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Robert J. Inman, a Man Who Changed Everything

Todd Van Beck's picture

I was blessed to have been associated for many years with Robert Inman. Sadly, Bob died recently and I felt inspired to pen some thoughts about this great human being.

My memories of Bob Inman basically start the day I started working at the Heafey & Heafey Mortuary in Omaha. Whenever Heafey’s received an out-of-town death call and, say, the decedent was living in Bangor, Maine, and the family wanted to bring their loved one back home for burial, a call was made to Inman International Shipping. Even before I was introduced to Bob, I knew that what he and his company were doing was highly important, it was clear that they did an outstanding job and, most of all, his vision made the day-to-day life of people like TVB much easier.

Of course, this was in the mid to late 1960s, and to be sure I never thought that I would ever meet Bob, let alone build a friendship with him, but life has its surprises.

By the early 1980s, I was on the faculty of the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, and my job was clinical supervisor, which translated into overseeing the embalming lab, back in those days located in the back of the old famous CCMS building at 3200 Reading Road. And part of the clinical supervisor’s responsibilities was to take a position on the Board of Directors of the Ohio Embalmers Association, and so a board member I became.

I went to Columbus for my first OEA Board meeting and there in the room was Robert J. Inman. For a guy like me, meeting Bob was like meeting a movie star. I know I must have mumbled something stupid as I usually do when I am stressed and intimidated, but Bob was—as he always was—the consummate gentleman.

Our friendship began in earnest, and now that Bob has passed away, I look back at a myriad of life experiences and feel mighty thankful he was a presence in my life.

On top of my work with the great Ohio Embalmers Association, I got tapped in the late 1980s by Jake Dodge to present at the well-known Dodge Sunshine Seminars, and usually Bob and Marylyn would be in attendance.

Even when I bombed, Bob always had a good word, and his sincerity was so authentic that I actually left some of these public snafus with the thought that I had done much better than I actually had. Such is the power of the good word from one human being to another!

I remember one infamous Dodge Seminar when I was up on stage babbling on and on about the advances in embalming chemistry and out of the blue I blurted out the word “glutaraldehyde!” The minute I said it I froze, almost threw up, and looked in the back of the room, where stood Jake Dodge with his arms folded. How stupid could I have been? I’m at a Dodge meeting and am up there talking about a chemical from Champion.

Jake Dodge never said one word, and fortunately I was invited back, and for that I am mighty thankful. However, it was Bob Inman who really saved my mental health that day. Bob walked over, shook my hand and simply said, “This was a very good session, you did good.” I could have hugged him. Such was the kindness of Robert J. Inman.

Bob was certainly a master in the art and science of embalming and funeral service. He was truly in a league of his own, both technically and personally. I think that there are probably not many funeral operations worldwide who have not been influenced by the pioneering work of Robert J. Inman.

Before Bob dove into transportation and support service, each funeral home was basically on its own in shipping bodies both stateside and internationally. Bob revolutionized this entire system, and for that alone his legacy should never be forgotten in our beloved profession.

Years later when I was operating a mortuary college, I was finally able to attempt to return the graciousness that Bob had afforded me over the years. I invited him to be our graduation speaker, and we were able to give him an honorary degree. Of course Bob did a great job in speaking about funeral service, because he truly loved it, and that one fact alone usually makes all the difference in the world when people are communicating the values, purpose and benefits of our noble profession.

Here and there, now and then, just once in a while, I have encountered people in my life who leave an indelible impression, and Bob Inman certainly was one of those individuals.

Bob never talked down to anybody. He was patient, had at great wit, called it as he saw it and let his actions and devotion to his company’s mission do much of the talking for him. He never was condescending, always was a gentleman and when others made mistakes, he just passed over them and made people feel appreciated and respected.

I was sad when David Hicks told me of Bob’s death. I was not surprised, because I knew that Bob had health issues, but I was certainly sad. Our beloved profession has indeed lost an icon. Bob was one of a kind, and he certainly left the world of embalming excellence in much better shape than when he found it so many years ago as a simple trade embalmer in Cleveland, Ohio.

I believe this is what the sages over the centuries have called “professional immortality.”

As with all tributes, we could write endlessly about Bob’s impact, his worthy contributions to funeral service, his gentleness and humbleness as a human being and his deep loving devotion to his family and his friends. Knowing Bob Inman over the years goes down as one of the greatest privileges I have had in my life. Privilege is truly the right word to use.

Thank you, Mr. Inman. You fought the good fight, now the battle is won. Your memory will live on. You have attained rightful professional immortality in our beloved profession. Farewell. TVB

How Many Times Does Someone Need to See Your Ad Before They Buy?

datadale's picture

We all know that repetition counts. The first time someone sees your ad, they probably don't even notice it.

So, how often does someone need to see your message before they buy?

In 1885, a London businessman names Thomas Smith wrote a guide called Successful Advertising .
He was ahead of his time, especially considering how advertising now follows you around the web.
I think his insight was brilliant and absolutely answers the question on frequency.

The first time people look at any given ad, they don't even see it.
The second time, they don't notice it.
The third time, they are aware that it is there.
The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they've seen it somewhere before.
The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
The sixth time they thumb their nose at it.
The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
The eighth time, they start to think, "Here's that confounded ad again."
The ninth time, they start to wonder if they're missing out on something.
The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they've tried it.
The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can't afford to buy it.
The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what is offering.

How is your Funeral Home Participating in World Water Day?

datadale's picture

This is a great social media opportunity for your Funeral Home or Cemetery.

World Water Day is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. This day is coordinated by UN-Water and dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development where an international observance for water was recommended. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day and it has been held annually since then.

It’s a day to celebrate water. It’s a day to make a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues. It’s a day to prepare for how we manage water in the future.

This year’s theme is Better Water- Better Jobs and it focuses on the central role that water plays in creating and supporting good quality jobs

What can you do:
• Post information about WWD.
• Provide a link to the WWD video:
• Have your staff / friends post photos of themselves on your website using/drinking/enjoying/honoring water
• Join the 2016 campaign to get informed, engaged and take action. You can also contribute on social media by using the hashtag #WorldWaterDay.

Remember, part of lead generation is about making sure your company is well-branded so prospects know who you are. Your direct marketing response will increase ten-fold!

Using the Fine Art of Syncographics to Increase ROI

datadale's picture

Traditionally, in direct marketing response rate has been characterized as 40% list – 40% offer – and 20% creative. I have always advocated that there is a 4th leg in the direct marketing response chair: market timing - what I like to call Syncographics.

Syncographics significantly affects response.

There are specific life stages that trigger buying – moving, buying a home, having a baby, getting married, getting divorced, graduating college, Turning 65, getting a new job.

Other distinct occasions are also purchase influencers: the end of an auto lease, homeowner insurance expiration, annual back-to-school, introduction of new technology

Then, there are Holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween and what I call the Hallmark list of holidays: Bosses Day, Teacher’s Day, Secretary’s Day and my most recent favorite – Grandparents Day. All of these occasions are opportunities that trigger purchasing.

The New Homeowner List is one of the most high profile trigger lists in the marketplace. New Homeowners need a myriad of goods and services when they move into a new home, ranging from insurance to window treatments, water filters to custom closets, landscape & pest control services to furniture and electronics.

Marketers whose products lend themselves to New Homeowners can easily target this top response group by using a new homeowner list and mailing the right offer. The offer is important. Sure, we can reach the New Homeowner….but they key is getting that New Homeowner into your store or persuading them to test your service. New Homeowners are worth a strong offer. By giving new homeowners an offer they can’t refuse, marketers can convert a new customer for life.

Factoring Syncographics into the marketing mix gives marketers a lift in response. Overlooking market timing will ruin a perfectly good campaign.

For more info on how the Death Care Industry uses market timing to increase response rates, go to

ICCFA Industry News 2.22.2016

Rick Platter's picture

The ICCFA 2016 Annual Convention & Expo April 13-16, 2016 in New Orleans - We still have plenty of Booth Space, do not miss out on meeting so many possible NEW customers and strengthing your current customer relations.
Click this link to download the booth application.
Click this link to see the Live Floor Plan.

Cremation Furnace Industry Europe Market Research Report 2016 (Europe)

Mourners pay respects to late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (U.S.)

Funeral director/legislator pushing bill that would up his profits (U.S.)

Startups are defying taboos and breathing life into France’s funeral industry (France)


Are Your Salespeople Doing All They Can in Terms of Follow Up?

datadale's picture

These statistics come from the National Sales Executive Association

48% of Sales People Never Follow Up with a Prospect
25% of Sales People make a second contact and Stop
12% of Sales People only make three contacts and Stop
Only 10% of Sales People make more than three Contacts
2% of sales are made on the first Contact
3% of sales are made on the second Contact
5% of sales are made on the third Contact
10% of sales are made on the forth Contact
80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth Contact

Here's to a strong follow up program!

ICCFA Industry News 2.12.2016

Rick Platter's picture

The ICCFA 2016 Annual Convention & Expo April 13-16, 2016 in New Orleans - We still have plenty of Booth Space, do not miss out on meeting so many possible NEW customers and strengthing your current customer relations.
Click this link to download the booth application.
Click this link to see the Live Floor Plan.

This ‘Death Suit’ Makes Burials Eco- and Wallet-Friendly (U.S.)

Life storyteller helps grieving families in loss (U.S.)

SCI saw fewer funerals, declining revenue in 2015 (U.S.)

Park Lawn Corporation Announces Investment in Mundell Funeral Home Limited (Canada)



ICCFA Industry News 2.2.2016

Rick Platter's picture

Funeral Directors & Sales Managers: How are You Marketing At-need?

datadale's picture

Successful At-need marketing requires strong branding and high visibility in the marketplace.

While this is typically not product for a direct mail campaign, at-need services should be prominent in any mailing sent out by a funeral chapel or cemetery.

Key Lead Generators for At-Need :

1. A solid PPC campaign, targeted to the local area, which would enable people in need
to quickly and efficiently find your cemetery/funeral home on their mobile phones and click to call.

2. High speed, mobile compatible destination website.
How does your site look on a mobile device? Remember, people will need to find your cemetery or funeral chapel from their homes or a hospital – they will be using their mobile phones. If your site doesn’t load quickly, people will drop you like a hot potato. This is vital to your businesses’ success. Engage a web developer to do this for you and do it right.

3. Developing quality content to increase SEO & drive prospects to your site. This is your opportunity to provide information that might be of interest to your families or to your community. Examples could include:

• A roundup of links to relevant community news, either weekly or monthly.
• Answers to client families’ frequently asked questions about your funeral home and funeral services.
• Topics that dive into issues they might want to consider, such as personalized services or what options are available to them.
• Grief & healing advice – answer some common questions surrounding grief in a Q&A form.

4. Do you have a blog? – You can be creative. Write a post titled “10 Ways to Celebrate Your Loved One’s Life” and include some of your service as examples. Or, you can “curate” content. For example, there was an article this past weekend in the NY Times about taking funeral services to the home.
You might also want to consider using “guest bloggers” – maybe someone from a local hospice might shed some light onto their services.

5. Billboards – Billboards can be excellent, well-priced exposure. You want visibility. You want your Chapel or cemetery’s name front & center.

6. Presence at Community Events, festivals
You want to expose as many people as possible to your Cemetery and Funeral Chapel. This is an opportunity for you to be noticed at Chamber of Commerce programs, art fairs, home shows. You are not only strengthening your brand as a pillar of the community, but taking advantage of a great opportunity for you to collect leads for Pre-need.

7. Creating Community Events at Your location
Your goal is to expose members of your community to your facilities. You might want to offer events that give something back to your community and still be aligned with the services you offer:

• Deepening your relationship with client families by holding grief and healing events to help them face their feelings.
• Hosting events at hospices and assisted living facilities.
• Holding pre-planning meetings to help client families “start the conversation” about their end-of-life decisions.

8. Build relationships – Network, network, network. You want to make friends at hospitals and hospice. You need the clergy in your area to be familiar with your facility and services. You want members of the local police, fire department and EMTs to be able to share your name & phone #. These are people who are on the front line when a death occurs and can refer your services

Dataman Group in Boca Raton, FL works with sales managers, marketing directors and owns of Cemeteries and Funeral Chapels across the United States, providing lists for Pre-Need lead generation and Final Expense prospecting. DataDale will be speaking on Lead Generation at the annual ICCFA convention in New Orleans in April, 2016. Go to for information.