In the Media

hamish the plumber, hamish erskine, business is great, do more online
In November 2014, I was head-hunted for the government’s Business is GREAT campaign, an initiative of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. The government wants to encourage small businesses to do more online in order to help boost the UK’s economy. Government research in 2014 revealed that 40% of sole traders like me didn't even have a website, and that people find it difficult to find good local tradesmen. There seemed to several factors that got me head-hunted for this campaign:

1) I am a sole trader

2) I built my own website

3) I’m No.1 on Google for ‘plumber exeter’

4) They liked all my 5 star customer reviews

I received a surprise call and was invited to attend a day’s photo-shoot in London. It was a lot of fun being the ‘model’ for the day, with a team of a dozen people working around me, including the hair and make-up lady, the PR lady, representatives from the Department of BIS, and more. The result was this poster, encouraging businesses to do more online, and specifically to visit their website,

Ten days later, they sent a camera crew down to Exeter. They followed me around for the day, videoing my jobs and interviewing my customers. At the end of the day they came back to my house and interviewed me at length about how I ran my business and how I had managed to market myself so successfully.

When I retrained as a plumber in 2011, I never imagined it would involve modelling!


The campaign started on 1 December 2014, with my poster shot featuring as an ad in all the national newspapers throughout most of December and January. I was one of a handful of small businesses featuring in this particular campaign, and they rotated our ads around all the papers.


The next phase of the campaign, in January and February, was billboards. The one in Exeter was by Tescos petrol station. But this was a national campaign and they were in all sorts of places all over the country.


Along with the papers and billboards, the Business is GREAT campaign was very active on social media. Here you can see several tweets from the campaign:


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If you listen to the radio regularly, chances are you heard me on the radio in February and March of 2015.

YouTube - Nearly a Million views!

From the footage of my day with the camera crew they made 3 short videos. One of these was designed as a 30 second YouTube ad, and they promoted it throughout March. It received about 30,000 views a day, gaining nearly a million views by the end of the month. Chances are you may have already seen this.
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The Business is GREAT website is located at
The specific part of the campaign that I featured in was called ‘Do More Online’, located at
There’s also a dedicated page on their site that tells my story. It is entitled ‘Plumbing New Heights’

Build a Website

On the Business is GREAT website, I especially feature under the title ‘Build a Website’.
hamish the plumber, hamish erskine, business is great, do more online
When I retrained as a plumber in 2011 and then thought about how to start my business, it was obvious to me that I needed a website.

Given that I already owned a mac, I decided that instead of paying someone hundreds of pounds to make me a website, I would buy decent web design software and learn how to do it myself.

I didn’t know any html coding, but I found some simple web software for mac called RapidWeaver. RapidWeaver is the creation of a small software company in Brighton, England. It enables you to build great websites using drag-and-drop and without needing to learn any code.

RapidWeaver only costs about £79, and on its own is enough to build a great website. But it is also a platform for which there are hundreds of third-party themes and plug-ins. If you buy some of the best ones, RapidWeaver becomes a totally awesome package for the amateur web designer.

There are so many themes and plug-ins that you can be tempted to buy more than you will actually use and end up spending quite a lot of money. So you need to be selective, or choose some of the great bundle options that are heavily discounted. But because of all the third-party add-ons, RapidWeaver is a platform that is ever-expanding and ever-improving.

As I am sure you can tell, my website has become a bit of a hobby, and I am often tinkering with it in one way or another. Its current form is my third major re-design.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that every business owner builds their own website. But software like RapidWeaver makes it possible if you choose to.

If you are running your own business, whatever your business, marketing is absolutely fundamental to your success. And at the core of your marketing strategy you must have a good website.

It was primarily my web building skills that got me noticed and head-hunted for the Business is GREAT campaign. My plumbing skills were important too, as I wouldn’t have got all my five-star reviews without them. Successful marketing is all about being found and then being chosen. My website got me found and my five-star reviews then got me chosen.

Messages from friends and old aquaintances

As you can imagine, a number of people who have known me over the years were quite taken aback to see my familiar face on billboards and in the newspapers. Especially surprised were some of my former students who knew me in my previous life as an international school teacher in Yemen!
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Well Marita, I guess I could have still been teaching, but doing a bit of modelling on the side! Not that teachers have time for much on the side. And Felicity, thanks for the complement!
I think my ‘media fame’ has also been a source of great amusement and surprise to my extended family. There’s never been a plumber in the family before, and certainly not a male model! Here’s a nice message from my cousin Sophy.
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Sam Walker is not someone I know, but he noticed the fish symbol on my van. Not many people recognise that or comment on it. It is a symbol that goes back nearly 2000 years to the days of the Roman Empire when people around the Mediterranean spoke Greek. The Greek word for fish is ‘ICHTHUS’. It is comprised of 5 letters in the Greek alphabet and was used as an acronym for ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’. Consequently, Christians have used the fish symbol ever since as a subtle statement of faith. You can read more about the history of the fish symbol by clicking ‘here’.

People often ask me what difference all the media coverage made to my business. To be honest, for all the coverage in newspapers and on billboards, I was surprised not to see a greater increase in calls. I was already busy enough, so I didn’t need an increase in work, but I was surprised that with all the media coverage I wasn’t inundated. I think most people in Exeter who glanced at my photo in the national papers didn’t connect it with a real plumber who actually works in their city. Many assumed I was just a model (Haha!). Or perhaps they read the headline encouraging businesses to ‘Do more online’, but didn’t read the small print that said ‘Hamish Erskine, Plumber in Exeter’. And how much do people pay attention to ads in the papers anyway? However, people did notice me with the radio ads. With radio, unless you change channel, you can’t skip listening to the ad.

What really matters most in my marketing is that I am on the first page of Google when people search for something like ‘plumber exeter’. That’s where most people go these days when they need to find someone. Most other forms of advertising are ‘interruption advertising’, but with Google you can be in the right place at the right time when people are looking for you.

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Hamish Erskine, 16 Ashlands, Ford, Salisbury, SP4 6DY
© 2020 Hamish Erskine, i@hcom