Google hosts ‘The Dublin Food Chain’ seminar

Caitriona O'Boyle, Tesco Ireland; Mark Brennan, AIB; Greg Swift, Local Enterprise Office, Dublin City; Philip Coyle, Google; James Burke, Dublin Food Chain
Caitriona O'Boyle, Tesco Ireland; Mark Brennan, AIB; Greg Swift, Local Enterprise Office, Dublin City; Philip Coyle, Google; James Burke, Dublin Food Chain

The Dublin Food Chain is a marketing and networking forum backed by Bord Bia, The Irish Exporters Association, AIB and the new Local Enterprise Offices. It organised a seminar for its members to network and learn how to market their businesses online last month. ShelfLife was in attendance and here's what happened



12 June 2014

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In the cool surrounds of Google’s European HQ in Dublin, a select group of small food producers gathered on 22 May to discuss best practice in online and digital marketing. The ‘How to Build Your Brand Online’ seminar was run by the Dublin Food Chain, a collaborative initiative to promote food heritage throughout the capital. This is just one way in which the Local Enterprise Offices, formerly known as the County and City Enterprise Boards, are helping small businesses enter new markets. Greg Swift, head of the Local Enterprise Office, Dublin City, said that working in conjunction with the various supports offered by the Local Enterprises Offices, members of the Dublin Food Chain can learn how to exploit the ever-expanding possibilities of the online landscape. "By developing their food brand’s online presence for example, Irish small businesses can expand into new markets, leading to local job creation which is a key goal of the Local Enterprise Offices," he said. 

Prior to the seminar there was a producer showcase for trade buyers and a chance for some networking. This was a good opportunity for people to chat to those in similar circumstances; enthusiastic foodies, who have already realised their dream by producing quality produce but now need help to bring their businesses to the next level.

Strong line-up

Industry experts from Google, Tesco Ireland and AIB along with new food start-up, Wyldsson, were among those sharing their online experiences with these producers.

Prior to the seminar Ruth McEntee from Google, said that at the company, they recognise that online selling and digital brand building can be daunting for many SMEs in Ireland and particularly in the food industry. "Only 1.3% of groceries are currently sold online. At the Dublin Food Chain event, we’ll be addressing some of these skills gaps and equipping the attendees with the tools they need to grow their food business online. Currently in Ireland, 73% of all money spent online goes to overseas sites and that’s why we’re committed to helping businesses make the most out of the web and the opportunities it brings."

McEntee also explained about a new training initiative being launched called ‘The Irish Food Hub’ where Irish food businesses can maximise their branding and sales online with help from Bord Bia and Google. In total 21 Irish firms, from SMEs to multinationals, have been selected to participate in the initiative.

The head down effect

Greg Swift from the Local Enterprise Office, Dublin City, kicked off proceedings. He said the world has changed and there was a new phenomenon called the head down effect because people are walking around looking at their phones all the time. He explained that only one-third of SMEs are digitalised and said that this needs to change. "Before you start to spend time and money get your objectives and opportunities sorted."

He said that if you sell something in the regular world you should sell it in the digital world. Your brand must be consistent with user experience. He also explained that you should have consistency across your brand. For example if you have a quirky brand, then your online presence should be quirky too because it will help you stand out. Also your website must be mobile compatible because 60% of online searches are now done on mobile phones. Also 50% of mobile searches are local and 61% of these searches lead to a sale.

Put resources into online marketing

Philip Coyle, Team Ireland, Google has worked in digital media for eight years. He spoke about how important it is for your brand to be easily found online. He stressed that you must understand everything about your customer and make sure you are talking to the right people. He advised businesses to have their location on Google Maps and make sure that your website has one clear objective.

Meanwhile, Dave McGeady, founder of Wyldsson, spoke about his own online start-up success story. From his South Dublin base, McGeady manufacturers premium foods for elite athletes, such as trail mixes, muesli, nut butters, and porridge toppings. Available to buy through his web-store, the products are used by professional sportspeople from across the globe, including PGA Tour golfer Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Munster player James Downey and Winter Olympic athlete Aimee Fuller. He has never spent money on traditional advertising and has used social media to great effect to promote his business.

From a large retailer’s perspective Catriona O’Boyle from Tesco Ireland told delegates that they needed to invest as much money into their online marketing as their traditional marketing. She explained that people don’t tend to place as much emphasis online even though most of their traffic can come from there. She said that you need to decide what you want to achieve and then see if you have the digital resources in place to achieve it. While many companies spend money on making their office space look good in order to make a good impression, they often don’t invest in their website and yet most customers come through their website rather than through the door. O’Boyle stressed that you must be committed to online to make it work for you.

Be found online

Finally there was a question and answer session on stage with all the speakers. They advised people to measure what they were doing online by using Google Analytics and to set up Google Alerts to find out who was talking about their brand. It’s important to remember that the same rules apply to digital as to traditional marketing and it is vital to look after your online presence as you would look after a physical shop. Update information regularly and engage with the online community as much as you can.






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