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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What is your “wow factor?”

Ross Darby,
Director of Business
Development
Have you ever heard a family say, “Wow, that was really special,” or “Wow, I have never seen that before?” If you have, then the product or service they were referring to is your “wow factor.” It's what sets you apart from your competition.

For instance, at Trigard Memorials, one of our "wow factors" is the precise detailing from our direct-to-metal machining process that results in exact replications of photographs. Another "wow factor" is the option to add Brilliant Impressions® full color that turns a loved one’s memorial into a work of art.

What is your “wow factor?” What makes you special? What makes you stand out in the marketplace?

Your “wow factor” is how the families you serve will remember you. Look beyond industry standards. Look beyond the same products that others have. Look beyond your pricing structure and puts more focus on the services that impact families the most.

A “wow factor” in your company is key to success because people will remember you, and you have a way to stand out from the competition. When you find your “wow factor,” make it the focal point of your business. Your marketing, sales, and supporting literature should revolve around this amazing competitive advantage. This is the easiest way to answer the question: “Why should I choose you over the competition?”


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, June 29, 2016

Five things to remember when revising your regulations

Salting, spraying and gravel – oh my! A few months ago, we worked with the Sunset Memorial Park Grounds Superintendent on a new regulations sign.

Many parts of the existing sign were still important, such as always allowing cut flowers and the restrictions we have in place during mowing season. But there were many new issues that we hadn’t even imagined. Some visitors are coming to the memorial park and salting, spraying weed killer and even adding gravel around their loved ones’ memorials. Others insist on leaving statuary next to a memorial, but don’t want it moved when the section is mowed and maintained.

It didn’t take long for the wish list of items for the new sign to grow far too long for any one sign to hold. So how did we whittle down the list without sacrificing information?

First, we gathered the most comprehensive, specific list we could. We included everything that we could possibly want families who visit the memorial park to know. Then we got to work doing some strong editing. Here are the top 5 things we kept in mind when streamlining your park signage:

  1. Your audience is made up of families who trust you to take care of their loved one. It’s easy to get focused on problematic visitors or times that someone violated your regulations. But keep in mind that your regulations sign is probably the first thing most people see when they enter your cemetery or memorial park. What kind of a mood does it set? Is it welcoming or does it sound like a lot of rules for a classroom of misbehaving children? Never forget that your sign is being read by families who are trusting you to take care of their loved one. They want a place to share their most precious memories, and your regulations sign should honor that responsibility.
  2. A sign can’t (and shouldn’t) replace an in-person conversation. It’s certainly a good idea to have your regulations posted clearly, but no sign can ever replace personal interaction. If you see someone violating your regulations, don’t expect the sign to take care of it. Instead, practice exactly what you and your staff will say to them to help them understand why the regulations are in place. It may be as simple as explaining the rules and where to find them.
  3. Focus on the typical visitor to your cemetery or memorial park, not those that stand out.  Just because one person dug holes to plant mums around their loved one’s ground memorial, it doesn’t mean that everyone who comes to your cemetery will do the same thing. When it comes to signs, be sure you’re focusing on the 80 or 90% of well-behaved, well-intentioned visitors. Then, address the outliers one by one. It’s like a classroom. 
  4. Build trust by focusing on what is allowed versus what is forbidden. Which would you rather read? Option A: No shepherd’s hooks allowed from March 1 to October 1. Option B: Shepherd’s hooks are welcome October 1 to March 1 when we are not mowing.
  5. Keep the wording simple and inclusive. When the internet was still young, malicious companies would buy domain names like www.jackspizzastinks.com and then offer to sell them to Jack’s Pizza for a ridiculous amount of money. The problem was the nearly limitless number of potential domain names, so you could never buy them all to keep one from being posted online. In the same vein, you can waste a lot of words on a sign trying to list out all of the items that are allowed or not allowed in your memorial park. Instead, find categories that are self-explanatory. It’s much easier to read “only cut flowers are welcome” instead of “potted plants, hanging baskets, silk flowers, wreaths, statuary, solar lights and stuffed animals are not allowed.”

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, June 28, 2016

How are you showing your appreciation?

Donna Darby-Walthall,
Chief Financial Officer

As a family-owned and operated business, we understand the importance of family, which means every person working for any of our companies are part of that family. We care about our employees and we appreciate their hard work. Our organization wouldn't be where it is today if it wasn't for them. They are the ones in the trenches every day making things happen.

One way the Darby family shows their appreciation is by hosting a quarterly luncheon for the entire manufacturing division. We serve lunch, play games that give employees the opportunity to win money or prizes, and we enjoy each others company. It is a great opportunity for us to connect with everyone on a different level and have some fun.

Our manufacturing employees aren’t the only ones receiving our good praises. We also enjoy showing our appreciation by offering an incentive program to our funeral home staff at Sunset Funeral Home called the “Anything’s Possible Award.” Each employee is encouraged to nominate a fellow co-worker when they see them performing a task above and beyond their normal duties. If the person nominated wins, they not only get a monetary award, but they also get recognized by their fellow co-workers. I love when our employees see and recognize the efforts of their co-workers. It benefits us all.

How do you show your appreciation to your staff? I would love to hear some of your ideas. You can email me at DonnaW@trigard.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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Are you letting your fears get the best of you?

Linda Darby,
Chief Executive Officer
Do you remember when you were a kid and life’s possibilities were endless? There wasn’t anything you couldn’t do. Do you remember wanting to be a singer, a dancer, a pilot, a teacher, or possibly a funeral director? What happened to those big dreams that you once had? Maybe you stumbled a few times while working towards your goal. Maybe you made a wrong turn and failed, and instead of facing your fear of failure, you just quit.

I can relate. I remember a time when I was just starting my career in the funeral and memorialization industry. I remember how passionate I was about being a motivational speaker. I wanted it so bad, but I was afraid. I was afraid I wouldn’t be any good and no one would want to listen to me. Until my dad, James “Big Jim” Darby, gave me some really great advice. He said, “Linda, you have to face your fears. You have to do the things you fear the most repeatedly in order get over that fear.” And, you know what? He was right!

I faced my fear. I started small and spoke to small groups and organizations. Today, I speak at national conventions. Some might say you can’t shut me up! (My siblings will attest to that.)

What do you want to accomplish? What was something you were passionate about while growing up, but are too afraid to try now as a grown up? I encourage you to fight against that fear and embrace it. The people we serve in our communities deserve the best that we can give them. Find your inner child and embrace that passion you once had.


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.