BK Grain Handling Engineers (‘BK’) is a respected British agri-engineering firm with 35 years’ success and a coveted royal warrant. However, as the family business transitions between generations, it needs to promote its many capabilities to new markets. Specifically, to promote its breadth and depth of expertise to a wider industrial and engineering market and reduce business seasonality. With strategy advice, a new BK website and ongoing marketing from Firestarter Marketing Services, BK’s promotional toolkit just got a game-changing overhaul. Now the industrial engineers are set for more success…
Simon Bird explains: ‘In mid-2016, we had a very basic website focused entirely on our grain handling work. Despite the size, value, complexity and success of our projects, the site didn’t promote our highly marketable transferable skills. Or the experience we’d developed since my father co-founded BK in 1981. Nowadays, we can do so much more than all aspects of sophisticated grain handling installations. However, future growth means applying our fabrication, project planning, Design & Build, Health & Safety and electrical capabilities to new markets outside agriculture. Our first-generation website simply didn’t do this – or reflect our professionalism.’
Outsourced marketing helps us promote our skills and experience in new markets beyond agri-engineering.
With BK’s old website, prospects outside agriculture, where the company is a UK household name, were unlikely to discover their wide-ranging capabilities. Even if they found the website, it was all about agricultural applications – not BK’s ability to use their skill in other markets.
Simon Bird continues: ‘Mid-2016 we prioritised a new BK website, supported by fresh marketing strategy. The new site had to attract web traffic from prospects seeking the capabilities we knew we had, but they didn’t. And when they visit, the site must clearly promote our services, professionalism, expertise and suitability for non-agricultural projects. Additionally, because we’re time-pressured engineers and project managers, we needed independent strategic input and practical marketing help to support our new focus.’
The services requiring promotion are those that BK already deploys successfully, typically on 30–40 projects each year ranging from small quick-turn engineering projects to large greenfield sites. Historically, these have usually been turnkey agri-engineering works such as a 3,200 m2 cattle building for the Royal County of Berkshire Show or 10,000 tonne grain storage at Bridge Farm, Ramsbury.
With the new BK website featuring project case studies, visitors quickly see how BK’s skills transfer from agriculture to other industrial, engineering and construction areas.
BK must market itself to other industries requiring its expertise in:
Simon Bird says: ‘Unfortunately, many potential customers outside agriculture wouldn’t instinctively think of using an ‘agri-engineering’ business like us. That’s a shame because we’re experienced at overcoming the most demanding technical challenges and deadlines – harvests won’t wait until new storage is built! As we’ve already shown when non-agricultural customers have found us, these skills are perfect for other industrial and engineering projects. These range from architectural ironmongery for celebrities’ homes to turnkey design and build works. Other markets’ potential is huge – if only prospects understood that we don’t just do agri-engineering.’
Therein lies the challenge for a company whose portfolio ranges from small CE-rated buildings (EN1090) to 60,000-tonne grain storage at Chipping Norton’s Great Tew Estate. And work for the royal estate at Windsor, resulting in the proudly displayed royal warrant.
‘Having identified the challenge,’ explains Bird, ‘and our old site’s limitations, we met Firestarter, liked their work, explained our objectives and hired them for strategy, web and tactical marketing. Like customers who contact us for fabrication and discover other skills, we quickly realised how Firestarter offered more than just a new website. How? By taking away time-consuming marketing tasks that we hadn’t resource for – but which we knew were essential to grow the business. Three months later, based on piles of unsorted background information, testimonials, pictures and interview notes, our source material was organised and turned into an impressive new website with engaging copy that brought our story and offer to life.’
The website shows BK’s capabilities with the style and professionalism that was missing before. The incongruency between BK’s skills and online promotion had been corrected. As well as having the design, content and messaging to engage prospects in new markets, the new fully-responsive site will please human visitors and search engines alike.
Firestarter’s Matt Wheeler says: ‘We gave BK an engaging, customer-friendly, technically robust website that’s scaleable and easily updated. It shows, as well as describes, their capabilities and highlights key differentiators. And through its structure, words and images, it supports BK’s diversification. Agriculture may remain a relatively unsophisticated web user, but many prospects, including web-savvy buyers across the engineering, construction and industrial universe, expect a professional online presence. BK now has this.’
Professional site optimisation means BK will show up prominently in web search for industry-agnostic service offerings as well as traditional agricultural capabilities. Whether prospects arrive via Google or other sources, the diverse service offering is immediately clear.
According to Simon Bird, Firestarter’s ability to quickly organise disparate source material into a powerful business tool – with no glitches – was impressive. When the transformed site went live in December 2016, phase one of BK’s strategic and marketing transformation ended. Phase 2, running into 2018, includes more website optimisation and tactical email campaigns targeting new markets.
Describing how the new site will help, Simon Bird says: ‘Now the site can attract the new enquiries we want, we look forward to it helping us grow the business. The site will grow too, as we add new services, so scalability is vital.’
Historically, agricultural deals often put more emphasis on word of mouth and handshakes than technology such as websites. ‘While we hope our agricultural customers will appreciate the website,’ says Bird ‘it moves our strategy forward by increasing awareness of our other services and markets: Planning; Design & Build; Maintenance; Fabrication; Electrical Installation & Maintenance; and NEBOSH H&S. With so many opportunities out there, I can’t over-emphasise the importance of the site, associated email marketing campaigns, press releases, more project information and other regular communications. Firestarter will also integrate our customer database, so we can target messaging based on specific projects.’
Extra functionality (including online servicing and maintenance booking) will make the site more interactive for customers. Eventually, e-commerce functionality will mean that customers can quickly and easily buy equipment and spares.
We’re moving our strategy forwards by increasing awareness of our other services
With the new BK website working hard, stakeholders have responded positively. Simon Bird says: ‘There’s widespread agreement that it’s what we needed. Now we look forward to keeping our 22 employees busy all year – not just during agriculture’s seasonal peaks.’
Just like British agriculture, BK Grain Handling Engineers always knew their capabilities. Now, with some hard work, they’ve got the much-needed new tools and strategies. Their message is already reaching a virtually unlimited new world of engineering and industrial opportunities. Just as BK’s first 35 years was built on meeting agriculture’s needs, it looks as if future success will be built on a much broader customer base.