Pitch to Rich: Fuel business growth through marketing

Ahead of Pitch to Rich 2015, Duncan Higgins from Virgin Media Business writes on the importance of marketing for SMEs.

For many people marketing is synonymous with massive billboards on Piccadilly Circus, titanic promotional budgets and the key success factor behind famous global brands. These associations are certainly legit but using marketing successfully isn’t all about huge budgets. SMEs across the country can really grow their business by developing their own marketing skills, employing some simple tactics and getting some free help.

Many start-ups realise early on that they need to seize these opportunities but often don’t know where to start. Let me give you the good news straight away: If you turn your fear of the unknown into a driving force, embracing marketing for your business is easier than you might think. You don’t need to be Don Draper to make marketing work for your business. Getting some advice from your mentors or peers can work wonders. If you’re unsure where to start, maybe research local small business events or take part in initiatives like our #VOOM: Pitch to Rich competition, which will award marketing funding and support to the winning businesses.

Marketing should be seen an investment that, if done properly, can yield fantastic results and deliver substantial ROI. It should be an integrated part of any business strategy to help drive revenue and develop customer loyalty. But despite the business world widely accepting marketing as a key sales and revenue supporter, it’s surprising to see that 45% of UK companies still don’t have a clearly defined marketing strategy.

Lindsey Ahmet from Designer Bear Boutique understands how marketing can work for growing businesses. When discussing the surprisingly slow uptake of marketing for small business, she said that “When you’re starting a business, it’s easy to leave marketing off your priority list. There are so many things flying around, from dealing with suppliers and customers to getting all the paperwork done – a website seems like the least of your worries. As with many things in the business world you only realise later on how much marketing could have helped you right from the start so I’m glad I tackled this early on!”

>See also: Building businesses with a start-up mentality

Lindsey has gone through the Virgin Startups programme, which helped her with a business loan and paired her with a mentor. “The support I have received to date has been really invaluable to my business. Devoting proper time to my marketing efforts, developing a business narrative and creating a brand identity are things that I wouldn’t have thought of without my mentor’s advice. It was especially striking to me that many of these efforts actually require very little to no funds at all.”

Many entrepreneurs are often surprised when they find out that simple marketing efforts don’t always have to be super costly to change the success of their businesses. SMEs in particular have very limited budgets in the early stages of their business but that doesn’t mean they can’t still harness the potential marketing holds for them.

Just take Lindsey for example. One of the first things she did following her mentor’s advice was to publish a simple and informative video about her business which she promoted through her website and facebook pages. She produced the video by herself with her own equipment and within a week of publishing it, customer orders had tripled. With very little investment, she has made marketing work for her. 60% of website visitors watch video content before reading copy and 7 in 10 consumers say their perception of a brand is positively altered after seeing interesting video content – stats definitely proved correct for Lindsey!

This doesn’t mean that video is the one-size-fits-all marketing solution though. All facets of marketing, including content marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and customer newsletters are equally viable. The trick is to find out what works best for you.

Lindsay realised that, in order to drive more customers to her website, she needs to be on top of the Google search results for her company. She decided to make a small investment – the equivalent of a monthly London train ticket – into SEO and achieved her objective without any trouble. That’s what I call getting bang for your bucks.

Let’s face it, which business doesn’t hanker for a multi thousand pound budget. But understanding what small steps can be made on your own, is a vital first step.

>Related: How to turn over a new leaf this tax year

As with many things in life, the fear of the unknown can paralyse you from trying out something new. Don’t let it startle you. Be brave and become part of the success story that the UK economy has become.

To find our further information about our #VOOM: Pitch to Rich 2015 competition, and the marketing support on offer as prizes go here. 

By Duncan Higgins, Marketing Director, Virgin Media Business

Further reading on marketing: How to embrace the power of images

Pitch to Rich is offering the following prizes:

Start-up: for exciting new businesses with huge potential.  The winner gets £150,000 marketing support plus mentoring and help from Virgin StartUp’s professional business advisers for a year. Two runners-up receive £50,000 marketing support.

New Things: for big new ideas with the capacity to disrupt. The winner gets £50,000 cash towards development, plus mentoring from Virgin’s Investment Team. Two runners-up receive £10,000 each towards development.

Grow: for existing businesses that are ready to go big-time. The winner gets £250,000 marketing support, and two runners-up receive £100,000 marketing support.

All three category winners will also receive a full internet and fixed and mobile voice package from Virgin Media Business for 12 months, unlimited travel on Virgin Trains for 12 months, a place on the Accelerator Network programme (www.theacceleratornetwork.com/​), a free package of pro bono advice from the ICAEW Business Advice Service (www.businessadviceserviceblog.com) and a membership to the not-for-profit private members club at The House of St Barnabas (www.hosb.org.uk).

One more £50,000 marketing support prize will be awarded to the semi-finalist with the most votes at the end – the People’s Choice.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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