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How we enabled Shoes For Crews to dominate online, grow their reach to millions and double revenue

About SFCE

Shoes For Crews (Europe) Ltd (we’ll call them SFCE from now on) is the market leader in the manufacture and distribution of non-slip shoes. They sell into resellers as well as direct to market, both B2B and B2C (via eCommerce). Their primary markets are the UK, Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands. They are part of the wider Shoes For Crews brand which was established in the US 36 years ago.

Starting point


Challenge one: Multiple sector focus

As one of the leading producers of slip-resistant footwear in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR’s), Foodservice, Hospitality and Industrial sectors, SFCE has a wide product range. And need to reach a wide-ranging customer base as a result.

They produce slip-resistant footwear for everyone from part-time waiters and waitresses to professional maître d's, from bartenders to highly-professional head chefs and everyone in between. That’s just the hospitality industry.

Challenge two: Multiple country focus

Further complicating things is the need to do this across all of Europe. This adds complexities to the marketing of messages across different languages and cultures.

A barman in a pub in Crewe, England, probably doesn’t share too many cultural reference points with a barman on the Côte d'Azur. But they do have some things in common. Finding these mutual pain points and challenges and making them part of a cohesive inbound strategy was what SFCE needed HubSpot and Digital 22 to help with.

Challenge three: No foundations

Prior to the engagement, SFCE had no inbound marketing strategy, no effective digital marketing channels and no system to manage them. They were starting from scratch in a competitive market with no foundations for success.

“Right from the word go we felt very comfortable with Digital 22. They stood out amongst all the agencies as we felt they were very knowledgeable about inbound marketing and a good match for us as they are proactive.”

Russell Bragg Respect_(Green)_overlay

Tom Larkin, SFCE

What we did 

An engaging and efficient inbound marketing strategy

The solution to the challenges faced by SFCE was a multi-channel, multi-language, inbound marketing strategy and implementation underpinned by HubSpot. We knew doing everything at once wouldn’t be focused enough for success so we took a staged approach.

With SFCE based in Ireland, it made sense to expand our reach in the English-speaking market, first of all. We began with a UK and Ireland blog in the English language and got to work targeting their biggest impact market: Food Service and Hospitality.

Since then we have moved into three other languages, and new sectors and added more digital marketing channels.

With a campaign every 90 days, a lot of inbound-water has passed under the bridge. One piece of content in particular, however, stands out as typifying how inbound marketing has helped boost SFCE's presence and reach.

It’s actually used as a case study and reference point when onboarding new clients and employees here at Digital 22. The blog (which is also a download piece) is called 20 Common Waitress Interview Questions (and how to answer them).

Let’s break it down:

  • It’s super helpful. The blog caters to someone swotting up before a job interview.
  • It’s actionable. It doesn’t just give you the questions but the answers too.
  • It’s right at the start of the buyer’s journey. I mean, it’s targeting a reader who not only doesn’t realise they need slip-resistant footwear yet, but they haven’t even got the job they need them for. It’s a poster child for inbound in action.
  • It’s developed over time. Check the URL, this blog post started with seven questions but has seen success so been added to over time. It became 10 questions. Then 15. Now 20. It’s a case study in effective SEO maintenance.

And it’s bringing in some outstanding numbers. It’s SFCE’s most viewed and click-through’d blog by some distance. This blog post alone has brought in over 679k visitors and 16,404 contacts into the SFCE database.

This is pretty typical of the approach we’ve taken to SFCE’s content, over the years. It’s textbook inbound marketing. Find out what your persona struggles with and help them accordingly

The Results


For an agency to keep a client for over six years and counting must mean that we’ve been doing something right. And, if we may say so ourselves, we’re pretty proud of what we’ve done while working with the team over at SFCE. Especially as the growth continues apace.


At the start of our relationship in 2011, SFCE had annual revenue of €7.3m, this grew to €10.8m in 2014 and they’re closing 2018 on €17.5m. That means revenue for the business has grown 140% whilst working together, alongside the expansion into several new territories.

Most excitingly for SFCE, because of the margins, B2C e-commerce sales have grown within this. From €402k in 2011 to €631k in 2014, we’ve closed 2018 at €1.1m in eCommerce revenue. That’s the growth of 174% in online sales whilst working together.

Market dominance
During our partnership, we have positioned SFCE as the dominant player in their industry. Starting with little online visibility they now rank for keywords at all stages of the buyer's journey. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible for a client not to consider them when purchasing.

Content marketing

If you ever needed a case study for the benefits of producing helpful, inbound content, Shoes For Crews Europe’s blog has gone up (we started from scratch) to 1.2 million visitors annually, just two years later. And it’s still growing.

Impact on the team

The end result is eCommerce sales growing close to 200% and each of the company’s key markets has grown by a minimum of 100%. But there are intangible benefits too. As a standout, our proactive approach to pitching ideas and direction is what makes their lives easier.

Our team is on hand to assist with HubSpot implementation and analysis. Tom and Richella (Web & Ecomm Manager) let us know that, if it wasn’t for our inbound work, they wouldn’t have the time and resources to be able to hit their wider business goals.

Need help taking your company to the next level with inbound marketing?

If you are looking for someone who can help you create an efficient inbound marketing strategy, get in touch to tell us more about your challenges and how we can help you. 
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