Family business set to tap into new digital markets

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A family business that has specialised in the distribution of quality bathroom products for 37 years has seen its turnover increase by nearly 10% over the last 18 months to a projected £1.75m at year end January 2018.

FBS Plumbing Solutions, which has been helped by Business Gateway Falkirk, believes the growth is a result of a more focused marketing strategy and gaining greater exposure online.

The company, which launched its first website at the end of 2016, now projects further growth of up to 10% over the next year as it implements a new digital marketing strategy devised by a MBA intern from the University of Stirling’s Management School.

Having initially worked on a short-term research project for the firm in early 2017, Akshay Singh was tasked with devising the plan to attract a younger customer base while on a three month internship at the firm’s HQ in Gowan Avenue.

Alison Sime, Managing Director, FBS Plumbing Solutions said: “Akshay’s initial research highlighted how important digital was going to be to safeguard our future. As more and more of our regular customers become older and retire, he identified the need to start attracting younger buyers who want information at the touch of a button. If we don’t grow our presence online then the business would ultimately stagnate and that’s where Business Gateway Falkirk’s support has, and will continue to be, important to our survival.

“When we first meet our Business Gateway adviser two years ago she asked how people found out about us; we were essentially a hidden secret. She highlighted the need for a website and helped us secure funding to launch our website. This gave us an initial online presence to showcase what we do and allowed us to direct enquiries for products to the showrooms we supply. I then attended a range of DigitalBoost workshops that made me realise the importance of digital marketing. As none of the staff had the digital skills needed to put in place a digital strategy our adviser put us in touch with the management school that led us to Akshay. We then completed a digital health check which resulted in 21hrs of 1:1 support from a specialist adviser that has helped us up our game.

“Without Business Gateway’s input we’d never have considered a digital marketing strategy or connected with Akshay. They’ve really pushed us out of our comfort zone for the benefit of the company.”

Carron Smith, Principal Officer, Business Gateway said: “With our help FBS Plumbing Solutions is starting to embrace new ways of working and is already seeing the benefits of having an online presence. By dipping its toe into the digital marketplace and by taking full advantage of our DigitalBoost programme, which is delivered by Business Gateway on behalf of Digital Scotland, the company has increased its knowledge and confidence in using digital to attract new and younger customers.”

Set up by Alison’s dad, Alistair Munro-Brown, in 1980, FBS has grown from a supplier of coloured sanitaryware to a distributor of high quality bathroom products with a portfolio of over 20 leading brands as well as a full range of plumbing materials.

When Alistair died, the business was initially ran by a management team. Alison joined the firm in 1995 in accounts. Eleven years later she took over the running of the firm, shrinking its stock and sales by 25% to make the business more profitable.

She said: “The plumbing business was a very male dominated industry in the 80s, and still is in many respects, so instead of working for my father I began my career with Mathieson’s the Bakers, building my sales and finance experience with them. When the opportunity then arose to get involved in FBS I decided the time was right. Since taking over as MD, the business has expanded into new premises and opened a tradeshow room, and growth has been steady year-on-year. The next thing I want to do is launch an interactive brochure that can be used online and investigate e-commerce to widen our reach further.”

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