On Monday 9 October, The Havering Chambers of Commerce and Industry (HCCI) ran a local networking event at the Queens Theatre, Billet Lane, Essex. Despite having to make a mad dash to get there on time (it started at 6.30pm) this free event was a ‘must attend’ activity in the Perfect Layout calendar.
So who are the HCCI?
The HCCI works in partnership with the London Borough of Havering and was formed over 20 years ago. It represents more than 200 different businesses that together employ over 2,750 staff. Its members are provided with networking opportunities to meet new customers, suppliers and business partners.
Their mission is,
“to promote a positive, balanced, vital economy and preserve those unique qualities that are good for business and make Havering a very special place in which to live and work”
According to their website these are the benefits of becoming a member:
If you are keen to expand your business and engage with likeminded entrepreneurs in Havering, this could be the networking organisation that’s right for you. But before you make any decisions be aware that the HCCI is not the only networking membership company that exists in the Havering area.
The Havering London Borough has a list of other networking companies that are set up to help businesses build good relationships with other businesses. If your business is set up outside of this borough, check out the details on your Council website, or search google for ‘networking groups +your area’.
Was making the mad dash worth the effort?
Yes! Set in the atmospheric foyer of the Queens theatre, there was a lively buzz as we arrived. We were greeted with an option of wine or orange juice and then there was a gentle hush as the mayor went on stage to say a few words about the night ahead. He said that Havering was a good location that was continually being regenerated with local businesses emerging like the new leisure centre in Romford due to be opened very soon.
He said that Havering had met the demand for new school places following a rise in the population. Transport links were expanding with Crossrail finishing in 2018 and there was also going to be a new station opening in Rainham alongside the upcoming redevelopment. It was hoped that there would be better transport links created from north to south of the borough in the coming years. He also mentioned that Havering’s location was good for its proximity to London Riverside Deep Sea Docks and Stansted International Airport for improving business links for local companies.
The evening was well attended and once the formalities were over it was time to get chatting. There were various businesses in formal attendance, sat behind tables, their stands laden with brochures, business cards and free pens. Ready to give you their time, cards and advice, smiles were abundant and the relaxed and friendly atmosphere made it easy to mingle.
Attendees were also treated to a lavish buffet that could have fed three times the amount of people and further socialising was done around these tables. What really came across that evening was the feeling of comradery of the attendees and exhibitors. There was a real sense of community. We were there to help each other; get to know each other and connect with businesses that we might well need one day in the future.
I’m pleased to report that quite a few of our cards were handed out that evening with follow-up emails sent by us to companies that we felt could improve the performance of their website. Whilst networking in such a manner is important, it’s also imperative to give your online customer the best user experience possible when accessing a website.
This means that your website should:
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg but they represent good visual tips that anyone can do when thinking about revamping their website. If you feel that your website doesn’t meet some of the above points, give us a call and we’d be happy to give you a free analysis of what improvements could be made and where.
Whether you’re a small start-up business or an established company looking to increase your profits being visible must be one of your primary objectives if you want to achieve this goal.
Spreading the word about what you do, the service you provide and the products you sell can be done in a variety of ways and advertising in print still a popular option. This can be accomplished through:
If you have a shop on your local high street, you will continually be advertising your brand with your logo above the door and your wares in the front window. But how many of us have a traditional shop front to be visible to passers-by?
The fact is, the way we shop is changing with an increasing number of high street shops going out of business every day. In 2016 there were a reported 15 shop closures a day across the UK and online shopping is one of the factors contributing to this outcome. With the demise of the traditional physical shop and the increase in businesses going online, the way one advertises a business has transformed. Having an online website window can offer far more sophisticated ways to reach an endless, much broader, supply of customers potentially from around the world.
Print advertising not working for you? Then try something new…
Networking is a way of getting your company advertised by business owners and being open to doing the same for someone else’s business. If directly reaching out to like-minded businesses isn’t your thing, or if talking to friends, family and strangers fills you with dread, one option (to start you off gently) is to go to a conference. They are full of people open to being spoken to, having an exchange of ideas and maybe most important of all - exchanging contact details. Who knows, you could be talking to the next Bill Gates!
The Perfect Layout team recently attended the free Mums Enterprise Roadshow event in London and we were delighted to see how many people attended. There were numerous stands offering various services and franchises and talks given by industry experts every half an hour. It provided the perfect opportunity to have a chat with other aspiring individuals who were keen to follow their passion and soak up as much information as possible. Whilst the topics were of a preliminary advisory level, looking beyond this, it was a brilliant place to do some networking and get our name known! Read more about our experience here.
Online social networking involves working from social media platforms such as, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you have something interesting and unique to say about what you do, then use these methods to get your message out there.
As long as you stay within the terms and conditions of each social media platform, you will be able to attract new and repeat customers through what you say. You can also run advertising campaigns, gain followers and engage deeply with your customers and get to know them. They then ‘like’ or recommend what you’re offering, your credibility and reputation grows and so will your visibility and profits. The cost for using this method is mainly your time. You really do get out, what you put in, so make the effort (or hire someone to do it for you!) and start writing.
2 Google AdWords
If spending money on advertising is not a problem, running a Google AdWords campaign is another option to increasing your visibility. Also known as Pay-per-Click (PPC), it allows you to be seen above your competitors when a search is made using keywords related to your business. A big plus is that you can track the number of clicks people make on your advert, measure the cost and pay Google only made when a customer visits your website.
The cons of undertaking a Google AdWords campaign are that you need to really understand your business, your customers and, to a certain extent, how the internet works. For example, what words will people use when searching for your business? Choose those terms and then you can set your budget. If you have numerous search terms then your budget will need to be set accordingly. It may take a while to see a return on your investment (ROI), but over time, with some tweaking, this can be achieved.
3 List on local directories
If your business hasn’t done so already, claim your spot on online directories like Google My Business, Yahoo Local and Bing. There are many others, all free, including Thomson Local, Yell and Yelp. They all help increase your visibility when search engines like Google and Bing, crawl the internet looking for sites that your website is linked to. If your business is cited on these directories, the search engines will see this and view you as being more trustworthy and credible than someone who isn’t listed. The result – your rankings improve.
4 Blogging and Newsletters
Another way of getting your website more visible is to Blog or provide regular Newsletters for your customers. The more regularly you post, the greater your rate of online traffic will be. Depending on your type of business, this may be easier said than done. It’s important to gauge the type of things your audience may want to hear about against your ability to provide them with interesting ways to share your expertise. So, get creative and start writing about how the life of your business can add value to the life of your customers.
So, step out of your comfort zone and try one of these techniques. If you want your business to be more visible online you must develop ways of reaching your customers. If investing in social media platforms isn’t your thing, then take the time to master something else first. You’ll probably surprise yourself with your own creativity and ability at thinking outside the box. The more confident you become, the more skills you’ll attain and the more your business will benefit.
If you need help with that journey – you know where we are.
On 25 September 2017, the Mums Enterprise Roadshow event came to London. The Perfect Layout team took time out of their busy schedule to go and assess the event and see if any networking opportunities presented themselves.
Located in the London Business Design Centre close to Angel tube station, we arrived to see a queue of women already eagerly waiting to see what the day had in store for them and what new opportunities would arise. The uniqueness of this event was present early with the audience (mostly women) carrying babies on their fronts, backs and in buggies.
The atmosphere was one of anticipation and expectation (in between the background din of babies babbling) as the welcoming atmosphere embraced the almost playpen-like environment. It was refreshing to see how relaxed everyone was and feel the excitement of this day - potentially being the day that their life would change forever.
The main area was full of stalls offering women part-time and full-time opportunities of work. Flexible work that would allow them, if required, to fit around childcare. There were also franchises to be purchased for those wanting to take the plunge and truly be their own boss of something tried and tested. For those already in the throw of setting up their own business, there were companies offering outsourced services too.
The conference part of the event offered multiple tracks, where speakers changed every half an hour, talking about their areas of expertise. Many in the audience were frantically scribbling down their every word, in between offering their little ones a bite to eat or an iPad to keep them quiet.
Whilst we were there, we spoke to several interesting characters, but one in particular stood out. Her name was Poppy. A thirty-something from Hampstead Heath accompanied by her 3-year-old daughter. She was ready to go back to work, but not in her previous role as a Social Worker. She desired to have more kids in the future, but also wanted to start carving out something for her to work on now. Her dilemma was not knowing what she wanted to do. A feeling that resonates with so many of us. Do we ever truly work in an area that we love and enjoy until retirement?
She continued by saying that her passion was crocheting. She was able to crochet anything and everything. From an adult hat to baby booties for a newborn. She had sold some items through Etsy, had a Facebook page, but was at a loss as to how she could increase her visibility and actually begin making enough money so that she didn’t have to go back to work.
We told her about our business, Perfect Layout Digital Marketing. That we were a website company based in Romford, Essex, there to help small local companies across Essex and London to increase their visibility online. We explained that having an e-commerce website was something that she should consider to really exploit her audience – which was effectively, the entire world wide web.
She would be able to display all her merchandise in categories and offer her clients a portal into what makes her company tick the way that it does. Having a website was a real must. It would allow her to have a blog and create interesting keyword rich content that would grow her followers. She was already on Facebook so we suggested that she join other social media platforms, like YouTube and Pinterest to optimise being seen. These platforms could then be linked back to her website where the full range of her merchandise could be viewed.
We also suggested that she put her business on local directories like Google My Business, Bing and Thomson Local. They were numerous other directories she could list her business on with the bonus of being all for free. The knock-on effect would be that search engines, like Google and Yahoo would see her business as being trustworthy and credible and rank her well.
Running a Google Adwords campaign was another way to be seen above competitors. It would allow you to set the budget and the keywords most likely to be searched for by your customer. As well as being seen above your competitors it works as a Pay Per Click which means that you only pay Google when a customer clicks on your advert.
Whilst these were all services that Perfect Layout were happy to do, we explained that a lot of it she would be able to do herself. Optimising her site (creating keyword rich content and backlinking to trustworthy external websites) may be something she could seek professional help with.
Poppy was a little overwhelmed at first, but grew more confident in understanding each aspect as we spoke over coffee. She was very grateful for our advice and felt empowered to know that her future could change if she decided to take the reins and explore the unknown.
But now she didn’t feel that she was quite so alone. She had the team at Perfect Layout to hold her hand and build up her knowledge about all things digital.