Are the Creative juices flowing?

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The UK has one of the most diverse and vibrant creative sectors which contributed £84.1bn GVA to our economy and 2.8 million jobs (one in 11 of all UK jobs) in 2014 and £17.9bn in exports value in 2013.  Encompassing everything from advertising, the arts, design, games, music, publishing, tech and TV & film, in Cornwall the Creative Industries is viewed as a key sector of strength and has been prioritised for public and private sector planning and investment.  So how are our creative businesses viewed by their local business customers?

Earlier this year, PFA Research carried out a poll of 100 businesses in Cornwall to find out what business support services they use and how they view them relative to one another.  In this month’s Business Cornwall, we’re focussing on the services in the Creative Industries sector – namely marketing and communications and website development.

Website development and support was the third most common specialism, both bought in as a service (amongst 60%) and to have someone in-house dedicated to the role (45%), superseded only by accountancy and legal advice.  Marketing and communications came next to bottom as a service that is bought in, by 40% of survey participants (with only HR advice lower at 36%) but, conversely, it is the most common discipline for companies to have someone in-house dedicated to the role (52%).

Perhaps this is because traditionally, web development is viewed a very technical discipline, whereas marketing is seen as more ‘common sense’ and for anyone to have a go? Indeed – 92% of survey participants thought that web development firms generally offer a high level of expertise that cannot be provided through internal resources, although 84% thought the same for marketing and communications suppliers.

So why are more businesses not using professional marketing support?  Clear pricing and demonstrating the value is one issue – just 56% of businesses thought hiring in marcomms services represented good value for money – the lowest for all professional services – and there is still room for improvement amongst website development companies too, which ranked second to bottom with 64%.  37% of businesses said they would hire in marketing and communications services more if pricing was easier to understand and similarly 34% for web development services.

Trust is the main problem – only two thirds of business said they trust marketing and communications firms to always work in the best interest of their company – by far the lowest compared to other professional services.  Web developers came closer to the rest of the pack with much higher levels of trust at 84%.

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75% have a preferred web developer that is currently engaged (of the 40% who such a service use at least once a year), or they would immediately go to if they had the need.  These businesses mentioned 24 different companies, when asked who they use.

Only 29% have a preferred company for marketing and communications (of 28% which typically engage them at least once a year), suggesting the market is much more fragmented.  Of these, 12 different firms were mentioned.

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66% rate their website developer as good or excellent and 15% chose not to comment.

50% rate their marketing and communications provider as good or excellent, with 36% choosing not to comment.

As marketing moves further towards requiring more numerical and technical skills, however, and website development should be continuous for the greatest impact, are our local businesses missing out on the gains to be had from more professional input?

Less than one in ten businesses think they will have a need for hiring professional services in the future, showing that indeed, they believe they have it covered for now…

Of the 100 businesses we spoke to, 16% were in wholesale and retail, 15% accommodation and food, 13% professional, scientific and technical, 9% health & social work, 8% transport & storage, 8% manufacturing and 7% construction.

89% have dedicated business premises and 11% are home based.  27% have 5 or less employees, a third have 6 to ten employees, 27% have 11 to 25 and 13% have 26 or more staff.

34% have turnover in the range £250,000 to £499,999.  26% have less than £250,000 and 40% have a turnover of more than £500,000.

Do you make use of external marketing support and web developers?  If so, what has been your experience?  Share your experiences on the Business Cornwall LinkedIn Group.   For more research results, contact PFA Research on 01326 375705 or visit pfa-research.com.

This article first appeared in the June issue of Business Cornwall magazine. To subscribe, click here.

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