The interview

Sally Ockwell

Head of Brands & Marketing at nominet, the organisation who brings you, .uk

Q. Who are you and what do you do?

A. My name is Sally Ockwell and I am the Head of Brands & Marketing at nominet, the organisation who brings you .uk.

Q. What is it about the Pitch that made you want to get involved with the event?

A. Innovation and entrepreneurship are some of the things which make the UK such a great place to do business. And The Pitch reflects both these things. Engaging with start-ups and helping them in their journey to online success is an ongoing part of our outreach and we are very proud to be able to provide advice and support at The Pitch and to work with the wide range of businesses which will no doubt apply.

Q. What expertise can you offer to entrants of The Pitch?

A. I have 12 years of experience in sales, account management and marketing, so everything from presenting to negotiating, from consumer research to brand development, campaign launches to event organisation and many things in between!

Q. If you had to give three tips on making a successful pitch, what would you choose?

1) Be confident and believe in your idea – if you are not brimming with passion, you cannot expect others to be!

2) Know your numbers – there is nothing worse than having an amazing idea and getting caught out because you don’t know the projected cost price of your product or the size of the target market you are appealing to.

3) Try and avoid ‘death by powerpoint’ – think of more engaging and interesting ways to present your ideas.  And also remember the theory of an ‘elevator conversation’: you have 30 seconds to sell your idea. This is a technique that has been used by sales people for years in order to open up an initial conversation, gain a person’s interest and leaving them wanting more, but it does make you think carefully about what are the three main things you want someone to take away from your pitch?

Q. How important is it for your company to engage with SMEs and new businesses?

A. The UK’s internet economy grew by around 12% last year, significantly higher than the economy as a whole. There has never been a better time to get online and yet there are still significant numbers of businesses in the UK which do not have their own website and even fewer who use or understand the power of social media to raise their profile and increase awareness (and ultimately recommendations and sales). So it is an essential part of our domain business to engage with existing SMES and start ups and to support them in taking their businesses successfully online, in order to take advantage of the booming internet economy.

Q. It’s clear that Pitch attendees and those pitching themselves can learn a lot from the event, but what about larger companies like yours – what do you hope to gain from being part of The Pitch?

A. Sharing ideas and meeting new people: innovation and entrepreneurial spirit are infectious and you can always learn new ways of working and fresh approaches to problem solving at events such as The Pitch, which bring together so many bright minds in one place.

Q. What are the key hurdles or challenges for new businesses first looking to take their businesses online?

A. Standing out from the crowd is essential if you want to build awareness and recognition of your business and brand in a saturated online world. And with big brands spending millions on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) it will be your name, your website design and your key point of difference, or reason to believe, that will get you noticed. What do you stand for that other similar businesses do not? And how do you get your target customers to know you and what you stand for? Word of mouth is a huge influencer and social media presence and the ability for people to ‘share’ your business is a critical part of anyone starting up online.

Q. What advice would you give to small business owners for building an effective website?

A. Take time to understand your target audience. Who are your customers, what do they want and how can you help them get it? It is really important to know who your potential customers are so you can develop relevant content and an appropriate communication style in order to talk to them in the right way and influence them to buy or use your services or products.

Website visitors will scan your home page, or the landing page they have hit, in a matter of seconds so eye-catching imagery, clear and engaging content and a strong call to action (what do you want them to do – read your blog, watch your film, research your product?) are critical success factors for a first-time visitor, and potential long-term customer.

And finally think about ease of navigation – nothing puts a customer off more than being unable to quickly find exactly what they are looking for – so test your website out on friends who know little about your business and see how they navigate your website: it will provide you will valuable insights into how to improve your links, content and page headings.

More advice from .uk, supporter of The Pitch

  • Five foundations for a successful startup
  • Three startup fears and how to overcome them
  • How to impress a potential investor: Tips from a seasoned business angel