By Holly Case
Any business knows that customers are more loyal and feel appreciated when you personalize their buying experience to them, but customizing your sales materials to each customer can be time-consuming and inefficient. Aurora Casket realized that it needed a custom way to show potential customers how they could help them.
The Aurora Casket Company has built caskets in downtown Aurora, Ind., since the company’s founding in 1890. For more than 100 years, the business has sold its continually expanding product line (which now includes urns and cremation products, memory keepsakes, ceremony planning services, and memorials) to funeral homes nationwide.
And while times and the tools used for doing business have changed in the past century, the funeral services and supplies industry, of which Aurora Casket is a part, is considered to be conservative. Businesses within the industry have not necessarily embraced change rapidly, especially in identifying how technology applications can positively affect marketing and sales efforts.
Aurora Casket’s marketing department knew that the company’s funeral home customers across diverse local markets did not always have the same availability of items to purchase in stock. They needed a way to create catalogs of available product offerings for different funeral homes in different markets.
“It was difficult for our marketing department to create printed sales catalogs that supported disparate local inventory. When we created national catalogs, we found ourselves putting ‘not available’ decals on products to reflect local inventory. Or, worse yet, simply not using the [promotional] pieces we created,” says Marty Strohofer, Aurora’s vice president of marketing and product development.
The company tried to compensate for this problem, but the low-technology methods it used at first created as many problems as it solved. The first effort to address this problem required marketing employees to prepare image binders with 8.5-inch-by-11-inch pictures of caskets. When Aurora’s business-to-business customers ordered image binders, the marketing staff would choose images from a database of more than 4,000 potential caskets and compile the images with description pages and a unique table of contents.
Not surprisingly, this process was inefficient and time-consuming. Marketing employees were spending so much time creating product binders that it diverted from cultivating new sales. “Creating ‘one-off’ customer product catalogs or presentation guides took a great deal of time and effort,” Strohofer says.
Yet in keeping with the values of the company’s founder, Aurora had always tried to personalize solutions for its customers. “We wanted to empower our sales professionals to create tailored product catalogs for our customers,” says Strohofer. But how to do this efficiently?
Strohofer and Aurora Casket staff met with Winn Adams, a sales executive with Prograde (a limited liability corporation of The F.P. Horak Company), a West Chester, Ohio-based company that engineers e-commerce and print solutions. It didn’t take long for Strohofer to see that a web-ordering site would save Aurora time, effort, and money—and provide the personalized approach it wanted for its customers. Working with Prograde, Aurora implemented a web-based platform that allowed the company to truly customize materials for each customer. Custom programming enabled users to complete the order process through a seamless interface between the Prograde site and Aurora’s system, ensuring that specific caskets advertised as being in inventory were available in a funeral home’s region.
“Now, using the web-to-print platform, we have empowered our sales reps to configure and order custom-tailored catalogs or presentation guides as they need them,” says Strohofer. “The team at Prograde partnered with us to create an interface-to-inventory system so that our reps could have an easy-to-use, self-service method for creating these high-impact sales tools.”
After adopting the new system, Aurora Casket found that it was able to provide personalized attention to detail for each client in a much more streamlined manner, eliminating much of the waste and inefficiency in the old model.
“We have provided new marketing and sales tools that help our representatives and customers succeed. We are continuing to explore new ways to leverage the platform and partnership we’ve created with Prograde,” says Strohofer.
Adopting the web-to-print platform has been so successful for Aurora Casket that the company warmed up to considering new ways that technology can improve its business. For example, Strohofer says, “We are evaluating new mobile and tablet-based presentation tools and additional point-of-sale displays.”
Even well-established businesses in traditionally conservative industries can benefit from the ways that technology can make sales and marketing operations more efficient. Aurora Casket has moved its business efficiency into the future while holding on to the values that built the company’s reputation for success through the past century.
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