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7 business lessons we learnt from #123Voom

By Thomas Costello - April 15, 2016

As you may know, 123 Reg has teamed up with Virgin Media Business to support #VOOM. The competition is a chance for small businesses to pitch to Sir Richard Branson himself and win a share of the £1 million prize fund. If this is the first time that you have heard of this, take a look at this!

Sounds exciting, right?

A number of entrepreneurs will win a share of £1 million prize fund – why can’t that be you?

It is in this spirit that 123 Reg has teamed up with Virgin Media Business to support #VOOM. We believe that our customers have great ideas and we want to help you have the best chance of winning.

So over the past weeks, we challenged small businesses to pitch their ideas to us. We organised a series of expert speakers, past finalists, crowdfunding advocates, copywriters and digital marketing experts, to share their advice on how to craft a standout and hopefully winning VOOM entry.

But we know that many other 123 Reg customers will enter #VOOM. So for those who were not able to join us at the event, we have put together some key business lessons learnt from our speakers to perfect a #VOOM entry. So, what did we learn?

Lesson 1: Be yourself, it’s going to be tough!

For any business looking to enter this year’s competition, learning from a business which has gone through the process is invaluable insight. Gem Misa and Jamie Harris, co-founders of Cauli Rice, were finalists of the 2015 competition. Gem and Jamie spoke about their experiences of #VOOM, especially juggling the running of a new business, putting a young child through school and putting together their exceptional #VOOM entry.

So why did Cauli Rice enter in the first place?

“We entered Voom because we thought it was fantastic PR for us. We’re a start-up. We are doing amazingly well thankfully, but as with any kind of start-up, we don’t have very deep pockets, we don’t have budget for advertising or much PR so when #Voom came about last year we thought it was such a fantastic opportunity, we were well aware that it was a nationwide competition and we weren’t quite sure what our chances were but it was one of those things, where we thought ‘what if we win’, it would be amazing for the brand.

“We were one of the finalists for 2015 and it has helped us tremendously. We started with a small handful of followers when we were just about to launch, I think we had about 100 followers, but by the end of the Voom competition we had 10,000.”

The pair also offered advice on what value they gained from the competition

“Voom came at the perfect time for us. We were set to launch in 1000 supermarkets that was our very first launch. #Voom came about 3 months before we were launching. For us, it was the perfect teaser for our launch.”

The prevailing message from Cauli Rice is that the best entries are ones that are authentic; real stories will allow people to better connect with what you are trying to achieve.

Cauli Rice also shared the following advice when crafting an entry:

1)   Join business networking communities, especially those on social media

2)   Look at the past winners – what did they do well?

3)   Always give people a reason to care!

4)   Focus beyond the pitch – never lose sight that your job is to make people’s lives better

The team behind Cauli Rice talk more about their #VOOM experience in this video.

Lesson 2: Crowdfunding is more accessible than you think!

Our second speaker was Julia Elliot-Brown, founder of Enter the Arena.co.uk – a business set up to help other start ups raise investment through crowd funding. Crowdfunding has grown significantly in the past years but there are still many small businesses who feel that the process is not for them, or struggle to understand how they can get a project off the ground.

If crowdfunding is a step that your business is looking to explore, Julia’s advice is to focus on the following 5 points:

5 things to think about when crowdfunding:

1)   A strong pitch must connect with people on an emotional level

2)   Pick a funding target that you are comfortable you can achieve– wins are much better to shout about!

3)   Think creatively about what rewards your business can offer funders

4)   Run your campaign like a military operation – planning and detail are vital!

5)   Build the buzz and utilise your businesses advocates

In the context of gaining traction for your #VOOM entry, offering rewards for crowdfunding is an excellent option. Julia explained that offering funders some form of ownership in the form of rewards is a great way of building loyal advocates and boosting brand ambassadors. After all, the more of these you have, the more people you have spreading the word about your entry!

But remember, offering rewards does have a cost so the advice from Julia is to have a set budget and be realistic about what your business could afford to give away. There is no point offering a reward that is going to cost you a huge amount of money. You are much better off thinking about what will be of little effort and cost but mean a huge amount to somebody else.

What kind of rewards could you offer?

1)   A fan wall of your advocates

2)   A special ‘money can’t buy’ experience connected to your business

3)   A chance to be the first to try a new product

The upside of crowdfunding is the potential increase in brand awareness, something that is vital in a competition like #VOOM. The marketing impact could be huge for your business, especially given when you consider that a message can be spread far and wide.

Every business is different, but they are a great way of spreading the word and building buzz for your entry. The personal touches really matter and can add to the excitement of your entry. Never forget that people love success stories, so if you are successful, shout about it!

Julia talks about crowdfunding in the video below.

Lesson 3: ‘If you have a happy company, it will be invincible!’

Stephanie Davis, CEO of Laughology, a specialist in making people feel happy. Many might think that there can’t be a link between laughing and business. After all, we are at work to work, right? Whilst that is the case, Stephanie’s outlook is a little bit different. Small businesses can learn from the psychology of happiness, humour, and laughter which will ultimately help you to build more successful entries.

This former professional stand-up shows how humour connects brands and consumers to create lasting memorable experiences. When building your entry, it is important to show and convey as much meaningful emotion as possible. To do this, follow Stephanie’s advice:

1)   Get to the message. Don’t waffle about jargon that most won’t understand. The quicker you can get your message across the quicker

2)   What emotional reaction do you want to convey? Think carefully about how you want the viewer to feel after watching your pitch

3)   The way you leave people feeling will be their last memory of you. Don’t waste this!

4)   Take your audience on a journey, explain what this

Take the example below. Which one gives the most emotional feel?

David took his dog to the vets because he thought it was sick.

Ringo, David’s three-year-old Alsatian had not been acting his usual self for a number of days. David didn’t know what to do and nothing he tried was working – he was a nervous wreck. David decided to take Ringo to the vet to see if there was something seriously wrong.

That’s just one example of how to use emotion to make a story come to life.

Here are a few more points to consider in your entry:

1)   Don’t avoid unhappy moments – this will not make you happy in the long run

2)   Think about your personal brand and how you are and want to come across

3)   Get to the message quickly

4)   Think carefully about how you want your audience to feel

5)   Be yourself

Stephanie talks more about the topic in this video.

Lesson 4: Social media allows you to get under the skin of how people really feel

Social media has the power to change your entry to #VOOM for the better. Whilst a number of small businesses understand the power of social media, consistently, small businesses tell us that it is a great challenge for them to master. For this reason, we invited both Karen Fewell from Digital Blonde and Matt Hodgkinson from Influence Agents, to offer their thoughts on the power of social media both in creating impressive social campaigns but also on how to encourage votes for entries. Here are Karen’s tips on engaging somebody on social media:

1)   Give, give and give some more – earn your right to ask for something!

2)   People will share positive messages which say something about the people

3)   Make people feel awesome and the votes will roll in!

4)   Give people a reason to care

Watch Karen talking about the power of social media.

Once engaged, it is vital that you use social media to drives votes for your entry. These 3 tactics, devised by Matt, could come in use:

1)   Use what you have – do you have an existing email database or LinkedIn presence that you can begin asking votes from? Remember, you already have their email address, so the chances are the trust you, so this should be your first point of call

2)   Use the open networks – social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be a great platform to begin telling your story and encouraging people to vote for you . Changing your profile picture and updating your profile on Twitter, Facebook and Linked In is a great way to ask your entire network to votes for you in VOOM.

3)   Hit the influencers – is there a blogger that you would like to influence or maybe a great YouTube celebrity. If you can add value to what they do and their audiences, the chances are they will be receptive.

Other tools that you can use:

If you are not sure about who your influencers are, check out Buzzsumo. The platform allows you to find out who is talking your industry or niche. Few easy to complete searches will show you exactly who you should be contacting!

You can see Matt talk to the 123 Reg team below.

Lesson 5: The best #VOOM entry will grow your brand and reach a new audience

Nick Leech, digital director at 123-reg, explained that a web presence is important to have for VOOM simply because it suggests you are a proper trustworthy business. Websites needn’t be difficult to create and the new Website Builder tools will let you get online in a matter of hours to support yoru VOOM entry. If you have an existing websites with a large number of visitors – use your website to tell your customers you are entering the VOOM competition and you would like them to vote for you either through homepage messaging, additional landing pages or a Pop Up overlay. A #VOOM page is the perfect destination for all of your marketing activity over the next few months. And here’s some advice on how to take advantage of this:

1)   Flag your entry on your website, on your home page and footer

2)   Add it to your blog and other communications you send out to customers and advocates

3)   Create a pop up for existing customers but don’t bombard them!

4)   Add a short bit of text in your email signature and that publicises your entry

5)   Keep it simple! Focus on getting votes!

Lesson 6: Bring your story to life

Julian Borra founder of the Thin Air Factory spoke about the importance of writing stand out entries. At the end of the #VOOM process, a number of businesses will pitch directly to Sir Richard Branson. Business owners will be in the spotlight and questions will be asked about your idea that you may want to avoid! To make sure that you are ready for this, Julian recommends the following:

1)   What gets you out of bed every day? Understand what your purpose is!

2)   Understand the impact that you want to have on the world

3)   Continue to ask ‘why am I doing this?’

4)   Purpose starts with you – be clear to yourself and it will be clear to everyone else

Julian explains a bit more about this in this video.

Lesson 7: Perfecting your elevator pitch

#VOOM is one of the biggest competitions of its kind in the UK for entrepreneurs. The media are really interested in it and do want to talk to entrepreneurs. If you’ve never spoken to a journalist before, this process can be a tad daunting. Anna Fazakerley, from Axicom PR, shares a few tips on what a journalist is looking for from you:

1)   Tell your story

2)   Be aware of their time pressures – try to be succinct and avoid jargon!

3)   Think about the readers – what would they want to read

4)   Use anecdotes and examples

5)   Be yourself

These 7 business lessons will help small businesses stand out from the crowd, and have the best chance of being pitch fit! There is no one secret behind a really successful entry, it’s more about hard work and making sure you have the entire bases covered and you are ready to sell yourself if you get the chance to pitch to Sir Richard Branson.

To help you along the way, we have put together the following downloadable guides to help you!

Download your assets and guides here

Remember, you can also utilise the 123 Reg social media channels using @123reg and #123VOOM to let us know you’re a customer and you’ve entered VOOM and we will retweet and support your entry. You can enter VOOM 2016 here.

We hope as many 123 Reg customers as possible get the chance to Pitch to Rich and we wish you the best of luck!

Slides from the day

Below are links to a few of the presentations that took place at the event. These, along with the advice above should help you improve you #VOOM chances and your business.

Matt Hodkinson talks about getting #VOOM votes via social media.

Karen Fewell discusses the psychology of social media.

Karen Fewell looks at the impact video stories have on the brain.

Anna Fazakerley’s media training slides.

Nick Leech  on how to build a landing page to support your #VOOM entry.