Growth Twenty 13

Just come back from the Cumbria Business Growth Hub exhibition at Carlisle race course. More details on this are at www.cumbriagrowthhub.co.uk. It was a well attended event with lots of opportunities for networking. There were a number of seminars on matters of interest. I attended Ray Cassidy’s from Consulting Cumbria on search engine optimisation and Jackie Harris’s on what can be done to promote a business. If you did not get a chance to get along Ray’s presentation can be found at www.consultingcumbria.co.uk.

Points that stood out from Ray’s talk were to ensure that your business name and address were the same throughout the web and that local phone numbers were important for local business. Much of the work to ensure your internet presence is right requires dogged determination in front of a computer, unless of course you choose to employ someone to do this for you. It is always good to refer to published information and Ray did not disappoint, he recommended viewing the Local Search Ranking Factors Survey and I will be sure to refer to this guidance. There is so much changed now in the marketing environment and it is important that business folk keep abreast of all the changes; no doubt this is why Ray’s session was well attended.

Tasks that need to  be executed include checking your details online to ensure that every reference is correct, ensuring that a business has claimed its map page listing, checking that the right keywords are in the title, headers and content, putting links into your content, ensuring your content answers the questions users have when they arrive at your website and many more.

Jackie talked about the importance of promotional planning and writing tasks to do on a calendar to try to focus on what promotional activity needed to be done each month and the importance of linking messages across channels. Her presentation can be found at Brightspark Marketing.

For those of you who like reading texts on the subject as well as there being specialist texts on search engine optimisation, important if you want your business to be found online, you may be interested in Smith PR and Ze Zook’s Marketing Communications (2011) which looks at integration of offline and online with social media, details available at www.koganpage.com. I had not appreciated that everything changes very quickly with over 500 changes last year.

Many of the growth hub partners had a presence. Lancaster University Management School  were promoting a number of offerings including their Aspiring Businesses in Cumbria programme. LUMS has a new sixth month programme starting in January 2014: details to be found at www.lums.ac.uk/ieed. The programme is action learning based with a variety of master classes to help businesses grow.  Other offerings included their LEAD programme.They were also promoting their entrepreneurs in residence opportunities where office space is available. UCLan and Cumbria were also present with a variety of offerings. Locals in Carlisle should contact Joanna.tate@cumbria.ac.uk to determine the help available to growing businesses through the University of Cumbria. Among their product offerings are master classes to help develop business skills.

The exhibition was well supported by exhibitors over three floors. There were plenty of local hotels offering us get away packages and conference facilities, and local solicitors and accountants plying their trade. In terms of companies offering marketing support there was seventythreecreations.co.uk offering design solutions for print from Kendal, Print Graphic from Carlisle, Solway Communications offering superfast broadband and any place internet at www.anyplaceinternet.co.uk.

The most unusual but interesting product for me was a personalised ribbon service from Grasmere Gingerbread which can be used for wrapping wedding favours. Not just do they supply their own wonderful gingerbread but they also have a variety of really lovely packaging solutions for  wedding favours. You can even get the gingerbread in a heart shape. I cannot at the moment think when I could use it though, although I can always eat their gingerbread!

I am always interested in the promotional merchandise being offered and its relationship to the brand, how it entices customers to engage with the exhibitor and whether it is given away, used to start a conversation or to sit there. My interest stems from a few years ago when I ran a promotional merchandise business in Cambridgeshire. A few exhibitors were running promotions so that delegates would give them their business cards which could be used to add to an email database but by no means everybody was doing this. There were a few bottles of drink as prizes. The most fun prize for me as a promotional gift was a desktop hoover, either a Henry or a Hatty from System Group. In terms of functionality and desirability one company was offering a Kindle and one company that produces videos a mini. This seems to link to a utilities promotion. Pens were ubiquitous and are always useful and carry the brand name but I took none and was proffered none. Many stalls had sweets which often carried no branding, although Samsung did have sweets in a branded bag. There were a few mugs which were branded and some rulers from a college.

It caused me to reflect on the protocol for issuing promotional merchandise? Do exhibitors try to give the stock away to engage visitors in conversation or keep it for use next time? What gift can be so desirable that a delegate would want it so that it keeps the company front of mind in a busy office environment? If companies go away with most of what they brought then it perhaps is not doing its job.

The company for me which had the most interesting exhibit was Foskett Hylton Design based in Kirby Stephen. I was particularly taken with their reworked Anglepoise lamp and a really nice shopping basket they had made for Boots, rounded rather than angular.

I wonder how the exhibitors and speakers evaluated the success of the event to them. Whilst those who exhibited will have improved their brand awareness what objectives were set by them for attending and have they evaluated whether those objectives were met? Objectives that could have been set may have included to build a database of local businesses, but if no promotion were offered to collect cards, this would not have been done.  Another objective could have been to develop new leads: this would require engagement with delegates and noting down useful points. I have seen businesses before at events with printed pads capturing all the details of prospects for later follow up. Some organizations exhibiting had come a long way and their target market would appear to be dictated by geography, so it was far from obvious to me what they expected to gain from being there.

Whatever element of the communications mix is being used it should be part of a promotional plan with clear objectives set and clear evaluation after the event as to whether those objectives had been met. Objectives could include ” to launch new products, maintain a presence in the market, to secure press  coverage, to reinforce relationships, to support local distributors, to execute marketing research, to test new ides, to gain competitor analysis, to motivate staff and to meet potential recruits” Smith and Ze Zook, 2011, p403. If you would like help with marketing strategy, planning, marketing communications do please contact me and I will see how I can help you. Turning up with literature to an exhibition is only part of what exhibiting is about.

 

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