By Leader Editor Kara Apel

A lot has changed over the past decade, including the services that consumers have come to expect from funeral services and the staff members they encounter.

At MKJ Marketing’s recent Mastermind event in Nashville, I spoke with three leaders in our industry about the trends they’re seeing in their markets. Here’s what they had to say.

Tara Steininger, Operations Manager and Funeral Director at Krause Funeral Homes (Milwaukee, WI)

“More and more people are more informed consumers than when I started in this industry due to the internet and discount funeral homes. They want more information.

We have also seen a huge trend for cremation as well. When I started in the industry, our firm was 33 percent cremation – now it is close to 60% cremation – so it has doubled since I started.

“People don’t want to talk about funerals anymore – they want it to be a celebration of life. They are the same thing, but it’s just different wording nowadays. It’s a good thing, though. Funerals are fun where we work. We make it an event, versus the stodgy kind of funeral. A lot of people when they are leaving are like, ‘Oh my gosh this was wonderful, I shouldn’t say that, but it was great.’

“We do a lot of food service. All of our funeral directors are licensed bartenders as well because we have our liquor, beer, and wine licenses. They have to have this so that they can work the services. Our funeral directors and our staff turn into the catering staff, so they can go to our reception hall, and it’s the same staff that they see serving them drinks and opening the doors. We see a lot more parties versus traditional funerals in a church.”

Mark Hutchens, Owner and Funeral Director at Hutchens Funeral Homes (Florissant, MO)

“They are asking for more and more focus on personalization. The industry has been saying that for probably 20 years. That started with more variations on prayer cards and memorial folders. Then that moved to videos when that technology came out and having televisions in your parlors. Now, it’s moving to personalization in the service and how you are memorializing them.

“An example would be food services and receptions. We are no longer having the body there to memorialize and see, so what else can we provide for them? We can provide some type of display system or vignettes that they can set up to explain and show their loved one’s life, also mixing in with a little bit of a party or celebration atmosphere.

“There are still a lot of traditional people in our area, but pretty quickly, we are seeing a shift to celebrations of life and food – even alcohol. We are actually putting an addition onto one of our funeral homes that is going to be able to accommodate a reception space, more of a non-traditional space for different types of services.”

Vicki Drugatz, Executive Manager at Burr Funeral Home (Chardon, OH)

“Cremation has definitely grown a lot with jewelry and things like that. We sell a lot more of that, where people before just wanted an urn. We sell a lot of necklaces that we can put the cremated remains in – and simple things like taking the fingerprints.

“We’ve taken a lot of time in the last year to arrange our merchandise so the other members of the family who are sitting there during the arrangement can see different things out of the corner of their eye, and then you’ll see one member of the family get up and ask about it. So, it’s selling itself, just by letting them know. We explain the cremation process – that we fingerprint the person once they arrive, then once they see the jewelry, it’s just subtly giving them the information. We always let them know that they can come back and do this at a later date or on the website.

“I just had someone call from 2009, and she just decided now to get the jewelry for Christmas this year. We make sure it’s in their head and that they know that it’s there when you’re ready. It’s all about placement – timing and being subtle.”

Would you like to join the conversation? Send your comments to, and we’d be happy to add your thoughts to our story.

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