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11 Things We Learned At This Year’s ICCFA Convention

Apr 14, 2017

This week, the
ASD team traveled to Nashville to attend the International Cemetery, Cremation
and Funeral Association’s Convention and Expo. It was so delightful to spend quality time with everyone
attending the convention. We also loved exploring “the city that music calls
home”, seeing the latest trends in our profession and listening to the insightful
Click here to see photos from our time in Nashville.

gained some wonderful insights this year from the funeral professionals in
attendance, other vendors, the wonderful keynote speakers and our own team.
From great lessons to humorous simple truths, there was much to discover at the
nation’s second largest gathering of funeral professionals. Since there were 11
ASD team members at the ICCFA Convention and we were exhibiting in Booth #1111,
we thought it would be fitting for us to share 11 things we learned at this
year’s ICCFA Convention.

1. Helping Beats Selling

There was a
wealth of great marketing information shared by Keynote Speaker,
, but our favorite takeaway was the importance of funeral homes
“showing their soul.” Kelly explained that “doing good is the new cool” and how
funeral directors should take every opportunity to show how they help their
community. She also emphasized how demonstrating a genuine desire to help
others can allow funeral directors to market their firm without relying on
sales strategies or persuasion.
“If you help me, you don’t have to sell me,”
Kelly explained.

So how exactly
does a funeral home
“show its soul?” Kelly gave several examples of different
techniques that can help with this. First and foremost, directors should
spotlight any acts of goodwill that help those in their area. Second, funeral
homes should
“foster a culture of empathy” by hiring caring and compassionate
individuals, even if that means recruiting from outside of your pond. Finally,
Kelly stressed the importance of showing your human side in marketing efforts. Forget
airbrushed models and stock photos: it is has been proven much more effective
to show people as they truly are and to be authentic.

Kelly McDonald addressing ICCFA attendees

2. Many Funeral Professionals Are Still
Unfamiliar With ASD’s Patched Call Recordings Feature

biggest lesson we learned at our booth this year was how many of our clients
still have no idea that
ASD records calls that are patched directly to their staff. Sharing this information with ICCFA attendees gave us an opportunity to
explain the different ways this feature can help funeral homes to better handle
shopper calls. When one of our Call Specialists handles a shopper call, we
can connect the caller to the on-call director, ensuring that they do not hang
up and call a different funeral home.
The call will continue to record after our Call Specialists
hangs up
, giving funeral home owners the chance to review their
staff’s telephone performance on these challenging calls. In addition to
listening to recordings of calls that are patched directly to the staff,
funeral home owners can also instruct their employees to call family members
using ASD’s
MobileFH® app
feature, which ensures that the call will be recorded. Using our
Patched Call Recordings to review
your staff’s shopper calls can help you to refine the skills of your employees,
connect with more shoppers, and grow your business

had an opportunity to demo this feature to directors in attendance. Many
remarked that they had no idea why we had added the ‘Patched’ section to our
message mailbox and were surprised to learn their calls with families could
also be recorded by ASD. Whether you use this tool to evaluate the communication
skills of your staff or simply because you want a recorded log of your
conversation with a family member, it can provide a great deal of peace of mind
and added control. To learn more about this feature,
click here or email

3. Broadway is Better With Funeral Directors

Nashville at night is an experience like no other, and we could imagine no
better company than the funeral professionals who joined us for some wonderful
nights out on the town. Despite the cold wind outside, funeral directors came
to Nashville ready to have a good time. From
Matt Fiorelli from Ballard Durand
Funeral Home
sharing adorable photos of his Therapy Dog, Lulu, cuddling with
his newborn baby girl, to Funeral Director,
Andy Lopez, performing a rocking
Elvis Presley cover, to
Tom Frisch from Vertin Family Funeral Homes dancing the
two-step, we had so much fun out on the town with funeral directors. So much of ASD’s interaction with our clients is
over the phone, so nights like this are very special to us because they give us
a chance to really get to know the incredible funeral professionals we are
privileged to serve.

ASD Operations Manager, Jennie Brown, Tom Frisch from Vertin Family Funeral Homes, Michael Mims from Cherokee Caskets and ASD Lead Creative Designer, Juan Silva, hanging out at the Second Fiddle on Broadway.

4. There Are 3 Distinct Types of Procrastination

One of the most
interesting things we heard during the ICCFA Convention came from Keynote
Rory Vaden, whose dynamic presentation “Take the Stairs” explored
procrastination in its many forms. Before listening to Rory, we never realized
how procrastination can affect people on a unconscious level. Rory explained
how costly procrastination could be to both our personal and professional
lives, explaining that
“successful people form the habit of doing things they
know they should be doing, even when they don’t feel like it.”
He then detailed
the three different types of procrastination:

  • Classic procrastination: Consciously delaying that which must be
  • Creative avoidance: Unconsciously filling the day with
    menial work. Rory described this as,
    “you’re busy trying to look busy.”
  • Priority Dilution: The type of procrastination that
    affects leaders and managers. It is defined by
    “unconsciously delaying what
    needs to be done by allowing your attention to shift to other tasks and always
    falling victim to what is the loudest.”

Rory then
provided several techniques and solutions for dealing with procrastination,
which we will detail later in this blog post.

Keynote Speaker, Rory Vaden, addressing ICCFA Attendees

5. Misinformation Can Often Lead to Unnecessary
Pain for Veteran Families

One of the most
interesting conversations we had during the ICCFA Convention was with a
representative from the Department of Defense who shared with us some
interesting information about veteran funeral honors. There is a great deal of
incorrect information circulating throughout the country in regards to what
benefits veterans are entitled to and how things should be handled when a
veteran passes away. Veteran families often do not know or understand what
benefits they should receive and in some cases, they don’t discover until after
the burial has taken place that their loved one should have received military
honors. We were fascinated to learn just
how complicated this issue is and how many funeral homes were simply misinformed
on a local or state level. We encourage you to
click here to visit the
Department of Defense’s official website for accurate and up-to-date
information on military funeral honors.

6. Our Clients Solutions Supervisor,
Anne O’Reilly, is a Vocal Powerhouse

You think you
know your colleagues, but you can learn new things about them at any time. Many
of us on the ASD team have never heard our Client Solutions Supervisor,
Anne O’Reilly, sing live before. Hearing her soaring voice for the first time at a
karaoke bar in Nashville was a truly memorable and incredible thing to witness.
We know if Gretchen Wilson were in the bar that night she would have been
thrilled to hear Anne covering her song so phenomenally.

7. Leveraging a Long-Term Vision Makes
It Easier To Endure Short-Term Consequences

We promised we
would share some of
Rory Vaden’s tips for dealing with procrastination habits,
so we probably shouldn’t put it off any longer 🙂 . When studying the three different
types of procrastination, one thing becomes clear. So much of the reason why
procrastination occurs is because it is not the task itself that is hard, but
the thought process leading up to it. Rory explained,
“easy, short-term choices
lead to long-term consequences” whereas “difficult short-term choices lead to
easy long-term consequences.”

Rory used a
great metaphor to illustrate this idea. He explained how during a bad storm,
cows will try to outrun the storm and will actually end up spending more time
in it than they would have otherwise. Buffalo, on the other hand, will charge
straight into the storm, reducing the amount of time they have to spend in it.
It is better to charge into the storm than try to ignore or avoid it, in the
long run. Rory explained how the emotional energy we use to make a decision is
what leads to a great deal of procrastination. It is not the action itself that
we dread but the emotions associated with decision making.

Unlike cows, buffalos understand that moving toward a storm will shorten the amount of time they must spend dealing with it.

8. Mass Is Out, Customization Is In

Kelly McDonald’s keynote address focused on customizing your approach
when working with different demographics and segments of the population. Kelly
emphasized how race and religion are only two factors to consider. Funeral
directors must also take into account the person’s gender, political beliefs,
generational differences, sexual orientation, physical abilities, rural vs
metro and other forms of diversity. She recommended that funeral directors
study consumer insights to better determine how to market their services to
different demographics.

“Customize your
approach depending on who you are serving,” Kelly stated. “Not everyone wants
the same thing. Customization lifts business and ignites passions.”
Kelly used
the differences between men and women as an example of this. She explained how
women like to know all their options and feel empowered by a lot of choices.
Conversely, men want choices simplified and the magic number for marketing to
men is three, i.e. “these are our three most popular packages.” She recommended
exploring all of the different ways to tailor your services to meet the
specific needs of each demographic.

Kelly cautioned ICCFA attendees to avoid trying to fit a square peg into a round hole when working with diverse customers.

9. Nashville is Truly Beautiful and
Vibrant City

Traveling to
different funeral home conventions gives us the opportunity to get a glimpse of
the city culture and what makes it so special. It’s hard to pick just one thing
we love about Nashville. The music scene is incredible – even on a cold and
windy weeknight, you will have an opportunity to hear dozens of incredible
music acts along Broadway performing in legendary venues, honky tonks and every
other type of atmosphere you’re looking for. Nashville is also where classic
meets contemporary. The cityscape features both beautifully preserved historic
buildings and ultra-modern architecture.

But if we had
to pick our favorite thing about the city, it would have to be the people. Everyone, from restaurant waiters to uber
drivers to hotel staff, was friendly and welcoming. We were constantly asked
where we were from and what we thought of Nashville. Little things, like the
barista at
Bongo Coffee making us some beautiful latte art to the maître de at
Giovanni’s allowing our Sales Executive, Vince Melograno, to play a song on the
restaurant’s grand piano, made the trip very special for the ASD. Thank you Nashville
for being a wonderful host city!

10. Don’t Be A ‘Should Head’

Rory Vaden’s
keynote address concluded with an examination of the questions we ask ourselves
internally when making a decision. Rory argued that procrastination occurs most
often when we don’t ask ourselves the right questions. Rather than considering
if you “should” do something, retrain your brain to ask, “how can I do that?”
Rory stressed that a neutral attitude always becomes negative. The answer will
always be ‘no’ when the question begins with ‘should I?’ because you are giving
yourself that option. He stated that to avoid becoming a ‘should head’, try to internally
create the question ‘how’ so that you don’t automatically and unconsciously
default to ‘should.’

Keynote Speaker, Rory Vaden, addressing ICCFA Attendees.

11. Under No Circumstances Should ASD
Family-Member Owner, Kevin Czachor, Ever Be Allowed To Sing In Public

We don’t have
words to describe what it was like to hear our Family-Member Owner,
, singing Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like A Wolf” on the karaoke stage in
Nashville. Comparisons to Animal on the Muppets and Cookie Monster on Sesame
Street are too kind. Although Kevin’s performance was truly awful, it’s a great
example of why he’s such a great boss. Even in Nashville, you would have a hard
time finding someone who is admittedly tone deaf and still willing to sing
publically just to make their staff happy. The memory of Kevin’s performance
will keep us laughing for many years to come.

Thank you so
much to everyone who spent time with ASD during the 2017 ICCFA Convention. We
appreciate you and look forward to seeing you next year!

About The Author

Jess Farren (Fowler)

Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at

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