Category: bd2 news


Wigan’s first Expo was only 4 years ago but it seems like it’s been going for much longer having become a firm fixture on the business calendar. The inaugural Expo was also held at the DW Stadium but occupied only the third floor. Now it’s now reached capacity filling all the lounges on the third and second floors with so many stands it feels positively crammed in. Attendees built up throughout the day adding to the full to the brim feeling – but this only serves to create a really bustling and busy atmosphere.

As always there was a very friendly vibe too as, being Wigan, it seems everyone knows everyone and it’s as much an opportunity to catch up with old acquaintances as a place to do business. That said, it seems that plenty of that was going on as well. The overall mood was a very positive one with everyone seeming to sense that the good times were back, or at least on their way back. Everyone you spoke to seemed to be very busy and saying that business was good.

So it’s hats off again to Kevin Walsh and his team from the Council for staging and arranging the event in support of local business. Every year is bigger and better than the last so I’m sure, like us, everyone’s looking forward to 2015. The biggest challenge for next year is how to fit all the exhibitors in as the current venue is clearly maxed out. Nice problem.

It was great to see two of our clients appearing in the latest Sunday Times International Track 200, which lists the UK’s top 200 overseas performing business. With an increase of over 20% in the last year, leading Jewelers Boodles appeared at 174. We’ve just handed over phase one of an exciting in-store, tablet-based tool to Boodles which will allow sales staff to present the entire Boodles stock to customers wherever it may be in the company as it integrates with their back office systems. Phase two is due to commence shortly and will ultimately incorporate a new EPOS solution.

With an outstanding increase in overseas sales of over 50%, our longstanding client Ralawise has risen to 63 in the rankings. Ralawise are Europe’s leading wholesaler of promotional clothing, corporate wear and leisurewear. This exceptional growth has been underpinned by their multi-lingual, multi-currency website developed and supported by ourselves for the last 10 years, which handles most orders. The site recently reached a new benchmark when it handled over half a million pounds worth of transactions in a single day. We’re delighted to be part of their success of course and look forward to seeing both businesses climb further up the rankings next year.

We’ve worked with Ralawise for over ten years now building the e-commerce solutions mentioned in this recent Insider bulletin, see The story outlines their progress towards topping the £150M turnover mark and their investment in the physical and virtual infrastructure needed to achieve this.

When we started working for them turnover was in the mid twenty millions so growth over the last ten years has been pretty impressive and e-commerce has undoubtedly played a big part in this as around two thirds of their sales are now online. We’ve been delighted to support this having developed their first e-commerce solution, then evolved it to integrate with their various back office systems, and then last year we completely rebuilt it as they move onto the next phase which will be focused on further expansion in Europe.

Development on the site is pretty much continuous as Ralawise look to provide further functionality and features for their clients, for example we’re currently working on a completely new version of their white label solution which is used by over 500 customers to present the Ralawise catalogue within their own branded websites which further expands their reach and sales.

It’s common knowledge, isn’t it? To survive and prosper in business today, you have to be digital with email marketing, social media activity. e-commerce, online advertising, blogging and a website, of course, with good SEO and an active Adwords programme.

All very commendable but what’s the strategy? Where does digital fit with more “conventional” marketing? And, which, if any, of the above tactics should your business be employing?

In order to maximise the ROI in digital, it is absolutely essential to have a clear and detailed strategy which identifies exactly where each piece of the jigsaw fits; how it relates and influences other parts of the strategy and what is meant by “success”.

To view the Prezi, click here

BD2 have developed a Prezi which identifies eight component parts and shows how they work together to inspire and engage across the whole gamut of a business’s target audiences and stakeholders.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the eight and how they integrate.

1. Content
“Content” is the current buzz word in marketing, along with “engagement”. It’s all about creating and sharing information that’s closely related to what you sell – but it’s about ‘telling not selling’.

A well-executed content strategy offers a much more long term, personalised and engaging customer experience with content that can then be shared, commented on and updated by the audience through email or social media.

2. Website
Websites have become the essential point of verification for any business, b2b or b2c. It needs to be very user friendly as it should never be forgotten that leaving the site is just one click away. The site needs to provide access to all relevant information in a way that is clear and engaging (there’s that word again).

3. Mobile
In the UK alone, 94% of adults either own or use a mobile phone [Ofcom], and by 2016 it is predicted that 80% of all internet access will be via mobile. Mobile devices are changing the way we use the internet, and mobile marketing provides one of the most effective, innovative and inexpensive ways to reach an audience. Websites must be optimised for mobile through the use of responsive design and should consider how users might interact with a business via mobiles such as location based services.

4. Social Media
Social media represents one of the biggest challenges for businesses and one of the most exciting and significant opportunities. It is important to understand that in social media, one size does not fit all and what works for one business might not work for another. The sheer pace of growth in this channel requires research and planning to ensure a well thought through, integrated and agile strategy is in place.

5. Search
There is little point in having an informative, inspiring and engaging website if no-one can find it. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a crucial part of the overall marketing strategy and integration with other areas of the marketing is critical. Google has shifted the focus from keywords to ‘conversational searches’ and wants to see proof of engagement in the form of feedback, comments and sharing through social media.

6. Email
Incredibly, some people are saying email marketing is dead. It’s not; it’s thriving and can deliver higher lead conversions, increased sales and brand awareness for your small business. Email marketing is affordable, simple and powerful and mobile means that it is more potent than ever. Email is also very engaging (heard that before somewhere?) offering real interactivity, with hyperlinks allowing recipients to click through to websites, videos and other forms of rich content.

7 News Microsites
Blogging has become virtually a national sport and we’re all publishers now. News or information microsites offer the opportunity to become ‘a voice’ within your industry by putting your own editorial online. Meaningful content is again vital with the aim being to be relevant and (yes, you guessed it) engaging.

8. Microsites
Microsites deliver specific information to a specific target audience who are therefore naturally engaged. They allow marketers to focus on specific messages and to test creative treatments.

Just like a “traditional” strategy, your digital strategy should start with some SMART objectives develop the strategy, identify tactics and contain KPIs against which to measure success.

Oh, and it needs to be engaging (did we mention that already?)

BD2’s infographic is an extremely useful touchstone from which to work. It helps clarify areas which need focus and demonstrates the need for interactivity.

As marketers, we all have to be cognisant of what’s happening in our marketplace. More than ever before, we have the chance to interact and engage with our audiences in a direct and truly mutual way.

It was known as “advertorial” for a long time but then along came the internet and social media and it is now known as “native advertising” and is one of the hottest topics in marketing at the moment.

In essence, native advertising describes the process whereby an advertiser places an ad and its design is created to mirror the editorial content which surrounds it.

Publishers will tell you that there is no intention to deceive readers and, indeed, most publishers and editors are fiercely protective of their integrity and content. Having said that, user trust is key to native advertising success. The content should be clearly badged as an ad to ensure complete transparency. However, the content has to match the platform so it’s a fine line to walk.

Many see this approach as blurring the lines between editorial and advertising, arguing that
If the content looks too much like the editorial content that surrounds it publications can be accused of misleading the reader.

Native advertising is also now rife across all social networks, the most common being sponsored tweets on Twitter and sponsored posts or ads on Facebook. Not only are these tactics native to their host, they also carry the power of recommendation, with the sponsored content often implying that ‘Your friend likes this”. Some 65% of native advertising is made up of blog posts.

Social native is attractive not only for its impact, but also for the sheer scale of its reach. With Facebook now being used by well over 1bn users, the potential is huge.

However, the creative limitations are significant as social content makes it difficult to tell a detailed brand story. There are usually a few short characters and, if you’re lucky, a thumbnail image.

There is a worry that social networks might become victims of their own success with users being turned off by the amount of advertising with which they are bombarded. Many publishers, including Facebook and Twitter, have started to limit the amount of native advertising they carry even though it is an exceptionally lucrative revenue stream for them.

An interesting addition in the world of social native is what has become known as “display social”. In this, advertisers piggy back third party sites to increase interest and, hopefully, engagement. The ad becomes, ostensibly, a link to a site of interest such as a fashion site being promoted on a lifestyle site. When the user clicks through, the advertiser’s ad is featured on the fashion site.

The ad then becomes semi-editorial rather than a straightforward ad and the advertiser has his ad appearing alongside editorial relevant to both the user and his proposition.
There are currently no real performance measurements for native advertising because it is still such a new category. The advertiser can see how many shares, likes or retweets a post gets and, from that, extrapolate the amount of interest he is creating.

It is also possible to monitor the number page views the advertiser’s website is receiving and relate them to the appearance of a native ad. However, it is extremely difficult to measure the level of engagement engendered. And that is still the golden fleece of all marketing activity. Or, it should be.

Image is everything

Image is everything, or at least for a photographer it is, so the new site we’ve developed for one of the North West’s leading photographers Malcolm Birkett, is pretty much all image. The site delivers a selection of work from Malcolm’s portfolio at full screen on every type of device by using mobile responsive techniques. The site incorporates a very discrete menu, so as not to distract from the photography, which allows the user to view his work across various galleries – lifestyle, studio, interiors and location.

Take a look at to see the site and Malcolm’s fabulous work, not least of some amazing yachts.

The latest issue of our newsletter ‘brief distraction’ has arrived back from Clive, our Notts Forest supporting printer, who’s done a fine job as usual.

Amongst the usual mixture of projects is a follow up story from the previous edition on a b2b website we’ve developed for client Wax Lyrical which has surpassed expectations achieving real commercial successes.

Other featured projects include a recently developed e-commerce site for Crewsaver, a leading manufacturer of marine safety equipment and an awareness campaign around the recent Welfare Reform changes for Wigan and Leigh Housing Association. A new corporate website and brand refresh exercise for longstanding client Vision Commercial Kitchens is shown, user interface design project for Bunzl Retail, a multimedia DVD for healthcare client Vernacare and a preview of a new in-store presentation using Microsoft Surface devices for jewellers Boodles.

Taking centre stage though is our brand development work for Wigan Youth Zone, a multi-million pound initiative to support the young people in Wigan made possible by three of the town’s leading businessmen who decided to put something back into the community. It’s a fantastic development for the town and its young people and we’ve been delighted to help provide an identity which hopefully matches its ambition.

If you’d like a copy, please email and we’d be more than happy to pop one in the post.

Wigan Expo 2013

It seems that Wigan’s business Expo has become such an annual fixture it might be pre-printed in diaries along with  ‘Christmas’, ‘Easter’ and ‘Bank Holiday’. Even the word ‘Expo’, which somehow sits more comfortably alongside Milan, Zurich or Madrid, is sounding more at home with Wigan.

All 140 exhibition spaces were pre-sold, predominantly to local businesses and nearly 1300 people attended this year  – apparently an increase of over 25% on last year. As in previous years, the event was a mixture of exhibition, seminars, business advice and ‘meet the buyer’ one-to-ones but above all it’s probably a day long rolling networking event. Wigan businesses turned out in force to both exhibit and attend which leads to a local and very friendly vibe with so many recognisable faces to catch up with and chat to.

At bd2, we tried a little bit of a different approach this year with a pop-up marketing surgery rather than a stand. The exhibition space is always busy, but is essentially made up of rows of display stands with someone stood in front of each trying to catch the eye of wandering attendees or bribing them with sweets, cakes or the lure of a draw for a bottle of champagne in exchange for a business card. Our pop-up marketing surgery, which took up the space of 4 stands, was more inside out with enough space to walk into and have a chat, as such it was noticeably very different from the rest. It seemed to work well judging by numerous comments and visitors who received free advice from some of the experienced professionals on our stand – Chartered Designers, Chartered Marketers, Professional Photographers and Copywriters – across a wide variety of marketing issues.

It’s great to see Wigan MBC supporting local businesses, but it’s a real shame that two of the driving forces behind getting the Expo off the ground in the first place and organising the event year on year have sadly been made redundant as part of the Council’s latest round of cost-cutting. There’s no doubt that reducing head count is an essential part of this, but they’ve lost two dedicated, really good and quality people in Keith Molloy and Claire Gomersall.

There’s a mix of comment and images to be found at

Unique double. Unique town.

We’ve been saying for a long time to anyone who will listen, which admittedly is very few, that Wigan is a unique place and not just in an Orwellian sense. Now, however, the evidence is irrefutable as Wigan is the first, and will probably be the only town ever, to hold both the FA and Challenge cups simultaneously. A unique and remarkable achievement for a small but very proud town with a big sporting tradition and a winning mentality.

Both cups are rightly regarded as the world’s premier knock out club competitions in the respective sports of association football and rugby football league, each with over one hundred years of history and tradition behind them. It’s safe to say that Wigan RL’s history in the Challenge cup eclipses that of ‘The Latic’s’ one-off cup experience, for that matter it eclipses all other RL clubs as this, their 19th win, is a record which stretches back to 1923. As such they went into this final as firm favourites and duly ground out a hard earned victory against Hull in difficult wet conditions at Wembley, the same venue that witnessed Wigan Athletic’s famous FA triumph in May which was very much against the odds as they beat 10 to 1 on favourites Manchester City.

Wigan’s undoubtedly a rugby league town, and there is a certain rivalry between the fans of each sport which has intensified perhaps as the football club’s fortunes have improved – bearing in mind that it only joined the football league in 1978 and has only really achieved any success in the last 10 years or so with Premier League status and the FA cup win. However, most true sports fans and genuine Wiganers are delighted for the town and each club’s success.

It was fantastic therefore, to see the RL team bring the Challenge cup to the football club and parade it alongside the FA trophy during half time at Sunday’s game against Middlesborough. In fact the club had rearranged the game from Monday so that it wouldn’t interfere with an open-top bus parade of the Challenge cup through the town. There’s been an increasingly harmonious relationship between the clubs over recent years, despite the odd fall out over the condition of the pitch or fixtures as they share the stadium. Apparently Dave Whelan, the Latic’s vociferous Chairman, took the FA cup into the dressing room after the Challenge Cup win, presumably both were filled with champagne and clinked together to create the world’s biggest ‘Cheers!’

Sweet smell of success

We’ve worked with our technology partner Datel for over 15 years on a wide range of e-commerce solutions which integrate web front ends with their Sage business systems. At their recent customer day, an annual event where their customers are invited in to see various presentaions and innovations from Sage and themselves, they presented a joint Datel and bd2 client Wax Lyrical as a case study.

Wax Lyrical’s journey has been a fascinating one, and the full story can be seen in this video which features in The Telegraph’s business club section:

The company, which manufactures scented candles and fragrances, was bought around 5 years ago by serial entrepreneur Mike Armstead who has turned around a business on the brink of bankruptcy struggling with huge debts and outdated processes, to a debt free and profitable company. This success has been underpinned by an investment in technology and the production line so that now virtually all manufacturing is in the UK rather than the Far East – the business now exports most of its products instead of importing. The company re-branded and repositioned as a luxury British brand and signed some strategic licensing deals with partners such as the RHS.

An investment in a new Sage business management system has been key to this success so that the business has the processes and knowledge needed to operate more efficiently. As part of the drive to achieve operational efficiencies, we recently developed a new business to business website aimed at smaller customers which integrates with their Sage systems. As well as their larger customers, such as supermarkets and garden centre chains, Wax Lyrical supply many independent retailers and gift shops all over the UK and increasingly in Europe. Servicing these customers had been expensive as their sales team were physically visiting stores to collect orders, sometimes driving miles to pick up an order for just a box of candles.

The new website allows these retailers to place orders online 24/7 and to access stock and account data. The Wax Lyrical site has now been live for just over seven months and during this period nearly 700 customers have registered as users which is almost the 12 month target of customers. Around 25% of the sales to independents year to date have been made online which has led to significant business benefits such as a reduction on order lead times as there is no manual intervention required to process orders into Sage. Paperwork and postage has been dramatically reduced as all customer admin is now electronic [invoicing, statements etc.]. Wax Lyrical have a much more flexible marketing list for constant contact along with a fairly easy to manage content management system to engage the customer and entice purchase of targeted offerings. This, combined with convenience, has led to the average order value increasing by approx 50% – being retailers it isn’t always practical to call and place orders during the working day so 24/7 access allows time to browse the full range and place bigger orders. International orders have also increased, so much so that we’re now working on adding multi-lingual functionality to the site.

The site has seen other benefits in the business, such as with the field sales team and head office customer services personnel who can now concentrate on targeting new growth, merchandising the brand in stores and supporting larger customers, rather than taking and processing orders. Wax Lyrical have also been able to redeploy a member of staff previously dedicated to order entry.

Feedback from Wax Lyrical and its customers has been very positive; their web admin team have frequently commented on how much more user-friendly our system is compared to their Magento b2c solution; and a brief survey of end-users reported that they find the system easy and very straight forward to use and that access to account information online was seen as very beneficial as was the ability to use 24/7.

“The feedback on the site has all been very positive.” Comments Managing Director Joanne Barber “Thank you to you and your team for delivering something that is very user friendly. We are certainly pleased with the uptake so far and look forward to the site being a much more important part of our business in terms of sales numbers.”

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