Can you tell me a bit about Better Send Off?
Being of baby boomer age, it seemed like a month didn't go by when I wasn't attending the funeral of a friend's parent. Another thing I noticed was a growing trend for funerals away from the traditional cookie-cutter, mourning affair to being more highly personalised - similar to a wedding event.
But most people don't research funerals before they actually have to organise one, so when someone dies I think they're caught unawares and are clueless about what to do. I saw a need for a one-stop-shop that acts as a 'virtual funeral guide' with information, planning tools, and products and services, so that's why I set up Better Send Off.
What are some of the sensitivities you've had to work around in marketing a business related to death?
I haven't had to work around any sensitivities. As I expected, the younger generation who expect to live forever don't engage on my Facebook or Twitter pages, but there's huge interest from baby boomers.
For example, there's an elderly woman called Katie Williams who four years ago started a coffin club in Rotorua. The club now has more than 70 members who meet regularly to make and decorate their own coffins and make coffins for families who can't afford one.
There's actually now a coffin club in most provincial areas of the country. There are 'death cafes' being run all over the country as we speak, where folk get together to discuss how they want to die, and people are writing their bucket lists and funeral wishes through apps and other online tools.
Because of medical advances the elderly are being kept living longer, or taking longer to die - whichever way you look at it - which means baby boomers' parents have time to think about their mortality and time to think and plan their funeral and discuss their wishes with their family. I visit retirement villages, and when I do the venues are always filled with the residents eager for information about funeral options.
What's worked well for you in terms of getting your marketing messages across to your target customers?
Getting articles published in magazines that have a specific baby boomer readership works well. Grey Power kindly published a two-page article on Better Send Off in its magazine and hits to my website went through the roof. I also visit rest homes, where it's no secret most of the elderly are 'waiting for God' so to speak and are obviously very much in my target market, so that's what I'll be concentrating more on in future.
Are there some methods you've tried for getting your message across that haven't quite hit their mark?
I haven't tried anything that hasn't worked. People email me every day saying what a wonderful tool they think the website is. I've only had one tweet from someone that thought my cremation jewellery was 'morbid'.
So do you think your market is evolving, in terms of how comfortable people are talking about issues related to death?
Looking at online posts, discussions, articles and blogs about the funeral industry, I think it's clear the 'traditional' funeral is being disrupted by a very wide range of alternatives. This development probably reflects wider changes in society. Religion now plays a different role in our society, family structure has changed, 'respectability' has become a dated concept and there's now a strong desire in people from all walks of life to demonstrate their individuality.
And I think death is definitely a topic that will get easier to talk about in future. The media has played a crucial role in getting death out into the open, and I think the climate is changing. Recently in New Zealand we had Billy Connolly doing a two-part documentary called Big Send Off where he looked at funerals around the world; in the US a reality show series called Best Funerals Ever recently screened and ratings went through the roof.
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