Six Nations Dream over – what’s next for Wales?

The day before England cruelly dashed Wales’ hopes to win this year’s Six Nations, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) quietly announced a background win with potential to impact the RFU for years to come.

On the eve of the crunch clash, the WRU announced that it had successfully poached the RFU’s Head of Digital and CRM, Mark Killingley.

Killingley is credited with improving engagement from the English rugby community online, and he’s the force behind the RFU’s new website. He enjoyed previous success at the NFL. In May, he will join the WRU as Head of Digital Marketing and Communications – a move which highlights that pitching for online talent is as competitive as getting the right players on the pitch.

You can bet that Killingley won’t have come across the bridge without a big incentive, and almost certainly someone without his experience could have been recruited at a lower cost – but the war for digital talent is heating up. The WRU needed the right man for the job, so prepare to be more engaged in the nation’s favourite sport!

It isn’t only sport that’s part of the digital marketing contest. Welsh businesses can’t afford to get left behind technologically. In our experience, Welsh businesses are more reluctant to invest in technology that could make them more profitable – and failure to do so means they’ll lose out to competition, as digital tech touches every sphere of commerce today.

Our field is HR – our online HR software can save a business with 200 staff between £40,000 and £45,000 a year. It’s not just cost savings, either – staff holiday queries are dealt with more efficiently, many ‘everyday’ enquiries can be dealt with via self-service – all factors which mean that HR Managers are less stressed. Yes, the tech isn’t free, but the cost to a business of that size is just £2,700,which can be scaled in terms of the number of employees.  

In England, where the focus is on ROI rather than cost, it’s an easy sale. In Wales, when customers understand the costs, we’re used to seeing a shake of the head and a sharp intake of breath in spite of the savings they can make.

As a business, we practise what we preach in terms of ROI. We took a risk by employing a new digital sales and marketing team last year – they were experienced and they weren’t cheap, but our turnover has doubled over the last 12 months. We haven’t even had to increase our budgets; the right people have taken our existing spend and got us more customers from it. It’s that type of statistic that tech-phobic Welsh SMEs need to look at.  

Having a website (which is often out of date anyway) is no longer enough. We’ve embraced a strategy across a whole host of social media networks, not just Twitter and Facebook.

Businesses need a presence on all the networks their customers use – and a strong digital presence needs to be integrated into the overall marketing strategy, not just an ad-hoc token presence.  

Like the RFU, we’ve invested in a new website, we blog regularly and network in the real world too. And as a team, we do whatever we can to engage people. We still have more room for improvement, but we know we’re on track for our best year ever.

We are proof that ‘getting digital marketing right’ has the potential to grow business quickly and like the WRU, we were prepared to pay to get the right talent to help us do it.  

If your business does not have these skills in house, one of the benefits of being based in Wales is that there’s funding to help train staff and a growing band of affordable freelance digital experts who can help for a fee. You’ll find many of them at business networking meetings, because they understand that offline and online marketing go hand in hand. We’ve certainly met a few who’ve impressed us.

It’s great to see a huge organisation like the WRU setting precedents and investing in digital talent off the pitch. Here’s hoping welsh businesses follow their lead.  

Adrian Lewis is the commercial director for welsh software developers Codel Software and has been advising businesses on how software can best manage HR challenges for more than 10 years. 

Image credit: Andrés Nieto Porras