Working in an industry that is taboo to many people is quite a challenge; I know this because I recently started Remembering.Live, a virtual memorial service provider, after my mom passed away last March and gathering restrictions were in place. While the pandemic highlighted the need for the end-of-life industry to quickly adjust and adapt, Sympathy Brands, a Florida based company was already using proprietary technology to bridge the gap between consumers and the industry, helping to modernize business practices for funeral homes and cemeteries.
Sympathy Brands is the parent company to Shiva.com, eCondolence.com, and the newly launched addition to its family of brands: Cemetery.com. In my search to learn more about tackling the challenge of working in the grief industry, I sat down with Michael Schimmel, CEO of Sympathy Brands, to discuss the three steps the company took to become the leading player in its industry.
Start with a Mission: Supporting People and Families
Similar to my experience, when Schimmel's grandmother passed away, he could not find an integrated resource that provided his family with the ability to learn about and plan a death within the Jewish faith. With family throughout the country, Schimmel recognized a need and founded Sympathy Brands, which introduced Shiva.com, the complete tool for Jewish burials and funerals. With the addition of eCondolence, which incorporates education, information, and services for all faiths, religions, and cultural customs, Sympathy Brands grew true to its mission: helping families and supporters navigate all end-of-life matters. As a mission-focused company, Sympathy Brands uses technology to bridge services and solutions between families, their supporters, and end-of-life service providers. The company works with funeral homes, cemeteries, and other channel partners to provide comprehensive and seamless solutions that benefit customers during their time of need, while also modernizing business efficiencies that can increase customer service, new business prospecting, and more.
Use Technology and Real Words to Build Memorable Brands
Sympathy Brands created proprietary technology specifically for the end-of-life industry that allows people to address a difficult topic and streamlines a customer journey that includes education, research, online planning, arrangements, funerals, memorials, and gifting. As part of its global strategy, the company acquired more than 400 domains and other web properties that fall within the family of brands and its corporate mission, and provide healthy growth opportunities. According to Schimmel, with its versatile products and industry roots, Sympathy Brands is appropriately positioned to address acute industry needs, while simultaneously growing a dominant and prominent brand.
Maintain a Growth Mindset
The Sympathy Brands strategy has been to use technology to create and provide relevant and efficient end-of-life services and products that make an emotional time less challenging. As a result, the company recently introduced Cemetery.com, which launched at the end of 2020, capping a year of rapid product development and growth. Accelerated software development included Viewneral, a proprietary platform where people can virtually plan, arrange, and attend funerals, memorials, wakes, shivas, unveilings, and dedications, among other features. The industry quickly adopted this technology to service families. Schimmel added that this virtual technology is now embedded as a cornerstone for the industry to use for pre-planning, at need, and memorial services.
The model and mission is working, as Sympathy Brands grew more than 300 percent in 2020, and with the addition of Cemetery.com, the company forecasts 700-800 percent growth in 2021.
As Schimmel mentions, nearly every major milestone in life, from weddings and baby names to graduation parties and birthday celebrations, can be researched and planned online. Sympathy Brands has added end-of-life planning and preparation to the list. As a result, Sympathy Brands is positioned as the leading platform that will help one of the oldest industries in history to modernize and keep up with the changing needs of tech-proficient consumers. Through strict adherence to its core mission, its development of relevant products and brands, and its ability to maintain a growth mindset through massive adjustments and adaptability, Sympathy Brands is changing our approach to the unavoidable: how we manage end-of-life matters.