First up we had Dan Rubel of Shop Direct, who spoke about effectively putting the customer at the very heart of digital transformations. This is not something that he simply spoke about, it is clear that he practices what he preaches, with the likes of very.co.uk (one of the main brands in the Shop Direct portfolio) focusing on personalisation as central to absolutely everything they do. He spoke of how personalisation is not solely referring to the inclusion of someone’s name; it includes the entire shopping experience, resulting in two people searching the same words yet getting a different thing completely tailored to them.
Richard Taylor from the Business Growth Fund (BGF) outlined exactly what investors are looking for in terms of making the decision to put money into small businesses – from the likes of financials and longer term growth plans, to the particulars of company proposition and its team members. In essence, have all of your ducks in a row (hate / love that expression) and give it a go, speak to investors to help grow your business.
Up next was Ed Harries of Visualsoft, who discussed converting mobile data into sales. We are all aware of the proliferation of smart phones and how they have altered people’s day to day lives –calendar, telephone numbers, phone calls, emails, PC, social media, shopping on one single device – but it still surprised us to hear that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day! Targeting is key, this we know, but PC, phones and tablets require slight differences and nuances in how they operate, so ensure your messaging, look and feel (not to mention functionality) are correct and consistent.
After a quick coffee break we were back to it, and learned about responding to changing consumer needs. Hugh Taylor of Calbee UK was able to provide a real life example of this change in action, with Calbee providing healthy snacks to an increasingly health-conscious and aware audience. Fried, high in unhealthy fats, salt and sugar is out, and baked goodness with natural sugars and ‘good’ fats is in!
Marcus Black from Slingsby Gin had our attention from the off, well he was talking about gin(!), and spoke about developing a unique brand strategy – how to create, tell and sell your brand’s story. Did you know? Year on year alcohol sales have been decreasing for the past 8 years, with only gin, Prosecco and craft beers on the up… Slingsby Gin found within their brand discovery process that there are two key umbrella reasons for connecting with a brand and these fall within 1) rational or 2) emotional – they are tapping into them both. We also learned that rhubarb gin is truly delicious.
Our final speaker of the morning was Tony Watson of First Direct Arena, who spoke of establishing a brand through digital innovation – knowing your customers and tailoring your offering accordingly. It cannot be easy to do this when one day you are speaking to Craig David fans and the next, UFC lovers, but First Direct Arena manage to it exceptionally well, and have one of the fastest growing social media accounts in the UK as a result!
All in all this event offered a great platform in which to learn about marketing and business development from various perspectives – we learnt lots and cannot wait for the next one!