The words of a Wigan-wandering writer…
Business networking in Wigan
If you’re starting a new business, making local connections is one of the best things you can do to generate new business. The mindset around networking is simple: if you know someone well enough, trust them and know they can do the job well, you’re likely to recommend them to people you know.
If you don’t know a company, don’t know who works for them and don’t really know what they do, then you’re unlikely to spread the word about them.
Local networking gives business owners the opportunity to talk about what they do, how they do it and how they can help people in the local area. More importantly, it helps people to build long-lasting relationships and even friendships. And it results in more business for you, more business for your contacts and more money being spent (and re-spent) in the local economy.
What’s not to love?
Can anyone network?
Yes! Whether you’re a sole trader, a team leader, a volunteer or a CEO, you will be welcomed into networking groups with open arms. Not everyone finds walking into (or logging onto) a room full of people appealing. But once you get over the initial nerves, you’re bound to hear some really interesting ideas, learn more about your local area and enjoy talking about your own work.
I am yet to leave a networking meeting without the feeling of “That was great!” Your time will be well spent and your contacts book bulging. Personally, I have gained a lot of clients (around 75% of my turnover) through networking, either directly through people I have met, or referrals they have made to my business.
What’s the catch?
Well there are a couple of things. Firstly, you’re going to need to invest some time in networking. Find a local group that suits you, that you enjoy and that gives you a great ROI on the time you spend with its members. More on this later.
Secondly, there’s sometimes a cost – not always though. Most groups are free, some fees are included in a wider package and some networks charge a weekly or annual fee.You need to assess how much of your budget you can invest in networking – and whether your investment will see an increase in business. Make sure you reassess your ROI on a monthly basis, to see what the impact of networking has been on your business. The frequency of the meetings, the cost and the other members in the group, can impact on your ROI – for example, if there are three other members doing the same thing as you, then you’re unlikely to gain ALL the business in that market. Although there may be synergy between yourself and your competitors which you can use to collaborate on, and you may even pass business to each other. Even free networking comes at a cost to your time and added expenses such as travelling, so it’s got to be effective to work long-term.
If you’re gaining from and contributing to one particular group over another, then it makes sense to concentrate on the group gaining more business for the time spent.
How should I prepare?
You will usually get a minute or two to speak to the group about your business, in an introductory sense, so have a quick speech or some bullet points ready.
Try to get over three main points:
– what you do and how you help your clients
– how you can help others in the network
– what you need other people in the network to do for you
If you can’t squeeze these points into your quick speech, focus on the first and second, and drop the third into conversation with others. For example, you could ask them to follow you on LinkedIn, share a post on your Facebook or sign up to your newsletter.
It’s a good idea to have your social media, website and phone number saved in a document so you can copy and paste it into the chat quickly. Or in real-world meetings, of course, have a business card or QR code on a poster ready to share. Have a pen and paper handy to write down names – and save the chat at the end of the virtual meeting. If you leave the meeting without connecting with people, you’ll kick yourself!
There are quite a few networking opportunities in the area, and at Beltin’ we’ve recently teamed up with some local business associates to create a BRAND NEW group – Proper Good Networking. It would be great to see you there, or at any of the events listed below.
The upshot is, the more you can invest in local networking, the more you will get out of it. But don’t network blindly – spend some time seeing which groups are the best fit for you and your business, and which offer the best returns in terms of time and money.
And most importantly, enjoy yourself!
Wigan and Greater Manchester networking groups:
Here are some of the groups we have been to or intend to visit soon: if you know of any more please get in touch and we’ll add it to the list!
FubHub – Female Business Network – Monthly, Wednesday AM
Unique Ladies – Weekly, Thursday AM
NEW: Proper Good Networking, Friday AM
Professionals of Wigan – Monthly, Friday PM
BNI – Weekly in Bolton and North Manchester
Federation of Small Businesses – Frequently throughout the year
GC Business Growth Hub – Frequently throughout the year
Join Vicky on the MyBump2Baby Mumpreneurship session
Join Vicky Galligan from Beltin’ at this networking event organised by MyBump2Baby Wigan, Bolton & Salford.Vicky will be talking about all things Mumpreneurship from setting up your business, to marketing and networking.
If you’re thinking of starting a business or are in the early stages of setting up your brand, then this is a great opportunity to hear about other local success stories, and the support you can access throughout your business journey.
The online event takes place on Monday 22nd March at 7pm. Tickets are £9.95 each.
Have you heard about Our Beltin’ training sessions?
If you need a bit of a boost when it comes to marketing your business via social media, then our Beltin’ training sessions will be right up your street. We are expanding our training offering in 2021 and hope to cover a wider range of digital marketing.
Whether you’re a complete beginner at the social media marketing game, or whether you’ve been trundling on for a while and would like to expand your audience (and your sales), then our training can help you learn some tricks of the marketing trade.
You’ll come away from our training sessions with an Action Plan. This will help you to focus on what you’re doing and why. It will highlight the things you’re already doing well, the actions you could take to improve and any areas in which you may be lacking.
Beltin’s Vicky Galligan, who has experience in journalism and teaching, said: “People really enjoy the training sessions – I’ve had some great feedback from people. What I generally find is that people have the know-how and the tools to create amazing content but they sometimes don’t have the time or the confidence to implement this.
“Our training sessions help boost that confidence and help people to get excited about their marketing! Instead of marketing being a bit of a chore and a bottom-of-the-list job, it will become a higher priority. And when you start seeing results in the form of enquiries and sales, you’ll know that the training and your hard work has paid off!”
To book your place a training session, just fill in the contact form on our training page. We’ll contact you with payment details.
Wigan eateries step up to the plate
With Marcus Rashford heading up the campaign for free school meal vouchers in the summer, many of us in Wigan were shocked at the refusal of the Government to continue the scheme into 2021.
In a year which has seen unemployment rise, wages cut and businesses forced to close their doors, the government’s summer U-turn on free school meals was a welcome one for many families.
This unprecedented time has seen families struggle like never before – and things weren’t great for many before the word “Covid” entered our vocabulary earlier this year.
There was a claim made in December 2019 that there were “more food banks in the UK than MacDonald’s branches,” a claim which Full Fact determined to be true. The Trussell Trust’s food bank network distributed 1.9 million three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis in the year to March 2020. That was an 18% increase on the previous year and a rise of 1million food parcels since 2013/14. And those figures don’t include food banks which have sprung up independently of the Trussell Trust in recent years.
So the latest news on free schools meals being denied to children was a real blow to many Wiganers. It was extremely heartwarming to see that many Wigan businesses then stepped up to the plate, as it were, to offer the town’s children a meal during the school holidays.
Among the first to do so was The Courtyard on Jaxon’s Court in Wigan centre, who posted on Facebook that they would fill the bellies of children – offering to dish up free meals and even arrange delivery. The response on their social media was amazing, with many generous Wiganers offering to stump up a donation in order to “pay it forwards” and cover the cost of the meals. Within hours, other Wigan cafes, pubs, takeaways and restaurants had joined in with the offer. From chippies to butty shops the length and breadth of the borough, the eateries of Wigan offered to provide free lunch boxes or meals to struggling families. The sense of local pride and compassion was, quite frankly, overwhelming. I had a little cry.
Then Wigan Eats stepped up. This is a local food ordering and restaurant booking app which is due to launch soon. The Justgiving crowd-funder it set up had raised almost £3,000 within a few hours. That’s enough to fund literally thousands of lunches for children at what has been the most testing time for their parents.
Well done to all involved in this project – and long may the generosity and resourcefulness of Wiganers continue.
If anyone is looking to save money on food, join a Wigan food outlet such as Fur Clemt on Montrose Avenue for £5 a year and shop for as little as £3 per visit.
Could using Wiganese boost your business?
A fantastic example of Wiganese surfaced last week, when I spotted this sticker in a car window while out shopping at Robin Park.
After posting the pic on Facebook, we were dead chuffed when friends tagged its creator, Darren Wood, who’s selling the stickers to raise money for a local charity.* The post went wild and nearly 10,000 people had seen it in a week. This got us to thinking: should businesses be bringing back Wiganese to boost their profiles?
A unique language
Wiganese has its roots in old Norse and Irish, mixed with a heck of a lot of vowel flattening which Lankies have perfected over generations. We don’t much like hard consonants in the middle of words either, avoiding them like we would a St Helens fan at a bus stop.
The use of the glottal stop is evident in words like “gerrin” and “keckle” which are pronounced “getting” and “kettle” in other areas. Inexplicably, “candle” and “bagel” become “cangle” and “badel”, and we love to drop the “g” on the end of words too; Beltin’ took inspiration from this particular quirk and the word itself is pretty unique to the Wigan area, meaning “great”.
A love for local
But why use local dialect to promote your business? Well, the language makes people look twice for a start, if just for the fact they’re trying and decipher it. It’s interesting, funny and creates a sense of pride in the local area. Fur Clemt is a great example of this – the food redistribution service in Montrose Avenue took the name of the Wigan phrase meaning “hungry”.
Even those who aren’t from the area feel an affinity to local lingo – like the way certain brands have been built on their local areas, they appeal to everyone thanks to their strong roots. Yorkshire Tea, Bury Black Pudding and Melton Mowbray Pork Pies to name a few.
In 2020, using businesses close to home has become a necessity. The Shop Local revolution had massive a boost when local food suppliers were still able to carry on trading, some delivering to the door, during the coronavirus lockdown period. As larger supermarket chains struggled to cope with demand, Wigan businesses became a lifeline to the town’s residents. If people weren’t buying local before, they are now!
So how can you use Wiganese in your business?
I’m not expecting you to start all your company emails with “Ey up, cocker!” from now on, or answer the phone with “Wot’s fer’ do?”, but some cleverly designed posters, signs or leaflets will draw the reader’s eye. Think about what you sell – could you highlight local produce, localise your menu, or use some artwork which will reflect Wigan’s culture?
Similarly, your social media posts could bring some Wiganese to the fore – and how about a video with some Wiganers explaining what your latest move is, launching a new product or announcing your reopening?
And with social distancing here to stay in for the time being, try using some Wigan phrases to remind customers and staff of how to stay safe. A “Stop maulin’ withee face mask” banner, perhaps…?
* To buy a sticker, in aid of Wigan and Leigh Hospice, pop down to AA Moped on Beech Hill Lane, Fir Tree Angling Shop in Pemberton, or Joyda Racing Leathers on Atherton Road, Hindley.
The calm before the storm
Many businesses in Wigan are feeling the pressure right now. We’ve been speaking to people who have had the worst year’s trading since, well, forever. And it’s tough. We know. Marketing is probably the last thing on your mind. But it shouldn’t be.
Over the coming months, shops will be up and running once more, cafés and pubs will be reopening, leisure facilities opening their doors and services offering their expertise once again. Communities will be reopening and getting ready to meet people – albeit at a safe distance.
But how will your customers find out about this?
Perhaps you’ve got a great website, an informative email newsletter already prepared and slick social media accounts which are geared up to make your announcements. Perhaps they look fantastic, have superb content and lots of followers. Perhaps you don’t need any more help with driving traffic to your website, telling your personalised stories and attracting more customers.
If that’s the case, then stop reading and get yourself a cuppa, you’re all set!
If that’s not the case and you’d like some help, then we’re here to take some of the pressure off. We can help businesses become more visual on the web and, therefore, generate new custom. And this is the perfect time to get prepared for your reopening; the calm, if you like, before the storm.
Get in touch to see how we can help, with competitive prices and a flexible service that suits your needs.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to give yourself a Beltin’ head start.
Coronavirus does have a bright side – and Wigan is proof of this
It’s difficult to find positives amidst the hugely negative situation in which we have found ourselves in 2020. Coronavirus has not only killed thousands and left many more struggling to recover, causing significant strain on our NHS, but it’s left us socially isolated and economically devastated. Yet there is a bright side to coronavirus, and Wiganers have been proof of this.
As soon as the words “lockdown” and “isolation period” started to become part of our everyday language back in March, it became clear to me that some people in society were going to suffer much more from the effects of coronavirus than others. Those who were elderly, had health issues, were vulnerable or struggling to make ends meet came to mind immediately. Our frontline workers in the NHS, as well as customer-facing retail workers and other key workers, also faced a worrying future. But as more and more rules were enforced on our movements, as stores became stricter on how we should shop and public transport became a no-go zone for a vast majority of people, logistics became even more difficult. Others emerged as people who would also struggle: people who were not technically shielding, nor vulnerable, but frightened, alone and at risk.
People of all ages and from different backgrounds in different parts of Wigan would inevitably struggle if they had no access to shops or, even if they did, had been advised not to go in them. People who had lost their jobs, or who could not access a cash machine or single parents who could not simply leave their children at home to pick up some groceries. (Those who have tried taking a four-year-old shopping and asked them not to touch anything will identify.) People who had medical treatment put on hold would be left in limbo and those who had mental health issues to cope with would suffer even more as anxiety levels shot through the roof and depression cast a cloud over many lives. People who had previously relied on friends, family and neighbours to do their shopping found they were no longer able to receive their help as those carers themselves had to isolate. People who could not, for love nor money, book an online shop as slots became rarer than rocking horse droppings. The systems people had used for so long came screeching to a halt.
That’s when Wiganers stepped up to the plate.
Businesses pivoted to provide delivery services, keeping trade ticking over and proving an absolute lifeline to those who could or should not leave their homes. Pubs became takeaways. Farm shops offered drive-through facilities. Food retailers stepped up their game, improving technology and taking on more staff at little notice. Many struggled to keep up with demand; it took a massive effort from those businesses to keep going, I am sure.
Workers whose jobs could no longer continue took on new roles – paid and unpaid – to ensure they were part of the effort to keep the country going. Retired NHS staff donned their PPE and got went back to work on the frontline, putting their concern for others’ health above their own.
Wigan Council set up its seven community hubs across the borough and, having personally volunteered alongside one of the hubs, I can only salute staff redeployed to help keep the most vulnerable residents safe. Volunteers worked with the public (at a distance) to run food banks, provide shopping services and generally keep in touch with local people in need of support.
Children coloured for Britain, creating rainbows for their windows and thanking key workers through the medium of crayon. Some even raised money for charity by holding socially-distant stalls outside their houses, while others crocheted PPE-friendly headbands for NHS staff. Creativity came to the fore as people found respite from the situation by expressing themselves in art, bringing joy to others in the process.
And as teachers offered online tutorials and parents did their best to continue their children’s education at home, families muddled along in the best way they could, hoping for an end to lockdown while simultaneously worrying about things going back to “normal”.
VE Day showcased Wigan’s passion for heritage and our respect for those who sacrificed so much during World War 2 – bunting was strung from house to house and neighbours sat two metres apart enjoying a drink in the sun. The comparisons that were drawn between that period and this highlighted our ability to cope during tough times and do whatever it takes to achieve victory. Luckily for us, our ancestors faced raging bullets and air raids while most of us were merely asked to stay indoors and set up Skype.
So as Wigan prepares to ride the downward curve and get back to business, I can safely say I have confidence in our ability to cope with the problems this time will pose. After all, that’s what we’ve been doing for years. We’re old hands at changing our ways of working and coming up with new ideas in times of adversity.
The positive things that have come out of the coronavirus crisis have shown us what tough stuff Wiganers are made of. We could have crumbled under pressure. We could have given up. But by using our ability to adapt and survive, by collaborating with others, by communicating well and by supporting our peers, the world will be our oyster once more.