In 2016, BK Grain Handling Engineers celebrated 35 successful years supporting British agriculture.

They do this with services ranging from fabrication to turnkey design and build of massive agricultural facilities — they’d even achieved a Royal Warrant. Despite their success in agri-engineering, BK now faced the challenge of promoting its services to new markets. That’s when they hired Matt Wheeler and Firestarter Marketing Services to help with strategy and marketing, and through them, digital agency Swimming Hippo…

BK sales director, Simon Bird sets the scene: ‘We knew Matt and Firestarter, and trusted his choice of web design and development partner — Swimming Hippo. Together, they’ve transformed our online presence.’

Since 1981, BK had built an enviable reputation for agricultural-engineering on structures across the UK. Historically, business came via word of mouth, without needing a sophisticated website or other technology.

We had a basic, inadequate, old website The Wiltshire based agri-engineers had an old website, but they admit that it was a very basic static brochure site. And it was inadequate for the next phase of the BK success story. Simon Bird again: ‘It focused on grain handling and didn’t promote our other highly-marketable services. They’re perfect for wider industrial application and include planning, project management, fabrication, Design & Build, NEBOSH Health & Safety, electrical installation and servicing. We do complete million-pound agriengineering projects for some of agriculture’s most demanding customers.’

Firestarter and Swimming Hippo’s challenge was to help BK promote these services to new audiences that wouldn’t instinctively look to ‘agri-engineers’. And reduce the seasonality of BK’s business.

The web development challenge

The existing brochure site was unsophisticated. It had limited functionality and a message that didn’t reflect BK’s new strategy. On Firestarter’s recommendation, BK entrusted Swimming Hippo with completely redeveloping the site. It was a complete makeover, using responsive site architecture, new images, new copy, BK’s excellent customer testimonials and an easy-to-use content management system (CMS). Swimming Hippo’s Joe Hirst explains: ‘A key part of the 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 BK’s services.’

BK built its business on agri-engineering. Projects range from minor fabrication to turnkey projects valued at more than £1m. The jobs are often for massive grain handling facilities, such as Chipping Norton’s Great Taw Estate or at the royal Windsor estate. Showcasing a portfolio of projects, the transferable services associated with them, and combining BK’s images with fresh copywriting was a priority.

A fast, responsive, future-proofed website

Joe Hirst again: ‘The original website didn’t do justice to BK’s capabilities, their ability to deliver high-value projects to tight deadlines, and the value to customers. Using the latest website technology and with Matt’s clear brief, we’ve given BK a fast, responsive, future-proofed website. Prospects can visit on various devices and be sure of getting BK’s sales message. BK can easily add content with the site’s easy-to-use CMS, so they aren’t dependent on others to do this. Above all, the clear, visually engaging site quickly demonstrates BK’s services and the benefits of working with them.’

Part of Firestarter’s brief was to develop new business and marketing strategies. And a tactical marketing programme, including email marketing and e-newsletters targeting specific new markets. As well as being BK’s main project showcase, the new website integrates with their inbound and outbound marketing. Historically, agriculture hasn’t been an early-adopter of web technology, However, this is changing and the new website will engage with agriculture. Importantly, its real strength will be engagement with buyers in other industries — prospects whose first action, when seeking services, is to look online. Hence the importance of Swimming Hippo’s work on the site’s on- and off-site optimisation and Google Analytics integration.

The Evesham-based digital agency was a perfect choice. As well as being a trusted partner of Firestarter, the company, founded in 2001, is experienced at digital marketing strategy, web design and development. Joe Hirst: ‘We started from a low base — 10 visits a day was ‘busy’ on the old site. By combining strong search engine optimisation, Pay-Per-Click and email marketing with a new site we anticipate considerable improvement.’

The benefit of outsourced marketing

Swimming Hippo perfectly complements my strategic and account management skills Firestarter, an outsourced marketing specialist, was hired in August 2016. Part of its brief was getting a new website live by Christmas — a target that Firestarter and Swimming Hippo achieved. As Matt Wheeler explains: ‘This is the latest of many projects with Swimming Hippo. We had to move fast, so, once I’d agreed strategy with BK, I assembled a mass of information, including project images and other source material. Swimming Hippo got these with my brief and began work on Phase 1 of the new website.’

A fine-tuned creative methodology

After working closely for years, the partners have a fine-tuned creative methodology, whereby Matt liaises between clients and Swimming Hippo. The relationship’s strength comes into its own when time is tight, as with BK, who wanted their new website to go live quickly. Firestarter brings business understanding, strategic skills, account handling and finely-honed briefing skills. Swimming Hippo complements this with fast delivery of high-quality design, backed by robust site architecture. And there’s a great user experience reflecting thorough appreciation of BK’s needs. Swimming Hippo also look after technical aspects of ongoing site maintenance.

Phase 2 of the project involved ongoing optimisation, email marketing and fine-tuning of performance based on analytics. This phase started early in 2017. Matt Wheeler again: ‘With the site live, we embarked on further transforming BK’s web presence and online marketing. An online service and maintenance booking system is planned, as well as integration of BK’s customer database for targeted messaging. Looking further ahead, we’ll add more portfolio items and an e-commerce model so customers can buy equipment and spares online.’

Firestarter and Swimming Hippo’s collaboration made it easy and worry-free for BK to benefit from a tailored package of strategy and online marketing. Matt Wheeler continues, ‘this is yet another project where Swimming Hippo helped us offer an enhanced service with confidence. I particularly value how they aren’t just ‘web designers’, but proactively contribute to strategy. Our relationship exemplifies great teamwork and outsourcing in practice. It also means we’re both stronger than on our own and can offer clients like BK a wider skillset.’

Everything we want

Swimming Hippo improves all aspects of clients’ online and offline comms with creatively-driven solutions underpinned by thoughtful strategy and a sound technical approach. In a few months working for BK, they transformed the agri-engineer’s online presence. And they gave them a strong, scalable, online presence that will be the hub for future online marketing. BK are all set to address a very different marketing environment to that in which Simon Bird’s father original co-founded the business. ‘Our new website,’ says Simon, ‘has everything we want and flexibility that our old site never had. Previously, we couldn’t add new content in ways that would engage with prospects and search engines. Now, thanks to Swimming Hippo’s user-friendly CMS, adding new services, case studies or market sectors is easy.’

We’d recommend Swimming Hippo

With the new website working for the business, colleagues, customers and others are positive about Firestarter and Swimming Hippo’s work. Simon Bird again: ‘Everyone agrees that this is what we needed. While always respecting the past, we understand how a new generation of agricultural managers — and decision makers in other industries that can benefit from our skills — use the internet and social media. We’ve embraced this wholeheartedly.’

Would Simon Bird recommend Firestarter and Swimming Hippo? He’s unhesitatingly affirmative: ‘Matt and Joe delivered everything we wanted. They got the job done fast and smoothly. And at the same time they freed us from specialised marketing activity we had to do, but simply didn’t have the skills or time to do ourselves.’

Fire and water don’t usually mix, but as Firestarter Marketing Services and Swimming Hippo have shown again, there are exceptions to every rule!

More information

Swimming Hippo: Digital & Creative Agency
Crab Apple Way
WR11 1GY
t: 01386 764747

Firestarter Marketing Services Ltd
Suite 9, Pure Offices
Kembrey Park
t: 01793 238 012

By on March 20th, 2018

Fire and water don't usually mix, but as Firestarter Marketing Services and Swimming Hippo have shown again, there are exceptions to every rule!

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