Boat culture

Who would have predicted 2020? A word from the directors.


As 2020 draws to a close, The Bigger Boat’s directors Andy McCaul, Doug Main and Lee Boothroyd reflect on a wildly unpredictable year – but it’s not been without its highlights and successes.

It’s safe to say most people will be happy to see the back of 2020. It’s been stressful, unpredictable and Zoom fatigue has become a real thing. We can’t wait to be back in the office and meeting clients in person again. Here, we take a look back on what’s been a challenging but, in many ways, extremely rewarding year for our growing team.

Happy birthday TBB
We started the year with a bang, winning the gong for Best Ecommerce Website (for Little Tikes) at January’s Northern Digital Awards. It was also our 10th birthday party in February – little did we know it would be the last social event of the year. It was great to catch up with clients over a beer and see all the team members who’ve been part of our journey over the last decade. Everyone has played a role in getting us to where we are today, which we are very thankful for. Some clients have been with us the whole 10 years and there is no better reward for us than those partnerships, built on trust and results.

Since the party, the whole year has been a physical and mental rollercoaster, and I’m not talking about the hangover. Generally, during the pandemic, we’ve been lucky – our business was built to work from anywhere. In previous years we’d migrated everything to the cloud, which turned out to be handy in 2020. We were also very fortunate to have clients in sectors that were not too badly affected – ecommerce has had a lot of attention and rightly so. In the heart of lockdown 1, I was on a call with a client who thanked us for paying the business’s wages, because ecommerce sales were so high and this was their only revenue stream. In that first lockdown, our team really stepped up. The levels of responsiveness and the speed in which we turned the work round were incredible. It was completely unsustainable, but the team knew it and did it anyway.

Rising to the challenge
There have been some amazing highlights this year. Delivering a new ecommerce website for BABY born and Baby Annabell and the luminary programme for Company Shop Group, as well as ecommerce needed in a hurry for FireSealsDirect and being appointed to build an international website for global oil brand Duckhams – to name just a few. We’ve also continued our work with the University of Huddersfield’s Enterprise Team. We are supporting two young entrepreneurs to help launch their business ventures. It’s rewarding to give something back to the local community.

And when times were at their most difficult for many in the midst of lockdown, we changed tack to assist our clients in supporting their customers. We helped toy manufacturer Little Tikes inspire homeschooling parents with a month-long campaign of educational activities and downloadable games. It was an attempt to bring families closer together and make sure children’s learning didn’t stall. We switched up our content strategy for fire trade supplier CheckFire to help the brand contextualise fire safety for its customers in a new norm and offer support as to how they could remain proactive until the market returned.

CheckFire’s marketing manager Toria Jones said: “The ability to adapt this year has allowed us to become more of a reliable support to customers. Our brand is positioned to be one of an understanding nature, while also maintaining our key message of how important fire safety is.”

Hard work drives results
The year-on-year ecommerce results for our clients have been the icing on the cake. We’ve been able to deliver news of some incredible results. We’ve helped Little Tikes achieve a 250% increase in sales, and seen a whopping 600% increase in revenue for Major Golf Direct and a 49% increase in revenue for Burhouse. We’re expecting the interest in ecommerce to remain high throughout 2021.

In all the craziness of 2020, we’ve added seven new crewmates and grown the team to 20. Steven, Vlad and Jason joined the development department. Mike has joined the content team and Ruth as a digital account manager, while Enya is a placement student working in digital marketing – she’s just won an award too. Our most recent recruit is SEO manager Ewan, who’s currently getting up to speed on accounts, ready to improve clients’ website traffic throughout 2021.

Looking forward to 2021
It’s been a volatile year, that’s for sure. In March, our primary aim was to retain clients and our crew. In other words: to survive. Many businesses haven’t, which has been horrible to see. But what has actually happened is we’ve achieved record-breaking revenue growth. We’ve managed an incredible 75% growth in turnover, surpassing the £1m barrier for the first time in 10 years. Three years ago, Doug completed the Goldman Sachs 1,000 Small Businesses programme. It was a valuable experience for us all, but we had homework to do – we needed a three-year plan. In 2017, we forecasted that by 2020, we would hit £1,187,000. This month, we’ve elapsed that target. So, who could have predicted 2020? It turns out we did – just not the bit about the global pandemic!

We hope 2021 will bring a return to normal life. Slowly but surely we’ll get there. Everyone needs a bit more predictability in their lives.

Wishing all our clients and friends of The Bigger Boat a merry Christmas and happy new year.


Written by Andy McCaul
Co-founder and digital marketing guru Andy ensures all our projects are in shipshape and that we generate the best return on investment for clients.