Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Let planning ahead pay off for you

Jeff Miller,
Vice President of
Business Development
Fully preparing yourself for a meeting with a family is one of the most important things you can do. The more information you know about their loved one, the better you can assist the family in creating a truly unique memorial.

This may include gathering basic background information on the family and their loved one. It might also help to find out what the person’s passions, interests and hobbies were while they were alive. And, if at all possible, visit the grave site to look over existing memorials created for family members who have died to help find inspiration. Designing a memorial for a loved one can be a very personal experience for a family, so be careful not to judge a family based solely on history. You may be working with a new generation of the family.

Also, prepare yourself for comments such as, “just show us the cheapest” or “we don’t want to spend a lot of money.” Overcoming these obstacles to give families the best service possible can be one the hardest jobs we have as funeral professionals.

Remember, you are the experts and we help families create unique memorials every day. It is important to use your knowledge and passion to empower families to understand the importance of permanent memorialization. It’s our job to help them see the value in creating a place for future generations to share stories and create new ones. You will be surprised how your knowledge of memorialization and your passion will translate into better sales for you, more value for the family and lasting relationships.

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, September 29, 2014

Why should funeral directors value memorialization

This article originally appeared in American Funeral Director.

As funeral directors, we help families during some of the hardest days of their lives. We do everything we can to make the funeral services as unique and special as the lives they are celebrating. We help them plan every detail of the service from the casket and burial vault to the flowers and music.

But you and I know that our job is so much more than keeping track of the details. Our real job is to help lead families down the path of healthy healing. We provide families with the tools necessary to help them grieve. And permanent memorialization is a vital part of the healing process. Even if your funeral home isn’t part of a combo, it’s still imperative to encourage families to memorialize.

I’d imagine your funeral home offers online tributes for the families you serve. It is a great tool for people locally and across the country to interact with the grieving family and feel connected. But is that really memorialization? Leaving kind, caring words on a website can be comforting at the time of need, but the online tribute page is temporary. Even a stack of print outs from the website will eventually fade, be stored in a closet or even accidentally be thrown away. Only a permanent memorial preserves a legacy for generations to come and marks a special place for friends and family to continue to gather to share special memories.

Most of the time, when a family thinks about places to leave a loved one’s legacy, they start with the cemetery. But, the cemetery isn’t the only place families can memorialize a loved one, especially for those who chose cremation. For instance, a loved one’s cremated remains can be placed in a memorial rock and displayed in a beautiful garden in the family’s backyard. A family could also have a memorial cremation bench designed to be placed under a tree in a local park.

What if the family insists on scattering? I won’t spend time explaining why scattering is less than ideal. If they can’t be swayed, it’s our job, as funeral professionals, to strongly encourage them to include a place of memorialization. It could be an engraved brick on a path at a local school, a bird bath in a community garden or a plaque on a memorial wall in a cemetery. What’s most important is that there is a permanent, public place for people to gather to remember.

When a family is grieving, the last thing on their mind is genealogical research. But it’s up to us to remind them that their loved one’s memorial will have an important impact on future generations. By creating a permanent memorial in a cemetery or a special place of the family’s choosing, they help future family members learn about and honor their ancestors.

Cemeteries are a snapshot of the community’s historical timeline. They are a proud and permanent museum for those who came before us. Much like public records, memorials in a cemetery serve as an important way to track the life of a family, or many families across an entire generation.

If I still have your attention and you are still reading, then you must somewhat agree with me. As a funeral professional, emphasizing permanent memorialization is another component in the way we care for the families we serve. It not only helps the healing process, but it also provides families a place to visit and to share memories for years to come. So add one more thing to the list of details and help the families you serve tell the story of their loved ones’ lives.

Rich Darby is Chief Operating Officer for Trigard and Trigard Memorials. He earned his funeral director license from Southern Illinois University in 1987, and is licensed in Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. His family owns and operates Trigard, Trigard Memorials, Hall of Fame Plaques and Signs, a memorial park and seven funeral homes across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. Email him at RichD@trigard.com.

It all began when two people fell in love

This article originally appeared in Catholic Cemetery magazine.

As the fourth generation of a family in funeral service, I started thinking about my final wishes at an earlier age than most people. As my fiancé and I get ready to be married this summer, I especially appreciate the need to make these plans as a couple. When you find that special someone to spend your life with, it is magical. You do everything together, from getting married and buying a house to having children and traveling the world. You experience the important things together and you make the important decisions together.

As cremation trends rise, so do the number of married couples who choose cremation. When they come to you asking questions, do you have the answers? Unless you educate the couples you serve about their memorialization options, many may choose lower-end products that don’t provide lasting value and won’t help their families begin to heal. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding companion cremation memorialization – and strategies for responding.

I want a traditional burial and my wife wants to be cremated. To be together, do we have to choose the same thing?
Many married couples have different desires for their final disposition, but they still want to be interred near their spouse. Most cemeteries can accommodate this request by placing the cremated remains in an urn vault. Be sure to double check with your state laws and acquire the proper documentation to place their cremated remains in a grave with another individual. Educate couples about the options in their cemetery of choice, and make sure to provide urn vault options with dimensions that will fit in the space available. 

Do we have to put our remains in a cemetery?
A memorial marks a place for family and friends to share memories and honor the life of their loved one. Where that memorial is placed is the family’s choice. You can explain to a couple that when you memorialize your loved one in a cemetery, you mark a public place for people to come and visit. It also helps record your loved one’s history for years to come. However, if you’d also like a private place to share memories and keep a portion of the cremated remains, many companies have created cremation alternatives that can be placed in a garden or in a beautifully landscaped yard, including memorial rocks, memorial benches or bird baths.

If we don’t want to be buried, our family needs to take the urn home or scatter our remains, right?
Scattering seems like a simple solution, but what is a beautiful field now could easily become a supermarket or gas station tomorrow. Many couples simply don’t know their options beyond scattering.

Maybe they have never seen a memorial bench or memorial rock. Take them on a tour of their cemetery of choice to see their options in person. It’s one thing to look at a picture of a memorial rock in a booklet, but another thing to touch and feel one nestled under a tree in a beautifully landscaped cemetery.

All of the bronze memorials I have seen are brown and generic. Do you have anything more personal?
As technology has evolved, the options for bronze memorial personalization have skyrocketed. Many companies are still using the traditional bronze casting to create traditional memorials, but there are an increasing number of more detailed options, including direct-to-metal technology. With this technology, memorial craftsmen can create exact replicas of images in solid bronze, capturing every important detail.

And to add another dimension, families can add color to their bronze memorials. Companies are using state-of-the-art color imaging equipment capable of capturing the exact color of their loved one’s hair or their perfect shade of lipstick.

If we both choose to be cremated, will our remains be together or separate?
Do you explain to couples about comingling remains? Some companion memorialization products include separate chambers for each person, while others have a single chamber. This can be an important distinction for a couple.

Much like a book, a memorial can tell a story of someone’s life. When it is shared with someone you love, it makes it even more special. I encourage you to be a resource for families looking into cremation. Educate yourself about the newest companion cremation options. Go to conventions, read industry publications and ask your suppliers for more ideas. And the next time you’re with a couple interested in cremation, be bold enough to tell them what they need to know.

Ethan Darby is the Director of Business Development for Trigard Memorials and is a member of the Darby family’s fourth generation. His family owns Trigard, Trigard Memorials, a memorial park and seven funeral homes across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona.

Top questions to get more from your supplier

This article originally appeared in Catholic Cemetery magazine.

Are you overwhelmed by the ever changing bronze memorial options that you see in magazines and at conventions? Does it feel easier to stick with what you’ve always done? It is important to stay informed about what is happening in the industry and adapt to the changes, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Your first step is to start asking more from your supplier. To help deepen your relationship, we have compiled a list of the top questions we think every supplier partner should be able to answer and why you should be asking them.

How are you adapting to the needs and wants of consumers?
With today’s technology, bronze memorial suppliers are constantly coming up with new, innovative ways to tell the story of a life well lived. From adding color to interactive elements and tribute sites, memorialization is continuously changing. Ask your supplier how they can satisfy the needs of today’s consumer. 

What are your most popular cremation memorial products?
Cremation has skyrocketed in popularity. And with this rise in popularity, so has the need to educate our families on cremation memorialization. Memorial companies should be changing and adapting their cremation product selection. It is important to ask your supplier partners about these products so you can offer the best to the families you serve.

How much can families be involved in the design process?
Thanks to computers and smartphones, consumers are used to creating full-color images on their own electronic devices. They expect to be able to have that type of hands on experience with memorials as well. Today, families want even more control and input in the design of bronze memorials. Each family wants their loved one’s memorial to have character, passion and personality.

While interactive design software can be exciting for families to use, I think it’s even more important that the actual layout of the memorial is flexible. If a family can only choose from a library of emblems and borders, how much personalization are you really offering? 

What are you plans for the future?
While many suppliers are great order-takers, to continue to grow, you want a partner focused on the future as well. A great supplier wants to see our industry grow and adapt. The best supplier partners understand your need to grow as well - and are ready to help.

If I have a special rush order, can you handle that?
Your supplier’s answer to this question should be yes. You can learn a lot about a company when they are put into a high pressure, fast turn-around situation. If they are still able to do their best work, you know you are working with a good partner.

Are any members of your company involved with any industry organizations? If so, which ones?
It’s easy to work in a silo, only focused on your own business. Great supplier partners are connected to many organizations in our industry and connect you to the resources and expertise available.

If I have a problem, can I talk to an owner?
In the corporate atmosphere, it can be impossible to talk to an actual owner on the telephone. Some companies have a board of directors and are owned by stockholders. Others have layers of bureaucracy. A smaller company is often more nimble and more focused on your success as a customer. And the owners are often more involved in the day-to-day operations.

What experience do you have beyond memorials?
Of course you want your supplier to be an expert in manufacturing processes and efficiencies. Most suppliers will also give you supplemental information about sales strategies or memorial maintenance. But how much do they really understand about what you do every day? If you can find a supplier who has direct experience serving families, you can feel confident that the tools they share will work for you. If a supplier has experience on the same level as you, you know they are knowledgeable about the cemetery grounds that you work in every day. 

If your current supplier is continuously educating you and supplying you with new information, you are in a great position. But, if you think you need to start asking more questions, give them a call today. If they are hesitant to learning new things or about giving you what you need, I encourage you to go to conventions to meet other companies that might be great additions to your existing products. There are businesses that thrive on what technology can bring the bronze memorial industry and would love to teach you more about how you can help families bring personalization to their memorials.  
­Ethan Darby is the Director of Business Development for Trigard Memorials and is a member of the Darby family’s fourth generation. His family owns Trigard, Trigard Memorials, a memorial park and seven funeral homes across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Top 3 most requested resources

We often receive requests from our dealers for different resources, so we decided to compile a list of the "Top 3 most requested resources."

Order forms are a big part of the communication process between you and our graphic designers. Every year, we update our order forms to enhance your ordering experience. You can find the most recent version of our order forms in the dealer resources section of our website.

How do you explain the options and styles of memorials you offer the families you serve? Our product literature clearly spells out options, styles, fonts and so much more. Call to request copies of our product literature. Or if you can't wait, you can download a PDF preview straight from our website.

Are you designing a new website? Call Customer Service at 800.798.4900 to order a printed CD of images to help enhance the look of your website.

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 17, 2014

Protect yourself from identity theft

Brodie Krause,
IT Manager
Another day, another data breach. News broke earlier this month of a data breach at Home Depot, resulting in stolen credit card information and personal data. In response, Home Depot has begun offering a year of free identity protection and insurance through AllClear ID.

Services like AllClear ID  and ProtectMyID.com actively scan for threats to your identity's security.  As a member, you receive:
  • Monthly reports of the status of your identity
  • Immediate alerts if any questionable activity shows up
  • Assessment tools to help to determine your level of risk
  • “Lost Wallet” services to help in the event your wallet is lost or stolen
Beyond this, make sure you are following extra measures to keep your online footprint secure. Utilize a password manager program to break the habit of using the same password at every site. I prefer a program called KeePass, which is free and installs on your computer. Most email and social network sites now offer two-factor authentication, which is currently the best way to prevent a hacker from getting into your accounts should they acquire your password.

Take the security of your identity seriously. At this point it isn’t a question of "if" your identity will be compromised, it’s “when.” So make use of all the tools available and educate yourself on how to stay secure.

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.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

3 things every new grounds crew member should know

Patrick Lewis,
Grounds Maintenance,
Sunset Memorial Park
When you add a new person to your cemetery grounds crew, there's a lot to teach. Most of the time they will be coming from another industry. So, where do you start?

I always start training by walking them around the cemetery to allow them to get a feel for where they will be spending most of their work days. It is important that every grounds crew member knows their way around the cemetery and can find the lots and sections.

Obviously, we discuss cemetery maintenance and what to look out for when mowing. I train my team to keep their eyes open for markers that are too high or too low. If the marker is too high and we run it over with the mower, it can damage the marker and our mower. If the marker is too low, the mower wheel can sink down with the marker and scalp the grass.

Lastly, I teach about our culture, insisting that we are always friendly and respectful. We help cemetery visitors who look lost to find their way around. And, when we see someone grieving, we give them their privacy.

What else is on your new staff training list? Email your ideas to marketing@trigard.com. You may see them in a future newsletter.  

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.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Help overwhelmed families find value

Karen Darby-Ritz,
Advance Planning Manager,
Camino del Sol Funeral Chapel &
Cremation Center
Our industry is constantly changing, and while some say, "it's about time," others are worried about the direction the change might go.
  The first step in accepting the challenge of our ever-changing industry is education. The families we serve are constantly being overwhelmed with information given to them. Today, the tendency to compare apples to oranges is so prevalent, that many families might overlook a great value when sifting through their information overload. It's our job to break it down for them so they understand the value they are receiving.

Memorialization has so many facets, no matter if it's a traditional burial or a cremation. The choices families have are only limited by their imaginations. It is important they are aware of their choices and the value they each bring. And, by educating them, we can help increase awareness of the importance of memorialization.

Be the change that you'd like to see in our industry. 

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.