Switching from a spreadsheet to slick absence management has been the icing on the cake for this digital marketing agency.

Search. It’s all we seem to do these days. We’re always searching for something. Information. Groceries. Someone to go on a date with. News articles. Even abstract things like ‘what has happened to my Toblerone?’. And when we’re not searching, it’s probably because we’ve just had a ‘battery low’ warning on our device or our own battery’s had enough and it’s time to get some sleep.

There’s a whole world of search now, and it’s a world that has changed massively in recent years. We used to plonk a couple of words into Google to see if it could come up with the goods, but today it’s more like having a conversation. Ask it a question and it’s probably got the answer, or at the very least a solid lead on where you might find what you’re looking for.

So, how do companies make sure you find them when you search for something that’s relevant to what they offer? Grab a stick of rhubarb and pull up a chair — it’s time to crack open the Custard.

A delicious graph demonstrating the Custard effect

Custard specialise in digital marketing. They do search engine optimisation (SEO, tweaking website pages and content so they are most compatible with Google’s whims), content marketing (creating new content to attract traffic to the website through search engines and build recognition of the brand), pay-per-click advertising (purchasing particular keywords so a website is promoted at the top of the results when certain things are searched for) and loads more.

Pop into their office in Manchester at lunch time and there’s a very good chance you’ll find the team either munching away together or having a table-tennis showdown. They’re also known to do movie nights and origami, though probably not at the same time. Technical Director Chris Smith admits: “We’re a bunch of geeks, really."

Custard are proud to admit they’ve got “more SEO knowledge than you can shake a stick at”, a feat which has seen them ranked as one of the best SEO agencies in the UK. Chris says:

“We help our clients get ahead in an increasingly complex and competitive search marketplace.”

As well as competing against rival online marketing agencies, all of whom undoubtedly claim they’ll get you dominating the first page of Google results like a stubborn gorilla, the Custard team faces another challenge in the form of the search engine’s ever-evolving algorithm. Ah yes, the algorithm. For search-engine-optimisers across the world, Google’s algorithm is much like one of those slightly annoying friends whose tastes can change at a moment’s notice.

You’ve got to be prepared and responsive, ready for the next shift in behaviour, and it’s a challenge the Custard team are very familiar with now. Chris says:

“Google is constantly reviewing its ranking algorithm and we’re constantly adapting our approach, tailoring it to each client’s particular needs.”

A good example of Custard’s adaptable approach was when they worked with their client Glotech Repairs to create some original content which would help build up some links from ‘high authority’ websites. Doing this builds trust with the search engine, which in turn boosts Glotech’s rankings in search results.

If I lost you just then, don’t worry—we’re about to start talking about bacon.

Yep, bacon. After spending some time deploying their creativity to help generate ideas with the Glotech team, Custard recommended writing a piece analysing Britain’s breakfast habits which resulted in a survey of 2,000 people and the production of a story which grabbed journalists’ attention and secured those all-important links from respected sources.

And the bacon part? Well, the survey found more than a quarter of the 18- to 24-year-old respondents were removing the meaty treat from their full English breakfasts, most likely driven to such a move due to health concerns. Peculiarly, some 22.6% of those surveyed said they ‘go to work on an egg’ — surely there are more comfortable ways to commute to the office?

Oh great, I'm hungry now

A troublesome spreadsheet

Having grown to 11 in number, the Custard team was starting to find booking annual leave a bit of a pain. Like so many companies, they were using a spreadsheet to log everyone’s time off, but with no self-service it was short of what you might call ‘useful’ and its unwieldy nature meant it was hard to see how staff absence might affect crucial pieces of work.

Chris says: “The spreadsheet we were using was poor logistically, people couldn’t see when other team members were off and it was getting difficult to make sure we had enough people in place to complete projects for clients.”

Making a difference, daily

In 2015 the Custard crew put their sticky toffee spreadsheet in the bin and signed up for Timetastic to see if a staff leave planner would bring an end to their absence management woes. Four years later they’re still using Timetastic, so it must be doing something right.

We asked Chris if he could think of a time when Timetastic made a difference, and he said its benefit is felt “every day” as it saves a fair amount of faff “every time someone wants to book leave, check their leave allowance or takes a day off sick”.

Chris reckons Timetastic saves the team “about an hour a week”, that's significant when you consider the Custard team is a relatively small bunch.

Easy-peasy Custard please-y

So, what does the rest of the team think of life after the spreadsheet? “I think the most remarkable thing is that no-one has ever commented on it,” Chris says.

“They just book their time off and the software is kind of invisible to them—it doesn’t give them any problems and it’s intuitive to use.”

For Chris, though, it’s become a key tool for the working week. “One of my favourite and most-used features is the Wallchart, we use it in our team meeting every Monday.”

Other features have also had a positive impact. Chris says: “Outlook calendar integration makes it easy for staff to check each other’s availability, whereas before it was too easy for mistakes to be made such as getting double-booked.”

Chris is clearly sold on the benefits of Timetastic, then. So we asked him what he would say to someone who was considering giving it a go:

“It’s easy to adopt, easy to use, inexpensive and massively helps with organisation. What’s not to like?”

High praise indeed. On those words we could easily bring this story to a lovely happy ending, but one of Chris’s comments stands out above the rest and reveals an unexpected benefit for a company that clearly loves its staff.

“Timetastic helps us remember people’s birthdays, so we can plan and do something nice for them.”


Happy birthday, we remembered!