@BusinessPD – 1 month on

No not a US Police Department! @BusinessPD is the Twitter account for Businesses in the Peak District. Business_Peak_District Over the past month, I have undertaken the running of this account. As a Social Media & Digital Marketing Apprentice, working with colleagues at BSA, Business Peak District has been the perfect opportunity for me to build experience in running a commercially orientated Twitter account. Engagement, Engagement, Engagement! The first step was to assess the current standing of the account. When I first assumed control at the beginning of January, the activity was sporadic, with an occasional tweet a few times a month. The follower count stood at 730. That meant 730 people weren’t seeing enough from the @BusinessPD. This made the initial objective clear: To increase the level of activity and engagement! In order to do this, I had to find topics to tweet about! There was  plenty of great content on the Business Peak District website, ranging from information on funding  to upcoming events. People would always find this useful but weren’t being exposed to it. Releasing this content, quickly led to a significant increase in engagement, and a growing follower base. A good start! The graphic below shows the steady increase in followers. graph 1   Gathering pace It soon became evident that the account had huge potential to engage businesses within the Peak District, and to highlight opportunities. It was simply a case of retweeting images and content of businesses in action as alongside relevant news from the area in tandem with  content from the website. Quickly leading to growth in the level of interaction and engagement. The graphic below shows the increase in the retweets graph 2 Moving forward Ultimately, the aim is to make the @businesspd THE place to go to find and engage with other businesses within the area. As I have already seen, by engaging with existing followers, and creating an interesting dialogue others will soon get involved. I also want to focus the accounts that @BusinessPD follows so that I have a feed of ‘retweetable’ content and can spread news, images and successes stories from around district. The Peak District is an immensely popular area of the country and has plenty to talk about on Twitter, so finding content should not be an issue but it needs to be two way and I’m open to ideas. Businesses know what they want and would like to see, watch out for those tweets tell me what sort of content you would like to see on @BusinessPD.

UK SME income up 7.4%. But it should be double that!

growthSmall and Medium Enterprises (SMEs to you and me!) are the powerhouse behind the UK economy. Regular pronouncements from the Government suggest that the country’s economic future is in our hands! I have read a couple of reports recently about the impact SMEs have on the UK economy, and they set me thinking. The first announced the good news – UK SME income up 7.4% in 2014. After such a long period of economic stagnation it is good to see measured growth – I hope you see some of it coming your way! The message from the second report is not so good: One in four small companies has no business plan for growth (based on my experience, I reckon the figure is somewhat higher than this!) but maybe this cloud has a silver lining? If we are seeing 7.4% income growth in a sector where 75% of businesses have no plan for growth, more focus on planned development could represent a huge, latent opportunity. There is no doubt many businesses who openly admit to having no proper business development plan are still very successful though too often this success is built on fragile foundations. It’s great while everything is going well but the lack of a plan can lead to real problems if the unexpected happens.

A Lesson Learnt

We learnt this lesson graphically in the 1990s. We had allowed BSA to evolve without a proper plan and, as a consequence, to become over-reliant on one client. While the relationship continued the business was great-and profitable. We just rode the wave! Suddenly there was a change of senior management and a change of policy meant that services they had been successfully subcontracting (to us!) would be brought in house. We hadn’t done anything wrong, the client was very happy with us,  it was just a change of policy. These things happen! Within 3 months, our turnover with the client had dropped to almost zero – now that was a wake-up call! Fortunately we survived the ordeal and learnt our lesson. We mustn’t allow circumstances to creep up on us – we needed a plan-and now we have one!

Why do companies take the risk?

One of the reasons that so many business fail to plan is that, creating the plan is only half the battle. A plan must be implemented – and sustained. Often the focus in as SME is short term, on paying the bills rather than on creating a plan for longer term growth. When things are quiet, there is more time to plan, but being quiet can have an impact on cashflow so the plan tends to look at this, immediate, problem rather than any further ahead. Then the plan starts to have an effect, resulting in more business so the short term issues go away, and the plan goes out of the window (until next time!)

The cycle of feast and famine

This process can work but tends to deliver that all too familiar cycle of feast and famine. As a consequence, we have a relatively stable SME economy,  but with at the expense of planned, sustainable growth. In other words, I see the issue not as the lack of willingness to plan, it is the lack of commitment to sustainably put the plan into action in the medium and long term.

Government Support

I said at the top of this article that the Government are committed to supporting and encouraging SME business and there is certainly a good deal of financial support available but I do sometimes wonder if the sustainable growth issue is exacerbated by the way SME business support is funded. Support is very much focused on creating the strategy/plan for growth, but there is little or no support for putting that plan into action. I do sometimes wonder how many of the 75% of businesses that do have a growth plan, have it sitting gathering dust on a shelf! We see success when there is a strong plan, and commitment to implementing that plan in the long term.

Avoid Knee-Jerk Marketing

Digital marketing tools and techniques now available to everyone mean that real sustainable marketing communication is well within the budgets of SMEs. Often they are used in isolation as a knee-jerk to address short term needs, sometimes successfully and other times not so…. Put these tools and techniques to work as part of a structured growth plan and the results can be remarkable. Its a small shift, but one that can have a huge impact. If you are disillusioned with what digital marketing has done for your business, and are committed to planning for real growth, we would love to talk to you.