5 Minutes With Lucy Paine

Welcome to the third instalment in our series of blogs that look at all aspects of the challenges facing small businesses. For our third edition, we sat down with Lucy Paine from TechSpark who is leading their Tech Swindon ecosystem development project.

What was your background prior to Tech Swindon?

Very varied, I have worked for Pre IPO start-ups in Silicon Valley, within tech and education companies in sales, partner management and marketing, run my own business and most recently spent almost five years at Sussex Innovation Centre putting all my knowledge, experience and connections into helping other people grow their companies, or take their idea into reality.

Most of my roles have been around people and collaboration looking back but I can’t claim that there was a plan.

How do you help support small businesses in your role?

Tech Swindon is a new initiative focussed upon glueing together all the great tech scene in Swindon to then nurture and develop into a community able to challenge for talent against the shiny lights of cities like Bristol and Brighton.

The support we offer ranges from creating a peer-driven Swindon Founders meet up through to one to one strategy workshops – I’m a resource for the SME tech community and what that looks like is flexible as we evolve the proposition and meet more companies.

What inspires you about working with small businesses?

Helping them progress, as a neutral resource I offer can a sounding board, challenge strategy, help them test assumptions, build a team – we are a not for profit and I am not trying to upsell services. The success of Tech Swindon will be reflected by the growth of our small business community, and I hope some of that will come from the confidence and intelligence of the support delivered.

In your opinion how important is growing your small business network, building relationships and nurturing connections to help grow a business compared to other sales/marketing activities?

There are two angles to this question – firstly running a business can be really hard, lonely and having a network of fellow founders means you can share your issues/ highs and lows with a group of peers who understand and can help.

Secondly, the old cliché of people buying people is still true even in 2020 – and through networking, you’ll meet clients, partners and connectors you’d never build any depth of credible relationship with on LinkedIn. Just be picky with your networking, but when you find a group that works commit, go each month and build meaningful engagement, don’t expect a sale, hope for an interesting conversation and it will be worth your time.

You can also use this networking to support your sales and marketing, get onto social, take a photo of the group, tag the organiser, attendees you met etc and add an intelligent comment that they will all share – again do this with integrity and they’ll start sharing your message.

What are the main challenges you see SMEs face in doing this?

Time v perceived value – I have seen some companies go to every networking event going for two months, then decide none are worth it so don’t leave the office for the rest of the year. Research a meeting, check out the attendee list and if no one there is remotely in your space don’t go – find your tribe but also throw in a random one with an interesting speaker.

I think a lot of people worry about how false networking can be, and the first time is always awkward, but the second time you’ll recognise the faces and the conversations will develop from weather to something more meaningful.

I am avoiding the word useful, just sounds too manipulative – if you only look for useful you’ll miss interesting and genuine connections are more to lead to a referral than useful ones. We’ve all met the person who starts with asking what do you do, and looks over your shoulder as soon as he/she has decided you’re not going to buy what he is selling – don’t be that person.

How do you see small business networking, building relationships and nurturing connections changing in the future? Will Tech play a bigger role?

Tech hasn’t mastered the complexities of an in-person networking connection, LinkedIn is great to keep in touch, and webinars for quick calls or training, but we get so much more done in person.

It’s just like dating, apps and matchmaking platforms all sound great, but you only know when you meet someone if it’s going to work. And while business is a different transaction the trust you build in those first meetings is why you buy/ sell/ recommend/ partner with someone.

What is the most powerful networking event you have been involved with?

Powerful networking to me is a group where I feel comfortable, with familiar faces and new ones, in a non-sales environment where the room wants to hear more about you without judgement and who are themselves well connected and able to help you make connections that impact your business – that’s the utopia of networking and very rare.

In Brighton that was the Brighton Chamber Breakfast and their success was underpinned by the team and the culture of the Chamber – there was the odd salesperson but they didn’t tend to come back, they’d missed the point!

Do you have any final words of advice for small business owners wanting to improve their network and their networking skills?

Make time for networking, research the groups around you and try a few. Prepare your 30 second “What does your business do” reply, make it natural and interesting – and then listen to all the replies you get.

LinkedIn with the people you enjoyed meeting, ignore the invitations of the ones you didn’t and commit to going to the group that has the most relevance for at least 6 months, offer to talk, offer to sponsor a lunch/ charity event and see this time as a business and personal investment.

Small business marketing ideas!

As a small business that is very interested in small business marketing, we spend a lot of time each week reading tips and advice from across the World Wide Web. So, we thought we’d launch a regular round-up of some of the cool ideas that we come across just in case you have missed them.

So to kick off, here’s a few for starters.

Use Google Data Studio to Analyse Your Facebook Ads

If you are spending money on Facebook Ads to increase reach, conversions etc you are going to want to fully understand your Facebook ad performance. One really good way of doing that is through Google Data Studio.

This article by Social Media Examiner covers how to better track and analyse your Facebook advertising campaigns performance with this free tool.

Get Creative!

Want to be the same as your competitors? Of course not. That would be silly.

From Speed dating with potential customers to Alignment with trade associations, this article by All Business has some brilliant approaches by 10 entrepreneurs that are not scared to look outside the box when it comes to marketing their business and products.

Video marketing is leading the way for ROI

Everyone’s talking about video marketing, and for good reason: there’s power in video, especially for small businesses. Video grabs users’ attention and engages them to a greater extent than text (apart from this blog of course).

We can’t think of a better form of media to engage your target audience than video. 83% of businesses say that video provides a good return on investment and ROI and research by Moovly found that you are 53 times more likely to show up on the first page of Google if you have a video embedded on your site. As Middle Table say; with numbers like that, what’s not to love!

Build your LinkedIn community in just 5 minutes a day

Are you maximising your presence on LinkedIn?

It’s possible to start building your personal network with just 5 minutes effort a day so no more “I don’t have the time” excuses!

South Thames Marketing show you how…

We hope you find some these useful and if you are looking for any tips/advice on how to better maximise social for your business drop us a line. As fellow small business owners, we are happy to chat and advise without obligation. We’re just pleased to help where we can.

 

Taking advantage of the benefits of Twitter for small business

Let’s be honest, Twitter is an interesting world! We follow our favourite celebrities or footballers and we’ve winced at some of the stuff they’ve shared. A scandal hits and one of the first places we turn to is Twitter! We’ve also all had that sneaky look when our phone signal goes down, just to see the comical responses that people post. Why do people get so angry? It can be an intimidating, as well an interesting place!

And in a professional sense, it can be a place where you might think, it’s best just to steer clear and concentrate your efforts on LinkedIn – especially within the B2B world.

Yet, Twitter is actually a very powerful marketing tool and an extremely effective and valuable one to build relationships with your clients (and prospective clients). We’ll be honest, we love it!

You can learn an incredible amount about your customers; you can engage with them; you can make your brand more human and importantly, you can add value by sharing relevant and engaging content. It’s also a great way to stay ahead of what’s happening in the industry and build awareness of your firm. What is there not to like? What’s more, it’s free.

However, the reason people don’t appreciate the value and power is that they do not appreciate the time and effort that is required. You get out of Twitter, what you put in!

So, here are some of our quick tips to help you find that value:

Understand what you want to achieve.

What are your goals? Is it…

  • Increasing sales?
  • Becoming a customer support channel?
  • Increasing brand awareness?
  • Tracking industry trends?

Maybe, it’s a combination of the four, but always be clear and remember you can’t be all things to everyone.

Have a clear content plan

Posting interesting and engaging content, such as blogs and white papers, is important to maintain the interest of your followers. Relevant content grows your following and increases your brand awareness. Complement your own content with relevant third-party content that will be of interest to your following. But, have a plan and remember you need to be tweeting around 3-4 times day. Mix your content up, use images, create GIFs, embed videos – make sure your newsfeed is engaging and looks your own.  But don’t forget while ‘quantity’ is important when it comes to tweeting, it cannot be at the expense of ‘quality’. If you over-post, you run the risk of coming across like an aggressive spam account.

Use Hashtags

Make sure you use relevant and popular hashtags in your tweets. Look at what hashtags are trending with your target audience. This play a big part in growing your following.

Engage, engage, engage

Twitter is not just a place for broadcasting announcements, you have to engage with your community. Retweet posts you find interesting. Add a comment or click Like. If someone comments on your posts, good or bad, reply – professionally! You’ll get positive results from Twitter when you genuinely engage with people, but this requires a time commitment. One simple tip: just take 5/10 minutes a day, maybe during your commute home, to scroll through your feeds and comment and retweet.

In most industries, Twitter is full of influencers; make sure you also follow, retweet, comment and like their posts. If you can build up a relationship with these individuals, there is a chance they will begin retweeting your content. The benefit? They have significant reach and exposure.

Measure and keep track

Twitter analytics enables you to analyse your activities:

  • You can track the performance of your tweets daily and monthly. From this, you can get an understanding of what kinds of content gets the best engagement and you can tailor your plan accordingly. It will also give you an indication of the most effective times to post.
  • You can also track how your following has increased/decreased over the last 30 days, and how many new followers you’ve received per day. You can, therefore, look at what kinds of content was posted on the days you lost followers, did you post too much that day?

Finally, don’t expect overnight results. It takes time to build a relevant and engaged community. So, stick with it and the success will follow – no pun intended!

Twitter is an ‘interesting’ world, but it’s also an extremely effective one. If you would like some support with your Twitter or wider social media strategies, we’d love to chat.

A version of this post originally appeared on our good friends at South Thames Marketing’s blog.

How start-ups can use social media to raise brand awareness

That social media can be utilised to boost brand awareness is no surprise. 28% of all online activity is spread across various social media platforms. Facebook surpasses 1.65 billion active users each month. It makes sense that start-ups want to use it to their advantage.

This has, however, posed a new set of problems for small business owners. As an entrepreneur, you have access to  the vast array of online resources, but how can you be noticed ahead of competitors? Gone are the days when amusing content and some savvy-scheduling were enough to get ahead online.

Precisely how can you use social media to effectively raise awareness of your brand, and reap the many rewards on offer in today’s market?

brand-1

Know your audience. Know your network

It’s so important you know your target audience. Even the sharpest, wittiest, most shareable content is wasted on the wrong audience. At the same time, your snappiest content is no good to anyone if those most receptive to your products and services aren’t able to see it.

Increasingly, this means prioritising your time and output for the most suitable sharing platforms. The largest companies have a presence across a wide range of online platforms. But each social platform has a different demographic. This presents a unique opportunity for start-ups to grow their brands through drives at particular customer bases.

Twitter remains the central hub for news and current affairs seekers, and LinkedIn for business. Facebook’s shifting demographic towards an older user-base have rendered it less effective for targeting younger audiences than previously. The growth in alternative, more visual platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, populated mainly by younger audiences, has opened up new possibilities for tech-savvy street-food and fashion outlets to emphasise their best qualities to their most receptive markets.

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Quality, not quantity

So, you’ve found your customer-base in which to grow. The next important step is creating the right content to get people interested and to keep them returning to your channels and making the most of what you have to offer. The true beauty of social media as a marketing tool is that once your output is correctly pitched, it should start to market itself.

Creating content that is shareable, without appearing click bait-y or too eager in its attempts to engage its viewer, is the ultimate way to ensure your targeted individual’s share and reproduce your content within their own social networks of like-minded individuals. In this way, your brand awareness can increase exponentially, and at a lightning pace.

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Open a dialogue

Social media is not just a tool to create content that keeps users returning to your channels. It also presents a handy cost-saving customer-engagement tool. It enables small businesses  to run full-time customer service operations to have a continuous dialogue with their product users.

You can improve your services through open dialogue with your present and future customers. This allows you to direct resources to more pressing needs, but presenting an insight into this side of your business is worth its weight in brand-awareness gold. Presenting an engaging, human face behind an otherwise faceless enterprise can help bring your brand to life.

Offer like-minded web users the chance to feel like a part of your product, watch it grow and be invited along for the journey. It’s the perfect way to keep them returning to your network, and help your brand to grow.

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Social media – the start-up business hub

So, what does all of this mean for emerging start-ups looking to raise their brand awareness? You need to make social media the online hub of your business. Take advantage of the opportunity to welcome your customers, current and potential, into the world of your business. Offer insights into the day-to-day running of your start-up. Engage them in dialogue about your product, give them the human side behind their latest favourite cost-saving app.

Engaging content can be the perfect way to give you a product worth sharing and remembering. Create something worth sharing, and you’re building a brand worth discussing.