Strategic marketing and the use of social media, has changed the way most funeral homes conduct business in today’s evolving death care industry.

Strategic marketing is all about having a plan. The goal is to identify your competitive advantage or advantages and develop strategies and activities around customer markets or target segments that communicate those strengths. Strategic marketing and planning helps funeral homes by defining those strengths and determining priorities. Strategic marketing is a pivotal part of any business.

“Truer words haven’t been spoken when I say ‘If you keep doing what you’ve done, you’ll keep getting what you got.’ It’s time to embrace marketing strategies that aren’t currently in your playbook in order to reach an ever-growing disinterested audience,” urges Rolf Gutknecht, Vice President, Director of Account Services for LA Ads.

“The only marketing strategies and tactics or activities that should be developed and implemented are those that work towards what the objectives are. Enter Return on Objectives. Analyzing ROO means that you accept and understand that not all goals are measurable with hard data as defined by ROI. Sometimes, marketing efforts are needed and implemented to increase visibility, help enhance the image, educate, etc. or simply help a business move in the right direction to meet its long-term objectives. As well, what current ROI metrics don’t account for are what I’ll call “lurkers,” the people that are watching and waiting to take action. If we as marketer’s bail too soon based on the short-term analysis of results, then we miss the boat. How many of us have at one time or another been a “lurker?” All of us, right? And a funeral home needs to understand that over stating expectations has killed more viable, business building programs than most anything. The reason being that the fortunes of the organization don’t magically change overnight due to a newly created marketing program…they just don’t,” Rolf continues.

The importance of social media should also not be overlooked. Unfortunately, most funeral home strategies have not changed with the availability of social media. Most firms are still doing what they have always done and wonder why they are losing business. Funeral homes should look at social media as a way to get closer with the consumer.

It is a relationship building tool that allows for engagement – engagement that they can’t get through with any other marketing.

“Many funeral homes are still not involved in social media. They may have a Facebook page and post obituaries to it, but it can be so much more than that. Social media gives funeral homes the opportunity to raise their brand awareness and build more personal relationships with their communities in a way they haven’t been able to in the past. Social media, as part of a digital marketing plan, can build the brand, drive website traffic, and increase event attendance, as a few examples. It will become more and more important to have an active presence on social media platforms as the average age of social media users— especially Facebook—rises, and a new generation, who spends several hours a day on social media—becomes funeral homes’ key buying segment,” explains Doug Clery, President of adfinity.

To maintain relevance with the next generation of funeral planners, it is incumbent upon all funeral homes to develop a plan for reaching families in both traditional and new forms of marketing strategies.

“One of the most frequent mistakes I see is when a funeral home implements either the traditional and/or new forms of marketing, but don’t have a plan to follow up and follow through. For instance, many times I have seen funeral homes set up a Facebook page, but never update it with current content to build engagement. Or, they only post obituaries on the Facebook page and nothing else. By definition, Facebook is “social media,” meaning that you should use it to build social engagement. In other words, whatever you post on Facebook or any other social media channel should be posted with the intent of building followers who will benefit from your postings. The same is true for traditional marketing such as direct mail. A funeral home needs a solid plan for following up with leads that come in. When families receive no follow up after returning a request for information, the firm loses credibility. The message to that family is, ‘We don’t have time for you,’” states Jeff Stewart VP, CMO of Funeral Directors Life.

Investing in digital marketing is often considered an unnecessary expense for many business owners in today’s economy- the funeral industry is no exception.

“With consumers often going online first, this couldn’t be further from the truth. All firms, regardless of competition, should allocate a budget to digital marketing beyond their website. Since many firms are not actively marketing online, there is a great opportunity for firms in a marketplace who act now while others wait,” says Greg Young, Co-Founder of Funeral Innovations.

Just setting up social media accounts is not enough – businesses need to work to engage their online audience.

“The first mistake funeral homes make is not having a social media strategy. Next would be just posting obituaries – which don’t get engagement. Social media allows funeral directors to be real and transparent and engage with the families they serve. An online presence allows funeral directors to show a side of themselves that the normal public doesn’t get to see. This adds humanization to the brand and help forge stronger relationships that can then be leveraged to drive measurable preneed leads,” expresses Ryan Thogmartin, CEO, DISRUPT Media.

Social media will continue to dictate the market strategies in the years ahead. However, funeral directors must never forget that compassion is what and why they chose this profession. The smart phone will never replace love, caring, and family loyalty to their funeral home – but in today’s day and age, you cannot afford to completely ignore it.

“The funeral home’s greatest opportunity is to maintain a relationship with the families they serve – by any means possible. Remembering important dates that are meaningful to their customers is vital and strategic. Most families will remember the smallest act of compassion and will pass that information on to neighbors and friends. Every opportunity to express compassion to your grieving families should be utilized. However, at the end of the day, there is no defined measuring stick. When people in the community start recognizing your website, twitter, and Facebook pages, they will see the difference in the most critical barometer… the bottom line. All marketing, branding, and advertising is based on honesty and service to your families. It’s critical to know what your families are saying about your funeral home long after they use your facility,” states Charlie Kanet, Owner of Kanet Advertising. FBA


Learn more about strategic marketing, how to properly incorporate social media into your business, and available services in this feature editorial.

“When it comes to strategic marketing, the primary mistake funeral homes make is not having a strategic marketing plan at all. There are numerous reasons for this, from not having the time to not thinking it’s needed. However, if the funeral home wants to grow, is facing a changing environment, or has had a new competitor enter their market, they need one in order to identify their goals, strengths, and weaknesses, define what should be done in order to address their particular issue, and prioritize human and financial resources. After all, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery),” says Doug Clery, President of adfinity.

“The second mistake is to go through the strategic marketing planning process and then ignore the plan. Some people believe that planning may be limiting or too strict; it’s quite the opposite. We’ve had clients specifically tell us during this process that they hope our recommendations include that they can stop doing something that they’ve been doing because they have failed to identify a strong objection to doing it. They keep doing it because they’ve always done it. They have a sense that it’s not bringing any value, but are not sure what else to do. Planning sets the road map. It identifies the key activities the funeral home should be undertaking in order to meet its goals. Sure, things happen that are not in the plan, but the plan only makes it clearer when opportunities present themselves whether they should be taken advantage of or not. Plans help people make easier yes-no decisions based on the tangible why or why not, not timing or emotions,” he continues.

adfinity offers complete strategic marketing plans and media plans and assistance in executing them. Their retainer program includes an initial strategic marketing plan and annual updates, and annual media plans which include both traditional and digital media.

They also offer a Facebook Management Program that includes a variety of types of posts throughout the year for one low price, and they’ll schedule them.

For funeral homes ready to take the next step, adfinity also offers Facebook promotion planning and execution as part of an integrated annual marketing and media plan.

“adfinity is a full-service ad agency specializing in the death care industry, but we do have a wide variety of clients. adfinity’s value proposition is that we offer killer creative at an affordable price,” adds Doug.

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The type of content that followers of funeral homes and directors respond to is personal and real (organic).

Social media content SHOULD NOT be automated. The beautiful thing about social media is that it is heavy human. You win by providing value to the consumer. If you automate repetitive content that is just grief and inspirational images, this will NOT get the engagement you are looking for, and in return, the consumer is not getting value. When they don’t get value they don’t engage and they won’t see more content from your funeral home. This is a cycle far too many funeral homes are being sold on. Automation is not the answer, a strategy that is focused on organic content that educates, entertains and is transparent, that is how a funeral home provides value through social media and drives leads.

“The best content focuses on the funeral home, owner and sta – what makes them different. Not generic grief and inspirational posts. Facebook is 100% a relationship and engagement platform. If used correctly then a funeral home should expect to be able to drive leads – yes, real preneed leads that produce high ROI. We have clients driving $5-$10K a month in preneed sales from Facebook leads,” explains Ryan Thogmartin, CEO, DISRUPT Media.

According to Ryan, as times change, client engagement will be fully driven through a mobile device and if a funeral home isn’t producing content like the consumer gets from mainstream brands then they will be forgotten. The consumer will go to another funeral home, society or online company that engages them in the way they want to be engaged with.

“DISRUPT Media is a full-service creative agency built for the now. We partner with death care companies to drive deep-rooted brand loyalty and measurable leads through social media.

Every client has a different story and we craft a strategy specific to each client and story. And we create the content to tell that story and achieve measurable results.

We offer the only full social media strategy process and content solution in the funeral profession. We aren’t just selling a funeral home generic content like everybody else. We measure everything we do and provide all the data to our clients,” explains Ryan.

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“The most successful techniques enable a funeral home to target their audience so that the right people are seeing the right message at the right time,” explains Jeff Stewart VP, CMO of Funeral Directors Life.

Funeral Directors Life was started over 35 years ago by a group of funeral directors and continues to be managed by a board of directors comprised predominantly of funeral directors. So, they know the funeral business.

“We are the only preneed insurance company in the nation that features a full-service marketing department. Our services exceed those of well-established advertising and public relations agencies, particularly when you consider our ability to perform high capacity digital printing and custom audio and visual production. We reserve all of our marketing capabilities for the funeral homes who are our preneed customers. So, first and foremost, we focus all of our efforts on helping our client firms build their business.

We have a full-service marketing department, with staff members who specialize in the following areas: Content Writing, Graphic Design, Lead Generation, Internet Marketing, Social Media, and Audio/Visual Production.

Our mission is to be the “Best, Most-Respected, Provider of Service to the Funeral Industry.” We are a full-service preneed company that helps funeral directors grow their business and improve profitability in a rapidly changing marketplace,” adds Jeff.

Because the funeral profession is more complex than ever, funeral directors can benefit most by being served by knowledgeable, trusted business advisors whose interests align with theirs and the insurance company.

“The funeral director is our customer and we are careful to cultivate a direct relationship with each of our clients through our local and regional sales management teams. Our sales management team’s interests are aligned with those of our funeral home customers. We understand that in order for our funeral home clients to have a successful preneed program, we have to first make sure our clients are succeeding as a funeral home. When they win, we win! We work directly with each client by creating a customized preneed program that fits their needs and goals to ensure that their business grows the right way and that they receive the total value they deserve. Our expert teams have the business acumen and experience to help guide our customers through this changing marketplace and to give them the local advantage,” says Jeff.

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“The expectations a funeral home should set are often inline with their firm’s goals. Brand awareness is the easiest goal to measure with social media. A firm can easily get a sense of ROI in terms of how many people saw their brand (reach) and overall engagement on their page. Further, you can dive deeper into the average age, gender, geographic location and other key demographics to determine the effectiveness of your strategy,” says Greg Young, Co-Founder of Funeral Innovations.

“When a funeral home is measuring automated marketing, the expectations are set at each stage of the customer buying journey. We can track how many people are reached on Facebook, how many came back to targeted landing pages within your website, how many subscribed to email nurturing and how many ended up booking appointments (or came into your facility).

Often overlooked is results in word-of-mouth referrals. Using an effective digital marketing strategy, funeral homes can expect better and more frequent reviews while also relaying those reviews more effectively to community members through social media and webpages,” he continues.

“We currently help over 500 funeral homes automate their customer buying journey to consistently meet a funeral home’s objectives now and in the future. Our portfolio of solutions consists of content and software to build an audience on Facebook, effectively engage with that audience, direct them to webpages, collect their contact info, and nurture them until the community member is ready to take action.

We are best known for our Social Media Copilot which handles everything on Facebook. Our Social Site product is a funeral home’s website which works with the Social Media Copilot to capture contact information from visitors, even when they aren’t ready to act with a funeral home yet. With our Email Copilot product, funeral homes can stay in front of each community member with additional information until they are ready to act.

We make digital marketing easy and automatic for funeral homes. Most funeral directors are busy helping families and simply do not have time to devote to managing their digital marketing plan. Our suite of offerings makes building your customer buying journey simple, effortless, and effective. Trusted by over 500 funeral homes, we are the leaders in digital marketing for funeral service. Our proprietary software allows us to help a funeral home build their customer buying journey effectively and efficiently. You can deliver the right message to your community at the right time without adding more overhead to your firm and staff,” adds Greg.

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“Funeral directors and their funeral homes are on the front line of how the public now views how they want to celebrate the life of their family members. They must be ever vigilant in how they market the products that they offer.

Social media will dictate the market strategies in the years ahead. The funeral director must never forget that compassion is what and why they chose their profession. The smart phone will never replace love, caring, and family loyalty to their funeral home,” explains Charlie Kanet, Owner of Kanet Advertising.

“We offer to funeral homes a realistic marketing approach. We assist the funeral homes in budgeting their advertising dollars. We recommend platforms that are beneficial for their individual needs. What is needed in one location doesn’t always fit for other locations. Funeral homes are houses of reflections that is they should reflect the funeral directors and their teams.

We are a project based agency. We quote all of our work before starting a project. There are never surprises at the end of a project. We do advise our clients on having realistic budgets and we always attempt in helping our clients maintain honest results from their investments. Once again keeping the lines of communication open,” he continues.

Kanet Advertising treats every client with the respect they deserve and they have great partnerships inside the funeral industry.

“Most people want to hear about guaranteed results. Companies spend a lot of money tracking results. The only results we care about is making sure our clients understand that they must preserve their integrity with the families they serve. That is how we truly assist our clients, never allowing them to lose focus on the needs of their grieving families.

Our company is a realistic entity. We do not promise the moon and disappoint. The funeral industry has problems like all industries that are in a sate of flux. Cremation has changed the playing field. Our company is dedicated in helping our clients maintain their share of calls,” Charlie continues.

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“I think the key word is ‘change’ and we’re starting to hear more of that from those in leadership roles within the industry as well as those that are challenging the industry to start thinking “around the corner” rather than their next step or two. It’s not so much what changes to traditional marketing strategies need to occur as much as funeral directors changing how they currently market to their audiences. Here are just 3 quick ways to do that:

First, one needs to understand the mind of the audience. From what they want to how they want it delivered. Too many funeral directors are guessing and with guessing comes wrong answers. Doing more consumer research is required…both online and offline. The more you know, the more impact your marketing dollars will have.

Second, hopefully we’ll see more funeral homes aligning themselves with relevant partners. Co-branding can be an effective way to build business, boost awareness, and break into new markets, but for a partnership to truly work, it has to be a win-win for all players in the game.

Lastly, stop marketing from ‘Inside-Out’ and change to an ‘Outside-In’ marketing mindset. Meaning, instead of funeral homes telling people what the funeral home wants to say, they should instead redo their marketing to be more about what the customer wants to hear,” states Rolf Gutknecht, Vice President, Director of Account Services for LA Ads.

LA ads brings the full spectrum of marketing strategies to bear in order to look at and solve marketing challenges from every angle.

“Perhaps the most valuable asset we bring to the party is our absolute belief that all marketing activities can only succeed if they are built upon a solid platform of strategic planning. We work with our clients to help them find alignment between their marketing program and their business goals. We consult with and advise our clients on every phase of the marketing process, from product R&D through the various links in the distribution chain and onto the ultimate consumer. We very proudly bring our clients a wealth of advertising and marketing expertise gained over many years serving the Funeral Profession, along with a wide range of other industries from food to fitness to financial services. Our belief is that good ideas cross-pollinate. By having such diverse industry experience, and yet an intimate understanding of one of the most challenging of industries, we are in a position to continually develop and apply new and more powerful strategies to help our clients achieve success,” Rolf continues.

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