Cemetery Marketing Tricks

Be Wary Of Claims Of Good Deeds

In the United States, altruism is rarely a motivator. That’s just the way a free market works. Making money is what makes the world go ‘round in America, and charity is only worthwhile if it can somehow translate into profitability. That’s why it is good habit to apply at least a little cynicism to claims of good deeds made by profitable companies. When your local Wal Mart store, for example, brags about its many contributions to local schools, it is healthy to consider that the stores prices might be even lower – thereby freeing up money for you to make your own charitable contributions – if Wal Mart simply left philanthropy to others and stuck to the business of retail sales.

Cemeteries and funeral homes have been known to use under handed ploys in their practices

In general, when a company does something “for the community,” a marketing game is at hand. Whether the company is trying to earn free media publicity, or just change its public image as a result of negative publicity (such as when tobacco and alcohol manufacturers run ads encouraging customers not to smoke or drink), anything involving “giving back” to a community is usually a ploy at best.

And cemeteries, like every other sector of American business, are prone to playing this type of game.

Veterans day and Memorial day are notable examples. Cemeteries across America on those days host ceremonies for veterans and many of these have become well-attended local traditions that earn a good deal of media attention each year. At first glance, it may seem that such ceremonies are the cemeteries’ way of “giving something back to their community” on important patriotic holidays. (And, in fact, individual employees of the cemeteries may participate with such intentions.) But a study of almost any trade magazine written for owners and managers of cemeteries reveals that marketing is the overriding motivation. 

Cemeteries often host ceremonies on special days to take advantage of the increased foot traffic

Business experts writing in a wide variety of publications aimed at cemetery owners and managers often suggest that cemeteries do all they can to encourage visitors. “Every visitor to your cemetery is a potential customer. Some just don’t know it yet,” one expert says. So hosting ceremonies(which are usually low cost affairs since most of the speakers and performers would gladly appear for free) that bring visitors to the cemetery is an ideal way to drum up business.

Of course, hosting the ceremony is just the start. Once the visitors are on the site, ceremony staff must be armed with sales pitches and literature aimed at taking advantage of the increased foot traffic. One expert says it is important to remind speakers to thank the cemetery during their presentation, and, of course, all media who attend will be strongly encouraged to give the cemetery full credit for hosting the event.

That these events often occur on days important to veterans is no coincidence. Since all U.S. military veterans and their spouses are entitled to free burials at federal and state-run cemeteries, veterans create quite a marketing problem for privately run cemeteries. But the patriotic ceremonies help turn that problem into a marketing bonanza. The cemeteries simply show with the ceremonies that they are as patriotic as the government run cemeteries and then offer free burials to veterans who buy plots for the rest of their family members. Getting veterans and their families into the cemetery to hear the pitch about these “free” plots for veterans is the unstated goal of the ceremony.

Mostly all Veterans are entitled to burial rights

The problem for consumers is that, often, the cemetery is able to give the veteran a “free” plot and grave marker because it simply over charges for the other plots. Many consumer groups have researched the offers of “free” veterans plots and discovered that families would have often paid less had they not accepted the “free” offer. Even on veteran headstones and grave markers can be saved after the purchase is done and a form is submitted to the veteran bureau, sometimes they will refund a partial amount or even the whole amount of the ourchase, just be sure to keep your receipt and submit it.

The bottom line is that nothing – in a free market economy anyway – is free. So, next time a cemetery in your area offers a free veterans day ceremony, free burials for veterans, or even free classes on things like coping with grief, writing wills, or conducting family history research, well, consider the source. You are likely being invited to the cemetery because you are a potential customer. Just keep that fact in mind before signing up to buy anything from the cemetery during – or even as a result of – the event.