As a person that never matches the stereotype for the things she does, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my business is also slightly out of the ordinary.
If you ask me what I do, I usually say that I build websites and run training courses, but I find it really hard to stop there and not mention that my business is a social enterprise, who puts their profits into delivering digital skills training, to help fight digital exclusion.
As a natural chatterbox, I really struggle with the concept of the traditional elevator pitch, where you describe your business in a sentence. My worst nightmare is being asked a question with a one word answer. Even questions that should generate a yes or no answer, tend to end up as either a one word answer, with three paragraphs of follow up content, or at best “It depends.” I can’t help myself. (Well I probably could, if I tried, but usually I just don’t want to)
So back to the original question. Why is somebody that doesn’t work in Search Engine Optimisation (better known as SEO), spending two days at an SEO conference, learning how to perform well in search engines like Google. The short answer is that this is where the knowledge is.
Brighton SEO is a massive event that includes a two day conference and the opportunity to attend training courses with experts in their field. I eagerly read the details of the training courses, looked at the prices and concluded that I simply couldn’t afford to go. Lots of organisations fill their social media feeds with content, that tells you they care about diversity, whilst doing absolutely nothing to change the status quo. Brighton SEO take their commitment seriously and have a scheme that offers training opportunities to people who wouldn’t usually be able to attend their courses. I was lucky enough to be given a scholarship place and had access to a full day of SEO training. I’ve had the opportunity to spend a day re-learning the basics of SEO and another attending conference talks and visiting exhibitors. All of which takes us back to the question of why is a somebody that builds websites, spending time hundreds of miles away from where they live and run their business?
I’m a web developer and as much as I love building websites, building websites that nobody ever visits is fairly pointless, unless you’re happy to just sit back and look at the sites you’ve built, without caring about the small businesses that you built them for.
If you are a small business, your website is an investment and that investment needs to do something for your company in order to justify the cost. Even a cheap website costs you money, that you can often barely afford. There are lot of developers out there who turn up, build perfectly good websites and then have absolutely nothing to do with them after launch day. That approach doesn’t really suit me. I like to get involved. I like to know that my work has added value to those organisations and in particular to the people running them. Traditional marketing techniques encourage you to get the sale, upsell if you can and bank the money, but you have probably noticed by now, that there are lots of things about me which don’t necessarily fit with tradition.
I like to give added value. Not as a marketing tactic, but because I like my clients and I want them to do well. I want them to look at their websites and see how the site I’ve built for them is having a positive impact on their business. I want my website to help make their business a success. Building a website and telling people the URL is just the start of the journey. The glossy TV ads will have you thinking that all you have to do is click a few buttons to build your website and then your customers will instantly start throwing money at you. There may be some businesses that this approach genuinely works for, but I’m not convinced.
Small business websites have a job to do. It might be to sell products, collect donations or share information, but they should be doing something. Websites need to be more than digital bimbos, that sit there on the internet looking pretty. They have a mission, or at least they should have. Your website has a job to do and most of them won’t do a very good job, if all they do is exist. Build it and they will come, doesn’t apply to websites, unless you happen to be a celebrity and realistically most of them have a team making sure that you know their website exists.
People finding your website in a Google search isn’t something that happens by accident. If your potential clients don’t know that you exist, then the chances of them finding you, over one of your bigger and more established competitors is slim.
As a small business owner it’s really important to step outside your business from time to time. On one hand I’ve been out of the office for three days and have loads of catching up to do, but on the other, I have a lot more knowledge than I had three days ago. I’ve got a head full of new ideas. I’ve learned about some new tools that I didn’t know existed this time last week and I’ve had a rest, of sorts. My Instagram is full of badly taken selfies of me at train stations, beside Brighton landmarks, on the beach and in front of conference venues . Despite a long and draining journey home, I’ve had a lovely time enjoying the sea air, collecting conference swag and feeding my brain with new information, that will help not only my own business, but also help my apprentice Declan and our customers going forward.
On the face of it, the combination of activities here at Village Web Company may not appear logical, but there is always a method in the madness. When I became a social enterprise, I had to choose what benefit my company’s activities would provide. I chose to combat digital exclusion and increase diversity in tech. Everything that happens here is part of a bigger scheme and every bit of knowledge and experience is designed to offer more opportunities and every business activity, no matter how random it may appear to be, feeds back into my purpose as a social enterprise.
Following the success of the Christmas hoodie trial, I will be launching a new online shop later this year.
- The profit from sales will help to fund digital skills workshops.
- Building that website is a project that will involve Declan our apprentice developer
- The day to day running of the website, will provide hands on experience for someone that wants to develop those skills. That might be another apprenticeship or a short term volunteering opportunity for somebody making their way back into the workforce.
There is method in every piece of madness, but my methods rely on keeping my knowledge up to date and that is why I packed a bag and headed for the seaside.
Even the world’s best websites won’t deliver paying customers to your door without some work and that’s why keeping my knowledge of SEO and Digital Marketing is as important to me as keeping up to date with the latests developments in writing code.