Kate Cox is Chief Marketing Officer at HEG, Europe’s largest privately owned hosting provider, and the largest domain registrar in the UK. They currently own seven data centre facilities in Europe and USA, supported by over 1,000 employees, and they have more than 1.7 million customers with over 7 million domain names under management. Kate joined HEG from Havas Media where, in her role as Managing Partner, Strategy, she was heavily focused on finding the best ways of integrating traditional and new communication channels, ideas and opportunities in the most financially effective way.
“…The most exciting thing about digital is the ability to empower huge swathes of the population to get back into work as it enables people to work when and where they want to. This is great news for female entrepreneurs, older entrepreneurs, parents looking after young children, young innovators and people in rural communities to name just a few groups…”
Understanding what makes people tick
I studied social psychology and sociology at university and really wanted to understand what made people tick – a career trying to understand people’s motivations behind what they buy seemed a natural first step and I secured a role in a big London advertising agency. I thought my interest would wane after a few years in the advertising and media sector, but it just got more and more interesting with the rise of digital and the total disruption of traditional models of marketing.
Today I run the marketing teams for HEG across the UK and Europe. HEG has two main UK brands – 123 Reg and Heart Internet. 123 Reg focuses on small businesses that want easy and simple website solutions to help them get online and grow their businesses. We sell domains, which is many people’s first step to getting online and we are the UK largest domain registrar, and have been every year for the last 15 years.
We sell website builders – easy, simple tools for customers to build a website in hours with no need code – many of our customers are online within a day when they purchase a website via this route. We also sell web hosting for those customers who like to build their own websites either through a content management system like WordPress or through an agency or freelancer.
Our hosting is a secure home on the web for websites enabling our customers to be reassured that their website will always be visible to their customers instead of on their own IT infrastructure, either at home or the office. On top of these products we also sell ways for our customers to get found and increase traffic to their websites through our SEO [search engine optimisation] tool, email marketing or our Google Adwords services.
Heart Internet is our brand for technical experts who like to build their online presence themselves. We sell to web designers, web developers, IT consultants and agencies, alongside small businesses with an in house IT department or expert.
For a nearly 100% digital sales business, the marketing teams focus on making sure the website is clear and selling the right products and services to the right customers alongside driving traffic to the websites through Adwords, SEO, email and social media.
The democratisation of the Internet
The democratisation of the Internet has the potential to give small businesses an edge, and empower large volumes of small and micro business owners to sell products beyond their local communities and start competing globally.
At 123 Reg, we feel that as the technology playing field is levelling the next battleground will be ‘time’ – the time to understand how each technology can be used to grow an individual business.
Larger companies still have access to experts able to spend time thinking up ways to increase commercial revenues from their websites. Smaller companies don’t have this luxury, often multi-tasking between actually doing the job in hand as well as managing their new leads and website. Small and medium sized businesses want simple ideas, quickly implemented that give the biggest benefits.
That’s why we’re investing in online education programmes to showcase the biggest wins our small and medium sized business customers are finding to help other similar-sized businesses compete better. We publish on the 123 Reg blog including the latest updates in digital marketing. Also, our Digital Skills Assessment and Online Business Training programmes have both been designed to further provide practical tools to help entrepreneurs make the most of the web.
Online business training
At 123 Reg we believe everyone should be able to put his or her business online but we found a big gap in the online training market for small businesses with too many online courses designed for bigger business and therefore pitched as either too technical or taking too long to complete for a multi-tasking small business owner. So we designed a new training course especially tailored to small businesses, which is completely free to use. The courses were written and produce by our own experts, many of whom have run small businesses in previous lives.
We know that small business owners are extremely busy doing everything from operational tasks to generating new leads, so we designed the courses to fit around such hectic schedules and ensured they can be accessed by mobile so business owners can do training on the move. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been online for years, our courses will help you create your website, engage with your customers, and increase your visitors.
Digital Skills Assessment
We also knew that many small business owners simply didn’t know where to start with online, so we have provided a fully interactive online survey which anyone can take to find out where there are areas for improvement to help them succeed online, in addition to how they compare to other businesses like theirs.
This allows the UK’s small business owners to know what skills other similar businesses are benefitting from online. For example, if a hairdresser shop is finding success with an online booking system, local SEO and an email marketing campaign, we suggest that other local hairdressers adopt the same online tactics; whereas if a plumber is generating lots of new leads just through a simple website alongside SEO to rank highly in Google, we let other trades know so they can focus on the digital skills that will drive their businesses.
The assessment takes around ten minutes to complete and will provide participants with a completely personalised seven page report focusing on six key areas of digital to help them get the very best from their online efforts. The report will also contain links through to the specific material they need to build their knowledge gaps.
Integrating traditional and new media
As a 100% online business we prioritise digital marketing tactics above all else ourselves, be that taking advantage of Facebook video to target new customers, to blogging to generate more leads for our websites, to using Google Adwords. However, we recognise that sometimes more traditional ways of promoting our business are required so we are investing heavily in partnerships and events in 2016 to meet our customers and potential customers face to face.
We have partnered with Enterprise Nation, the UK’s business networking group, Theo Paphitis’s Small Business Sundays, Virgin Media to support their #VOOM event, alongside the current StartUp Britain bus tour with the Centre for Entrepreneurs.
However, we always try and use these opportunities digitally as well – be that asking Theo Paphitis to include us in his tweets to his 500k followers on Twitter, supporting our customers to enter the #VOOM event in social channels or blogging about our customers we meet around Britain on the StartUp bus tour.
How the digital economy in the UK will adapt to the implications of Brexit
As nearly 30% of all UK business websites are connected to HEG, we are very interested in any potential Brexit impact on the digital economy. We operate in the global technology industry, an industry that is flourishing in the UK, in Europe, and across the world. It’s an industry that is growing 32% faster than the rest of the UK economy, and an industry that employs nearly 1.5 million people. The continuing rise of the digital sector and the ability for businesses to operate across borders will absolutely not change through this vote.
Whilst it is hard to understand all the implications of the Brexit vote at this point, we are confident that digital economy will flourish and UK entrepreneurs will continue to use digital channels to take their products, services and ideas to the global market.
How female entrepreneurs can embrace digital to break down business boundaries
The most exciting thing about digital is the ability to empower huge swathes of the population to get back into work as it enables people to work when and where they want to. This is great news for female entrepreneurs, older entrepreneurs, parents looking after young children, young innovators and people in rural communities to name just a few groups.
We at HEG and 123 Reg are extremely excited about this democratisation of digital technology: There are 5.4m active websites in the UK (Source: Data Provider) and at 123 Reg we estimate that only 30% of those are registered business websites – that leaves 70% of websites that are either for personal or community uses, or people starting a business ‘on the side’ – so called unregistered businesses from craft makers, freelancers or other home based / one person business endeavours.
Over the last five years, and especially over the last two, the gap between big and small business access to digital technology has vastly reduced with small and medium sized businesses now being able to access cutting edge digital technologies such as leading website builder products stuffed full of amazing technology at hugely reduced costs.
This is website technology that five years ago might have cost hundreds of thousands to implement and is now available for hundreds of pounds per year. Cutting edge website technology is finally accessible to all.
This democratisation of the Internet has the potential to give small businesses an edge, and empower large volumes of small and micro business owners to sell products beyond their local communities and start competing globally. This is good news for small business; entrepreneurs and anyone wanting to do things differently and take back control over their working lives and thereby for driving business innovation in the wider economy.
Embracing agile development to encourage more women into tech
Women occupy only 11.2% per cent of technology leadership roles in the EMEA [Europe, the Middle East and Africa] – so why is the tech industry lagging so far behind others? To start with, according to a recent E-Skills Survey, only 17% of women work in the technology sector – a worrying statistic in anyone’s books and enough to make it harder to collectively increase the percentage of women at the top.
Most technology companies, which include us here at HEG, have now embraced agile working practices in their development teams to help foster better team collaboration to get projects out on budget and on time. Agile development is simply a way for teams to communicate better and get quicker and higher quality output. Implementing it requires buckets of ‘open leadership’ skills from boardroom to team members.
Whilst open leadership is not an exclusively female skill – the best male leaders I have worked with across my career embody this approach too – women, with their greater focus on interpersonal relationships are likely to orientate themselves more towards this style. It is this movement of tech towards agile that I believe will encourage more women into the sector as it provides a much healthier and supportive working environment whilst also enabling women to develop amazing skills that will help shape all our future working and home lives.
It is beholden on technology firms to make the joy of working in an agile way more apparent to young women about to enter the workplace in order for them to focus on a career in the tech sector. At HEG we are sponsoring a number of education initiatives across the UK and Germany, focusing on providing both the coding skills to succeed in a development team but also giving young people the experience of working in a team achieving great things and the necessary business skills to guide success in the technology sector.
Look out for…
We’ll shortly be rebranding our 123 Reg website – which has been an exciting year-long project. We’ve put our customers and their businesses firmly in the centre of our new website and have spent many months travelling up and down the country meeting our wonderful customers to showcase their businesses on our site.