Vodafone: The Impact of Buy Yorkshire
BUY YORKSHIRE: LOCAL FOCUS DELIVERS NATIONAL SUCCESS
Since its launch in 2011 the Buy Yorkshire Conference has been so much more than ‘just another exhibition’ attracting regional companies that measure success on the number of business cards shared.
Geoff, the organiser and founder of The Yorkshire Mafia, explains how his vision for the event, and focus on building it year-on-year, has seen it attract upwards of 5,000 registered delegates, secure some of the UK’s largest business names as speakers and become the test bed for one of the country’s leading brands.
Shepherd comments: “The Buy Yorkshire Conference was never going to be about pull-up banners and business cards. It simply had to be more than that. We had a plan and a vision; we wanted to attract game changers to the stage, hear the thoughts of people who had never featured at business events in the region before and put Yorkshire on the map as a champion of entrepreneurism and economic success. There is absolutely no point in becoming a ‘me too’ and so from year one we pushed the boundaries.”
Not only has the Conference attracted thousands of delegates and hundreds of exhibitors, it can also attribute a staggering £8m of business, which is passed each year as a direct result of the annual event.
Shepherd continues: “We started with The Yorkshire Mafia, a LinkedIn group that would encourage relationships as opposed to selling. It is no secret that people don’t like being sold to, but there wasn’t a group that was specifically advocating getting together and sharing stories not business cards. Adopting this approach, the Conference was a natural progression and as people were already connected, thanks to LinkedIn group and drinks evenings that we organised, it made doing business easier.”
This attitude hasn’t only benefited members of The Yorkshire Mafia community or delegates at the Buy Yorkshire Conference, which quickly became the leading business-to-business event in the North, it has also complemented the strategy of a leading UK brand, Vodafone.
Last year, the company implemented a city-wide pilot programme to test and measure the change in businesses’ attitudes towards the company when it positioned itself as a regional supplier, with a national footprint.
Supporting Vodafone’s regional trial in Leeds, the company became the main sponsor for Leeds Business Week, another event that is delivered by The Yorkshire Mafia. It also partnered with The Yorkshire Mafia to facilitate local networking and business skills events, which further raised the profile of its brand within the Yorkshire business community. These partnerships helped to support the telecommunications company’s approach of building relationships locally in order to do better business nationally.Following Vodafone’s successful pilot in Leeds to create regional teams and forge relationships with business groups such as The Yorkshire Mafia, the company expanded its regional engagement strategy and reorganised its business account management, customer services and network teams to become regionally focused right across the UK. Creating dedicated local teams, the company appointed advisors that could provide businesses with support from a supplier based on their doorstep.
Chris Hankins, Head of North East and Yorkshire Regional Business at Vodafone, said: “We know that being able to respond quickly to our customers and being available when they need us is really important to organisations of all sizes in Yorkshire and across the rest of the country. Therefore, we decided to change how we do business, putting more of our people where our customers are and where they run their businesses. This new approach will enable us to support our business and local public sector customers better than ever before and see myself and my team of local business advisers, and the support teams, play an even bigger role within Yorkshire’s business community.
“We tested this new approach with a pilot programme in Leeds last year, the success of which was largely influenced by putting our regional team, with their local knowledge, closer to businesses in the city, allowing us to get to know them even better and to be more responsive. Our partnership with The Yorkshire Mafia also contributed to this success.
“We see The Yorkshire Mafia as a top business networking organisation in Yorkshire. It has 22,000 members and deep roots in the local community. It brings together over 15,000 business executives face-to-face each year through an events based programme, and has played a fundamental part in helping us understand the local business landscape.”
Shepherd continues: “People often ask me what impact we have had as an organisation and it can be difficult. We can’t count every pound that is spent as a result of the group or Conference but what we can do is use Vodafone as an example of how we are supporting business not only in the region but throughout the country.
“Being in a position to work with one of the UK’s leading brands who sees the value in what we do is something that we are very proud of and it reiterates that we have the right model in place. The Yorkshire Mafia mantra has always been ‘Stronger Together’ but it’s only the businesses that will live and breathe this, adopting it as part of a culture, that will survive and thrive.”