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Paper beats email to get West Yorkshire businesses online

Wednesday, December 17th 2014 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A simple letter has proved the most successful way of getting businesses in Leeds and Bradford to sign up to a government broadband scheme, despite "quite a lot of money" being spent on online advertising.

Mark Durham, programme manager for Superconnected Leeds Bradford, said the scheme, which offers vouchers worth up to £3,000 towards the installation of super fast broadband, had been marketed in a few different ways.

“It’s quite surprising. We’ve done email campaigns, social media, but the most successful thing has been a pretty straightforward letter,” he told Cable.co.uk.

Leeds and Bradford have seen the UK’s highest take-up rates outside London for the vouchers, with £1.5m awarded to more than 800 small businesses since February.

An extension of the scheme to March 2016 was announced in chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement.

“[It’s] very good news from our point of view because we felt like we were building a good level of momentum in Leeds and Bradford and in fact the last four weeks have seen record numbers in terms of applications,” said Mr Durham.

“There’s a national advertising campaign on at the moment, which helps, the simplification of the process certainly helps but also there’s word of mouth between businesses.

“Suppliers [are also] getting more understanding of the scheme and therefore being more confident of promoting it themselves.

“All of the cities are doing their own marketing activities of one form or another and I think that’s just starting now to increase the numbers nationwide.”

New jobs

More than 1,600 jobs are expected to be created in Leeds and Bradford over the next year.

According to SMEs that have signed up for the scheme, each business expects to create an average of 2.1 new jobs over the following 12 months as a result of faster web infrastructure, with turnover predicted to rise by an average of £148,000.

Mr Durham added: “We attend a lot of network events so we’re quite well known in that scene now.

“We’ve done a lot of social media, a lot of Twitter, and we’ve got a LinkedIn group now as well, but we’ve also invested quite a lot of money in online advertisements with local business media.

“At the moment we’ve got a telemarketing campaign on-going but the most successful marketing tool so far has been just a letter to about 28,000 local businesses across the two cities using our business rates data.

“Each time those letters go out we see a spike in numbers."

Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for transport and the economy, said: “We are seeing escalating application rates for the vouchers as word spreads about just how transformational the step up to high-speed internet can be for smaller businesses.

“That’s having a knock-on positive economic impact as companies maximise their potential to become more productive and efficient.

“Whether firms get connected via a broadband or wireless connection, they report immediate benefits, from increased productivity and data capacity to speedier customer response times.”

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