What Funeral Professionals Can Learn From Cirque du Soleil
Posted August 22, 2018
4 min read
Were you surprised when the Ringling Bros. Circus closed down in 2017?
The news surprised many, but it might not have surprised Cirque du Soleil. Keep reading to see why that is.
A Strategy That Outperformed the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’
In the 1980s, from a competitive standpoint, the circus industry was not an attractive one. The factors that “traditional” circuses competed on were becoming less and less desirable to families.
It was during this time that Cirque du Soleil created a “blue ocean” of new market space.
Rather than compete in the “traditional” circus industry, Cirque du Soleil’s strategy was aimed at creating demand. The founders looked to the future, and what they saw was the opportunity to offer an entertaining, theatrical, story-driven experience.
This experience focused on adults and corporate clients, rather than focusing on children, which was the target market of Ringling Bros.
With this focused strategy, Cirque du Soleil was able to successfully command attention and attractive profit margins. In the process, they successfully went after a whole new market—a market with great, untapped potential.
Today, as the largest global theatrical producer today, Cirque du Soleil has experienced great and unprecedented success. All the while, it made its competition irrelevant.
They’ve expanded rapidly over the years, and at any point in time, they have shows in hundreds of cities throughout the world (1).
The Ringling Bros. Circus, in comparison, faced a number of problems and eventually faced its demise. Let’s take a look at what made Cirque du Soleil’s strategy so effective and how you can apply those same concepts to your business.
What We Can Learn from Cirque du Soleil’s Approach to Strategy
Cirque du Soleil is a great example of having the courage to take a stance, even if that stance challenges the conventions of an entire industry.
It’s a good example of a “blue ocean,” which is a term which refers to a strategy (or segment) that focuses on new, underserved market space, explains Alan Creedy. (The term is from the classic book, Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne.)
Alan has been active in funeral service for more than 35 years. He’s served as President of a large funeral home cemetery operation, a third party preneed marketer, and as past Chair of the Funeral Service Foundation. Today, Alan helps funeral professionals create more successful businesses, whether that be in the areas of finance, mergers and acquisitions, exit planning, market strategy, and/or organizational dynamics.
We spoke with Alan about “blue ocean” strategies and how that can apply to funeral professionals. Here’s the first blog in our two-part series on strategy.
Focus On Those Who Can See Your Value
“Blue oceans” are where demand is created, and it’s a space where there is no (or little) competition. “It’s good to be reminded of the idea: ‘Whenever everyone is doing it, a ‘blue ocean’ appears where no one is,” explains Alan.
“Red oceans” are those where the market space is known. It’s a place (or strategy) where the rules of the game are known, and the competition for existing demand is often intense.
So how can funeral professionals start to focus on the potential, rather than spend time in a crowded, competitive, segment of the market?
“I see ‘blue ocean’ for funeral professionals as a focus on those people who deeply value their families, have a community of friends, and are people who value and esteem life, and they often have a faith. These are people who understand and appreciate how funerals contribute to society in general, and them individually,” says Alan.
“After all, operating a legitimate funeral business is expensive. Why squander that investment on cynical people who don’t care about their family, their friends or themselves?” argues Alan.
Alan says it’s definitely a mindset shift, but it’s one that can lead to a healthier business.
Focus on the people who know they want to do some sort of celebration of life—rather than those you have to continuously try to convince that they should be doing something. “If you do this, you’re likely going to find growth in volume and better relationships,” adds Alan.
In our next blog, we’ll talk more about strategic moves that can add value to your business and we will break down where you can start when it comes to creating uncontested market space.
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