Business Irish

Thursday 26 April 2018

How new businesses can be driven by an online presence

Google initiative can help small firms to ramp up exports

GET OUT THERE: Eileen Donan Castle in Scotland
GET OUT THERE: Eileen Donan Castle in Scotland
Mark Roden of Ding

Paul O'Donoghue

Since setting up in Ireland, Google has grown its operations to become one of the biggest companies in the country, with turnover of €17 bn last year alone, the highest of any company nationwide.

In recent years, the tech giant, which employs roughly 2,500 people in Ireland, has started to focus on aiding other startups. The company has set up two customer sales teams, one for large businesses and one from SMEs, which provide support to companies that advertise with Google.

The company has also taken part in several voluntary schemes in which it provides the help and expertise of its staff free of charge, which Google says has resulted in several companies seeing "exponential growth and creating new digital departments where none existed before".

The Sunday Independent spoke to three companies who have worked with Google either through advertising with the tech firm or through taking part in their voluntary initiatives to see how the online leviathan had contributed to them selling more goods and services abroad.

Exploring Vacations

Exploring Vacations has recently had an overhaul. Until recently, the site, which organises holidays for holidaymakers from abroad, was Exploring Ireland. Earlier this year it underwent an expansion, and just six years after setting up now employs 31 people in both Ireland and an office in Manchester.

The company has worked with Google since its inception, and CEO Robin Shortt says that he credits "over 60pc" of the success it has had to the online giant.

As it uses Google products such as Adwords, Exploring Vacations has access to the tech firm's knowledge and regularly consults with Google for both its business and marketing strategies.

Mr Shortt says: "As we are predominantly an online company with almost 100pc of business online, Google is our most important partner. We're running ad campaigns 24/7 and Google are always on hand to assist us and there for any questions."

He says that Exploring Vacations is now looking to expand further, adding that it has "about 30 projects in the pipeline", and that mainland Europe and countries such as Spain or Italy are possibilities.

"The Google team helped us to achieve a doubling of our business this year. We have never not had a profit. Our topline revenue was €6.7m last year and should be €11m by this year's end, of which we would hope for a 9-11pc profit."

He said that the company is aiming to employ 47 people by the first quarter of next year and is also aiming to achieve 100pc growth in 2015, adding that a potential projected rate of 65pc "wouldn't be great".

"Once we decide that we wanted to do that, Google was great help. We would speak to them two or three times a month and they help us stay up to date and see what works for digital marketing," Mr Shortt said.

Wineonline

After setting up in 1999, Wineonline was initially ahead of the curve, being one of the first companies in the country and the first wine firm nationwide to set up a website offering hundreds of different makes and brands.

However, after being online for over a decade, the family-owned business found that it was in danger of being overtaken by its competitors. So managing director Will Mullin decided that the website was in need of an overhaul.

Already a customer of Google's through its Adwords program, he then signed up for the Activating Dublin programme.

Activating Dublin is a joint initiative by Dublin City Council and several companies, including Google. It aims to get businesses online and see them maximise their web potential by attending a series of lectures given by leading experts from the firms.

Mr Mullin said that the programme taught him how to completely overhaul his website and says it's one of the major reasons why he is aiming to double revenue from €600,000 last year to €1.2m this year. "Over the space of three-and-a-half months, we had about eight seminars with Google with specialists breaking down the various e-commerce elements. Through the training I know now how to get straight to the person searching, it took the guesswork out of it," he said.

After relaunching the website in the November of last year, Mr Mullin has seen his business rapidly expand. Wineonline has hired two more staff in the past year and is now looking to hire more. As well as that, the company has recently expanded its services to include distribution in Australia, which Mr Mullin says he hopes will be the first of several new developments.

"From Australia we have a target of one million [Australian] dollars in year one and we have our eyes on a few more countries as well to roll out to. We will have three full- time jobs on the Australia project alone," he said.

He credits Google with much of the firm's success, saying that the staff made themselves available even after finishing the Activating Dublin course, which he says was a major help in Wineonline's development.

"It was intimidating, as Google are so big - but just putting me in a room with them and giving us access was great, and I still have access for advice if I need them. Companies like that can sometimes be accused of being a bit faceless - but they've been a great help to a small business like us."

Ding

With headquarters in Miami, Dubai, and San Salvador, Ding has become a major player in the mobile market on an international scale. The Dublin-based firm, which employs 200 people, allows mobile customers to instantly send top-up credit from one user to another.

Ding is directly connected to 300 mobile operators in over 130 countries and has recently acquired RecargasaCuba.com - a website specialising in Cuban mobile top-ups. Ding advertises with Google through its Adwords program, giving it access to free advice and support from the tech firm. Chief executive Mark Roden (right), who won the EY Enterpreneur of the year award last week, says that this has been particularly useful since the company decided to focus its attention on the online side of the business.

"Google has been incredibly helpful in terms of supporting us with identifying different nationalities and campaigns and in holding events that have been great networking opportunities for us," he said.

He added: "If you look at Ding, which is global and sells in well over 100 different countries, you can't put salespeople in all of these countries but Google allows you to target customers in a very focused way."

He did caution that it was also important not to devote the company's entire budget to the online advertising, noting that "it's not a substitute for an internal marketing department". He added that it was necessary to keep a close eye on any online campaigns, and to ensure "not to throw good money after bad".

"Whenever we want to meet them there is never any problem, we would also ask their advice on the most efficient way of targeting foreigners abroad. They have been more than a search engine and we would be looking to work with them in the long-term."

Sunday Indo Business

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