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Capitalising on the Yorkshire brand: the importance of social media and relationship building

26 November, 2014

connect gazelles

The Yorkshire entrepreneurs networking group, Connect Gazelles, held its 2014 Summit yesterday. With the theme, ‘Capitalising on the Yorkshire Brand’, the event brought together some of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs; including:

  • Welcome to Yorkshire CEO Gary Verity, who brought the Tour de France to Yorkshire
  • James Lambert OBE, who built one of Yorkshire’s major brands, Richmond Ice Cream, up from 5 employees and sales of £250,000 in 1985 to sales approaching £1 billion and 5,000 employees in 2014.
  • Plus Connect Gazelles ‘Entrepreneurs in Residence’; John Graham of Go Outdoors, Deirdre Bounds founder of i-to-i and Simon Biltcliffe of Webmart.

Social media is all about relationship building. So with a panel discussion on social media, and some great speakers who shared insights on the way they built important relationships to achieve their success, these were very strong themes of the day.

How Gary Verity brought the Tour de France to Yorkshire

Held at aql in Salem chapel on Hunslet Road in Leeds, the event was opened by Gary Verity who gave a very personal and inspirational talk about bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire.

The unique way in which he did this, which involved building relationships with all the main people involved in the decision, has been well documented. Not least in this Guardian article, The sheep farmer who brought a French classic to God’s Own County: Gary Verity thought up bringing the Tour to France to Yorkshire while he was shaving. Then he made it happen.

But Gary also shared the story of his personal journey and the challenges he had to overcome, both at work and in his personal life. He talked about the importance of relationship building, how the French organisers became good friends. On a carefully planned trip to Yorkshire, he took them on a helicopter ride over the Dales and to the coast. Then finally brought them to Millennium Square, where they watched a video created just for them, with a personal message from Mark Cavendish.

How James Lambert built one of Yorkshire’s major brands

Then James Lambert (R&R Ice Cream) spoke, giving lots advice for businesses. He spoke of the importance of choosing the right partners for your business. Choose wisely, he said, and always be loyal to them. Transformational deals can come at any time, so be clear not to miss them: it might not be the right time for you, but it might be a deal that is too good to miss.

James said there are only four stakeholders in a business: colleagues, customers, shareholders and suppliers, and he spoke about how to please them all: “Use the best two managerial words invented: ‘thank you’”. Amusingly, he said “a person is never successful until you can earn as much as your partner can spend.”

So a strong theme coming through all the talks already was around building and maintaining relationships – and this theme continued into the panel debate.

Is social media important for your business?

Joining Gary and James on the panel were John Graham, Deirdre Bounds and Simon Biltcliffe. The panel question was: Is social media important for your business?

  • John explained that while social media didn’t bring sales, it was essential for building commitment and is part of the process of people getting to know you and you getting to known them.
  • Simon, whose business is B2B, said (and I agree) that LinkedIn is very important for finding new customers and bring them into your company’s ecosystem. He also said that social media is great for showing personality and brand values. But, he highlighted, it is important to take content online (to your website) and offline in other conversations after landing it on social media.
  • Dierdre believes that social media is a key ingredient of marketing.
  • James had quite a mixed opinion. He admitted that he is a bit older and doesn’t use Facebook or social media generally, so social media wasn’t a big thing for him. However, the campaigns he showed us for his brand said otherwise. A yoomoo campaign he showed us appeared to be purely social media driven, with a viral video at its heart. Although James did acknowledge that sometimes you have to be experimental with your marketing activities, saying “half of your marketing budget doesn’t delivery anything; half delivers twice what you thought it would.” He said that social media can be used to create a character and personality (giving the FAB ice lolly charcter as an example) in order to attract people to your business.
  • Gary was very upfront about the importance of social media: he said “if it wasn’t for social media, Yorkshire wouldn’t have got the Tour de France, explaining how the bid team leveraged the power of Twitter and Facebook to drum up and share their support for the campaign.

So whether overt or indirect, social media is extremely important for businesses, both B2B and B2C. It is a powerful tool for building relationship with your stakeholders and customers, and for showing the character and personality that Yorkshire is famous for.

social media

This was my first Connect Gazelles event, and. I could really feel the buzz of entrepreneurialism in the room, and it was great to meet so many people from so many different kinds of businesses. It was also great to chat to Nick butler, CEO of Connect Gazelles, who has a real passion for getting entrepreneurs in a room to help each other.

The Connect Gazelles mission is “to help and inspire those ambitious entrepreneurs in Yorkshire to grow successful businesses by enabling them to learn from business people who have been there and done it.”

I thoroughly enjoyed my first Connect Gazelles event and will certainly be returning for others.

Close up of male hand holding an iPhone about to compose a Twitter Tweet. (Editorial use only).

If you’d like more information on how to use social media to build relationships, please contact me to discuss your requirements.

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