Telling the truth about SME life today

Good marketing reaps rewards

“A lot of people think that the hard work’s over once you’ve set up your business. But no matter how unique your offering, businesses are likely to fail if they aren’t marketed properly,” says Joanna Ward who set up Studentgems with Sue Harrison in September 2007.

Consequently, the Buckinghamshire-based businesswomen embarked on a heavy online marketing campaign.

In addition to marketing on websites that champion women businesses such as and Women in Rural Enterprise (, the duo alsoused more high-profile websites such as Ecadamy, LinkedIn, UK business forum and BT Tradespace.

“We’ve had a great reception on online networking forums and they’ve really helped to boost the profile of as we’re dealing with people who feel comfortable being online,” says Harrison.  

Ward cites the example of a logistics company in the West Midlands who heard about Studentgems through the Ecademy network. “The company needed some web development done so they employed a student to design one website initially and he’s now working on the tenth!”

Targeted marketing has also helped generate considerable publicity and business. Studentgems recently joined the Federation of Small Businesses, which with over 210,000 members, is the largest organisation representing small and medium sized businesses in the UK.

“Of the 350 businesses on our books, 290 are small businesses," says Ward, "SMEs are definitely our target demographic because most of them cannot afford to take on professional staff for small tasks."

Unsurprisingly their student marketing strategy struck gold when they created a Studentgems group on Facebook. The website has also benefited from a lot of word-of-mouth marketing amongst students, because as Ward points out: “Students recommend it to their peers as a good way of making money because the average student using Studentgems earns £13.32 – more than three times the current £4.60 minimum wage for 18-21-year-olds.”

Indeed, the website now has 1,500 registered students and 350 businesses using its service which range from a software house to a chartered accountant, a media company and even a firm of funeral directors. There are also 30 private individuals using the site.  

Aside from its external marketing, Studentgems also has a clever internal marketing strategy. "A business sees different information when they log onto our website to what a student sees," explains Harrison, "This way, we are able to target information according to what you are looking for and make the site both student and business-friendly."

For example, the homepage for businesses gives advice on the 2007 Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act as well as the main exam periods for students. Meanwhile, the student homepage offers advice to students on how to write an invoice as well as showing support for the student’s charity UNIAID.

"We have to make changes to the site every day and there are lots more plans in the pipeline to enhance the website, as well as introduce additional services going forward," says Ward. "We want Studentgems to become a reliable and reputable website and eventually become a household name." 

To read more about Studentgems – click here

Picture source 


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