On Thursday 27th June, more than 20 business owners from around the Bay of Plenty gathered at the Spark Business Hub in Rotorua, for a half-day workshop on all things digital.
Free for selected Spark Business customers, Spark Lab’s Digital Workshop series is designed to help kick-start digital transformation for New Zealand SMEs.
The workshop was packed with advice on digital marketing tools such as SEO, social media and further strategies to give Bay of Plenty businesses an edge.
We took a look at some of the day’s biggest outtakes, and explored how Spark Lab’s Digital Workshops are helping Kiwi SMEs face an ever-changing digital landscape head-on.
Outtake #1: Spark Lab’s Digital Workshops are for everyone.
Ahead of the Rotorua workshop, every participant completed a Digital Journey Assessment. Their results were then used to shape the workshop itself - completely customising the day to meet the needs and digital experience levels of its attendees.
Workshop facilitator Stuart Dillon-Roberts - a highly regarded digital strategist, and founder of Digital Journey - says this pre-assessment stage is invaluable.
“It lets us cater to any level of digital knowledge, and tailor each workshop to the unique challenges of the people in the room.”
Outtake #2: There are plenty of ways to minimise your costs online. It’s just a matter of knowing where to find them.
Workshop attendee Gert Taljaard says that learning where and how to save costs online was one of the day’s most valuable outtakes.
The CEO of Polynesian Spa, one of Rotorua’s biggest tourist attractions, said he was surprised at the number of inexpensive - or even free - digital tools the workshop introduced.
“There were a few people in the room paying ridiculous sums for their website hosting,” Gert says. “The workshop offered up some much more cost-effective alternatives, and that alone gave people huge food for thought.”
Stuart believes lowering costs isn’t just about finding free or inexpensive software. Choosing your tools wisely can also lead to unexpected savings.
“Picking the right tools for the right jobs makes things so much faster and more efficient,” he explains. “Which frees up valuable budget to be spent elsewhere.”
Outtake #3: When it comes to digital, the “why” is just as important - if not more so - than the “how.”
Most digital courses tend to focus on the practical side of using online tools - like how to set up a Facebook ad, or how to use Xero. The Rotorua workshop, on the other hand, went a step further. It prioritised the strategic reasons you should be using these tools in the first place.
“We looked at things from a business point of view, rather than just looking at the tech,” says Stuart. “It’s not only about saying ‘use this tool, and click here.’ It’s about getting to the root of why you should be online, and why the right focus in the right areas could help transform your business.”
Gert says that looking beyond the “how” to the “why” helped show how online tools could be used to solve actual business challenges. “It certainly gave me a deeper understanding of the space, and the possibilities for our business.”
Outtake #4: Businesses could learn a lot by seeing their online presence through the eyes of their customers.
By walking in your customer’s online shoes, you could help uncover ways to improve everything from your Google my Business listing, to your online payment system. That’s why the Rotorua workshop was all about taking a step back, and re-imagining your business through the lens of your customers.
“We talk a lot about what’s it like as a customer,” Stuart says. “In Rotorua, we used the example of someone Googling a specific hotel in the area. What’s the first thing they see? If it’s a garage and a cracked footpath, they’re probably going to take their business somewhere else.”
During the workshop, Stuart showed this customer-focused mindset in action - walking attendees through a complete online transformation of a real Rotorua company.
For Gert, this use of practical examples showing the theory in action was key. “Stuart used a lot of actual websites and case studies, which really helped explain things clearly,” he says. “It was great to be shown, not just told.”
Outtake #5: Every business has something to gain from learning about digital tools.
From forestry to real estate, sole traders to SMEs, the Rotorua workshop attracted professionals from a huge variety of industries and sizes.
“They all came away absolutely fizzing,” Stuart says, “having learnt not just about the tools and services available, but the underlying reasons why they’d work well for their businesses.”
Gert recommends the workshop not just for business-owners, but for managers and team leaders, too. “The digital space moves pretty quickly these days,” he says. “So to end the day with a very clear indication of the opportunities that exist was fantastic.”