all, if there’s one thing we learned over the years, the funeral profession is sort of like the survival of the fittest. If you’re not adapting to this new world of consumers we live in, what’s the point?

To learn more about how your funeral home can turn these Baby Boomer facts into educational, powerful assets that bring families to you, check out f1Connect today. With educational videos, powerful pre-planning resources, and an e-commerce store that links your families to beautiful sympathy gifts (all without leaving your website), f1Connect is the powerful online solution you have been looking for.

How have you most successfully connected with your Baby Boomer families – both online and off? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Funeral Homes Increasingly Using Dogs to Comfort Mourners

Here at Security National, we love our pets! In fact, we know that family is one of the most important things in life. We also understand that for many of us, pets are also a part of the family. That’s why when you purchase a pre-arranged funeral plan through Security National Life, we include the Family and Pet Protection Plan! This supplemental benefit is free of charge and covers all of your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren right down to your extended family — your pet. This benefit will help protect your family from the financial burdens that can occur when a member of your family dies. So of course this article was one we wanted to pass along and share!

  dog to comfort mourners

Lulu, a goldendoodle who works as a therapy dog, lolls on the lawn outside the Ballard-Durand funeral home in White Plains, N.Y., on Thursday, June 4, 2015. Funeral homes are increasingly using dogs to comfort mourners. Funeral directors say the dogs, usually trained therapy animals, can lighten the often awkward, tense atmosphere at a wake or funeral service. 

Sandy Del Duca was mourning the death of her father when Lulu, a curly haired goldendoodle, came bounding down the stairs at the Ballard-Durand funeral home.

Del Duca thought Lulu was simply the pet of funeral home owner Matthew Fiorillo, whom she was meeting to make arrangements. But the dog also works there — one of an increasing number of dogs being offered by American funeral homes to comfort mourners.

It didn’t take long for Del Duca to be won over.

“That dog looked into my eyes and I was done,” Del Duca said. “She seemed to know just what I needed. A funeral is a funeral, it’s not a great thing. But that dog gave the service a family atmosphere and made it more of a celebration.”

Funeral directors say dogs, especially trained therapy animals, can lighten the often awkward, tense atmosphere at a wake or funeral service, and sometimes seem to know exactly who needs their help.

Whenever a dog joins a group of mourners, “the atmosphere changes,” said Mark Krause, owner and president of Krause Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Milwaukee. “In a funeral home, people are typically on edge, uncomfortable. But everyone lights up, everyone has to greet the dog.”

Krause bought Oliver, a Portuguese water dog, in 2001 to be a family pet. But his wife had Oliver trained to be a therapy dog and he made the usual therapy-dog visits: schools, nursing homes, hospitals.

“Then my wife said, ‘Why can’t he do this in the funeral home?’ and in the 10-plus years we had him, he probably touched a couple thousand families,” Krause said. Oliver seemed to “sense grief and who needed him.”

In one case, a boy about 7 years old had lost his 3-year-old sister and had stopped talking, even to his parents.

“The minute the dog came in, the boy started talking to him about his sister,” Krause said. “This little boy tells the dog, ‘I don’t know why everyone’s so upset, my sister said she’s fine where she is.'”

“I don’t suppose Oliver understood, but he looked at the boy as if he did,” Krause added.

Oliver died in 2011 — his funeral was attended by 150 people and many of their pets — and has been succeeded by another Portuguese water dog, Benny.

When Oliver started, a dog in a funeral home was a rare sight. Statistics aren’t kept, but Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association, said, “We hear from members that more and more of them are bringing animals into funeral homes, be it a dog or a cat, whether it’s a certified therapy dog or just an extremely well-behaved family pet.”

Some of the funeral directors are dubious about cats, however.

“Dogs are the only creature that love you more than they love themselves,” Krause said. “Cats tend to lurk. They could surprise people.”

Added Fiorillo, “I’ve never seen a gregarious cat.”

Gayle Armes, owner of the Armes-Hunt funeral homes in Fairmount and Marion, Indiana, says his dog Judd, a golden retriever, serves a vital function by giving mourners “something else to focus on.”

“The ones who need it, they tend to go over to him, maybe kneel and love on him and he loves on them,” Armes said.

At Merkel Funeral Service, based in Monroe, Michigan, outreach coordinator Renee Mullendore said the owner’s cockapoo, Lola, “can pick out who needs attention” and sometimes tries to sit on their laps.

In White Plains, 1-year-old Lulu has been on duty since last month. She lives with Fiorillo and her devotion to him is evident as she follows his every step and command. Lulu even “prays” when prompted, bowing her head between her front paws while perched on a kneeler.

Fiorillo said he first thought about using a dog in the business when he saw how a tiny Maltese being carried through an airport helped distract and calm passengers as flights were being canceled and delayed.

“My purpose was to take a tense, uncomfortable situation and ease the tension a little bit,” he said.

He bought Lulu as a newborn and had her trained for almost a year for a total cost of about $5,000. She wears a blue and white vest that says “Therapy Dog” on one side and “Pet me, I’m friendly” on the other.

When mourners come to the stately funeral home to make arrangements, Fiorillo asks if they’d like to meet Lulu and tells them she’s available — no extra charge — for any wake or funeral. Almost all have accepted.

“It’s not like she’s running around during the wake,” he said. “If Lulu’s getting too much attention, then I might say she’s tired and pull her back.”

Lulu has her own business cards and “sends” thank-you notes to children she’s befriended.

“If something were to happen to me,” Fiorillo said, “I would want Lulu to be there for sure.”


Monday, June 8, 2015

22 Of The Most Powerful Death & Dying Quotes Ever Written

Since the beginning of time, people have been expressing their thoughts on death in many, many ways. In fact, these ideas, discussions and philosophies surrounding death have been the origin of many great works of art. In my opinion, some of the most powerful words about death exist in quotes. So, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite quotes on death and dying – they come from some of the greatest inventors, philosophers, psychologists, and yogis from all over the world. Read them and become enlightened from some of the most beautiful, meaningful words anyone has ever used to describe the world’s greatest mystery… death.


#2. “Nothing can happen more beautiful than death.” – Walt Whitman #3. “If death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costume and come back as a new character… Would you slow down? Or speed up?” – Chuck Palahniuk #5. “Death is the dropping of the flower that the fruit may swell.” – Henry Ward Beecher


#6. “I shall not wholly die, and a great part of me will escape the grave.” – Horace #7.No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” – Steve Jobs #8. “Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.” – Buddha

Monday, June 1, 2015

Bodies found in Ohio funeral home storage after their supposed cremation

Facility faces investigation after remains of 10 adults and 1 child found. At least one body had been there since January, official says.
  Toledo Bodies found in Ohio funeral home storage after their supposed cremation

Authorities in Ohio are investigating a funeral home in Toledo where 11 bodies were discovered in a damp room. They say the bodies were supposed to be cremated but instead were being stored in cremation boxes and body bags.

The Lucas County coroner’s office said the bodies of 10 adults and an infant born prematurely were found on Friday. A deputy coroner said most of the deaths were of a medical nature so autopsies were not necessary.

Dr Diane Barnett said the concern was over the condition of the bodies and their identification. She told the Blade newspaper that at least one body had been at the funeral home since January.

Barnett said the most recent death occurred about two weeks ago.

Toledo police helped state authorities remove the bodies and are investigating what happened.

After Frederick Winkelman died, his bereaved family held car washes and hosted a benefit to scrape together the $1,200 that Tate Funeral Service charged for his planned cremation.
The family of the 56-year-old Toledoan — a man they described as caring and compassionate and whom they called “Uncle Freddy” — said they hustled for weeks after his April 23 death to pay the bill. After each car wash or donation, they dropped off the cash they collected at the Lagrange Street mortuary.

Mr. Winkelman didn’t have life insurance, his family said, and didn’t leave money to cover his final expenses. Cremation was the most affordable option but not her brother’s preference, said Peggy Abshire of Toledo.

About two weeks ago, his niece, Pam Feahr, who lives in Northwood, said they handed over the remainder of what they owed, paying off the cremation bill in full.

Then, they waited. They called the funeral home and started to think they were getting the runaround.

“I had a really bad feeling. We kept asking, ‘Can we get in to see him?’ ” Ms. Feahr said.

Finally, word broke. The family learned their loved one was among the 11 bodies authorities said they discovered and removed Friday from the funeral home, where Toledo police were called to assist an Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors investigation and hold the mortuary as a crime scene.

Ms. Feahr said she called the board Thursday to report her concerns about the cremation delay.

“I just told them that it’s been too long. That he’s had the money, and it’s been almost two weeks,” she said.

Officials reported that some of the bodies had been embalmed, and all were supposed to be cremated. The body that had been at the mortuary the longest had been there since Jan. 8, said Dr. Diane Barnett, a Lucas County deputy coroner.

By late Saturday afternoon, she said all the bodies had been identified. The office had spoken to relatives of seven of the deceased and left messages for the others.

Now, family members must make arrangements to handle the bodies, she said.

A lawyer representing Tate said the funeral home will honor all cremation services. The owner of a local cremation service said he’ll offer free service to families involved with the Tate matter too.

The state board will hold a special meeting Tuesday regarding its investigation and the licensing status of the funeral home and the funeral director, Robert O. Tate, Jr.

Tate’s attorney, Richard Mitchell, issued a written statement Saturday that the mortuary had provided embalming in accordance with state law.

“Any delay in cremation resulted from physicians failing to timely provide death certificates, prohibiting cremation,” the statement read.

It also said that the people who initiated the recent complaint had previously complained about another funeral home they had selected first. Mr. Mitchell described the complaints made against Tate as “unreasonable and unfounded.”

In a phone interview, Mr. Mitchell declined to comment directly on Mr. Winkelman’s case but said the required death certificate was only received Thursday and that Tate had been “moving forward with the cremation.”

Relatives said they initially had Mr. Winkelman’s body taken to another funeral home after he died of congestive heart failure, but they transferred to Tate after calling around to find a more affordable price.

When they visited the mortuary to identify Mr. Winkelman they found preparations lacking. His body was underneath a printed covering, not a white sheet; his head rested on something that looked like Styrofoam, and his hair was messy and his beard overgrown, Ms. Feahr said.

She contends the funeral director had put off her repeated inquiries and provided multiple reasons for why the cremation hadn’t occurred.

Tate increased its price whenever the family brought in a payment, said her daughter-in-law, Ashle Feahr.

“Then he would hound us. Call us, call us, call us, call us for this money, and we finally got it all in, and then nothing,” Ashle Feahr said.

Mr. Mitchell’s statement said the mortuary has been in operation for more than 25 years and offers “substantially reduced fees for those in financial need.”

Dr. Barnett, meanwhile, said that if Tate had been having trouble getting doctors to provide death certificates, the funeral home should have complained to the Ohio State Medical Board.

The deputy coroner said proper handling of the bodies was her office’s only concern. Any legal violations, she said, would be up to Toledo police and the Ohio Board of Embalmers.

“It’s now a situation of the families choosing new arrangements — choosing new funeral homes, choosing a new cremation service, and moving on,” Dr. Barnett said.

Robert Scott, owner of Caring Cremation Services, said those whose deceased relatives’ bodies were removed from Tate could get cremations at no cost from his company once they were released from county custody.

“I’m not looking for an attaboy. I just can’t see myself saying, ‘I’m going to charge you another $700 for this,” he said.

Mr. Scott said he had performed cremation services for Tate until early January, when he stopped because the mortuary owed his firm $7,000.

Mr. Mitchell denied that, saying Caring Cremation is “trying to pull a fast one here and leverage an unfortunate situation to try to collect on a disputed debt.”

Mr. Mitchell said Tate stopped using Mr. Scott’s company because it was dissatisfied with its service.

Mr. Winkelman’s family is still reeling from the events of the last few days and from his death.

To Pam Feahr’s 17-year-old daughter, Tiffany, Mr. Winkelman was always caring, compassionate, and generous.

“He raised me, like, right alongside my mom,” she said. “It tore me up when he passed.”

His sister feels like they were fooled.

“It’s bad enough that he’s been gone a month and almost a half now, and now we’ve got to go through it all over again like it just happened,” Ms. Abshire said.