The Greater Birmingham Digital Summit

Digital Summit LogoOn Thursday 26th February 2015 I attended the inaugural Greater Birmingham Digital Summit at the ICC. Touted as the "biggest, boldest summit about digital technology for SMEs ever hosted in the region" I was keen to hear from industry peers and experts about how and why clients like ours should embrace the web, the cloud and all things digital.

With speakers from local and national government, education and some of the biggest names in tech (Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn), the day promised to inform and inspire Midlands businesses to embrace digital and flourish economically.

When I first heard about this event I admit I was slightly skeptical about how relevant and educational it would be, especially considering it was new on the scene and may struggle to attract top industry players. I needn’t have feared though as the calibre of the speakers and quality of the venue and organisation surpassed my most hopeful expectations and I genuinely finished the day feeling emboldened and inspired.

What is digital technology?

"Digital" has become a bit of an umbrella term for a number of different sectors. When we use this word it can now mean anything from superfast broadband connection and the cloud to websites and marketing techniques. Although Ballyhoo currently identifies as a web design and development company, we wouldn’t argue that we could also be called a “digital agency” as our business also encompasses complimentary services such as hosting and online marketing.

Digital on the whole is where the majority of industries are going, whether you’re looking to automate processes in a factory, start selling services online or use cloud accounting software to balance the books.

A recurring theme throughout the day was that businesses can’t afford to not be online and using the tools available as soon as possible. Connectivity and cloud-based tools for remote, flexible working were mentioned regularly in the day’s sessions but here I will focus mainly on the findings relevant to what we at Ballyhoo do - in a word, websites.

The Greater Birmingham Digital Audit

One of the summit’s main attractions was the release of the data collected by the Greater Birmingham Digital Audit - a survey of over 400 SMEs, from Birmingham to as far afield as Lichfield, Solihull and Redditch - which reveals some intriguing insights into the attitudes of businesses across the region.

59% OF BUSINESSES DO NOT HAVE A DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY

A huge 92% of those surveyed said that digital capability is important for their business, yet 59% said they do not have a digital marketing plan. When asked why they’re not taking advantage of digital 46% blamed a lack of time, 36% a lack of skills and 33% said the unknown cost of investment was a barrier.

89% of businesses already have a website of some form, with 33% trading online, but it was drilled into the audience by our host, Richard Beevers, managing director of Customer Plus, that you need to have “more than a website”. By this, it is meant that you need to fully understand the implications of a well-planned marketing strategy and the foundation that an expertly designed website will provide.

For many in the room this may have been news but for me it was encouraging to hear that what we’ve been saying for years is finally becoming a mainstream idea. For a long time now we’ve moved away from simply creating good-looking, functional websites to trying to create successful online presences that, ultimately, make our clients money. Our philosophy is that the principles of research, strategy and understanding underpin a truly successful online venture where due respect is given to relevant traffic, usability and conversion.

0% OF BUSINESSES THAT DO NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY PREDICT AN INCREASE IN TURNOVER IN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS WHEREAS 58% OF THOSE WHO ARE COMFORTABLE DO.

The full results of the audit can be viewed here.

More than a website...

Your website can be so much more than be shop window. Done well, your website could bring in trade that you never dreamed of winning and bring your product (whether that’s a physical item, a service or your expertise) to new markets that otherwise would never find you.

From our own experience, many clients know that being online is essential to their business future but aren’t convinced by the potential scale of return. However, it is only with ongoing investment, constant analysis and measured risk that you will truly succeed online.


Note

This blog post was inspired by just the first 30 minutes of the summit! I have ended up writing a LOT more about the subjects covered throughout the day which I aim to split into digestible chunks to be published to this blog over the coming weeks. Links will be added below as soon as they are online and ready to read.

Alison

By Alison

Alison is Ballyhoo's Office Manager, responsible for keeping the business running smoothly and moving towards bigger and brighter things.

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