When it comes to successful scale-up businesses, you could be forgiven for thinking that the US has a monopoly on them. Sound far-fetched? Just give this a try – ask everyone in the office to name a scale up business and I’d put good money on it that US Goliaths like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Airbnb are among the first responses you get back.
So why is it when we ask a roomful of folk in the UK for scale-up examples, we all instinctively look across the pond for our inspiration? Well, quite simply, it’s because the US is better at growing scale-up businesses. Fact. While the UK is home to many successful businesses and has a higher start-up rate per capita than the States, when it comes to supporting businesses to scale rapidly, all the evidence suggests that the US is the front-runner.
Nowhere in America is this more apparent than in Silicon Valley. Of the 13 technology companies in the world that are valued at over $100 billion dollars, six of them originated in ‘the Valley’. But if LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman, is indeed correct in his belief that ‘Silicon Valley is a mindset, not a location’ then there’s no reason why UK businesses shouldn’t look to emulate the success of their American cousins, right?
And the good news is that they are – and not just in London either! In the North West alone there are 13 companies worth more than $1 billion, so how come these businesses aren’t the ones we all think of when we’re asked to name a scale-up?
Is it because we don’t care about these homegrown ‘masters of scale’? Or we’re not proud that they’re flying the flag for everything that’s great about British entrepreneurship and innovation? No, quite frankly, it’s because most of us just don’t know who they are. They’re flying under the radar in PR terms and there’s a huge opportunity for UK scale-ups to up their game and take on board some lessons from their US counterparts. So, with that in mind, here are our own expert PR tips for scale-up businesses…
Be less British
Us Brits are renowned the world over for our reserved nature and ‘stiff upper lip’ – neither of which will serve you very well if you need to promote your scale-up business to potential clients and investors. Build the narrative around your business but make sure it’s compelling – there’s no room for a ‘me too’ mentality when it comes to scale-up communications. Think about your purpose, what makes you different and most importantly of all, what value you add to your customers – and then get out there and tell everyone!
Take every opportunity to talk about your success (and failures!), openly sharing your scale-up insights and experience through speaker opportunities, media profiles and PR content, including guest blogs and editorial. Adopting this approach will not only add value to others, but also help to reinforce the authenticity of both your personal and your scale-up brand.
Be a winner
If you’re running a successful business in the UK that’s achieving growth of scale-up measures, then this deserves celebration and recognition. There are lots of industry awards and listings out there – all of which are opportunities to gain external endorsement and recognition from peers and stakeholders. The trick is knowing which ones are worth going after. This is where having a PR strategy in place can help you to focus on which accolades are worthy of your time.
Start by identifying those credible opportunities that are aligned to your core strengths and that support your business objectives. Given the serious growth trajectory of a typical scale-up, business growth listings – such as the Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50 – and awards are a natural starting point. Industry and sector specific endorsements can support sales into your target markets and are worth pursuing ― particularly if you have clients who really believe in what you do and are willing to support your nominations.
Be a natural networker
Networking – along with culture and competition – has been a key ingredient in the success of the Silicon Valley ecosystem. Once again, it’s often our Britishness that holds us back from building professional networks that can actively support our scale-up growth ambitions. For many of us, networking can feel awkward because we’re in a situation where we feel pressurised to sell what we do to people we don’t know. But if you’re a scale-up business that’s looking to grow, then to quote Reid Hoffman again, you need to know that ‘People control resources, opportunities and information’ and so it’s important to get out there and build connections with the right people.
Social networking platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter can help manage interactions with your connections as you build your networks. Even more importantly, they’re valuable channels for amplifying content that your scale-up PR and comms is generating. Maintain an active presence across those platforms that will help you engage your key influencers customers and prospects, and track what impact this activity is having against your wider comms and PR KPIs, such as share of voice and website hits.