After 35 years’ agri-engineering success, and achievement of a royal warrant, BK Grain Handling Engineers (‘BK’) was a highly respected company. However, the family business was transitioning between generations and heavily dependent on traditional agricultural customers. Major change was needed to promote BK’s many skills to a wider market. And to reduce the seasonality of the business. That’s where Swindon-based Matt Wheeler and Firestarter Marketing Services came to the rescue with strategy and practical marketing support…
BK Grain’s Simon Bird: ‘In mid-2016, we still had our original ‘brochure’ website. It was a very basic static site, focused entirely on grain handling. It didn’t promote the full range of skills and experience we’d developed over 35 years. We knew the ‘modern BK’ needed a new strategy and website to reach new markets, but we didn’t have the time or specialist skills to do what we knew was critical for continued success. However, we knew of Matt and that he “did websites”. So we met, liked Firestarter’s approach and hired them. In a few months, Firestarter and their digital-agency partner Swimming Hippo transformed our online presence and set us up for the future.’
“We knew the ‘modern BK’ needed a new strategy and website to reach new markets, but we didn’t have the time or specialist skills to do what we knew was critical for continued success.”
An enviable reputation
Since 1981, BK had built an enviable reputation for agricultural-engineering, with clients include Chipping Norton’s Great Tew Estate and the royal Windsor Estate. Project values, for agriculture’s most demanding customers, regularly exceed £1m. Historically, business came via word of mouth, without needing a sophisticated website or other technology.
However, the agri-engineering focus of BK’s existing site was clearly inadequate for the future. Not least because it didn’t promote their other highly-transferable services (including planning, project management, fabrication, Design & Build, NEBOSH Health & Safety, electrical installation and servicing) to new markets. Despite being a household name in British agriculture, BK Grain remained virtually invisible to prospective clients in other industries. Even if they found the website, it was about agricultural applications – not BK’s ability to use their skill elsewhere. Therein lay Firestarter’s challenge.
The need to engage with new markets
Simon Bird again: ‘In mid-2016 we prioritised a new website, supported by independent strategic input and marketing initiatives. The new site had to attract web traffic from new audiences that needed what we offer, but wouldn’t instinctively consider ‘agri-engineers’. It also had to reduce the seasonality of our business.’
Matt Wheeler takes up the story: ‘The existing website was unsophisticated, with limited functionality and messaging that didn’t reflect the new strategy. We recommended that, together with our digital agency, Swimming Hippo, we completely redevelop the site. The revamp would include responsive website architecture, new content, BK’s excellent customer testimonials and a user-friendly content management system (CMS). A key part of our brief was to quickly and clearly demonstrate BK’s range of services. And to optimise the site for organic web search when prospects in targeted sectors seek their services. Other priorities included showcasing a portfolio of projects and the associated transferable capabilities, and combining BK’s images with fresh copywriting.’
Firestarter’s approachability and ability to deliver
Simon Bird’s reasons for going with Firestarter? ‘As well as being impressed by other projects he’d delivered, we saw that Firestarter offers much more than just websites. They’re an accomplished, respected provider of complete outsourced marketing services ranging from strategy to targeted email campaigns. We quickly saw how they could free us from the specialist marketing work that we hadn’t time or skills for – but urgently needed.’
Matt, Firestarter and Swimming Hippo ‘clicked’ immediately with the BK team. ‘It was easy working with them,’ says Bird, ‘especially when they spent several weeks at our office. After briefing Matt, we gave him loads of source material and let him get on with organising it.
‘It was as if a huge weight lifted; we could work on our business, knowing Matt was doing what had to be done for our strategy and website.’
Elaborating on Firestarter’s differentiators, Simon Bird highlights their approachability, ability to deliver deliverables with well-reasoned foundations and strong impact. ‘The “wow!” moment was when Matt revealed the website. Suddenly, we saw how, in a few weeks, our briefing and mass of source material had been transformed into our new site. His ability to embed himself in our organisation and quickly organise disparate material into a powerful business tool – without glitches – was particularly impressive.’
A fast, responsive, future-proof website
Matt Wheeler again: ‘BK’s original site didn’t reflect their diverse service offer, proven ability to deliver high-value projects to tight deadlines, and their value to customers. The latest website technology and Swimming Hippo’s expertise gave BK a fast, responsive, future-proof site that effectively communicates their services, sales message and customer benefits on various platforms and can easily be updated.
Since completing BK’s first-phase go-live deadline in December 2016, website traffic is up. Starting from such a low base – 10 visits a day was “busy” on the old site – we expect impressive growth driven by strong search engine optimisation (SEO), Google Analytics integration, Pay-Per-Click and tactical email marketing as Phase 2 runs into 2018.’
Expanding beyond agri-engineering
As well as talking to BK’s traditional audience, the new site is designed to engage web-savvy prospects in other industries.
With the site able to attract the new enquiries BK want, Simon Bird and his team look forward to it helping them grow the business.Matt Wheeler again: ‘We delivered an engaging, technically robust website that’s scalable and easily updated by BK – so they can make changes quickly without being dependent on someone else. The site’s structure and content clearly shows BK’s capabilities, highlights customer benefits and supports engagement with the new markets where it can offer so much.’
The benefit of outsourced marketing
Alongside effective strategy, tactics, technical solutions and practical marketing, there’s another important benefit from outsourcing marketing and strategy to specialists like Firestarter. As BK discovered, it frees them from struggling with unfamiliar specialised activities. It brings a priceless independent perspective too. As Simon Bird says: ‘Firestarter got on with what they do well, while we did the same. As a result, they met our launch target in just four months.’
‘We had to move fast,’ explains Wheeler, ‘but because of our strategic partnership with Swimming Hippo, I can brief them and let them deploy their development and design skills. After working closely for years, we’ve a fine-tuned creative methodology, whereby I liaise between them and my clients. The relationship’s strength comes into its own when time is tight, as with BK Grain. We bring business understanding, strategic skills, account handling and finely-honed briefing skills; Swimming Hippo complements this with fast delivery of high-quality design, robust website architecture and technical aspects of ongoing site maintenance.’
Everything went very smoothly
The collaboration made it easy for BK to benefit from the tailored package of strategy and online marketing that they needed – and probably wouldn’t have achieved on their own. Matt Wheeler continues: ‘Yet again, Swimming Hippo’s support meant we could confidently offer an enhanced service. I particularly value how they aren’t just ‘web designers’, but proactively contribute to strategy. Our relationship exemplifies great teamwork and synergistic outsourcing in practice, so clients like BK benefit from a wider skillset.’
Surely, design, development and population of the website must have had glitches. Simon Bird says not: ‘That’s probably down to how long Matt spent with us, his incisive fact-finding and the close collaboration that resulted from the trust he inspires. I can honestly say there were no issues or teething troubles; the site simply does what we want. Now we’re looking forward to it helping us grow the business. The built-in scalability and flexibility that our old site lacked will be essential as we add more products, services and market coverage. Previously, we couldn’t add content ourselves; now, the user-friendly content management system makes it fast and easy.’
Positive reactions to the new website
As the new website works hard, how have BK’s stakeholders responded? ‘Very positively,’ says Simon Bird. ‘We respect how things were done before. But we also understand that a new generation of agricultural managers – and decision makers in other industries – instinctively go online. At last, we’ve embraced this. As the site gains traction, Firestarter will help us roll out support initiatives such as email marketing. With 22 employees to keep productive, we must reduce the business’s seasonality and attract more enquiries from outside agriculture. Because the site is backed by Matt’s strategy and tactical marketing work, I’m optimistic.’
Would Simon Bird recommend Matt Wheeler and Firestarter Marketing Services? ‘Definitely! He delivered everything we wanted and he promised. And he took away the things we knew we had to do, yet never got around to doing. We’re sold on outsourced marketing’s cost-effectiveness and look forward to working together into the future. Matt and his team are so easy to get on with and pass work to; you can trust them implicitly to do what’s agreed, add value and free you for more of what you do best – in our case, fabrication, Design & Build, Health & Safety, electrical installation and servicing.
‘We’re sold on outsourced marketing’s cost-effectiveness and look forward to working together into the future.’
Setting BK Grain up for another 35 years’ success
Matt and Firestarter Marketing have brought BK’s brightly shining light out from under its bushel. Now, a wider range of prospects than ever will benefit from what the Wiltshire business offers. With the new strategy, website and support activities, Firestarter created and lit the touch paper to BK’s ongoing prosperity.
BK’s first 35 years was built on serving agriculture. Now, British agri-engineering’s best-kept secret is set to reach a potentially unlimited world of new engineering and industrial opportunities.