The government-backed business support programmes can be of real value to participants. However, the local business community is not always aware of it and gets the most from, the support that is available to them. Bolsover District Council Local businesses were surveyed to better understand the failings of taking up the support available.
Across the country, there are a range of government-backed business support programmes. These can be of real value to participants, but their use varies across the business community. Working with Bolsover District Council, the supplier looked at this challenge by surveying local businesses, reviewing current activities, and engaging with stakeholders to better understand the failings for taking up the support available.
The main findings have implications for councils everywhere. The vast majority of businesses would welcome the support available, but in many cases were unaware of what existed and what they were eligible for. The research underlines the opportunity for councils to get more for their communities from such services through increased proactive, data-led structured engagement activities.
Bolsover District Council has been facing a challenge that is common among many councils in ensuring their local business community is aware of, and is getting the most from, the support that is available to them.
There are a variety of local and national government-backed business support programmes and initiatives to help companies develop and grow. While many are very successful and can add huge amounts of value to participants, not all businesses that are eligible for help engage with the support available. The Council wanted to understand why this may be and what they could do about it.
There were many thoughts around the reasoning for some businesses not engaging. Maybe the right types of support were not being offered, maybe the topics for support weren’t relevant to the business base, maybe companies in the area weren’t aware of the types of support available, or maybe they simply weren’t interested. Clarity was needed so whatever the blockers were, they could be addressed.
The supplier conducted research with Bolsover District Council to understand why some organisations do not utilise the business support services they are eligible for as much as they could. The approach to this research comprised of three key strands: understanding Bolsover’s business community; a desktop review of Bolsover’s current approach to business support; and local businesses and stakeholders were engaged with through a survey and interviews.
Data – The supplier undertook a place-based insight in to comparable regions and areas across the country to provide Bolsover with details of comparable socioeconomic areas which may face similar challenges to them. It also provided information on the business community in Bolsover, including the size of organisations, their sectors, as well as business formation and closure rates and trends among other things.
Review – The supplier reviewed Bolsover’s existing materials and approaches, including communication activity through social media and email bulletins. They provided a series of recommendations at both a strategic and tactical level to make improvements to marketing activities in the short and long term.
Engage – The core part of the project was engagement with the local business community. This was driven through interviews with local stakeholders and a survey to understand local businesses. We interviewed local business community stakeholders to understand what they were seeing on the ground and surveyed a representative sample of local businesses asking key questions around their needs and experience.
The report provides a strong argument for continuing business support in the community and the findings of the survey form the basis for tangible actions that will improve the use of the support that is available.
The impact includes:
- The work has helped the Council to understand their current position, and how their business community see support from the Council.
- It has helped the Council to better understand the needs and concerns of local businesses, which will allow them to tailor their support and activities more effectively.
- It provides a map to building stronger relationships with local businesses which will lead to increased trust and cooperation with the business community.
- It will help the Council to improve it’s reputation and image within the business community.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The Council have been provided with a clear roadmap of how to engage organisations in the area in a sustainable way, as well as immediately actionable steps they can take to improve interaction with the local community.
They have also been provided with data on what organisations in the area care about and what they need support with, which provides an agenda for engaging material and activities going forwards.
Demand – Businesses are very keen to receive support once they are aware of the offer, with four out of five saying they would welcome such assistance.
Awareness – There is an equally significant lack of awareness of the support that is available, with only 16 percent of companies reporting that they understand what is on offer.
Marketing – There is some low hanging fruit in terms of marketing approaches that local government can support to drive awareness and engagement with the services that are available.
Consistency – A lot of support is time limited, so brand awareness is a real challenge as services and initiatives come and go. There is a need for a consistent place to go to learn about what is available, and companies highlighted the potential role for councils in providing a long term point of contact to help them understand the range of support they could access.
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