Monday, September 29, 2014

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.

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