How to talk about the things that nobody wants to talk about.

by Debbie White

by Debbie White

Few want to talk about getting old or death. It’s hard to talk about and even harder to market.

I know this because, in the last eight years, I’ve worked on a funeral services account and have statistics that prove that people keep their lips zipped on this topic.

75% of Americans have never had any end of life discussions with family members and friends.

75% of Americans have never had any end of life discussions with family members and friends. We just don’t talk about end of life anything it seems, unless we’re forced.

Fear is the common emotion around all things hard to talk about and it makes it difficult to connect with your audience. I’ve developed a marketing tool box that I use to reach out and encourage our target demographic (women 50+) to combat this fear and start the conversation about making their end-of-life plans (or their parents’ or spouse’s).  


Empathy connects us and helps us move past fear.  Dr. Brene’ Brown, an expert in courage, shame, and empathy says, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Basically, it’s okay to be afraid because we all are.

Discussing this process with compassion and understanding of what women feel, fear, and don’t want to talk about goes a long way not only in the short term, but can gradually change how the culture in general thinks about aging and death.

Ice Breakers

You wouldn’t say to your mom, “Hey Mom, what should I do with your body when you die?”. But you could ask, “I want a margarita party when I’m gone. Mom, what about you?” An ice breaker really helps people open up to wanting to even discuss end of life planning. Offer up easy and even fun things to talk about.

It’s okay to laugh. A little.

Humor is a wonderful resource to displace fear and anxiety.  Humor should not belittle people’s fear, but be used to put those fears into perspective, giving strength and room to confront difficult topics and tasks head-on.

We recently wrote a newsletter article called Don’t Put Grandma in the Closet to encourage people to think beyond cremation and the often uncomfortable reality of storing human remains. While you’re not going to be guffawing at this for days to come, it’s a bit more likely to start a conversation than an article titled: Storing Cremains at Home.

Keep it simple

Women 50+ want and appreciate easy online experiences that they’re used to getting with Amazon and other online retailers. These women will dig deep for information online, read reviews, and they’ll want to see transparent pricing on your website.

Make it easy for them by having complete and easy-to-understand information about the process and what to expect. If your process and pricing can’t be explained in a simple checklist or table, you might have some work to do to make it attractive for this audience.

Be their friend

What qualities do you value in a friend? For me, it’s being genuine, trustworthy, reliable, smart, available, funny, and honest. Companies should have a real, human voice and be doing things that a good friend would do, and not always because they’re trying to make a buck.

Offer up advice, helpful tips, and anything that would make their life easier. Lose the stiff, corporate speak please and talk the way your audience talks.

Know your audience

Women 50+ are a diverse group with many viewpoints on end of life planning. Some are religious and traditional and some are non-secular and want a big party, and there’s everything in-between.

Understand what they want and what you can deliver. I mean, really understand them. What else is on their plate? What are they afraid of? Answer their questions, fears, and concerns. How can you make this a must-do for them? Then give them what they want.

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