Sunday, 19 February 2012

Enter the Dragon with web-fuelled wisdom

At your fingertips: The web puts the whole world in your hands
and former Dragon Doug Richard shows you how to use it.
Image: nokhoog_buchachon

Doug Richard, of Dragon’s Den fame,  likes people to choose their words carefully  – he’s an entrepreneur  with no time for business jargon. Pepper your language with phrases such as core competencies, incentivise or value proposition,  in the hope of impressing Mr Richard, and he’ll quickly put you straight.
He’s a man after my own heart. Throughout my many years as a sub-editor, the greatest challenge has been to make sense of business stories, to strip away the “blue sky thinking”, the “best practices” and “paradigms”, and turn them into language everyone understands. I don’t really know why some business people think it’s clever to use words and phrases that leave the rest of us feeling bewildered – or maybe that’s exactly the point.

Well, welcome to the 21st century. If you want to succeed in business today, you need stripped back, plain speaking. Words that sum up what your business is about will help you to soar to the top of search engine results, thereby attracting new custom.  And here’s the really interesting bit, everyone can learn how to do it.
Doug Richard, a former Dragon and founder of School for Start-ups, is touring the country with his Web Fuelled Business bootcamp.  These one-day events are designed for small businesses, entrepreneurs, social enterprises, even lone writers like myself, anyone who wants to use the internet to get themselves noticed.

By attending one of these events, you not only get access to this entrepreneur’s vast wealth of experience and knowledge, but you get it for free. And contrary to received wisdom, which says there is no such thing, you get a free lunch thrown in as well.
“It’s very easy to be invisible on the internet,” says Mr Richard, who during the course of the day explains the “Secrets of Search” and unveils ways to optimise your website. “At the beginning the goal is not just to get a high ranking... the goal is to be noticed at all”

This, he explains, takes time – months rather than minutes – and anyone who promises you otherwise, is lying.  Furthermore, there’s no point in putting off the most vital element of your 21st century business, building a website. “So often people say to me they are going to put aside a year to build a really good website, but because they expect it to take up a lot of their time, they’re going to put off starting it for another year. Well, In that case, it doesn’t take them one year to build a website, it takes them two.”
There’s no time like the present, seems to be the message. And, as if to drive the point home, James Dening, former head of enterprise sales at Amazon, showes us how an e-commerce strategy can be planned and executed in less than a day. He also demonstrates how to set up a free working e-commerce website in a matter of minutes.

However, it’s all very well learning how to attract customers...  but how do we keep them? The answer is simple, says Mr Dening, and it lies in the company’s delivery and returns policy. Using Amazon as an example, he demonstrates how a bad experience (microwave ordered through Amazon blows up after three days) can be turned into a very positive experience (new microwave arrives the following day and a courier arranges a time to collect the faulty item). Net result? Amazon gains a customer for life.
“If you were cut in half, would you have the words ‘Amazon’ running through you?”  ventured one of the delegates at  the bootcamp I attended in Norwich on February 9.

As James Dening pointed out, he no longer works for Amazon – even more reason to believe him when he holds them up as a shining beacon in the world of e-commerce.
Each Web Fuelled Business event is crammed full of tips, guidelines and information that every business can use to identify its audience and reel them in. You learn how to make the most of free marketing tools and when it’s wise to spend a little money in order to reap big rewards.

It helps that Doug Richard is a gifted communicator, compelling to watch and pretty funny too – just ask the lady who sells “ethical furniture” at The Living Rooms  in Norwich. She might not have enjoyed being the centre of his attention at the time, but was tweeting his praises like mad by the end of the day.
All delegates are given free classes to follow up at home, and the opportunity to buy bundles of courses to suit individual business’s needs, but there is no pressure to buy. Doug Richard also lets us into a little secret . What two words do you think do absolutely nothing to help get your business climb the rankings? The answer is  “click here”. Unless, of course you happen to be that Dallas-based marketing and advertising agency called... Click Here.

You work it out.

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  1. Anne, this is a wonderful summary of the day! Thanks so much for bringing to life some of the Doug R core lessons - and very good to meet you and the other Ann too. You write beatifully...
    Charlotte Sankey ( Cambridge)

  2. Thank you, Charlotte. It was a day to remember. I learned so much and it was all free - including the lunch! Hope we get to meet up again.


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