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How harnessing digital strategy helped a Melbourne SMB grow 1266% over five years

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1266% revenue growth. Business sale ROI of 10 x the purchase value. $1.25m profit. Yield growth of 293%. These are numbers many small to medium business owners could only dream about. However, it’s what one business, Cleanawater, achieved in just 5 years.

How did they do it?

By investing 6.56% of the business’ turnover into a complete, end-to-end digital strategy. A strategy which used data, insights and digital marketing to change the way that customers interacting with the business on and offline.

From brick and mortar beginnings

Established in Melbourne in 1996, Cleanawater produces wastewater treatment and recycling systems for a range of Australian businesses and industry.

The business was for the first 13 years of its life, a traditional brick and mortar operation. Cleanawater built, marketed and predominantly sold their products from their production facility in Blackburn, Victoria.

That changed when Cleanawater’s founder and operator retired and passed the business on to new owners, Adam Laurie and Rob Dalessandro.

The pair believed that they could grow this historically offline business by creating and implementing an innovative and modern digital strategy.

The digital strategy

Adam and Rob developed for Cleanawater a complete digital strategy that encompassed all aspects of the business’ communications, including design, development and marketing.

The strategy started with the building of a new website, the implementation of analytics tracking and the overhaul of their brand identity. Everything old was made new. It was a complete refresh of the way Cleanawater presented itself in the online space.

Ongoing, user experience improvements were made to the website and other digital properties. Analysis of data yielded customer insights and the opportunity to optimise platforms for greater conversions and fewer drop-offs at all stages of the customer journey.

This was complemented by a range of digital marketing channels, including Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), display marketing and retargeting.

A new insight into the business

One of the most impactful changes to the way Cleanawater did business was the use of data to understand what customers wanted from the business online.

For example, analysis and optimisation of the website downloads centre saw the download of PDF brochures rise to 7%. While the use of industry specific product pages was expanded after it was discovered that they were included in over 15% of user conversion pathways.

Insights such as these and others allowed Cleanawater’s management team to continually refine their digital assets and their service offering. It also meant they could identify new markets and effectively position the brand within them.

In just one financial year, Cleanawater grew revenue by 398%.

To accommodate that kind of rapid growth, a new home was needed and in 2011, their team moved out of their 60m² Blackburn factory to a new 250m² factory in Thomastown.

Digital marketing delivered more leads

The investment in paid and unpaid digital channels meant that website traffic rose steadily.

Over a 5 year period SEM drove 67,151 clicks to the website from 31,696 search terms. Retargeting ads, on the other hand, generated 1,090,389 impressions on 5,978 different websites.

SEO also delivered a consistent stream of website traffic with targeted content engaging users at the top of the sales funnel and growing new business enquires from an average of 2 a week to more than 30.

Sales yield increased to 293% as higher value clients and deals were secured. Some major new clients included Boeing, the Department of Defence and Reece Plumbing.

Most importantly, profitability increased from $16,000 in 2010 to over $400,000 in 2015.

The sale and return on investment

In September of 2015, after a 3 month sale process which involved 67 enquires and 3 offers, Cleanawater was acquired by the Bulbeck Group.

The sale generated a 10 x return on investment for Adam and Rob who, as noted above, had purchased the business in 2010.

Of their success, Adam Laurie said: “It has been a big learning experience, we have learnt so much and gained a huge insight into how businesses operate and how we can use digital in so many facets to help a business grow.”


About the author

Reuben Sady is a digital copywriter with Melbourne-based digital advertising agency Digital360.

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