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Marketing with Flair

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Marketing with Flair


CANA events are known for taking a collaborative approach and learning from our attendees. At the 2020 Cremation Symposium, we once again found ourselves lucky to have a cast of talented, smart people in the room. In Marketing With Flair, Lindsey Ballard facilitated a discussion with special guest Welton Hong that brought in attendees’ own expertise on something they know better than anyone – what makes their own businesses unique.

Some Suggestions to Get Ideas Flowing

Explaining that what separates good content from great content is a willingness to make a statement by using humor and pushing the envelope, Lindsey started with a look at some creative, out-of-the-box ads from fellow funeral professionals. In this commercial from French Funerals, a woman in mourning black contemplates choosing the right coffee can for her mother’s ashes. It’s hard, you see, because her mother preferred tea. Such a difficult decision could have been avoided, the commercial warns, with a little advance planning.

In a similar vein, a French Canadian cemetery ad depicts an urn reposing on the shelf in the garage, in a closet, and in a tool shed, asking if this was truly anyone’s final wish. It touches two ideas, 1) that many people have occupied urns sitting at home, and 2) they likely feel guilty about it or want a suggestion of what to do with them. So this ad suggests a solution that puts concerns to rest.

Lindsey’s own company recently hired a professional to create a commercial that incorporates the funeral home therapy dog, Fletcher. Not only do people love Fletcher when they visit the funeral home, but having animals involved always attracts notice. So much so that CANA Member Heffner Cares reached out to their local therapy alligator, Allie, for a visit and a video. These videos show the funeral home, the staff, and something that makes their business unique – with a bit of humor.

These work best, Lindsey says, because we’re selling experiences, not products. And not just the chance to cuddle with a dog (or an alligator!), but to create a memorial that makes a memory for a family. We have to remember that in our campaigns.

The Portuguese funeral home Funalcoitão shows how they work to do “more than burials. We pay tribute.” Their commercial features personal touches with the narrator describing how the smiling deceased had wanted to be commemorated in just that way – pulled by a donkey, showered in confetti, surrounded by loved ones.

“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.” – Seth Godin

What are CANA Members doing?

Gracie Griffin of Bellefontaine Cemetery talked about the cemetery’s Facebook campaigns developed in partnership with a marketing firm who specializes in social media campaigns. Together, they set three goals and designed three campaigns to achieve them. The first was to grow their Facebook followers, and, from that campaign, they discovered that, of the options, mausoleum photos were the most successful – go figure.

For the second goal, to grow their email list, Gracie wrote an ebook on green burials. Designed as an inbound marketing campaign, people needed to enter their contact information to get their free download. And lastly, to encourage tourism and engage their community, they quiz people on the celebrities buried in their cemetery based on a few facts and a silhouette. Correct answers in the comments don’t deter others from answering – everyone wants to be seen as smart in their groups!

Top 5 Marketing Tips

Whether you have a budget for a Super Bowl ad or just a Facebook campaign, the most important thing is to try something new. After all:

You will never make it to the top unless you start to climb!

These are Welton’s top tips to make your marketing plan a success.

  1. Problem-Aware vs. Intent-Based Branding
    Start by knowing whether you’re targeting consumers who know they have a problem or the ones who don’t know it yet. In 1990, if your roof leaked, you’d go to the YellowPages. That was the only way to target the problem-aware back then – to be listed along with other companies that provided solutions to that problem. Now, people turn to the internet to look for a business near them, to visit their website, then to check their reviews. Yelp and Google drive at-need to your business. Nowadays, to reach the people who have the problem, you must make sure your website has strong search engine optimization (SEO), that it is designed to convert well, and that you are monitoring and encouraging reviews.
    When you’re trying to reach people who don’t have a problem yet, you’re trying to build brand awareness so people know your business when they need you. Tools such as billboards, radio, television, and digital ads work well here to reach many people at once – about 8% of which are strong leads.
    These techniques work together – online will never fully replace offline – to reach the people who need to know about your business. Once you know which group you want to reach, you can decide where to start.
  2. Use consumer language
    Keep the wording clear and simple; employing consumer-oriented language – “I just want cremation” – makes your services easy to understand. Do the work for the consumer and make the service descriptions straightforward and therefore easier to choose! More than just making your families comfortable, review your website to make sure it’s consumer-friendly and peppered with search terms for you.
  3. Increase credibility and social proof
    Knowing that reviews are a key element in making any big decision, you can do some of the work for your families by listing testimonials on your website. Even better, you can install a widget that pulls top reviews from other sites and stream them directly. Keep your families on your site with the answers they need.
  4. Compare apples to oranges
    If you’re competing with a business in your area that’s vastly different than yours – discount direct services or premier care – help your families understand what makes you different. Create a visual argument with a table that shows what you provide in comparison to your competition. Help decipher the language so shoppers can make an informed decision about what they need and want from their funeral service provider.
  5. Quantify how you are different
    Visuals are important, so show what sets you apart in easy to understand numbers. How long have you served the community, how did your community rank you in a business vote, etc.? These questions can be attention-grabbing and set you apart from your competitors.

No matter how you approach your marketing, it’s always important to try something new.

At CANA, we love group brainstorming discussions to answer strategic questions about the next summit we want to reach. Lindsey and Welton left a few questions to fuel your next brainstorming staff meeting and help you refine your market strategy:

  1. Identify three things that set your business apart from the competition.
    • Lindsey says they’re unique because they have their own crematory
  2. Why is this important?
    • Lindsey says, for them, it is important because their loved one is always in their care.
  3. What does this mean for your customer? How can you demonstrate the value?
    • For Lindsey, this means that their families know that when they bring the urn home, that is their loved one.

Sound familiar? Many CANA Members can make the same claim which is why it’s important to demonstrate and communicate the value of whatever does differentiate you from your competition.


This post is excerpted from a presentation of the same name at CANA's 2020 Cremation Symposium facilitated by Lindsey Ballard with special guest Welton Hong. Save the Date for CANA’s 2021 Cremation Symposium: February 10-12, 2021 at the The LINQ Hotel + Experience in Las Vegas.

The attendees of the 2020 Cremation Symposium had so many more examples of how they set their business apart with marketing and community engagement. Listen to the recordings of this presentation and the whole Symposium plus the Preneed Summit for just $100.



Lindsey Ballard

Lindsey Ballard is a third-generation funeral director and owner of Ballard-Sunder Funeral & Cremation in Minnesota. She loves her work and is passionate about creating personalized and meaningful services for the families she works with. Lindsey is always looking for new and inventive ways to serve her community, including the work she does with her dog, Fletcher. Lindsey studied sociology and religion and later earned her Mortuary Science degree from DMACC.


Welton Hong Welton Hong, is the founder of Ring Ring Marketing® and a leading expert in creating case generation from online to the phone line. He is the author of Making Your Phone Ring for Funeral Homes, 2019 Edition.

Welton recently launched Elevating Funeral Service, a podcast developed with Ellery Bowker. They have an entire episode about Zoom with practical how-to guides that you can see here.

Tags:  marketing  personalization  storytelling  tips and tools 

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