Published in the March/April 2022 Issue of Memento Mori 

By Rolf Gutknecht 

My son-in-law and I were watching a football game on TV when a commercial came on for a paint retailer. At the end of the commercial, he said, “I don’t trust them for a minute. It just doesn’t ring true with me.” That had me think about why some companies (including B2C and B2B firms in the funeral profession) are trusted and others aren’t. And so, I’ll pose the question to you: In today’s marketplace, with people not wanting to be sold to but rather base their purchase decision on many other factors, is your company selling trust along with your products and services? 

One of the greatest demonstrations of selling trust came about years ago when Chrysler Corporation was being dragged back from the brink of extinction by then CEO Lee Iacocca. Chrysler was seen as having a flawed product and could not be trusted to build a good car. Lesser men would have resorted to selling at the cheapest price with giant discounts and 0% interest. They would have also gone down with the ship by making futile arguments about the features/benefits of the cars. Iacocca rejected this thinking and instead sold his personal guarantee … his promise … by saying “If you can find a better car, buy it.” 

Don’t Take It for Granted 

What are the few key factors that will make your business such a trusted and relied-on presence in your customers’ lives that they will stay with you—and spend with you—for many, many years?  

As I write this, virtually every cemetery, funeral home, product manufacturer, and service provider struggles in an un-trusting world. Their customers have very, very, scorched fingers and badly bruised confidence. The temptation to overcome this mistrust with stronger product pitches, cheaper prices, or deeply discounted fees is enormous. Yet, dangerous. To do so worsens the fundamental problem of low trust and deprives you of the finances needed to effectively market at all. 

Unfortunately, and we all see it in our personal and business lives, there are loads of companies out there that are “hit and runners.” They’re more in the business of getting customers to make sales rather than making sales to get customers. The first provides only income. The second provides income and equity.  

It’s sort of like the difference between dating and a long-term marriage. It’s about being there and having the other person’s back. That the other person knows you care about them. That you find ways to stay interesting and relevant over the years.  

Sad but true, most marketers don’t really think about a long-term marriage with customers. They take it for granted or give it no importance. They’re focused on income not equity. Like you, I buy things from stores or service providers where not even a feeble attempt at creating an ongoing relationship is made. I have to believe that the thinking is “We did OK, he’ll be back.” Well, maybe I will and then again … maybe I won’t. 

Do the Right Thing 

What can companies do from a marketing standpoint to start the process of building trust within the minds of their current and prospective customers? Here are eight thought-starters: 

  1. Transparency

Be transparent in your marketing. One funeral industry study found that 85% of Americans are more loyal to a business if the company has a history of being transparent. We’re now at a point where clarity isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have! Customers are happier with businesses that are transparent. 

Happy customers will tell their friends and family, they’ll write reviews for online, and follow the firm on social media. Make it simple, straightforward and beneficial. No “bait and switch” or asterisk and fine print stuff. 

  1. Accomplishments

Let customers know of organizations you are members of as well as meaningful awards/accomplishments your company has achieved. On your website, you can link to many of these organizations. A little bit of acknowledging someone else never hurts. 

  1. Worthy Causes

Be involved with a worthwhile cause not because it might look good but because it’s important to help others. Find a cause that might be relevant to local needs (i.e. collect coats for the needy), or a cause that’s close to your heart (e.g., Special Olympics). 

  1. Outreach

Follow up with customers to make sure they are happy with your product or service. The worst thing that could happen would be for an unhappy customer to post a negative comment about your business transaction on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Angi (formerly known as Angie’s List), etc. especially in a day and age when people react to how well your firm was rated or reviewed by others.  

  1. Uniqueness

Think creatively about what you can guarantee that will make you stand out. For example, tell customers you’ll return every inquiry within one hour or that all appointments will be met on-time. State some facts that distinguish you from the competition and fulfill them over and over again. 

  1. Language

Watch your language and avoid puffery. Your “state-of-the-art” new service technology will not “revolutionize” the customer experience or “totally change” life as we know it. Consumers have seen and heard it all. You can also use humor to crack the trust wall so long as it’s on message and makes customers remember you. 

  1. Ambassadors

Treat employees the way you want them to interact with customers and you’ll be developing brand ambassadors. Everywhere employees go, they will talk up the benefits of your company. 

  1. Messaging

Be sure your marketing messaging comes across as authentic… not cheesy, cheap, or full of clichés. Oh, and make sure that your marketing materials look and sound better than your competitors’. People take their cues on whether to trust and do business with a company based on what the marketing/advertising looks like (i.e., the creative and production quality) and where it’s placed. There’s a right way to say and show what makes you special … and a wrong way. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. 

While we as marketers understand that we’re in the business of helping drive revenue for the company among other challenges, let’s not lose track of the fact that it’s always easier to derive sales from people who have had some experience and exposure to your firm versus that of a new customer. And that only happens if they trust you. They’ll only trust you if you look and act the part. Don’t have your company be a “poser” … you’ll be found out! 

Rolf Gutknecht is president and CEO of LA ads, a full-service marketing firm specializing in helping cemeteries, funeral homes, manufacturers, and service providers create compelling messaging and implement marketing programs to grow their business. Rolf can be reached at or 800-991-0625 ext. 2. Check out the LA ads website by visiting