London’s Tech City, a hub of over a thousand businesses in London’s rejuvenated East, has had its name in lights for several years. During that time its growth has been celebrated, dissected, scrutinised and even sometimes dismissed as hype.
The hype part is true, to some extent. More than half of the businesses listed on the Tech City Map are PR and media companies, an indication of the media scramble to capitalise on the tech bubble.
So how can SMEs get a piece of the action? You’ll be glad to hear you don’t need to start ordering soy chai lattes, grow an retro moustache, nor replace your office furniture with bean bags. There are five things that that small businesses owners need to know in order to mimic the successful Tech City PR campaigns.
1. Put your head above the parapet
Is BT making your life a misery? Will the new train line or motorway drive your customers away? Pipe up about it! Journalists are always clamouring for local perspectives, particularly from small business owners. Spend time getting on the radars of your local reporters for radio, TV and newspapers and eventually they’ll come to you as their go-to reliable source. Tech City companies have this technique honed to a fine art and their ability to chime in on issues across every media channel is a key ingredient to their success.
2. Make your website sing
Online performance is Tech City’s bread and butter, and it would be safe to say that they have spent millions on creating slick websites. While impressive, the most important lesson for SMEs is to make their website the main focus for sales and lead generation. A website should be easy to navigate, tell customers exactly what they want to know, and draw them to the “money” pages – where they can either buy or place an order.
Anyone can do this if they dedicated ten minutes to web management each day. Get acquainted with the basics of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and make a habit of subscribing to blogs that keep you updated on new developments. Do the same with Google Analytics. Using both SEO and Analytics you will learn how to set up and run your website so that it is the number one port of call for customers looking for your products and services online.
3. Use linkbuilding and blogging to generate leads
In the vein of “all roads lead to Rome”, your website will perform better and attract more traffic if it is linked to by lots of other relevant websites. While there are companies in India that will promise you 1,000 links for a fiver, it’s best to ignore them. Instead email the editors of websites and blogs and offer up your expertise, opinions and success stories and ask for a link in return for your time and know-how. If grammar and writing aren’t your strong points, they may even be willing to interview you or accept some bullet points.
4. Dream big, aim high
It’s cheesy, but some Tech City businesses have managed to go from nought to £60m turnovers in a few short years, so don’t shy away from ambitious goals. Put together a list of 100 “dream” customers no matter how big, and use PR and your online activity to get in front of them as often as possible. When selling to big corporations, tech start ups throw their press coverage around like there’s no tomorrow, so why shouldn’t you?
5. PR can run on a shoestring
While time is your most valuable asset as a small business owner, it will be spent wisely if it creates results in the long term for your business. None of the above recommendations will require you to put your hand into your pocket. Time and persistence will guarantee results if you commit to the process over time. If you devote a slice of your time every day to improving your website, talking to the media, and making yourself known in your industry online, you’ll reap the rewards.
Niamh Kinsella is an account manager at digital PR agency TopLine Communications.
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