Our next big exhibition here at the British Library is Writing: Making Your Mark from 26 April to 27 August. It will follow the remarkable evolution of writing from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs carved in stone and early printed text such as William Caxton’s edition of The Canterbury Tales, to the art of note-taking by some of history’s greatest minds, and onwards to the digital communication tools we use today.
Which brings us very neatly to blogging. Blogging continues to be one of the most important ways of marketing your business. And according to online marketing experts HubSpot:
With all the hype around video content, it’s tempting to think that blogging is over. But ... Your strategy should still involve blogging as usual. Because blogging is, and will remain, an essential game plan to reach your audience. ...
You have a 434% higher chance of being ranked highly on search engines if you feature a blog as part of your website (Tech Client).
Businesses using blogs as part of their content marketing mix get 67% more leads than those who don’t (Hubspot).
I have been blogging for over ten years on behalf of the Business & IP Centre here at the British Library, and have learnt from experience its enormous power.
Here are my six reasons why you should be writing a blog for your business:
To build trust – Today customers want to deal with real people vs anonymous business. This is your competitive advantage as a startup, and your blog will communicate your personal passion.
To build an audience – You can start to tell your story even before your business goes live. You might even attract some pre-launch orders.
Increase your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) without risk – Google loves blogs, but hates cheaters, so keep away from search engine optimisers with claims of ‘magical’ abilities.
Drive more traffic to your website – By 434%...
Be seen as an expert in your field – You will have the knowledge and experience of your industry to provide insightful, quality content on a regular basis.
Reach a wider market – You will share your blog content via your social media channels, so you might even get to go viral.
For those of you who are not convinced here is some hard evidence of the power of blogging. In 2011 I wrote a post about the British Standard for a cup of tea (BS 6008 in case you are interested). Eight years later and this post still comes up as number one on a Google search...
Even if you are promoting what might appear to be dry or boring topic, a tangential blog post can be the an ideal marketing tool.
Neil Infield, Business & IP Centre Manager at The British Library
Neil is a manager in the Business & IP Centre at the British Library, where he leads a team of business and intellectual property reference specialists. The Centre provides information and advice to inventors, business start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Neil is a SFEDI accredited business advisor, and runs regular advice clinics. He has also delivered a range of workshops including What next for my business idea, and Introducing social media for small business.
Prior to joining the British Library Neil spent 16 years working in the City of London for an investment firm, managing their business information services. He has spoken widely on innovation in business information. He blogs at www.inoutfield.com, and tweets at @ninfield.
He has been active in SLA Europe for nearly 20 years, including President in 2004, and being made a Fellow in 2006. In 2011 he became a Fellow of The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA).
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs (EYE) is a programme that gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to work with experienced entrepreneurs in other European countries. EYE is run at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre by Nigel Spencer, who is responsible for services to support innovation and entrepreneurship. Nigel looks at some of the success stories to come out of the programme…
“One year ago, I wondered how I was going to pay my rent, and this year, I ask myself why I did not join the EYE programme sooner.” James Markey
In early 2017 we held an event at the Business & IP Centre to promote EYE, as we are an Intermediary Organisation for this programme and manage these exchanges. James Markey came to the event and shortly afterwards he joined the programme. In December 2018 James received the exciting news that he had been shortlisted for the EYE programme’s Entrepreneur of the Decade Award and will be presenting his story at the awards ceremony in Brussels on Monday 18 March.
After joining EYE James told us about his plans for a business and we worked with him to identify the type of support, skills and knowledge he would need to help make them a reality. This gave us a clear idea of the type of mentor that would make the best match for an exchange. We then used our networks to find such a person. James was particularly interested in the application of virtual and augmented reality in a training environment. Over the past eight years we had worked on a number of projects with a business support service in France called Laval Mayenne Technopole (LMT) who were also an Intermediary Organisation for the EYE programme. LMT are located in Laval in the west of Normandy and we knew this to be an international hub for virtual reality. LMT quickly identified Arnaud Cosson, the CEO of HRV Simulation as someone who would be an excellent mentor and James spent January to April 2018 working with Arnaud in France. Before his exchange he went on an intensive French language course to enable him to really immerse himself in the work of HRV Simulation and the local community.
“I was given opportunities, both to work on my own business, and pick up live business experience within the host company. This ranged from supporting Arnaud with an investment pitch, demonstrating products to potential clients and getting involved in creating both the CRM system to support the growth and the marketing channels to create a future pipeline. In my final week with the company I pitched my business, after which they became my first client.”
When he returned to the UK, James developed his business model based on what he had learned in Laval and launched his business, JPMentors. He now has clients in France and the UK and has taken on two members of staff and sponsored a youth football team in Portsmouth. The business is growing well and the future looks very bright.
James has definitely been a success story, but is just one of the 68 exchanges we have arranged over the past two years and the vast majority of these have been great experiences for those involved. 50 new entrepreneurs have learned from experienced hosts in the UK and 20 new entrepreneurs from the UK have spent time overseas. We have been able to send people to places like Berlin, Lisbon, Valencia, Ljubljana, Vilnius, Naples, Dublin, Amsterdam, Brussels and as far away as Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. We have welcomed entrepreneurs from Portugal, Italy, Germany, Romania, Poland, Turkey, Greece, Lithuania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Spain and Hungary.
One of our more unusual combinations saw an entrepreneur from Anguilla spending time in Finland. Njeri Richardson owned Branches of Learning, an education service in the British overseas territory of Anguilla. Njeri was aware Finland has pioneered the most innovative approaches to teaching children with learning difficulties and she wanted to adopt these methods in Anguilla, so spent four months in 2018 working with Shirin Kulkarni at the Council for Creative Education in Tampere.
On Friday 1 February 2018, the Business & IP Centre’s contract on the EYE programme was extended until January 2022 and we are looking forward to offering these great opportunities to many more entrepreneurs. The geographical coverage of the programme was previously limited to European Union countries with some additional countries such as Turkey, the Ukraine and Serbia, but has now been extended to include Israel, Singapore, New York State and Pennsylvania in the USA.
The programme is funded by the European Union, but we believe that the only risk from Brexit is from a no-deal scenario as this would mean that all UK activity would end immediately. If you are interested in going on an exchange as a new entrepreneur or acting as a mentor to a new entrepreneur from overseas as a host entrepreneur, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out more or apply for the programme here.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 9:06 AM
We often get enquiries in the Business & IP Centre about how to research digital trends. Such as mobile phone usage and social media growth.
Fortunately, we have access to eMarketer research, which is the first place to look for research about marketing in the digital world. eMarketer PRO is relied on by thousands of companies and business professionals worldwide to understand marketing trends, consumer behaviour. And to get hold of essential data on the fast-changing digital economy.
eMarketer is unusual for a market research publisher in how much information they give away for through their free newsletters.
But the only way to get hold of their full content is to come into the Business & IP Centre in London and access eMarketer PRO.
Here you will find:
Over 200 new reports each year with data, interviews with subject matter experts, and original analysis to provide insights, understanding and context on the most important topics in digital.
Aggregated data from over 3,000 sources of research in the data library.
Over 7,500 proprietary metrics about the digital marketplace, including media trends, consumer behaviour and device usage.
The ability to create customised charts and tables to help tell compelling stories with data.
Coverage across 100 countries, including proprietary metrics for 40 core countries.
eMarketer PRO will help to:
Answer specific questions and access data about digital related topics. Such as how much time do millennials spend with online video? How many smartphone users are there in the UK? What are the key UK digital trends for 2017?
Get deeper insight on digital topics. Such as what is programmatic advertising? What are the pros and cons of developing mobile apps vs mobile websites?
Research topics related to Advertising & Marketing, B2B, Demographics, Email, Industries, Measurement, Mobile, Retail & Ecommerce, Search, Social Media, Video
Benefit from eMarketer Forecasts using eMarketer Estimates up to 2020 for hundreds of Metrics.
To give you an idea of what you would find, here are some extracts from a typical eMarketer report.
UK Digital Video and TV 2017: Who’s Watching, How They’re Watching and What It Means for Marketers.
Nearly two-thirds of the UK population will watch digital video content in 2017
There will be more digital video viewers than smartphone users in 2017
Short-form content isn’t necessarily the preserve of the young; older groups are viewing increasing amounts
In terms of platforms, YouTube dominates the short-form space and has massive overall reach
For long-form VOD, the BBC’s iPlayer service dominates, but Netflix is gaining ground
So what does this mean for Marketers?
Pre-roll ads don’t work and are mostly disliked on digital channels
However, pre-roll is still where most of the money is going: 59% of digital video ad spending in H1 2016 went to pre- and post-roll inventory
Social is one area that seems like a good environment for video ads
Engagement with a video ad on social media often leads to a purchase
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 12:41 PM
On Saturday I visited Plumpton College near Lewes, for their annual open day. On display amongst the new-born lambs, Sussex wines, tractors and chainsaws was a stand for Kikka Digga. With my curiosity for all things new, I sauntered over and chatted to the demonstrator Nick Skaliotis. It turned out this was the very first public outing for the his new invention, which he claimed would make digging gardens significantly easier.
Mid-way through our conversation I asked if Nick had patented his invention, he looked more closely at me and said, "I know you". It turned out he has been a regular in the Business & IP Centre at the British Library. In addition to getting help with his patent from our wonderful Inventor in Residence Mark Shehean. He also attended several of our workshops including lean start-up webinar, social media for business and trade marks.
After hearing Nick’s story I just had to buy his product to see if it really did live up to his claims. Also, I hoped it would help me to avoid the lower back-pain I now get every time I dig over my vegetable patch.
As soon as I got home I took the two pieces of metal out of package and installed them onto my fork. This was as simple as the instructions indicated with just two items to clamp onto my fork.
As you can see from my photos below, I was able to dig over a small section of my very weedy heavy clay soil quickly and easily using Kikka Digga. And, even better, I had no twinges in my lower back afterwards. So I am definitely sold on the product.
I also like the name Kikka Digga, for being simple and memorable. And it has even more k’s than the legendary Kodak brand. George Eastman said about the letter k, “it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter.” I am also glad to see that Nick has registered the name at the UK Intellectual Property Office.
You can see a demonstration of the invention in action on YouTube. And keep up to date with Nick’s progress on Facebook or Twitter.
I can’t wait to see how the gardeners of Great Britain take to this wonderful invention.
Kikka Digga newly assembled on my fork in seconds
My first few digs into my heavy clay soil are surprisingly easy
Misty is as impressed as I am by the speed and ease in digging up the plot.
By Neil Infield in the Business & IP Centre London team
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 2:03 PM
Social media is very powerful in this digital age – in a single minute, around 3.3 million pieces of new content are uploaded to Facebook, 347,000 tweets are posted on Twitter, and 38,000 people upload pictures to their Instagram feed. Each social media platform has its own individual character and way of engaging with audiences and unlocking this is the key to a successful social strategy. However, it can be a bit daunting for beginners, so here are a few tips to help you find your feet.
Decide on the right social platforms for you
Begin with a maximum of three social channels to increase your chances of successful engagement with your audience, and be sure that they suit your business objectives. For example, LinkedIn is largely a corporate channel, so it might not be a priority if you’re trying to reach the end-consumer, and Instagram is more likely to be used by the under 35s.
Don’t bombard your audience
Customers do not want to feel spammed, so be mindful that it’s not necessary to post multiple times a day if you have nothing interesting to say. Relevant, engaging content is what you should be aiming for and it’s easy to achieve this if you simply put yourself in the mind-set of your customer.
Visuals are key
Images are processed 6,000 times faster than text by the human brain, so your followers will be more engaged with your content if an image is part of the post. According to Twitter, an image will make your tweet five times more shareable, so a bank of relevant imagery is helpful for a successful social media strategy.
Keep an eye on your channels
On average, customers expect a response to their queries or comments within an hour, and research suggests that a solution should be reached within six hours to maintain customer satisfaction. For SMEs this is so important, as word of mouth is a key part of growing your customer base. It’s essential to keep your customers engaged until a solution is reached. Facebook in particular is helping this support process with its recently launched ‘Saved Replies’ feature, which allows admins to quickly respond to customer enquiries with pre-written responses, such as directing them to the Help Desk – a quick way to maintain customer satisfaction if you’re pressed for time.
Don’t be too ambitious too soon
Immediate results are unlikely for a smaller business engaging in social media, but if you are smart in your approach then tangible benefits will be realised before too long. The ultimate goal should be engagement with your audience, so measuring inbound as well as outbound social media activity is important. Winning advocacy of your products or services is of course your ultimate goal.
John Morris is COO of UK2 Group a global group of web hosting brands providing web hosting and internet services to savvy surfers, small businesses and blue chip giants alike. They are also a corporate partner of the Business & IP Centre. For more help with social media for your small business attend an introductory workshop in the Centre.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 10:15 AM
Books are migrating to e-readers, music is being streamed and accounting is now happening in the cloud. This is the quiet revolution that accountants whisper but dare not speak aloud. Accounting software is dead; it’s online and upwards to the clouds. Online accounting has arrived.
It may sound a touch over the top but it’s true. As a business, how you manage your books pretty much manages everything else. Your accounting is an important engine in your business. A well-oiled efficient system will reap rewards; a slow burner with too many miles will underperform and slow you down.
This is where online accounting in the cloud is so significant. Consigned to software history is the accounting package sold ‘out of a box’ installed onto your desktop, run on a local drive and perhaps backed up onto a different drive. It was fun while it lasted but now SMEs have multiple choices when it comes to doing their books.
And here lies the problem. Business owners are generally uncertain about how to choose an online accounting package that works for them. But help is at hand, outlined below are some helpful tips to help you decide on how to choose the best package.
Why choose online accounting?
It’s easy to say the future is online but what are the actual advantages?
Firstly, you can access it anytime, anywhere and aren’t bound to the PC in your office and you don’t need to keep installing updates
Being on the cloud means information can be easier to share as well
It can save considerable time and keeps your records up to date
The question then is which online accounting package to choose? There are numerous packages you can subscribe to out there. Xero and Quickbooks are making inroads but there are lots of others too. There are well over thirty providers of online accounting, so choosing the right one for you can feel overwhelming. The best thing to do is to narrow your focus by asking yourself a few of the following questions:
How long has the software been around? In other words, is it market tested?
Is the software UK compatible? Can it deal with VAT? You will need a system that works effectively for VAT returns.
Can it work with multi-currencies (if you need to trade overseas)?
Can it integrate with other software easily (known as API) such as CRM or invoicing programmes?
Will it securely connect into your bank account? This can be very helpful when it comes to bank reconciliation and looking at a live picture of the financial state of your business.
What is the level of customer support? Are you able to call or use chat while online?
Having confidence in the provider you choose is important as they will be presenting all the data and running all the reports for you. Reports are your window into what’s happening with the numbers in your business, so it’s vital you can see what’s going on clearly. It’s best to see if your accounting software can run any of these types of reports clearly and effectively:
Profit and Loss reports
Balance Sheets (divided monthly)
Debtors and Creditors
Product and Inventory reports (if needed)
Employee and payroll
Test, test, test
Most of the major online accounting platforms will give you a free trial. Riz Wasti from 2E Accountants and participant on the Innovating for Growth programme recommends you test the software first to see how it works for you. He suggests doing the following:
“Most online software offer 30 days trial period. That’s your opportunity to test the software before relying on it. Use your real transactions, bank payments & receipts, sales invoices, bills and expenses, etc. Softwares will also have a Demo Company setup with data already entered. That’s your opportunity to play with the software”.
Migration to your online platform
Once you’ve selected the best online accounting package for you, do allow for time and some cost to migrate across from an existing platform. As ever, the devil is in the detail (and the numbers). Riz advises that:
“Migrating data from an existing system can be complicated. It’s best to do it in stages, for example starting with sales invoices and bills in batches of months and reconcile bank statements for each month entered. The payment allocation process can be time consuming. Bank data can be uploaded in one go separately to sales and bills, but then bank payments need to match or be allocated.”
All the more reason to do all the research you can on finding the right online accounting package for you. The effort is sure to be well worthwhile in the medium to long term for your business.
Jeremy O’Hare is a Relationship Manager for the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme, which provides £10,000 of fully-funded and tailored advice for businesses looking to grow. Since joining the British Library in 2005 he has worked with countless businesses, facilitating advice and research as well as providing workshops and information advice for start-ups and established businesses.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 1:31 PM
First Aid for Life is an award-winning first aid training business and a current participant on the Innovating for Growth programme at the British Library. Established in 2007, by Emma Hammett, First Aid for Life provides quality training courses, taught by highly experienced teachers, giving people the necessary skills to help in a medical emergency. The Business & IP Centre, helped First Aid for Life offer training courses online.
Source: First Aid for Life
We asked Emma about the challenges that led her to Innovating for Growth, how the programme changed her business and her tips for taking a business online.
Hi Emma, what challenges were you experiencing in your business before Innovating for Growth?
When I joined Innovating for Growth, much of the business was solely reliant on me. The successful migration from ‘live’ first aid courses to delivering an online platform was something I was having difficulty getting my head around. I wanted to scale up but scalability can be more challenging with a service industry, unless I went down the licensing or franchise route, my practical courses were constrained by the number of trainers within the business.
What vision did you have for your business to scale up?
To achieve my goal of growing the business, I decided to create an e-learning platform to take first aid training from the physical classroom to a virtual one. Development took longer than anticipated, but I am incredibly proud of the innovative and interactive Online First Aid programme which combines video, illustrated step by step instructions and ‘test yourself’ sections to create a truly unique and engaging learning experience.
The new website offers a range of 32 online first aid courses that comply with verifiable Continued Professional Development requirements, assist with pre-learning for those with English as a second language, and provide an ideal solution for businesses to fulfil corporate and social responsibilities. Bringing my service online has opened up many opportunities including the possibility of joint venture and affiliate opportunities with a range of companies.
Source: First Aid for Life
How did Innovating for Growth help you to achieve this?
Through workshops and mentoring sessions, I learnt how important it is to develop structures and systems in order to achieve real growth. The Business & IP Centre helped me to secure my intellectual property rights, develop and grow my team and create a source of scalability outside my core practical business as well as develop a tangible brand identity. Ultimately the programme helped me to add an online element to my business which has been vital in taking my business to the next level.
I am now in a position where I can work on my business, rather than just in my business and can strategically direct it to achieve our goals. My original offline business has been growing at 30% over the last 5 years and I am optimistic that the online training will lead to further growth. I now employ a team of 17 trainers who are medical and emergency services professionals, consequently the business reaches most corners of the UK. Innovating for Growth helped me to delegate and build a talented team of first aiders. The quality of our training and customer services is of tantamount importance and I want to retain the quality of service as the business grows.
Source: First Aid for Life
What were the steps for taking your business online?
I started planning the online courses nearly three years ago; I created the content in the format I required and researched platforms that could support the functionality I wanted. My initial courses were not in an ideal format and it was not until last year that I found the right platform and web designer to really make the courses work in the interactive and fully responsive manner I had been looking for. Once I found the correct platform I worked with a web designer to add the content I had developed, tested it on users and finally launched the new site.
What advice would you give to another business trying to move to an online platform?
Be prepared to invest time and money to get it right and test your concept to ensure you are creating something that people will want to buy.
Ideally choose a well-recognised platform rather than anything bespoke so that you can easily find freelance help to make changes and support you as your course develops and you are not beholden to a particular web developer.
Carefully think through your reasons for wanting an on-line business and ensure you create courses to achieve those goals.
Once the courses are selling they should begin to provide a passive and sustainable income that can bring you real flexibility to your working life.
If you need help growing your business – apply for some help with Innovating for Growth.
If, like Emma, you want to win £10,000 worth of free business support, apply for Innovating for Growth today.
Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 12:10 PM
In this superfast, digital, tech era we often hear people questioning the need for libraries - 'I can just google it’ or ‘I can get it online’ are common phrases batted around. This is of course overlooking the far wider benefits that libraries bring to local communities, the positive impact on health and economic wellbeing, or even the economy itself. Indeed libraries act as ‘the great equaliser’ - safe, trusted and impartial spaces, where anyone from any walk of life can access services. The success of the British Library’s own Business & IP Centre service is evidence that libraries have an important role to play in helping businesses to innovate and grow.
If all that doesn’t produce a flutter of excitement in their steely hearts, then perhaps something that will appeal is the idea of the library as a maker space, a rapid prototyping hub, a place for creative collaboration and sharing of ideas. Sure you can join online forums to share ideas, but you probably don’t have a CTR TMX12 Laser Machine in your garden shed!
Exeter Library’s FabLab is one such space; ‘an open access, not-for-profit, community resource where anybody can invent and make just about anything.’ It is the first ever to open in a UK public library and boasts a plethora of machines such as a Pro-Router, Vinyl Cutter, the aforementioned Laser Machine and of course the obligatory 3D printers.
So successful have they been, that the library hosted a Fab Futures conference last Friday 15 May, bringing together experts from across the UK and the globe to talk about how libraries can support innovation and creativity in the 21st century, and how they’ve done it in Exeter.
The day offered a local perspective with the lab volunteers and library staff talking through the prototyping equipment, offering hands on introductory taster workshops and showcasing the versatility of the machines.
Local textile designer Fran used the digital equipment to create her laser cut designs
Goodies in delegate packs made in the Fab Lab
Speakers attending from Mak Lab Glasgow, Fab Lab Manchester and Fab Lab Ellesmore Port, talked about the social significance and impact of the UK Fab Lab Network through engaging local communities, older people and disability groups as well as charities and businesses with the possibilities of digital manufacturing.
What happens when you put MDF in a laser cutter
A Google Link up with Chattanooga Library in Tennessee showcased their innovative 4th floor ‘public laboratory’, highlighting an intuitive partnership with Etsy, where their digital equipment is used to manufacture products which are then sold on the Etsy platform.
Fab Lab Exeter is a great facility for local entrepreneurs and creatives to access low cost or free digital making in a shared learning environment, and the perfect space to develop prototypes for new products and designs. To complement the Fab Lab, in the next twelve months Exeter Library will be joining the British Library’s National Network of Business & IP Centres in city libraries across the country. The Business & IP Centre will connect the Fab Lab’s innovation activities to intellectual property support and business information resources, helping to create healthy and sustainable businesses across the region. The current Business & IP Centre National Network provides support for entrepreneurs and inventors in Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester which also had a Digital Demonstrator Suite.
Here in the UK the libraries’ ‘maker movement’ has been a bit slow off the mark compared to our cousins across the pond, but it’s starting to gather momentum. Led by the likes of Exeter’s FabLab, or indeed Common Libraries National Science Experiment, we might in the near future find that people are as likely to pop to their local library for a ‘raspberry pi jam’ as they are to borrow a book.
Does your local library run any ‘maker sessions,’ ‘raspberry pi jams’ or ‘library hacks’? If so, get in touch, we’d love to hear more and visit one of our National Network of Business & IP Centres soon.
David Gimson and Hanna Fayaz on behalf of the Business & IP Centre
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 4:36 PM
All three businesses went from zero to multimillion pound turnovers in a relatively short period of time, aided by digital technology.
Ella’s Kitchen, is the biggest baby food business in the UK, turning over circa £100m last year and sold in over 30 countries
The Cambridge Satchel Company, which started in 2008, has a £13m turnover
Naked Wines, which started the same year, has 250,000 prepaying customers, 120 wine makers on the books and a £67m annual turnover
Richard Phelps, Executive for Entrepreneurs at Barclays, Paul Lindley, Julie Deane and Eamon Fitzgerald
Julie Deane noted passion was important for a business' success. She was very geeky at school and no-one who knew her would have thought she would end up at the helm of a company which featured at London Fashion Week. “It shows that you can change direction if you have a passion for something."
Deane's motivation for starting a business was to get her children into a good private school, a goal she achieved with only £600. Her mum had always told her it was bad to borrow, so she never has. “Borrowing money makes you scared so you cannot be as free to do something fantastic.” The limited budget meant she had to be creative and learn new skills. She built her own website through a free tutorial and saw exporting as “a different label on the parcel.” She used her children to model the bags and paid them with a Mars bar each. They also starred in her Google advert.
The Cambridge Satchel Company
Deane contacted fashion bloggers who were attending New York Fashion Week to generate word of mouth and since then the bags have been seen on the shoulders of Taylor Swift and Alex Chung, and featured on hit TV shows Girls and The Good Wife.
Deane now employs 120 people, producing over 900 bags a day in a factory based in Leicester, selling to Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales.
Eamon Fitzgerald spoke about the business model for Naked Wines being built upon customers grouped as ‘Angels’ investing £20 a month in the company, in return they enjoy insider prices of 25% - 50% off retail wines prices. The longest serving customers are involved in the consultation of new ideas, with opportunities to taste new wines.
Fitzgerald recalled how Naked Wines’ ‘Angels’ raised £2,500 in one afternoon to help an independent wine producer whose stock had been vandalised. He said campaigns like these motivated staff and customers and set aside his brand from competitors.
Fitzgerald had the following tips for business success:
Have a product that is better than your competitors
Cut out overheads for customers and build a fan base based on strong values such as supporting small wine growers
Invest in talent rather than sales
Treat your best customers well
Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, finished the panel recalling how he was inspired by his daughter Ella when he used games to make food fun and entice her to eat. He was working at Nickelodeon at the time, which meant he had a good knowledge of what children like and how they relate to brands.
Lindley noticed most baby food was aimed at parents, Ella’s Kitchen is different. It is healthy organic food, but the packaging and combination of foods makes it appealing to children. The bright pouches the company uses were unique at the time, “it was important to me to engage all their senses and to think like a child.” He wanted to be “different and create the next generation of toddler and baby food. The other brands had not changed and were very functional. We created a brand that was emotional because when you have a baby you are at your most emotional.”
Customer values were at the heart of his brand and Lindley’s mission was to improve children’s health by giving them a good relationship with food. Lindley is now focusing on a new start-up, Paddy’s Bathroom. It’s a range of fun organic bathroom products named after his son and the social message is much more upfront. For each drop of water children uses to wash themselves a village in Rwanda gets a drop of clean water.
Lindley’s five steps to success echoed Fitzgerald’s and Dean’s advice earlier in the evening;
Strong brand values
Putting the customer first
Building an “awesome team”
Going on instinct
Promoting social responsibility
All three speakers stressed how important it was to reward their employees, for instance, by offering them shares in the business or giving them stock. Lindley said it was vital to recruit based on mind-set rather than skillset and all said their first recruits were the most important, promoting the “need to invest in recruiting the right people.” Equally important in the success of each of their businesses was story-telling. Lindley said “A story is so important to a business and telling that story is so important to the success of the business.”
Emily Hill is the CEO of Write My Site, a digital copywriting agency based in Ealing, London. Her next workshop, ‘Blogging for Business’ takes place at the British Library Business & IP Centre on Thursday 12 February at 6pm. We asked her what advice she would give to small businesses wanting to start or develop their blog.
Emily Hill, CEO of Write my Site
Blogging for Business
Ahead of my workshop about business blogging as part of this year’s Web in Feb, I thought it would be useful to outline a few tips for small business owners who are considering starting a blog – or indeed, those who have set up blogs on their websites but aren’t too sure what to do with them.
At my copywriting agency, we write content for all manner of business blogs, from start-up tech companies through to big fashion retailers, and while there’s a vast difference in the type of content that performs best for each client, there are some general principles that apply to everyone. Below is my shortlist of 10 considerations which I hope will help in deciding how to approach blogging for
1) Blogging is proven to increase traffic to your website
A study of 2,000 businesses by HubSpot also revealed that blogging more than 15 times each month increases traffic by 55% and inbound links by 97%.
2) Blogging generates leads
Blogging sceptics think it’s not worth spending time or money on lots of content that doesn’t generate immediate sales. These people are missing the point. For small businesses, a blog is the most valuable digital asset they can curate. Blogging doesgenerate leads – according to a Think Creative survey, small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog. However, it’s important to take a long-term approach.
At Write My Site, we regularly sign new clients who have been following our blog and social channels for months – in some cases years. Blogging is about building your reputation as an expert in your field, and you can’t do that overnight. The payoff, however, is that the clients who’ve been following your blog are the best kind of clients: they’ve already learned something from you, they already trust your brand, and they are brilliant at generating repeat orders and referrals.
3) Small businesses get the most out of blogging
Small businesses with 1-10 employees receive the biggest benefit of frequent blogging: they can double their sales leads by increasing their number of blog posts from 3-5 to 6-8 per month (HubSpot).
That said, measuring the impact of a business blog purely by the amount of traffic or leads it generates is a limited approach because it excludes the value of developing a social media fan base, and obtaining PR opportunities (e.g. invitations to speak at industry conferences) – both of which are invaluable by-products of blogging for small businesses who must constantly find ways to compete with more well-known competitors.
4) Writing the company blog needs to be someone’s main job
Here’s the drawback to blogging: it’s labour-intensive. This means someone has to spend their time researching and creating the sort of high-quality, original content that will stand out from the thousands of generic articles that already exist on any given topic. Most business blogs are abandoned after fewer than 5 posts and my guess would be it’s because nobody has the time to keep it up to date.
Writing the company blog needs to be someone’s main job or clearly-defined part-time role. It doesn’t matter if that someone is an employee, a contractor or an agency copywriter – what’s important is that they don’t have conflicting demands on their time.
5) Every business has something interesting to say
Many businesses fear they are too “boring” to be able to populate a blog with regular content that people will want to read, but there is a clear reason why this isn’t so: if your business has a customer base, then it is sitting on information and advice that will be of interest to those customers.
Take net curtains, for instance. This is not a topic that automatically gets my pulse racing, but I became a customer of a small textiles company that had taken the trouble to publish articles about how to measure, select and hang net curtains. Why did I buy from them? Quite simply, because they had taken the trouble to provide genuinely helpful information that was an exact match for my needs. This made me far more positively inclined towards them than towards the other companies that simply tried to sell me their products.
6) Longer articles are generally better than shorter ones
In recent years there’s been a shift from short and snappy blog pieces to longer, more detailed articles. This is partly because of Google’s increasingly strict quality guidelines (see point 8, below) and partly because responsive design has made it possible for long-form text to be easily read on mobile phones and tablets. Although there is no convincing evidence that the length of a blog piece has a noticeable impact on traffic, it does seem to affect links and social shares. If a blog post is greater than 1,500 words, on average it receives 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes (Quick Sprout).
My view is that most blogs benefit from a mix of article lengths. I tend to write a combination of 1,000 words plus pieces (such as this one!) and shorter pieces of no more than 500 words as these can be more easily absorbed by the busy reader.
7) WordPress is awesome
I suggest to my clients that they get set up to an easy to use and SEO-friendly blogging platform such as WordPress. What I really like about WordPress (other than it being completely free) is the extent to which it can be customised – both on the front and back end. You can make it look and behave in just about any way you like.
8) Keywords have grown up
More precisely, Google has grown up. Blogging used to be so easy: all you needed to do was keep repeating a certain word or phrase as often as you could and wait for Google to put you on Page One of the search results for that term. Following a deluge of poorly constructed ‘spam’ articles from companies wanting a quick win, however, Google has raised its game and is becoming better at recognising keyword spam and other cheap tricks designed to manipulate its algorithm.
Following the Hummingbird update in 2013, Google’s key interest is figuring out what people mean rather than just what they say when they run a search. The semantics of search is a huge topic in and of itself, so for the purposes of this section I’ll skip straight to the conclusion: write articles targeted at the reader and don’t crowbar your keywords into them. If you’re using WordPress (see point 7!) you can install a plugin called Yoast which will help you tweak your articles for keywords in a natural way.
9) Your blog needs a voice
Generic content is the kiss of death in business blogging, especially for small companies that don’t already have an established readership. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to read your ‘me too’ version of an article that has already been widely circulated. You must develop a distinctive voice, and a distinctive view on whatever topic you are writing about.
10) Your analytics will tell you what’s working (and what’s not)
The only way you can tell whether or not your blog is doing well is by measuring it. As the saying goes “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Fortunately, this doesn’t need to cost you a penny. Make sure you install Google Analytics so that you can track visitors and page bounces (the number of people who leave your blog without interacting) for every article. Over time you should be able to spot patterns that tell you what kind of articles are most popular with your readers.
Blogging for your business can reap huge rewards, so I hope these tips have gone some way towards helping you develop and refine your strategy. Good luck!
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 4:37 PM