I thought I’d start a new tradition this year, a wrap-up blog showing my 2018 company highlights. I’ve always thought its a pretty useful exercise to look back and reflect on the year, even if you’re the only one that reads it.

So we started early 2018 with a bang – Our annual seminar at Exeter Golf and Country Club attracted the highest attendance we’d ever had at just over 115. We had people sitting on chairs that couldn’t fit around the tables! This year we’ve had to increase capacity and are very excited about holding the event at the stunning Deerpark Country House and with a special keynote from JP, ex Head of Social Media for Lego.

2018 has been a really solid one for the #optixfamily. In an industry where staff are so transient, I’m really proud of the team we have here at the moment and how long many of them have been with us. We had a couple of new starters join us in Crystal and Archie. Crystal brings a warm glow to every meeting she is in and some of that creativity and out of the box thinking you get from our friends across the pond. Archie is one of our first true Gen Z’ers and joined us having impressed us with his successful YouTube channel and ability to wear caps backward while still looking cool. Two fantastic additions to the team. A couple of the elder statesmen, Robin and Thomas celebrated 5 and 6 year anniversaries. and Rich managed his 10th!

The year saw a couple of near misses with awards – we were finalists in the Exeter Living Awards for Technology and Innovation and later we followed that up with a finalists place in the ‘coolest office award’ at the inaugural Space Awards held at the RAMM in Exeter. I wasn’t too concerned about that one as we lost out to the very slick Crowdcube who I’d imagine had slightly higher budgets than us for their office fit out 🙂. I see 2019 as a big one for awards so watch this space.

Our Directors Breakfast is something I’m very passionate about and it continued to go from strength to strength. The idea behind the group is business owners come to Optix and I talk to them about the latest digital trends and how their businesses can take advantage of them. These are invite only, small but exclusive groups. We had over 50 directors join us through the year. If you’re interested in attending one of these in 2019 just drop me a line.

I wanted to talk about some of the work we’ve completed this year. We’ve launched a number of new websites for clients and worked with many more on their digital strategy and marketing. Here are just a few of my highlights:

Cathedral Appointments – One of the region’s top Recruitment Agencies placed their trust in our team to deliver a really slick new site under their new branding. We worked alongside Chalk and Ward on this project and the result is a very good looking, easy to use site which really delivers results for the agency. Our relationship with Cathedral, which also spans digital marketing, continues to grow and deepen and we look forward to working more with their team over the coming 12 months.

Event Exeter – After winning a big pitch for the Events Arm of Exeter University, we turned around their new site in super quick time and the result is one that I’m very proud of. The whole team really pulled together for this project. Our Head of Design Robin, Rich and Jack two of our amazing developers, Sam as account manager and Thomas working his magic on the digital marketing side of things. A real team effort that saw the site go live in beta just a few days ago.

Playzido – If I said Deal or No Deal or Broadchurch to you, you’d know what I was talking about right? Well those two are produced by the entertainment giant Endemol. When Endemol moved into the gaming space they approached Optix and asked us to create them a slick new web presence for their new brand Playzido. We were only too happy to oblige and after building the front end, our team set to work on the backend so their operators have a really intuitive area for getting access to key information and assets from anywhere in the world, at any time. Not only a lovely client to have on the portfolio but one we know is going places in the next few years.

Devon Partnership Trust (NHS) continued a number of innovative and forward thinking projects with us this year. Alongside a microsite, linked to a social media campaign purely for recruitment purposes, we also delivered them a complete Digital Strategy and set to work on a new project which is top secret but will launch early in 2019. I’ve loved helping the trust this last couple of years because everything we do really feels like it can have a positive impact on anyone in the Devon area who struggles with mental health issues – very rewarding. We also signed up to become a Mindful Employer this year so we’re taking the issue of mental health in the workplace very seriously, we just hope that more companies might see us doing this and follow suit.

Sanremo – These guys have THE sexiest coffee machine on the market which is one of the main reasons I was super excited to work with them. They also have a very inspirational CEO, Andrew who asked us to create a digital strategy for them and then help them roll it out. Alongside Brittany, their in house marketing expert, we worked on some of the most creative and fun campaigns we’ve been lucky enough to be involved in. 2019 is set up to go even bigger and we literally can’t wait.

LED – We’ve been working with the team at LED for a number of years and this year in particular was a real highlight for us due to some very intricate and exciting API integrations. A new tool linked to their swim timetables shows all the centre’s swimming pools and what is happening in pretty much any lane at any hour! This was closely followed by an integration into their membership system Gladstone which has created a smoother membership signup and journey. Both these projects are good examples of where we flourish, not just your standard marketing website but something which has additional benefits beyond that, increasing business efficiency and helping to improve conversions through clever use of digital.

Thirsty Work and Just Hot Tubs are two clients that have seen fantastic organic traffic growth in 2018 due to the work the team have put in. Thirsty Work have seen a 400% increase in web enquiries in the last 12 months and over 600% increase in units signed! That’s just incredible and something that makes me brim with pride when I read it back. Just Hot Tubs have seen their traffic increase over four fold and stats improve on every other area of their digital marketing but they were also the reason for my moment of the year. It just had to be shooting some of the Rugby boys (from a local well known team) in their tub at Jack Nowell’s house, especially as it was about 35 degrees that day and the last place they wanted to be was in there!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXECcFkUlkQ

Crealy – One of the most amazing stats of the year has to goto the work we did for Crealy. After doing some work closely monitoring conversions or their site we made some informed changes to their booking process which ended up in a year on year increase in online bookings of 72%. Most companies fall into the trap of designing a site, leaving it and building a new one 3 or 4 years later. Not Crealy – they understand that working with us regularly to ensure they are getting the most from their site is critical to their online success and we’re super pleased that we’re going into another year of working together in 2019.

Exeter University – As my fellow director James and I met at and created Optix while at Exeter University almost 20 years ago our proudest moment was being asked to become trusted advisors to the internal digital team at the University. Alongside their already very talented internal teams we will help form the digital strategy for the University over the coming years. We also continued our work with a number of the schools at the university, writing digital strategies, creating marketing plans and documents for them and even designing our first ever snapchat lens to promote a new course.

Adsere – One of our longest standing and loyal clients Adsere is in the process of relaunching with Optix taking a key role in that project. All I can say is watch this space in early 2019.

Other major clients joining the Optix Stable in 2018 included Goodridge, SetSquared (Exeter Uni), Cofton Holidays, Water Babies, Prydis, Ascent, Ocean Healthcare, Darts Farm & SW Holiday Parks and I’m sure I’ll be writing about a number of these guys in next years post!

Somehow we also found time to do some pretty significant internal work (don’t ask me how). The team here completely rebuilt our bespoke CMS (Now called Optimus) from the ground up. Built in the latest technologies, it has a VUE front-end and Laravel, single page app backend (sorry to get nerdy). The feedback from the clients who are already using this new platform is amazing, they love how easy and quick it is to use. We’ve tried on a number of occasions over the years to rebuild our platforms, it’s probably one of the hardest things for a company like ours to do, so again I couldn’t be prouder of the team. Oh, did I forget to mention that we also relaunched our own website which we’ve based more around our clients and the work we’ve carried out for them rather than our own services.

As we’re involved in so much more than just marketing based websites we wanted to find a way to showcase what we’ve been up to so we launched www.optixinnovates.co.uk and re-launched www.optixmail.co.uk our email marketing platform. Both these happened in the second half of the year.

On a personal level, the online training modules that I first created on Udemy.com in 2017 have really taken off with companies using it to teach their sales and marketing professionals how best to use LinkedIn. I’ve now had over 16,400 students across 162 countries take the training. One very exciting local name has just signed off to use the online course for CPD purposes. More on that in months to come.

I continued to do a number of talks this year across the Uk and Europe. Barcelona in Jan & London Business School MBA in July – my 3rd consecutive year and they’ve asked me back for a fourth so I must be doing something right there. It continues (as I guess you’d expect) to be one of the most challenging audiences I lecture too – ‘A’ game only that day 🙂 I really enjoyed doing the Natwest Boost event this year organised by James Court. James has done particularly well at creating a real community so when he asked me to talk about Personal Branding back in November I was delighted. I just about managed to get through a bout of manflu and even tho I felt like I spluttered my way through, the social media coverage and good feeling were amongst the most I’ve ever seen, testament to the community James has created. I go into 2019 looking forward to another busy year of speaking and already have a number booked, including Amsterdam in March and Copenhagen in June.

And so there you have it, my round up for the year, and as I’ve sat here for the last hour or two writing this I’ve actually surprised myself with everything we’ve achieved. The growth plan for the next 3 years is set, the recruitment for an Operations Director continues and we have created the bigger vision for 2022 so we know exactly where we are going. I hope you enjoyed the look back over my highlights from the year and the start of a new Optix tradition.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Alastair Banks – Co-Founder

Alastair Banks

Alastair co-founded Optix Solutions with his university course mates in 1999. Since then he has gone on to be recognised as a real expert in his field, consulting for a number of national organisations and speaking on his subject matter all over the UK and Europe.

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