Listen To Niamh Hogan's Interview!
Niamh’s Interview Begins at 12 Minutes 45 seconds! (12m45s)
Niamh Hogan Talks To Clare FM
Agile Digital Strategy’s fantastic CEO, Niamh Hogan was invited on to Clare FM to chat about exporting products and services from Ireland to Europe, The United States, and the Rest of The World.
Niamh sat down with Josh Prendeville on Friday 15th of April for his show, Clare Means Business.
Clare Means Business is a weekly segment of Clare FM, where Josh talks all things business in the County Clare.
“To be invited to speak about a subject I am so passionate about on a forward-thinking show, that promotes local business in the Clare region, is a huge honour and a privilege. I hope I was able to give some insight and guidance to anyone listening.” – Niamh Hogan.
Niamh, who was recently named one of Ireland’s Top 75 Brilliant Irish Women In Business, was invited onto the show as she is part of Clare’s Local Enterprise – Women In Business Group. This group combines businesswomen from all industries in Clare, allowing them to share knowledge and grow together.
Below, we have a transcript of Niamh’s interview with Josh!
Niamh Hogan Means Business!
Now, though, continuing that theme, and we want to speak to a local business who has availed of those supports and has begun exporting successfully. Niamh Hogan is with Agile Digital Strategy, who are a digital marketing agency company based in Shannon, and she’s with me. Niamh, thanks for being with us. Before we get into the export side of things then, can you give me a flavor of your own background, and how Agile Digital Strategy got off the ground?
Thanks, Josh. And thanks for having me on the air today. I have always had an interest in technology and let me tell you a little bit about my background.
Basically, I’ve always had an interest in technology, starting with a degree in Electronic Engineering from UL. And then I worked in many large multinational businesses, including Intel, O2, Meteor and IBM.
But I always had the ambition to set up my own business. I spent 11 years working in Dublin after college before then moving back to Clare in 2008 for a better work-life balance.
I initially set up on my own part-time as Web Clare in 2017. Mainly developing websites then developing an interest in, not just designing the websites, but actually ranking websites high on search engines (SEO).
I have a passion for helping businesses grow through their online presence. And before converting to a limited company, and Agile Digital Strategy was born in August 2020. I had already plans in place to grow the business and go limited, but the pandemic accelerated those plans as many businesses had to invest in their own online presence.
Starting A Business During Pandemic!
It’s one thing setting up your own business and branching out on your own at any time, but to do it in the middle of the pandemic was there to an extent almost a benefit given the industry that you’re in, because I’d imagine there were a lot more businesses may be looking at their digital presence than they had been previously?
Yes, it was an extremely busy time for us. It was a bit of a challenge to set up in the middle of the pandemic.
Basically, we needed to expand the staff numbers and to do that I had to go limited, and also expand our services as there was a bigger demand for a wide variety of digital marketing services.
So now we have a web designer/developer, with digital marketing experts, and also customer service, which is key to actually having someone to be able to answer the phone and talk to clients as well. We deal with many different clients through a variety of different sectors from manufacturing, eCommerce, tourism, financial, and recruitment.
We’d like to look to work with clients that are looking to grow their business and can help them through a variety of different digital services.
During the pandemic, some days were crazy. Basically, with businesses looking to get online immediately, there was a huge rush.
Building A Digital Marketing Client Base!
Did those clients organically filter to you in the beginning? Was it a case of you going to them? How did you buildup that client base from scratch?
Well, thankfully, because I had already established quite a number of clients and a reputation as Web Clare, we had a number of clients that just transferred from Web Clare over to Agile Digital Strategy.
And then, obviously, there were new clients. We had to do our own digital marketing to advertise our own business during that time as well, to promote ourselves.
Exporting Digital Marketing!
I suppose with all that said then, you’re ultimately in the guise of agile anyway, you’re still less than two years in business. So, what made you think of looking towards the export market, and I guess it’s a little bit different for yourselves, you’re not exporting a product, per se, it’s not in a box, it’s not in a package or whatever. You’re exporting a service. Before we get talking about that side of things, and how it’s gone for you, what made you think, first of all, that this was an area you needed to look at?
I believe it allowed us to branch quicker because we didn’t have to look at things like how to ship the product or anything like that.
We can advertise in any location worldwide, and provide a service to that business, whether it even they’re only looking locally, or they’re looking internationally for the service.
And we would work with both clients abroad and we also help clients in Ireland export their businesses as well. We can help them get their business recognized internationally as well through different advertising options.
And what markets have you looked at, I suppose the UK market is challenged, I think is one way of putting it as a result of Brexit. But again, maybe not so much when it comes to services like yourselves and I would imagine the US would be a particular interest of yours as well on the digital market insight.
Well, UK, because Brexit actually has very little impact on services being provided to the UK.
We got our first UK clients, which was a Pan European sub-supplier, and they needed to improve their SEO to be found online.
They are business-to-business wholesale clients supplying clients primarily in the UK and wished to expand their business more into Europe. They had an old website, which they had done themselves with little or no online presence on social media.
Previously, would have looked for clients at trade shows, which were all canceled due to the pandemic. But they have now managed, through new website and through optimization in the website for SEO.
Now they get found on search engines. They now have grown their business internationally, in spite of the pandemic and Brexit with new clients in Spain, Belgium, and Germany.
Onboarding An International Client!
When you initially make that contact with a business and be it here or abroad for particularly businesses that are maybe abroad, and you might not be as familiar with. How does that process start from beginning to end?
Where you’re obviously helping them identify their needs, whether it be SEO or other general purposes in terms of their online presence? So how does that process start? Because I’d imagine, as you mentioned there, some businesses would have an old website, but some might not have much of an online presence at all I’d imagine?
And as part of a digital strategy, we’d look at what they have existing. How their current website is? How it actually is? Is it user-friendly? How does it currently rank?
We’d look at their competitors, we’d see what different channels they’re using to market, and how their websites are. We’d also do up a typical buyer persona for that service that they’re providing, or the products that they’re selling.
And then we’d actually be able to produce a strategy plan, which will say, in the short term, we may need to focus on your website, and maybe your SEO, and then once we have the website up and running, then we need to go to stage two, which is your medium-term plan, you might need to increase your social media.
We might need to look at Google advertising to be able to target specific markets and specific sectors, and email marketing, etc, and so on. We’ll be able to provide them then with what they need to do immediately, in the medium term, and then in the longer term as well.
What services are most suitable for them to be able to market and to be able to challenge the current competitors in the marketplace.
Local Enterprise Office Mentorship!
Absolutely. Can I just ask you what the process in terms of engaging with a mentor with the assistance of the local enterprise office was like, I suppose you’ve had detailed the amount of experience that you’ve had across the tech and digital sector. Was it a strange experience to have somebody come in and sort of look at your business in in a different way? How did that process go? And how did it kind of maybe open your eyes to alternative kinds of ways of thinking?
It was absolutely excellent. As said, the Local Enterprise Office in Clare appointed a mentor, and they helped ADS do up a business plan and strategy, and apply for a priming grant, when we were setting up initially, which was hugely beneficial as Agile Digital Strategy.
This enabled us to be able to scale the business quite quickly. It was great to have advice from the mentors to be able to provide a different set of eyes on cash flow projections etc. While I might know the technical side of it, but as someone with the business knowledge to be able to provide advice on the financial side of it and any other marketing requirements.
I always think digital marketing, but of course, there’s also networking and various other options for marketing as well.
The Local Enterprise Office in Clare is excellent. They provide a range of opportunities for people and supports for them, and have been delighted to be selected on the Local Enterprise Office Clare Women in Business program which is great.
I expect to learn a lot from the program, as many of the companies on the program have been exporting for longer than me and the great participation in a collaboration of this nature to exchange ideas and methodologies for reaching new markets.
There’s also an offer which is also very beneficial to many businesses. The Trading Online Voucher that the Local Enterprise Office offer, which is a great support which is available to eligible businesses to grow their online presence, which can be worth up to 50% of the service costs up to a maximum of €2500.
And eligible services for this include digital strategy, website upgrades, advertising online, and search engine optimization SEO.
Brilliant, and much to ponder for businesses may be looking to go into the export market. I’m with Niamh Hogan from Agile Digital Strategy based in Shannon, thanks very much for speaking to us on Clare Means Business.
Thanks very much, Josh. Thanks for your time.
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