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If you’re running a cemetery, you’re facing two challenges: 1) communicating the meaning of a permanent setting to families choosing cremation, and 2) offering sufficient choices that intersect with the values of today’s families. (It’s important for you and your families both to remember, that cremation is not a form of disposition any more than embalming is. It’s only what happens to the body before final disposition.) It’s in this spirit that LA ads president Dan Katz offers several ideas and initiatives that can help cemeteries reach out to families favoring cremation. Click to watch, or read the full transcript below.


It’s sometimes amazing to me to realize that, as quickly as cremation has overtaken burial across much of the country, how few cemeteries – and even many funeral homes – have yet to adapt their marketing to this massively growing audience.  I don’t know if it’s the ostrich syndrome or maybe it’s something closer to being a deer in the headlights.

But whatever the zoological metaphor, if you’re running a cemetery, you’re facing two challenges: 1) communicating the meaning of a permanent setting, and 2) offering sufficient choices that intersect with the values of today’s families.

It’s important for you – and your families – to remember, that cremation is not a form of disposition, any more than embalming is.  It’s only what happens to the body before final disposition.

So, in that spirit, here are several ideas and initiatives that can help cemeteries reach out to families favoring cremation.

First and foremost, in order to attract cremation families, you first have to have properties that appeal to this audience: ground niches, columbaria, glass-front niches, cremation gardens, scattering gardens, and also properties that can accommodate both caskets and urns together.

And, remember, the Baby Boomer market who is driving the cremation boom is all about demanding choices; so, if you’re only offering one or two cremation options, they’ll have many more options of their own that don’t include your cemetery.

Next, how good a job are you doing educating families?  Presumably, you already have a good website, but do you have a page specifically focused on the value and importance of a permanent setting?  How about a YouTube video discussing what it means to future descendants to visit the resting places of their forebearers?  Consider offering seminars on “What you don’t already know about Cremation.”  Look for any opportunity to educate the local community and open their eyes to important considerations about cremation, which is doing them a genuine public service.

Also, you should promote your cremation options in your literature. It surprises me how few cemeteries provide a key piece of literature that shows how many ways cremated remains can be memorialized within the cemetery.  This should include some opening commentary about the value of permanent disposition, discussion about the range and affordability of your offerings, as well as presenting beautiful photographs that show off each type of cremation property. This same brochure can be set as a PDF for easy download via your website or an email campaign.

For several of our clients, we’ve developed self-running PowerPoints for families as they wait in the lobby or in the arrangement rooms.  Use every opportunity to educate families about their choices.

And here’s an idea borrowed from the grocery products industry: sampling.  Free tastes or free trials designed to let the consumer try out a product they might not otherwise experience. If it works for cereal and laundry detergent, why not cremation property?  If you have a glass-front niche wall, consider making a few of these spaces available for free for 30 days to allow a family the opportunity to provide visitation shortly after the cremation.  Place an attractive temporary plaque on the niche to identify the decedent. Let the family personalize the space as they choose and encourage them to invite family and friends to visit the niche during this period. It’s great exposure that can be a game-changer for you and the family.

And here’s something else you may not have thought about, which began some years back when I ran an aerial cremation scattering business.  I was surprised by the number of families who came to us after having Mom on the mantel for a decade or so. They wanted a final disposition that got Mom out of the house.  This is what I came to refer to as “post-need” care. Consider targeting all the people who’ve got Mom on the mantel. You can offer a better and longer-term option which combines a fixed place – with a memorial marker – in a permanently beautiful setting. And if you have a crematory, you can go through the list of all those who took Mom home and come back to these same families with a new solution.

Finally, don’t forget to advertise.  It’s important to consider that most people, by default, equate cemeteries to ground burial and hardly ever think about cemeteries when it comes to cremation. So it’s your job to shift that awareness. Advertising is a powerful tool that reaches out to a much broader audience than your website or your Facebook page can. Just make sure your message is clear, the creative is attention-getting, and you are always speaking from your audience’s point-of-view.

With cremation trends shifting the ground underneath the future of the cemetery business, the urgency to act now cannot be overstated.  Traditions are fast changing and it’s the role of the cemetery to grab hold and remain a fundamental part of how families honor their loved ones.  Having the products families want along with the right marketing to get the word out are equal partners in assuring your cemetery’s relevance and continued growth.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

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They say that the shoemaker’s children are always shoeless, and that is certainly true about marketing agencies, who traditionally do a lousy job marketing themselves. The awkward truth is that advertising and marketing agencies are their own worst clients. LA ads president and creative director, Dan Katz, shares what we learned about ourselves, how we did it, what we did about it, and how it has important lessons for anyone who depends on their marketing for sales. Click to watch the video, or read the full transcript below.


The absolutely hardest thing one can do is turn one’s eyeballs inward to see what others see. And let’s be honest, nobody really wants to know what others truly think about them, right?

And yet, for us personally, professionally and as a business, knowing what others think about us gives us powerful, valuable knowledge.

We tell this to our clients all the time, get a real-world picture of your own brand so there’s a solid platform to build a marketing program on. The most valuable tool we bring to our clients is objectivity.

But what do you do if you’re the agency and you have to be objective about yourself?  The awkward truth is that advertising and marketing agencies are their own worst clients.  They say that the shoemaker’s children are always shoeless, and that is certainly true about marketing agencies, who traditionally do a lousy job marketing themselves.  As I said, it’s really hard to turn our own eyeballs inward.

But that’s just what we needed to do for ourselves so we could launch a new 2018 advertising and marketing effort for LA ads.

So we began by contracting with an outside market research firm, someone we work with frequently, to find out what others think about who we are and what we do.  Or don’t do, as the case may be.  The research firm reached out to a number of people who had some knowledge of us, or perhaps worked with us in the past.  And they asked the really tough questions that in some cases we honestly weren’t sure we wanted to know.

So what did we find out?  Well, we got good news and we got bad news.

The good news was that nearly everyone was familiar with our brand promise – Dare to be Different – and our key point of difference, that our work was intelligent and highly creative, perhaps the most creative in the business.  We also heard from those who had worked with us in the past that they felt we offered sincere, personal attention as well as high-level strategic thinking. All that was great.

But on the negative side, we heard that many weren’t aware of our full scope of services – from web development to video production to social media strategies.  All they thought we did was ADS.  Well, I guess our own name has a lot to do with that.  In addition, many who hadn’t worked with us didn’t see the link between our work and the return on investment, the ROI.

Wow, were we missing the ball on those two counts!

All of this had us rethinking our fundamental messaging and what we really stood for.

The results of which were delivered at our new booth this past April at the ICCFA Convention, and in a new series of print ads which are running now.

My message here isn’t about us, though.  It’s about YOU.

Are you certain of how the outside world sees your business, or are you guessing – or worse, flying on a hope.  It’s only when you get an honest reality check that you have the tools to move your messaging forward so it can do you the most good.

Ignorance isn’t bliss.  It’s a pathway to lost business.  What is it you’re not communicating that gives prospective customers the wrong impression?  What is your marketing saying that you think is important but that others couldn’t care less about, such as the number of years you’ve been in business or the size of your staff?  What could you be doing better, or saying better that strengthens the bond between you and those you do business with?  What don’t you know that could be hurting you but helping your competitors?

You won’t find out unless you ask through thoughtful, skillful, truly objective market research. Which is — as it was for us — possibly the best marketing money you could ever spend.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

Marketing success is still one of the great mysteries. But there are certain keys to achieving it, and even a Silver Bullet or two. LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz shares his Silver Bullet based on his many years of experience standing on the shoulders of great marketers who have built legendary brands. Click to watch or read the transcript below.


Some of you are going to disagree with what I’m about to say.  Especially if you think that the secret to successful marketing is having a great social media program … or a brilliantly designed website … or beautiful literature…  or just having been around a long time.

The real Silver Bullet to Marketing … well, actually there are two silver bullets:

1 – Defining a clear and unique point of difference from others in your category and

2 – Telling that story in a way that grabs the audience’s attention and captivates their imagination.

In short, it’s not WHERE your message is told but WHAT your message is and HOW compellingly it’s told.  It’s all about the message.  Period.  End of sentence.

We have clients that use Facebook, TV, print, online and email marketing.  But without something truly original and compelling to say, none of those mediums would work.

I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve spoken with companies who complain that “radio never works,” or nobody’s reading the newspapers anymore.  Then we ask to see what they’ve been running on radio or in the newspapers and, to us, the problem is crystal clear:  the message just doesn’t set them apart and it’s not exciting enough to get anyone to pay attention, let alone remember or act on it.

And that’s equally true with Facebook or any other digital marketing.  How many Facebook pages are just a jumble of unrelated posts that don’t point to a uniform branded message?  How many posts are just … nice … but aren’t really worth clicking the like button, let alone sharing?  And how many websites are hardly more than online catalogs without an original point of view that attracts and engages the visitor?

The legendary adman Bill Bernbach said it correctly: “The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you —  and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying — and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you —  and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting — and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally and freshly.”

Was he right?  Based on that philosophy, his agency, DDB, built such previously unknown names as VW, Alka Seltzer, Sony and Avis into powerhouse brands – and it even got a president elected.

Over the years, media choices have come and gone.  Today, the audience spends more time on Hulu than on NBC, and their mobile phone is their connection to the outside world.  But Bernbach’s words remain as potent now as they did when he said them.

If your marketing isn’t pulling for you the way you’d like, don’t look at the medium for the solution.  Look at the message.  That’s the only true connection between you and the people you want to buy from you.

So, for the record, our mantra is this – and it’s been this since we first opened our doors:  The Right Message, Compellingly Told, is Everything!  That’s marketing’s Silver Bullet.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

Why is your brand like a baby? Because it needs to be cared for, protected and nurtured. Ignore it and it will be as if it never existed. LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz shares his thoughts on babying your brand so it will thrive and carry your business into the future. Click to watch or read the transcript below.


If you’ve ever had a baby, you know how carefully and lovingly it has to be nurtured, protected and cared for.  The world revolves around that tiny person…as it should.

Your brand, if it’s well-conceived, is exactly the same in this respect.  If you don’t make that brand the most cherished part of your business’ equity, if you don’t protect it by consistently applying it in your marketing, if you don’t place it at the very center of all your messaging, it will be as if it didn’t exist in the first place.

Your brand is your reputation. It precedes the sales call.  It’s what makes you respected.  It’s how others regard you.  In the end, it’s all that sets your business apart from all the others.  You’re either a brand or you’re a generic, like that can of corn that just says “Corn” on the label.

Everything you do should point back to your brand.  If you have a Facebook page, it needs to feel like your unique brand at its core.  if you’re on Twitter, the tweets need to reflect the spirit and personality of your brand message.  Your website, your ads, your recorded phone messages all need to be on-brand, or your uniqueness as a brand will be diminished, if not completely dissipated.

Because most funeral home and cemetery owners don’t think like marketers, their brands, if you can call them that, wreak of sameness.  All their marketing looks like everyone else’s.  That’s why buying pre-made TV commercials or print ads from a catalog or plug-and-play website templates does more harm than good…  Because if you can simply plug in your logo and web address, so can your competitor.

That’s not branding.  There’s no distinctive qualities or unique identity to build on.  So your salespeople have to work all that much harder, and there’s little to protect the brand when a hot new competitor comes to town.

As you build your marketing program, whether online, social or traditional, your brand must – MUST – come first.  It has to be unique, fresh, memorable, experiential, clear and unexpected.  And then, everything you do must be a reflection of that brand.

So as I said, your job is to nurture, coddle, protect and grow that brand just like a newborn babe.  Do it right and it will be there to protect you later on!

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

 

Content-driven and permission-based (i.e., “Liked”) marketing is quickly growing in the funeral industry, and now at the heart of many relationships between companies and their customers or prospects. People opt-in to receive your emails, “Like” your company on Facebook, subscribe to your You Tube channel, or follow you on Twitter or LinkedIn. But having permission to market to someone isn’t a license to bombard them with marketing messages. LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz talks about the mistakes one can make with executing a Permission Marketing program and five tips on making sure you’re not alienating your target market.  Click to view or read the transcript below.


Like you, I’ve given all kinds of businesses permission to send me information on things I’m interested in.  As a photographer, I follow Nikon and Canon on Facebook.  As a private pilot, I’ve “Liked” various aviation companies and let them email me product information and educational content.  And I always expect that they’ll be reasonable with how much they reach out to me without overstaying their welcome or abusing the privilege.  But I also know lots of others don’t have a clue.

Permission-based content marketing is quickly growing, especially among funeral businesses. That’s why so many of you have Facebook pages, right?

But having permission to market to someone isn’t a license to bombard them with marketing messages. In fact, not knowing when to “zip it” is a classic mistake that too many marketers make. If marketing is about building relationships, over-marketing is the best way to kill the relationship and send your prospects fleeing.

In a recent study pertaining to permission marketing, it showed that 54% of consumers unsubscribed from company emails when they came too frequently;  And 63% of customers “unliked” a company on Facebook due to excessive or self-serving posts.

So, how do you know when you’re over-marketing and about to kill a good relationship?  Here are five tips to remember that will help you keep the love going…

  1. Ask your customers. The best way to understand how customers and prospects feel about the frequency of your promotions is to ask them. If most tell you the frequency is “about right,” then you’re on the right path. And they’ll appreciate being asked.
  1. Measure your opt-outs. Count the number of those who unsubscribe to your emails or stopped liking you on Facebook. If the numbers are escalating, over-marketing could be why.
  1. Follow your own firm. Opt-in to your own emails and put yourself in the customer’s shoes and find out what it’s like to be on the receiving end of your promotional messages. If even you get tired of hearing from your company, you’ll know it’s time to turn down the volume.
  1. Keep the conversation focused on your readers, not yourself. This is the big one. People may opt-in in hopes of learning more about funeral traditions or upcoming events that interest them. They’re not usually interested in sales offers, casket discounts, or staff promotions. Make sure your posts are about them, not you.    And, finally…
  1. Compare your efforts with those of your competitors. If you’re marketing much more frequently than your competitors, you could be the smartest marketer in the bunch… or the one that people hesitate to continue a relationship with because you just talk too damn much.

At the end of the day, treating your customers and prospects well is required; but treating their opt-in permission as a gift is even better.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

The Super Bowl is the battle of titans – not the teams, mind you, but the advertisers. Tens of millions of dollars go into every commercial minute as the marketers go head-to-head to win new sales. LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz gives you his take on the “players” and who really comes out ahead. And just as important, what it has to do with making your own brand more successful in whatever arena you play in.  Watch now or read the full text below.

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Forget about the game, the winner of this year’s Super Bowl had to be Tide.  Admittedly, the commercial line up was a bit lackluster compared with previous years.  But Tide even took that on, with dead-on parodies of other Super Bowl spots, from Anheuser Busch’s Clydesdales to Old Spice’s hunky “Man your Man Could Smell Like” series.

But for me, the takeaway of any commercial isn’t about how funny it is, or even how memorable and talked about it is.

It’s about whether or not the value proposition is clear, and the commercial effectively sells the product.

That’s important, whether you’re selling detergent, deodorant, beer, or funeral services.

In 2016, we talked about Kia’s brilliant Walken Closet commercial, featuring a riveting performance by Christopher Walken.  He may have been the attention-getter, but the selling message was still front-and-center: Don’t get a boring “beige” mid-sized sedan when you can get a Kia Optima and have fun.

In this new series of Tide commercials, there’s little doubt what the message is:  Tide means clean, stain-free clothes.  In fact, right after watching, you’d be hard pressed to name another laundry detergent, so effective is the Tide branding.

With that in mind, here are the three key aspects that the best Super Bowl commercials have in common and should also have in common with your marketing, no matter what it is:

One:  The ads are imminently watchable.  They grab your attention because they’re fresh – no pun intended. They’ve got a way of communicating that the audience hasn’t seen before. If your ads aren’t surprising, if they’re not engaging, nobody will pay attention. How much wasted money does that cost!  This is the reason we say again and again, “Dare to be Different,” because only different gets noticed.  Same doesn’t.

Two: They’re built around a clear, simple message that speaks to what the buyer wants or needs.  I found it interesting during the game just how many spots tried to make the audience feel all warm and fuzzy, but how few really took on their own product’s competitive selling story.  Drilling down to a single, strong competitive story is the make-or-break difference between mere exposure and generating new sales.  Do you have a strong, competitive story for your brand?  If you can’t quickly articulate it, your audience isn’t going to do the work for you!  And it doesn’t matter if we’re talking million-dollar commercials or small space ads on the obituary pages.  Your ads and your marketing have to tell the story.

And Three: They somehow or other demonstrate or at least show the promise.  In the Tide commercial, the grease-stained mechanic under the car was wearing a spotless white shirt, as was everybody else in the Tide commercial series. Yes, demonstration is a lot harder to do when you’re only running print ads. But then, let your ads point to your website or social media or other marketing as the place to adequately demonstrate your unique selling proposition.

If you haven’t seen the Tide commercials from this year’s Super Bowl, you can click the link below the video. I’ll also post a link to the brilliant Kia Walken Closet spot from 2016.  Both are exceptional examples of creative freshness, clear selling message and product demonstration.

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. It’s an occupational hazard. Now I’ll have to go back and watch the game again to see who won.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

Sure, money isn’t burning a hole in your pocket, but you still have to market your business to get ahead. What’s the most effective way to do that? LA ads president Dan Katz presents an interesting solution for making small marketing budgets produce big results. Click to view or read the full transcript below.

I want to talk about the Big Bang.  No, not the TV show.  And no, not the origin of the Universe. But about how to leverage a small budget to yield big results.

I don’t care if you’re General Motors or General Mills, nobody has an unlimited marketing budget.  And that’s certainly true if you’re the neighborhood funeral home, or the local cemetery or the independent hearse dealer.  Money isn’t burning a hole in your pocket, but you still have to market your business to get ahead.

What’s the most effective way to do that?  Well, what most marketers think they need to do is to spread their limited dollars around as much as possible to reach as many potential buyers as they possibly can… which in theory sounds good but is a wasted application of resources.  Essentially, you’re shot-gunning your marketing budget with the result that the reach is a mile wide but only an inch deep.  And in the end, there’s little to show for it from any given market or marketing initiative.

If your dollars are truly limited, consider this approach instead: concentrate your efforts against just one or two markets or the one or two touch points that you KNOW you can have some impact, even to the exclusion of other opportunities.  The idea is to win BIG somewhere by focusing enough resources to have a certain and significant impact.  And only then, once the magic happens against one narrow marketing front, should you consider either expanding your efforts against the same target in a bigger way, or adding one additional narrow objective that – once again – you know you can win.

Say, for example, you’re a funeral home that serves many segments of your community, but advertising in the newspaper or on radio to reach everybody is just too expensive.  Why not focus ALL your attention against only one segment, such as the local churches.  Take the same money you might have spent against all the markets and all the media and commit to an inescapable program to reach the key churches whose congregations you serve.  Run the largest ads possible in the church bulletins. Be a prominent sponsor of church events. Invite all the clergy and lay leaders to a fully catered presentation. Create a special incentive sales program for participating churches… if allowed.  In other words, Go Big.  Make a Bang.

Or, if you’re an urn company and have over 50 different models but a really tight budget, ask yourself: what’s the single best urn to promote… the one with a strongest competitive advantage?  Push just that one urn over and over again with a dramatic, professionally-produced full page color ad in just one or two publications, maybe even narrowing the media down to state publications instead of national – as long as you run the ad BIG, and in Color, and frequently.  In other words, Go Big.  Make a Bang.

Once you see success on a limited front, you can now afford to expand the front, or select another limited front to launch another Big Bang program.

Here’s the bottom line: Instead of marketing a mile wide and an inch deep, it’s much more effective to go a mile deep, even if it’s only an inch wide.

Bang!!!

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

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