Fortune favours the bold

words: Davina Armstrong, Armstrongs Independent Funeral Service
Marketing yourself

Marketing a funeral business can be a challenge. Finding that balance of informative, yet sensitive, content and tone can seem a daunting task.

There will always be an element of the public that does not want to consider funerals, but there has been a definite shift in the acceptance of information, and those happy to seek it out. The pandemic could be partially responsible, with the subject of dying at the forefront for most; but funeral directors are often still seen as closed-door establishments, and our myth-busting, information sharing ability is still a much-underused tool for independents.

Our challenge in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was to create a brand that would stand out against our corporate competitors, without an infinite budget. We devised a monthly paid article, or ‘advertorial’, in our local town newspaper. Having already placed a weekly advert in the BMD section, we used our contacts to negotiate a block rate, which reduced the cost. If a newspaper isn’t an option, you could always look to local newsletters or other regular publications with a large, local distribution. These can often be inexpensive, cost-effective ways to advertise.

Each month we address a different topic: meet our team, introduce our vintage VW hearse ‘Penelope’, or more practical topics such as what to do when someone dies, or SAIFCare. Over time people have begun to look out for our articles, even cutting them out to keep for future reference; the most commented topic being ‘How to cope at Christmas’.

Most recently, however, we have addressed head-on the subject of direct cremation. It is important that our clients understand the implication of this choice, what is, and more importantly isn’t, included. By using this form of media, we have had the column inches to explain, inform and highlight exactly the pros and cons of a direct cremation service.

Examples of the articles published are shown below.

We even went so far as to publish a bullet-pointed guarantee which explains exactly what can be expected from a direct cremation provided by Armstrongs.

People in your local area may not realise that you can even provide a direct cremation service. Many did not in Bury St Edmunds until we began to promote the fact. Do not be afraid to highlight the differences and to promote your service that can be personal, dignified and, often most importantly, delivered locally.

However, a real concern we did have was damaging the reputation of our traditional, bespoke service and this was something that we considered long and hard. We did not want to reduce the goodwill of our most popular funeral service by singing the praises of direct cremation. By striking the right tone with promotion, we hope that we have achieved a delicate balance; informing our local area that we can provide a direct cremation, whilst ensuring that our brand remains underpinned by transparent and honest marketing. People are more price conscious, and more aware of their options, than ever before, and so far we have seen no negativity towards our marketing.

For those with an online presence, reinforce the marketing by sharing the article on your social media pages, ensuring that the relevant parties involved, such as the publishing newspaper, are tagged. Make sure to ask to like and share, as we have found there is a marked increase in post shares if you actually ask for it! A paid boost is also available on Facebook’s business suite and can be a very cost-effective way to spread a topic if the timing and subject allow.

Ultimately, please don’t be afraid to shout about your business.

There is strength in an Independent or family brand and being able to self-promote is a major advantage that you will have over the corporate companies that will have red tape-tied marketing departments. Information is key and transparent, and well written articles will enhance and differentiate your brand.

Example article: Month 1

Direct cremations: what you need to know

There has been a huge increase in the companies offering a ‘direct cremation’ service, and many of you may have seen the TV adverts or received direct mail through your letterboxes. We’d like to explain a bit about this type of funeral and what it entails:

What is a direct cremation?

A direct cremation simply involves taking the deceased directly to the crematorium with no formal ceremony. There are no family or friends present at the cremation and the deceased is cremated in a simple coffin. There is no viewing in a chapel of rest, no traditional funeral service. There is no embalming.

Who offers direct cremation?

Your local independent funeral director! We as an industry usually don’t advertise heavily, so the fact that we can offer this service is often missed by our local families. The shiny TV adverts, and glossy leaflets for big, corporate companies are something we cannot compete with. But what we can offer is local knowledge, the highest standard of care, and a personal touch that they simply cannot match.

As a local family business, we only ask that before you make any decisions and sign on the dotted line that you get in touch to discuss what your options are. There is a difference in what is offered and this may not necessarily be made clear.

What to be aware of Unfortunately, if you use an internet-based company, this could mean your loved one travelling around the country before finally being taken to a mortuary, hundreds of miles away while awaiting cremation. Always ask the location of mortuary facilities, and where your loved one will be held in care.

Example article: Month 2

Direct cremations: pros and cons

Last month we touched on direct cremations and the service that Armstrongs can provide. This month we expand a little on the pros and cons of a direct, non-attended cremation.


  1. A direct cremation can often be completed in a quicker timescale to a traditional funeral with fewer decisions to make
  2. There is less to organise as personalised extras are not allowed
  3. Due to the fact it is the most pared down service, it is the most cost-effective type of cremation available.


  • By far the biggest con is the fact that family and friends may not agree with the choice of cremation, and risk not being given the closure that a bespoke funeral service can provide
  • Not being able to plan and attend can cause rifts as some would have found comfort in a final send-off
  • If purchasing a direct cremation prepayment plan from an internet-based company, there could be no option to convert it to a full funeral service should you or your next of kin change your mind at a later date
  • If you are considering, or have chosen a direct cremation, it is imperative that you speak to your friends and family and let them know of your decision. We are finding increasing numbers of people are choosing this for themselves, and their family receive quite a shock when told they will not be able to attend and say their goodbyes in the traditional way.
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