How Product Managers Market Death

by drjim on December 11, 2017

Death needs to be marketed also

Death needs to be marketed also

Image Credit:
Zach

I’m hopeful that most of us don’t spend a lot of time each day thinking about death. For most of us this is not a pleasant subject and so we try to avoid thinking about it as much as possible. That is unless you happen to be a product manager who is involved in the business of death. We need to realize that when someone passes on, that is just the start of a lengthy process that deals with how their remains should be handled until they reach their final resting spot. It turns out that the business of death is currently undergoing a great deal of change.

Change Comes To The World Of Death

Back in the old days, death used to be a fairly cut and dried process. When someone died, you’d call the undertaker, they’d take away the body, fix it up for the viewing, place it in a casket, and then wheel the casket to the graveyard for a final burial. This sequence of steps cost money that the deceased family was generally willing to pay and everyone was happy. Then things started to change.

What has happened in the past few years is that more and more of us are electing to be cremated instead of being buried. This changes the product development definition of death. When we make this decision, all of sudden there is no longer a need to purchase caskets, burial plots and all of the rituals that are generally associated with the dead. The problem that death product managers have is that they built their industry around selling caskets.

The good news for death product managers is that their market is not going away. As baby boomers get older, the number of deaths in the U.S. is forecasted to increase from about 2.7M to 3.6M in 2036. However, the problem that these product managers are facing is that this increase in deaths does not necessarily mean that there will be a surge in casket sales. Back in 1980, less than 10% of the people who died got cremated. However, these days this number has increased to roughly 50%. The expectations are that this figure will keep increasing and will top 70% by 2030.

The New Way Of Dealing With The Dead

What do they say? As one door shuts, another opens? As the market for caskets goes away because of the rise in cremations this has required the product managers who deal with death to become creative. They have decided that a funeral now should really be all about remembering the person who has passed – even if the body is not there.

No longer do product managers like to call it a funeral service. Instead, they now refer to the ceremony where the dead person is remembered as being a gathering. Funeral parlors are undergoing a transformation. Gone are the casket-viewing rooms because they are considered to be too depressing. Now they are starting to have multisensory experience rooms where audio and video equipment can be used to create an atmosphere that will remind visitors of places that the deceased like to go to. How would that look on your product manager resume? The price for this is included in the funeral service fees and ranges from US$4,000 – US$8,000.

Since a cremation can be done fairly cheaply, product managers have to find ways to sell more things to the families of the deceased. A standard cremation costs roughly $700. Product managers are asking family members what they would like to happen to the ashes after the cremation. A standard cremation returns the ashes in a cardboard container. If the family wants to be more respectful, then they can pay for a nice urn and this will run them between $400 – $500.

What All Of This Means For You

Death is never a pleasant topic to talk about for most of us. However, we do need to realize that the process of caring for, dealing with, and ultimately disposing of a dead person’s body is a business and this business has its own set of product managers. Just like the rest of us, these product managers have a product manager job description that tells them that they have to deal with the changes that are sweeping though their industry.

The business of death is undergoing a major transformation because people who are dying have started to choose to be cremated instead of being buried in a casket. This is a big deal for death product managers because their industry was built on selling caskets. Since this business is going away, death product managers have had to diversify. They have started selling funeral packages where gatherings are staged and fancy audio and video equipment can be used to create environments that remind the people in attendance of the person who has passed on. Additionally, product managers see an opportunity to sell urns to families who want to honor the memory of their relative by keeping the ashes in their house.

The business of death will always be with us. The product managers who work in this market need to understand that their market is changing and so they need to change with it. The dead will always have to be dealt with, it’s just how we choose to honor them that the death product managers need to figure out and then go do some marketing.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that there is anything that the death product managers can sell that would happen after the cremation is done?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you’ve had a chance to jump into a new car lately, undoubtedly your attention has been drawn to the dashboard screen that just about every car has nowadays. Car manufactures are changing their product development definition and moving more and more of the car’s control and monitoring systems over to these centralized dashboards in order to attempt to simplify the process of driving their cars. However, as car manufacturer product managers are discovering, creating a high quality dashboard screen is harder than it looks…

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How Should Facebook Tell People About News?

by drjim on December 4, 2017

People get a lot of their news from Facebook, but what news should they get?

People get a lot of their news from Facebook, but what news should they get?

Image Credit:
Jurgen Appelo

So here’s an interesting question for you. If I was to ask you where people spend the most amount of time when they are on the Internet, where would you say that they go? Google? Yahoo? A sports site like ESPN? Those are all good guesses, but you’d be wrong. The correct answer, not all that surprisingly, is Facebook. A lot of people go to Facebook each and every day and they spend a lot of time there. What this means is that if you are in the business of trying to provide news to people, Facebook is very important to you.

How Facebook Provides People With News

The Facebook web site does a lot of different things. It allows you to connect with friends, you can post photos and videos, you can even chat with people. The primary thing that a Facebook user sees when they log into Facebook is called their Timeline. This is basically a chronological stream of all of the new material that their friends are either posting or “liking”. What can also happen is that the companies that provide online news can have their stories added to your timeline and if the story interests you, you’ll click on it and be taken to their website.

You can well imagine how important this stream of customers is to these news sources – Facebook has a lot of users! By some estimates, Facebook is responsible for driving more that 40% of the visitors that online news sources get. Since Facebook plays such an important role in getting people to visit their site, more and more online publishers are expanding their presence on Facebook even as they express some concerns at how powerful Facebook has become.

The Facebook product managers ran into a news problem a while back. They revealed that actual human beings are involved in selecting which news stories show up in people’s timelines. The problem that came up is that the bias of these humans meant that some news stories where not being selected. The company has since changed how stories are selected in order to remove this bias. Changes like this are important if you want to keep your product manager resume up-to-date.

How Facebook Product Managers Are Improving Their News Feeds

The Facebook product managers realize that their news feed system is not perfect. Because of this they are always making changes to its product development definition . The company announces changes when they are made. The news algorithm is tweaked quite often. Over the past two and a half years, the algorithm has been changed roughly once every month. The goal has been to make the news feel less promotional and repetitive.

The Facebook product managers have recently made a significant change to their news feed algorithm. This change is going to affect what the 1.65 billion users of Facebook see when they log in. What the company has decided to do is to prioritize content from friends and family over content from news publishers. What the product managers are trying to do is to get users to spend more time on the site.

What this change is going to mean for newsfeed publishers is that they may see a change in the number of visitors that their site gets from Facebook. Facebook has said that some publishers may see visitor counts go up, some may see them go down, and some may see them go down even more. Facebook is also going to be working to favor what they are calling “authentic” posts and not “clickbait” posts that are just trying to get people to click on the post.

What All Of This Means For You

Being a product manager at Facebook has to be a tough job – your decisions can impact what 1.65 billion users experience when they come to your website. No product manager job description will tell us how to go about doing this. However, because so many people visit the site and because the average user spends 50 minutes per day on the site, the news feeds that users can get placed into their timelines are very important to users and to the digital newsfeed publishers.

Facebook has an algorithm that helps its human news story selectors determine which news stories should be seen by Facebook users. This algorithm is always being changed to make it better. A recent change will cause stories from friends and family members to be higher priority than news stories. This may end up decreasing the number of visitors that the news feed publishers get to their sites.

The goal of the Facebook product managers is to provide their website visitors with the best experience possible each time they visit the website. Part of this includes providing them with the up-to-date news that people actually want to get. We’ll have to see how this latest change affects both users and the news feed producers.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: If you were a newsfeed producer, wha would you do to get Facebook to send you more traffic?

Click here to get automatic updates when
The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m hopeful that most of us don’t spend a lot of time each day thinking about death. For most of us this is not a pleasant subject and so we try to avoid thinking about it as much as possible. That is unless you happen to be a product manager who is involved in the business of death. We need to realize that when someone passes on, that is just the start of a lengthy process that deals with how their remains should be handled until they reach their final resting spot. It turns out that the business of death is currently undergoing a great deal of change.

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