Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Is your pet your child?

Ross Darby,
Director of Business Development at Trigard Memorials

I recently went to the PLPA College (Pet Loss Professionals Alliance) and I gained a new appreciation for how we memorialize pets. Memorializing pets is not new to me. My wife (pictured right) is in charge of the pet division at Sunset Memorial Park. She shares stories of families who will spend the extra dollar when it comes to memorializing their pet.

First, I needed to get a better understanding of what a “pet” is. A “pet” to me it is either a dog or a cat. Boy was I wrong! My wife helped a family who established a very high budget to celebrate a beloved rabbit. There was a full service and was no expense spared on the memorial. This caused me to re-think how I view pets and the grieving needs of the humans who love them. People all over the world have different types of furry, scaled, and feathered friends, and we in the death care profession must be able to meet all of their wants when it comes to memorialization.

Until recently, my experience in the pet market has been working with bronze memorials. I learned that pet memorials tend to be the most unique. Families love that we, at Trigard Memorials, can give them a 3D-relief bronze memorial AND add color to it. To these families, that kind of marker is a no brainer.

If you have a pet section in your cemetery, we offer beautiful pet markers that are attached to granite. We also create photo medallions in bronze that can be easily attached to existing granite or bronze memorials. (This is ideal for families who want to enhance what they already have.) If you have a niche unit for cremated animals, we provide fully customizable niche plates. We also offer personalized urns for the families that wish to take their beloved pet home with them.

If you do not have a pet section in your cemetery, it is usually easy to find unused space that you can turn into revenue for your business. If pet cremation is the only means of disposition that you offer, then Trigard’s urns or medallions are a nice personalized product to offer a family. Even if price is leading your families to choose cremation, we still find great value in the memorialization piece of the sale.

The pet market is relatively new to most of us, but I truly believe it is being under served and underutilized. There are opportunities everywhere! Families are beginning to realized that last visit to the vet office is not the last memory they want to have of their pet. That is where our industry needs to step in and use our expertise to provide healthy healing and closure our customers are seeking.

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

5 ways to improve your sales display

Whether you’re a monument company, a cemetery or a funeral home, you can benefit from a display that highlights your best products and services. In fact, research shows that displays influence customers more than price promotions. According to OgilvyAction, 24% of buying customers say they are influenced most by displays, while only 17% are persuaded by discounts.

Why do displays work so well? Three reasons. First, displays can give greater ROI than traditional advertising. Second, displays start the sales process right away, even when your sales staff is busy somewhere else. Third, consumer shopping patterns and expectations have changed. The families you serve want more, easy-to-grasp information,

No matter if you have a permanent display of bronze or a seasonal display of grave blankets, there are five things you can do to make your sales area more effective.
  1. Make it appealing. The purpose of a display is to make people look. Don’t be afraid to use colors and engaging graphics. Once you have the customer’s attention, “bring them in” with something to touch.
  2. Avoid jargon. Limit using industry names that customers might not recognize. Use words that show how your products and services benefit your customers.
  3. Train your team. Make a good display a great display by teaching your staff how to use it. Make sure your team knows how your display can help identify customer needs, show value in your products and/or overcome objections.
  4. Eliminate clutter. Don’t overwhelm people. Your displays should not be cluttered or stuffed with too many items.
  5. Keep it clean. Nothing takes away from the value of what you offer like dust and grime. Make sure your team routinely dusts and cleans it.
Make a commitment this month to really look at your displays. Make at least one improvement to make it more beneficial for the people you serve.

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Attitude of gratitude

By Scott Darby, Media Manager and Certified Funeral Celebrant,
Camino del Sol Funeral Chapel & Cremation Center

A little over a year ago, I started the “practice of gratitude” in my life and it has made a world of difference in my perspective.

I used to think that the world was against me and that I had to fight for everything. I was coming from a place of self-will instead of a place of thankfulness. Not anymore! The byproducts of this new attitude are amazing. I feel a greater sense of happiness and contentment. I have stronger personal relationships. I don’t feel the need to struggle, because things come more naturally to me. I could go on and on.

To give you an example, I always get the same feeling around Labor Day. You know the feeling I’m talking about… the summer-is-officially-over blues. It feels like an internal shift from low gear to high gear.

When I was a kid, Labor Day meant the long lazy days of summer were behind me. I was back to school and all I had to look forward to was a regular schedule of homework. As an adult, BBQs turn into board meetings. In the past, this shift made me a little depressed. However, this year I’m excited for Fall and what it will bring. I feel this way because I am grateful - grateful that I came home and found my place in our profession. After all, we what we do is so important.

Wikipedia defines a memorial as “an object which serves as a focus for memory of something.”
I mention this because I want you to understand we at Trigard Memorials see our memorials as more than just handcrafted pieces of bronze or aluminum. We know our products represent lives that need to be celebrated. We are in the business of preserving memories, and we are grateful for that!

Join me in this attitude of gratitude. Never forget that what you do is amazing. Sure, it is a great responsibility, but look how you are rewarded. Every day, you get to help people memorialize those who are loved and precious to them. You get the opportunity to touch lives deeply. You get to contribute to the greater good!

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at www.trigard.com/thursdays.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

3 ways you can add revenue just by creating value

By Ethan Darby, Director of Business Development

As a manufacturer, understanding the type of business you are selling to is extremely valuable. The fact that my family owns both funeral homes and a cemetery is one of our best competitive advantages.  We know that most cemeteries aren’t “cash cows.” We know that customers are becoming more informed, cremation rates are on the rise and margins are getting slimmer. We know we need to keep growing too. 

Sometimes we can create new revenue streams by offering new products or services, but sometimes we generate new revenue just by enhancing what we already offer. Anyone can create new added-value that your customers can get behind. Here are three ways to do that with bronze memorials:
  1. Create scripting that upsells – I find the words “scripting” and “upsell” have negative connotations in our industry and I’m not sure why. If you believe that a “high-end” product has the most value, then you shouldn’t feel bad about upselling to drive your sales towards that product line. You also shouldn’t feel bad about creating scripts to help your customer understand the value that you see.  Think about what you like about a certain product line. How are you transferring those positive feelings to your customers?
  2. Become confident in your product – I have spent a lot of time in our manufacturing plant. I can’t even begin to quantify the value that has been created when I am making a sales presentation. I know exactly why certain product lines are more expensive than others. For example, the full color photo Collage memorial is more expensive than the Classique memorial because the Collage takes a lot of design time. It is fully customized, while the Classique is a templated design with names, dates, and emblems easily switched out. Come see us at Trigard Memorials and ask questions. We would love to help you increase your knowledge of our products.

  3. Set goals for yourself or your sales team – Set goals that drive the behaviors you want. We all know setting goals is a good thing. Narrowing your goals to specific product lines can be an even better thing.
It really is amazing what an upsell can do to your bottom line and to your confidence. For instance, I believe that the Collage memorial is Trigard’s best product. Every time I walk through our cemetery, I believe it more and more. After all, the collage series is like a magnet that pulls you in. It tells a story about a person and will be valuable to their family for generations to come… and I tell my customers that. That’s how I create value in what we offer. How will you?  

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Prepare now for the dreaded winter months

By Jason Murphy,
Director of Family Services, Sunset Memorial Park

It may seem crazy, but now is the time to start preparing your sales force for the colder months of the year. In cemetery and memorial sales, we all know that the winter months can pose a challenge to have consistent sales coming in. The foot traffic through your cemetery decreases, markers can’t be installed when the ground is frozen and there is simply less people coming into your office because they are staying home where it is warm and cozy.

So, the question is, do you accept lower sales during this season or do you do something about it? We have a strong philosophy – we don’t buy into the idea that just because it’s cold out it means that sales decrease. In fact, we challenge ourselves to have our biggest sales months during this time of year. Here are some things that may help your team counter the lack of walk-in or call-in business during this period.

First, have your sales reps follow up on all the leads that they haven’t closed from the previous couple of years. Develop a list of these leads and come up with a way to contact them all during the winter. You could develop a direct mail letter touching base with these families or maybe even give them a call to check in and see how they are doing.

Finding any way that you can have contact with them during this time is critical. One of the major reasons is that the colder months mean that the holidays are near. For these families, this will be the first holiday season without their loved one. So, this is a great time to reach out and let them know that you are thinking about them. Even if you don’t turn the conversation into an appointment, you are at least strengthening your relationship with the family, so that when they are ready to choose a memorial, the process will be much smoother for everyone involved.

Another idea is to hold a lunch and learn seminar either at your facility or at a local restaurant. Everyone appreciates a warm meal on the house. This can give you an opportunity to promote the importance of permanent memorialization and discuss details of your memorials in a group setting, where everyone has a common interest. Many people become more relaxed with a group and the ideas and questions seem to flow better.

A final idea that could correlate with both of the previous thoughts would be to develop a promotion or discount for these families based around the holiday season. You could offer a certain percentage off or maybe give a free grave blanket or holiday floral arrangement with a purchase of a permanent memorial. Make sure to remind these families that if they purchase during the winter, that their memorials will be the first ones to be installed once the ground thaws in the spring. This will also help develop a sense of urgency for them to act, along with the expiration date of the discount.


The main concept is to not let yourself, or your team, begin to accept the fact of lower sales during this time of year. Stay positive and begin game planning now, so that your sales stay consistent throughout the entire year. If you plan well enough, you could even see an increase in sales during the dreaded cold months of the year.

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

4 steps to emotional selling

By Mary Ellen Fricke, Creative Director 

Think of the last time you bought a candy bar. Did you choose that candy bar because you weighed all the facts and made a well-informed decision? “This Snickers has the highest nut-to-calorie ratio for my dollar. Wow, what a ROI!”

I didn’t think so. Whether it’s a sugary treat or a legacy memorial, people base decisions on emotions and then justify them with logic. You wanted a Snickers because it reminded you of your childhood. Or because you felt smart buying it on sale. Or maybe it’s just because Snickers satisfies.

Once you understand that we are by nature, emotional beings, you can spend less time describing details that customers don’t care about and more time helping them find memorials that speak to their hearts.

Here are four steps you can take to help families make the decisions that are best for them.

1. Find out what families really want.
Maybe your customer is looking for peace of mind, fearing that tough decisions will fall on the family. Maybe they are looking for a sense of security, wanting to know the “right” decisions are made. Maybe they are looking for respect, desiring a memorial that reflects a loved one’s accomplishments. Listen to your customers. Find out what their heart wants, not their brain.

2. Ignore the feature. Focus on the benefit. 
Now that you know what your family wants, you need to give it to them. A woman nervous that she will be forgotten by time, doesn’t really care if her bronze memorial is carved or casted, but she does care that the precision of carved lettering will last for generations. Don’t sell the feature of your products. Highlight the emotional outcome of the feature.

3. Remember you are addressing emotions, not playing on them.
You are serving families during emotionally trying times. That’s why we in the death care profession need to give special attention and understand what families are really feeling and care about. You want your customers to feel good about their decisions and share that good feelings with their friends and neighbors.

4. Practice, practice, practice! 
This approach to serving families may feel awkward at first. It may feel time consuming, too. After all, it’s easy to give a family a catalog or quickly show them your “go to” choices. With every solution you find for a family, you will become more and more comfortable and confident with the process.

My advice to you? Sit down with your favorite candy bar in one hand and a product catalog in the other. Choose one feature and think about how it can fulfill an emotional need. By the time you’re done with your candy bar, you’ll have at least one new benefit for your customers. Now that’s a real treat!

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Don’t limit your customers’ colorful legacies

By Drew Edwards, General Manager, Sunset Funeral Homes 

Recently, a gentleman stopped in our funeral home and ask if he could talk to someone about a columbarium. I happened to be in the foyer, so I introduced myself and offered to answer any questions.

At first, I thought he was a client looking to purchase a niche in our cemetery located across the street. Upon further conversation, I learned that he was actually a board member for a nearby cemetery. He wanted to build a columbarium to drive new revenue to his cemetery. With the rise in cremations, he realized that even in his small town, the number of burials was decreasing each year. The cemetery was losing customers with every family that chose cremation.

Before entering our funeral home, this gentleman drove through our cemetery and found a columbarium that he liked.  It was one of our basic units. Each niche has a simple bronze nameplate on front.

It’s a nice columbarium, but I asked him if he had time to look at other options. After all, we have new choices that appeal to today’s families. He was hesitant. Without question, he was sold on the basic niche. But after a little discussion, he agreed to take a second look.

I showed him our “Storybook” glass front niche unit. This columbarium has bronze plates with photo-realistic portraits of the deceased, in brilliant full color. Each niche tells a unique story. It didn’t take long before this gentleman realized how many members of our community are looking for more than just the “basic bronze” nameplate.

The moral of the story is simple.

Each of us is unique and we like to memorialize our loved ones in different ways. Every life creates a wonderful legacy and we should never limit the consumer to a “basic” legacy. Give your families all the options, educate them and then support them in their decision. We were all given the precious gift of life. The question is, how do you want to be remembered? Basic or full of color?

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Our new mission puts new focus on you

By Blake Swinford, Project Manager 

We are more than half way through 2016. Where are you with your New Year resolutions? Have you kept all of them? Half of them? None of them? We often make pledges that we don't keep.

At  Trigard Memorials, we have recently made a commitment that we know is here for the long haul - a new mission, vision and set of key values. Best of all, they include you!

Mission: Our mission is based solely upon you. We will be the best partner to our clients, employees, vendors and community.

Vision: Our vision is to be the clear choice; a strong, viable, innovative leader.

Values:

  • Passion
  • Integrity
  • Innovation
  • Leadership
  • Family
  • Stewardship 
While you may have not kept the goals you set at the beginning of the year, it’s never too late to start something good.  If your company has an outdated Mission or no Vision or Values, now is the time to get started. Need inspiration? We are here to help. Just pick up the phone and call 800-637-1992.


This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

Monday, July 25, 2016

You’re in the memorial business… now go be memorable!

Sheryl Baumeister,
Human Resources 
We’re in the business of helping others share their memories of loved ones, but what about us? Are we making memories?  Are we memorable?

We all want to be remembered for something. That’s what makes us stand out. That’s what keeps our legacy alive. But how do you set out to become unforgettable? It’s easier than you think. Be a “doer,” not a “watcher.” Live life. Don’t watch it pass by. Creating experiences in our personal lives not only impacts our quality of living, but those around us as well.

DO THE UNUSUAL
While you are out there “doing,” make it something unusual.  Many of us have similar lifestyles. We work, have a family, a home, a car, clothes… you get the picture.  We like to think we are special, but we’re all pretty much the same and similar isn’t memorable.  So, try something different.  Push your experiences beyond your comfort zone. Push beyond other people’s comfort zones too!

DO FUN
Remember when you were young and didn’t know the definition of “stupid idea.”  You followed the mission through, no matter how pointless or inconvenient… because it was fun.  The more pointless it was, the more fun you had. Why? Sometimes your goal isn’t to accomplish something worthwhile; your goal is to collect experiences.  That is what makes your life richer and more interesting.

DO GOOD
Care about people and do good things.  When you stand for something, you stand apart.  Others will see your good works and remember them.  Surprisingly, in many case, the less you say, the more people remember.

DO TRY
Stop being so hard on yourself.  It’s okay to fail.  Run the race even though you might lose. Sing even though you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Dance even though you have two left feet. You don’t have to be all-knowing, all-achieving.  Accept your faults, make mistakes and be gracious about it.  You will be remembered because you were willing to fail. After all, people who display grace and humility in the face of defeat are rare.

What are you waiting for? Go be memorable!


This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Are pictures really worth a thousand words?

Erin Brodbeck, LCSW, CT, 
Director of Grief Services,
Sunset Funeral Home
There is a saying, “A picture’s worth a thousand words,” and I would most definitely agree. Whether you are posting a photo on Instagram, sharing photos of your kids on Facebook or even printing a photo to put in a frame, you are using photos to share your thoughts and stories.

My daughter is turning one-year-old at the end of this month. While I was digging through the hundreds of pictures we’ve taken throughout the last year, I began thinking about how important pictures are when memorializing a loved one.

Displaying family photos at a visitation, making a photo collage or creating a bronze memorial with your loved ones' pictures are all great ways to reflect on their life and keep their legacy alive. Those pictures are some of the only visual mementos that you have left of your loved one, so why not make them center stage while you celebrate their life? I would encourage the families that you serve to pull out those family photos and search their online albums for pictures that can tell their story. The story of a life that will never be forgotten.

Looking for some more ideas on how to use pictures in memorialization? Email me at erinb@sunsetfuneralhome.com.


This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.