Friday, October 17, 2014

Find new uses for your miniature samples

This article originally appeared in the August issue of NCBVA's The Bulletin.

It might be difficult, but it’s time to step away from miniature vault samples. I have talked to many experienced funeral professionals who insist that miniatures work for them; it’s what they’ve always used to help families make arrangements. But the families that make funeral arrangements today are not the same as the people who made arrangements twenty, ten or even five years ago.

Using outdated selection room tools, like miniatures, puts your funeral home customers at a major disadvantage. While they may be used to miniatures, familiarity doesn’t make them the best tools for the job. My old flip phone worked just fine when I traded it in, but I still let it go. It did everything I needed it to, but I wanted to be able to do even more with my phone. It was time to get a current model. The same goes for these selection room tools.

If your customers are still arranging with an outdated display, it’s as if they’re using an old flip phone. Technically it might work, but it would be so much easier if they used the current model.
I know you might be thinking about the money you’ve already spent? I understand that you likely made a significant financial investment in miniatures for your customers. Or maybe you asked them to have some “skin in the game” and share costs. Either way, it’s easy to look at a wall of miniatures and see a big check for $3,000—or more—that you’re not willing to throw away.

Instead of replacing an existing customer’s miniatures, start upgrading when you acquire a new funeral home customer. Don’t offer a new customer old solutions. Give them something new to set them apart from their competitors. Bringing them new sales tools for the selection room is part of the value that you can bring to them as a supplier. No new customers on the horizon for you? Maybe one of your existing customers is planning to renovate. Instead of moving the old miniature samples, design a new display specifically for the new layout of their selection room.

But remember, the upgrade doesn’t end once you have new materials in place (and the miniatures are out). Continual training is required to make any change stick. Imagine if you got your new phone, you spent a few minutes with the guy at the store, and that was it. No access to tips, manuals or someone to ask for help. You’d instinctively look for the same buttons that were on your flip phone, but when they’re not on your new device, you’d likely get frustrated very quickly. It wouldn’t take long for you to start hating the new phone, and you’d wonder why you upgraded in the first place.

The same goes for new displays. Whether the new selection room tools are videos, wall displays, interactive software, touch screens or digital catalogs, if you aren’t providing continual training for your customers, they’re going to start getting frustrated and longing for their old miniatures.
What if you aren’t ready to provide that kind of selection room and arranger training? What if you feel like you’re too busy in the vault plant pouring to spend time answering questions about the selection room? Ask your supplier for help. Just like your customers depend on you, you must be able to depend on your supplier for support and solutions.

Now how will you know if the transition is successful? You’ll know when you start seeing your customer’s average vault sale increase, and your customer should see it too. Reach out to congratulate them, and then ask if you can share their story with your other customers. Once one customer experiences success with new display systems, it easily begins to snowball. Then you can start working to upgrade your existing customers, sharing concrete data about the benefits of modern selection room tools. And that’s when you can start moving out the miniatures.

We are on a campaign to find new uses for miniatures. I’ve joked about turning them into flower boxes or donating them to dog parks as water bowls. But could they be used for something else? I’d love to hear your ideas. Because once we all start moving the miniatures out of selection rooms, we’re going to have a surplus of them.

Julia Sullivan is Creative Director for Trigard and Trigard Memorials. She has more than thirteen years of marketing and public relations experience. Email her at

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