Hickton’s choice on direct cremation

Hickton Family Funerals

When Hickton Family Funeral Directors discovered a new Diamond Partnership crematorium offering a better direct cremation service, they were keen to let clients benefit by highlighting the service in their new marketing strategy.

Ross Hickton, Managing Director at the firm, which has funeral homes across the West Midlands, explained: “Direct cremation equates to approximately eight percent of our total funerals every year.

“Although it’s not a massive part of our business, it’s a key part of the sector. People arranging a loved one’s funeral often ask for direct cremation because the deceased chose it, not because they have financial worries. And in many cases they simply intend to have a different celebration of their loved one’s life.”

Until recently, Hickton Family Funerals used a local council-owned crematorium for direct cremation. However, the Diamond Partnership between SAIF, Westerleigh Group and Distinct Cremations opened up the option of a crematorium approximately 15 minutes from the firm’s head office.

“Among other things, the cost is much more reasonable,” said Ross. “That makes choosing it a no-brainer. We’ve passed the savings on to families and reduced the cost of an unattended funeral by 25%.”


This change coincides with the firm’s evolving marketing strategy. Ross said: “We’d previously asked Trident Marketing to look after our social media. We had Facebook and Instagram accounts, but didn’t operate a set schedule. Now, the Trident team come up with a plan for each month and we have posts every few days highlighting our services and sharing testimonials. Obviously, it made sense to promote this new Diamond Partnership service through our social media channels. At the same time, we added a new direct cremation web page to our website.”

In addition, late last year, Ross reviewed the company ad spend in local newspapers and discovered they were paying good money for very little exposure – the papers were delivered to very few homes. “I decided to redirect that spend to our social media and website. Obviously, you get greater exposure with the online market and a much wider spread of ages and people. Online is the future and it’s working for us.”

As Carl Beswick of Trident Marketing explained, unlike some companies who flooded the market, they opted for a judicious approach. “We highlight the professionalism and extra touches provided by independent funeral directors. Those qualities and skill sets make the difference. Families might arrive with a specific idea for their loved one’s funeral. But after speaking to Ross and his colleagues they walk away with a different thought process and new options.”

The content Trident produces generates feedback. “We act on that. All the activity we do ties together, for example social media posts can link to news stories or a website update. And, as well as taking into account what’s prevalent at the time of year, we fluctuate the timing of posts to make sure they are relevant.

“If Ross lets us know a service is sluggish, we can react quickly and immediately promote it more energetically. Printed media take time to produce and once an ad is printed it can’t be refined or changed. We can be responsive to evolving trends and situations. We’re continually increasing brand awareness, so when people need a funeral director they think of Hickton Family Funeral Directors.

“Ultimately, using social media and having a digital presence can bring superb advantages; it offers great reach and it is measurable. The data we can generate is invaluable to businesses.”

Better informed

For his part, Ross believes digital media makes for better informed clients. “They check our website and packages before coming to see us. If they are thinking about direct cremation, we can give the full facts. Occasionally, when they find out they won’t be able to attend and the coffin will be taken in a suitable vehicle, such as a van, to the crematorium in the early morning, they have second thoughts and opt for a simple, attended funeral.”

“It’s good to connect to our communities through social media. And it’s ideal when families are feeling vulnerable and not ready to call us or speak face to face. Instead, they can send private messages on Facebook or Instagram. We’re providing that little extra to help clients.”

He pointed out that the current biggest player in the direct cremation market spends a great deal of money on advertising but uses a crematorium in Andover. “If you’re in the Midlands, like we are, that’s a three hour drive. Families opting for an unattended funeral may not know the cremation will occur hundreds of miles away. Whereas we can guarantee a loved one’s cremation will be local. We book the date and time as well as letting them know when it’s taking place.

“If I were to give advice to fellow SAIF members, I’d say make sure that when you publicise direct cremation, emphasise the local aspects of what you do. Because nothing beats the service provided by a local independent funeral director.”

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