Business with a conscience
PUBLISHED: 12:21 17 December 2010 | UPDATED: 14:33 20 February 2013
Businesses around the Cotswolds are becoming more humanitarian by generating extra work and local produce
With its beautiful scenery and relaxed atmosphere, it is hard at first sight to detect something of a business revolution going on quietly under the charming surface of the Cotswolds.
Yet the Cotswolds has been one of the beneficiaries of changes in attitude, technology and working practice that have made rural businesses, both those focusing on rural pursuits and those based in the heart of the countryside, a force to be reckoned with.
Companies large and small are benefiting from great communications, a perfect location and rising levels of entrepreneurship and wages to make the most of doing business in the Cotswolds.
The key to competing successfully, thought, is promoting and marketing a business in a targeted fashion, both locally and in the global market place. A survey of local companies carried out by Business Link Gloucestershire showed that the biggest concern of businesses of all sizes, whether a one-man band operating out of a back bedroom or an established name, was successful sales and marketing. Almost half of those surveyed said that improving this area, learning how to target customers and appeal to their core market and adopting the right strategies, was their number one priority.
Here a number of local marketing professionals with both local and national clients offer their top ten tips for marketing success.
1. Make sure you know your market
Where a business is located does not define its output. Rather, it's the other way round. "Marketing needs to be tailored to the type of business, whether rural or not," says Susan Hogan, whose Xpansion Marketing is based at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester and whose clients include technology recycling company Engelhard, based in the Forest of Dean, and Rooms Outdoor, which creates and installs the sort of home offices and garden rooms that Cotswold businesses are utilizing.
"You can't lump rural businesses together and use similar strategies, simply because they are in the same general area. Also, a business based in the Forest of Dean is likely to have different wants and needs to a town-based business in Cheltenham or Gloucester, and a niche company with local customers will have a different outlook to one with a global clientele. The skill is to be very precise and focus on the particular aims and objectives of individual companies."
2. Location as a selling point
All the positive aspects of the Cotswolds, including lovely location and tranquillity can be used as one of the area's best in-built marketing tools, particularly when the business is associated with the best of the English countryside. Emma Walton, who runs Walton PR in Bourton-on-the-Water and has clients such as Gloucestershire Enterprise and charitable search engine Everyclick.com, says that it is important to stress location where appropriate. "For local organisations, I would certainly flag up the beautiful countryside and pretty streets that welcome visitors to the Cotswolds. When it comes to Everyclick.com, the business may be global but it is always great to be able to have the a visit to the Cotswolds as an incentive and a wonderful backdrop to meetings and people are always very keen to come out of London for a visit."
3. Join the technology revolution
Whether large or small, local or global, a website is fast becoming the key essential when it comes to marketing. It allows companies to have a presence far beyond their size, adds reach without costing the earth and allows Cotswold businesses to make as much or as little of their location as they wish. Susan Hogan says the technology has revolutionised marketing and developments are gathering apace. "Websites are being redeveloped and becoming more interactive, while message boards and blogs are making consumers aware of products and services, no matter where they are. There is definitely a more global focus and companies need to be up to date and aware of what is there at their disposal."
4. Going global
While there are many obvious advantages to a Cotswold base, businesses must also be aware of presenting a more national or international face to the world. According to Nicky Godding, whose clients include Arkell's brewery, Gloucestershire Heritage Urban Renewal Company, which is helping to transform the centre of Gloucester, and Connexions Gloucestershire, there are straightforward ways of maintaining a Cotswold base without being out of the loop. "If you have a rural business but you would prefer not to be seen to have a rural address, there are easy ways around it, such as acquiring a national number or a PO Box address. With the rise of the importance of new technology and the internet, location is much less of an issue anyway. Cotswold-based companies can reap the benefits of good transport links, cheaper labour and nice surroundings without displaying a rural address."
5. Local links
One of the big positives about the Cotswolds is its sense of community. In business, such ties can prove invaluable. Successful sales and marketing strategies can be developed with local agencies, including Business Link, Gloucestershire First and Gloucestershire Enterprise, offering a variety of office, administrative and environmental training courses and work initiatives. "There is lots of local assistance, with grants and local help available, support for small-scale start-ups and guidance in how to get companies into the local press so that others know they exist," says Emma Walton. "People often underestimate how important a sense of community is, whether in terms of organisations or just knowing the people on your doorstep. You can achieve an enormous amount through word of mouth."
6. Do your homework
"It all starts with research," says Nicky Godding. "To target the market, you have to research comprehensively and effectively. Then you have to back it up with strong logistical support. Good marketing comes from being hands-on and doing your own research."
The personal touch and knowing about the people involved in a company can be very important in rural marketing. Networking organisations such as breakfast group BNI, chambers of commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses can play a very important role in helping companies to grow. "Networking groups can be very good for business, particularly in helping to expand contacts," says Susan Hogan. "Networking is good for finding out about other companies' products and services, trade those services and gain valuable insights and advice. Also, it's a small world here and people always remember you if you are good - nor forget you if you are bad."
Marketing professionals may know how to improve a company's profile - but only as part of a team. Those who know the business best, and who are perfectly placed to make the most of sales and marketing opportunities, are those who work every day with the business. "No-one knows a business better than the people who run it," says Emma Walton. "They have a wealth of information - and good marketing is about making sure their potential clients receive all the relevant information about their business."
9. Back to basics
"It's important not to forget the basics of marketing, whether a business is rural or otherwise," says Nicky Godding. "You have to know your product inside out, have a clear message and well worked out targets and strategies."
10. A Good Idea
Successful marketing has to be based on one fundamentally important factor - that the central business idea is a good one. All the experts agree that wherever a company makes its base, its success will depend on finding the best product or service and filling the perfect sized hole in the market.
Sue Hogan, Xpansion Marketing, tel: 01285 889861/641034, www.expansionmarketing.com
Nicky Godding Communications, tel 01285 653006
Emma Walton, Walton Public Relations, tel 01451 821800
Gloucestershire Enterprise www.glosenterprise.co.uk
Business Link Gloucestershire www.glos.businesslink.co.uk