If the answer is yes and you need to get people to visit your site, then you can read how to get your research, content, UX, search engine relationships, social media and online mindset into tip top shape.
Just click on the pic below where we have had our previously hosted article on improving website traffic now published through HubPages.
Spring Clearing Week (24-30 March 2018) is being launched in 2018 by APDO Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers in a bid to help the nation remember to take stock of their stuff at least once a year!
Research by MoneyMagpie in 2017 found that 50% of the UK population has ditched the traditional spring clean citing a lack of time, apathy and the on-going cleanliness of the home as their reasons for doing so. APDO members are keen to ensure that this valuable chance to clear the decks of any physical (and consequently mental) clutter is not abandoned too, so they have launched Spring Clearing Week in 2018 to highlight the benefits of an annual review of our ‘stuff’.
APDO members around the country will be helping the public to declutter and clear out after the dreary winter months to revitalise their environment with renewed energy and vibrancy.
Being a Professional Declutterer and Organiser myself, I am convinced that Spring Clearing Week is a perfect opportunity to not only remind ourselves that we sneakily accumulate things pretty much every day, but to tune into the right wavelength to be able to consciously take note of it and take steps to remedy anything that triggers us.
Spring Clearing Week is a great chance to review priorities for the year ahead and pick up any lapsed new year resolutions. Using this week can help you focus on whether the environment in your home is really helping you to achieve these goals.
Katherine Blackler (SortMySpace Ltd), APDO head of partnership says: “APDO wants to harness the optimism felt by individuals at this pivotal time in the year when the clocks spring forward. We’re excited to launch Spring Clearing Week this March and see how we can encourage and inspire the public to tackle their spaces to make 2018 their best year yet!”
If you are interested in learning more about decluttering and/or how to go about doing it, the APDO website or my blog site are excellent first ports of call.
M19 associate Marwan Awar is hosting a free event on Saturday 10th March at the Revolution Bar in West St, Brighton. In it he aims to show you how to become a home-based travel agent and become part of a trillion-dollar industry.
So, if you love travel, want to be a part-time or full-time entrepreneur or looking to be your own boss, book a ticket as Marwan will show you how to accomplish setting up – including websites and access to weekly business training.
Marwan is an entreprenuer who has turned his passion for travel into a profession with the goal to help people change their lives through the power of entrepreneurship, e-commerce and the travel industry.
WTF is SEO?
Recently website guru Jonny Wills talked about the myths of search engine optimization, defining the things we actually need from it for our enterprises online. Here are some of the main points in more detail
Obviously the controversial title WTF is SEO? is a play on how abbreviations make things more mysterious or exclusive than they are. But is SEO (search engine optimization) a phrase to make us who use it more clever and charge more for knowing about it? And really is it just a useful shorthand for a long, specific phrase?
What does Google et al really want? What does optimizing mean in practice? Essentially if you're looking to maximise the potential of anything it's an endless quest. If Mo Farrah now wants to run faster marathons or Elon Musk wanted a rocket ship to fly further there is no limit on what they could do to improve their abilities. And so it goes with your website and therefore business – for the two are inextricably interlinked – there is no limit on how good your marketing can be or how much 'SEO' you can do.
A useful definition for you is this:
SEO is the practice of making something online more relatable to search engines. So probably we might say: "But isn't SEO about getting you up higher in Google?" From which we can infer that you are looking for a definition that talks about rankings.
This is also true, but what if one day the rankings model was changed? If this was the case our definition above still applies. But this is not the most important reason why defining SEO is not necessarily about rankings. Because...?
Thinking about what people search for is essentially second guessing.
A ranking can depend on a search criteria of the writer of the search. And again, permutations are endless. It means when we are inserting keywords across our web page text we are trying to second guess hundreds of thousands of people: Potential customers in the area and what they actually want/write that alerts Google et al (and by et al I mean all the other search engines like Bing or Ask) to match a link to your website. So apart from second guessing the local population, web developers – in tandem with their clients – have to ensure Google et al have all the right information to index you efficiently, then ensure it displays the correct and eye-catching blurb as part of the display link.
Of course, when we all write into a search box, we as product or service searchers don't know how the engine we are using prefers to read our query: So user fallibility, ignorance and innocence is a player in searches. You only have to think about some of the spelling and grammar use you've seen on social media to tell you this. You can counter this in your meta data, but there's only so much time in the day. And here's the rub: No one outside of Google et al knows how search engine algorithms operate, and they change and are fine-tuned often.
The best way to define a search then...
...and turn a user into a visitor and customer is to focus all your website and online language on your niche and keep all the criteria tight on always presenting what your business offers... over time, updating regularly to show aliveness.
Your website has to thus reflect your business...
... and be ongoing and open. Just like it's another branch or reception area that happens to be open 24/7 and globally. For example, one of my recent app projects although appearing modest in installs still has a mindblowing reach – 35 countries across the globe. At the very least the potential for our endeavours is fascinating, and it proves I got the marketing right, but perhaps not the product.
It's important therefore that your business model is serious.
So if you're a Free hunter looking for a Free website and you want Free consultation don't be surprised if I see that your business marketing is not working and so say: "You're business model needs work. And when you're ready to pay I'll be happy to take you on as a client." Investment is key, and you can't expect another company to create or promote your company if it has no real world actuality.
We then need to look at our business with a common sense overview
When I think about building businesses online and ultimately making its presence more searchable it won't work if when a potential customer or client gets to the real world venue to find: poor customer service, slapdash presentation, amateur support or their expectations let down when the website promised them quality.
No decent consulting firm 'represents' half-baked practices, so all my clients have to have a fair reputation or an eagerness for the business to work. It's the job of business owners and decision makers to get their infrastrucure right ("their business"), it's my job to help translate all the outer workings to the general public ("my business"). I personally can usually tell in ten minutes when a business has integrity. If it doesn't then I have to weigh up whether the owner already knows and where I can politely provide suggestions if not.
So once we know the original state of a business is good to go
... we've answered one half of what SEO really is: Being worthwhile enough to be sought after and found. How is this realised? Well, to understand this we need to answer a question that is about our business associations with 'Search Engine Inc':
What does Google et al really want?
What does any business want?
People buying products using the services? Yes.
What, once or all the time? How do they or we achieve this?
Well, we let people know we are good at what we do, we build a reputation, not just for immediate interest but for return interest.
Apologies if this all sounds a bit like Business School Day One.
But to be the best like Mo Farrah or Elan Musk (Paypal) or Google, Apple or Amazon you have to be prepared to remove the ceiling of limitations and be in the present of the practice of being the best on a daily basis for the rest of your quest. I suppose its obvious, but there will always be days when we lose sight of this motivational overview.
Knowing this, and to go deeper, what do Google et al want?
Search engines want you to know they are the best.
They want return custom.
So they want to know you have a great reputation and return interest in order to sell you to their searchers, as they indexing the best and most popular to present them to their searchers.
It thus stands to reason that if more people see your business as the 'go to', then your search ranking will naturally rise.
So make sure you are optimizing your business reputation online.
And remember to do this in tandem with enhancing your business reputation in the real world: Otherwise this lack of synchronicity will affect your name long-term.
So how do we out this into tangible practice for our website?
First we need to understand what not to do with our online presentation, for knowing this and not making the following mistakes will encourage search engines to index you as a more trustworthy operation. Here's a list of five practices that not only turn Google off but actually turn off savvy web-users (you and me) too, so by not doing them you're improving your SEO:
Don't be desperate and repeat advert-like phrases and don't bombard the reader of your website with the same keyword search phrases in every sentence. Place keywords across articles and pages and write from a passion for what you do.
Looking cheap while pricing high and vice versa might work but remember customers have an internet of other sites to choose from. Stay relevant and consistent and they will come back to your site knowing you're not trying to deceive. Likewise with assuming you know them, or feel you should sell to everybody: Just target your language to the types of people that will buy your stuff.
Having muddled web pages might result from a confused marketing message, trying too hard, too many services and bad site development. This could be the same in the back-end coding as well which might be a problem for search engine bots crawling through code and your meta data. So you're turning off the customer (with a poor user experience or UX) and Google at the same time! The best way to end this is to focus your marketing from the ground up, and this may mean taking a look at your initial offering.
4. Fake copywriting
When I'm commissioned to write for websites I have a checklist of at least 25 things I incorporate. Basics like good and captivating English (so don't outsource abroad!), excellent marketing, keywording, CTAs (calls to action) and a balance between sector vocabulary and language a visitor to your site finds that will invoke trust. There are many others of course. Copywriters are ten-a-penny so hire somebody you get on with, understands your business and can be transparent with what they do for you – by explaining why they did it – and make sure they include amendments time in their invoice.
5. Believing a 'Get you to the top of Google' firm
As we have shown, SEO is endless and major companies have entire dedicated in-house departments or agencies working on keywording, analytics and online marketing campaigns. For your SMS or one-person operation it's only a promise a local firm or internet agency could back up if they said they could get you top of the ranking for a phrase (supposing you owned an Italian restaurant) 'best Italian restaurant in Hove'. But what about another phrase with 'Brighton and Hove', 'East Sussex', 'pasta', 'pizza' and the hundreds of other second guess permutations? Ultimately, if they're also doing the bad practices above too, it's not going to be helpful to you long term. How many they can guarantee is up to you and they may do it by price per amount of phrases, but this is the reality.
Case study of nightmare 'runaway fees' scenario
A recent client of mine came to me asking to spruce up their copywriting. He had hired an agency to handle his food nutrition website. And even when I simply communicated with them (or sen them emails) the agencystill billed him for every new change I suggested, this being on top of an initial outlay. This was because they were still holding the reins of the CMS (content management system) – in other words they were doing all the uploading and updates.
Worse still, there was no synergy or overview through the marketing>writing>keywording>design>UX>back-end coding>meta data that makes a website better search engine optimized. I let him know I couldn't step on the toes of his developer and start uploading content because I couldn't be held responsible for errors on an unfamiliar system (not to mention their way of doing things or coding). One fear of mine was also some unseen hand fiddling with my work.
Unfortunately my clients marketing message was still stuck and no one had pointed out that his offering was confusing to customers. Of course I managed to help and avail options quickly. But it would have needed a complete overhaul, it was that bad. A dodgy developer greedy for money and not really caring or understanding about clients' 360 degree needs, but just wanting to lock someone into a long-term deal and keep someone paying, by stringing them along is something that makes me madder that Dr David Banner. Especially as they could deny culpability by saying: "Well, it's your business, I'm just the developer!"
Their fee? £6,000 and growing. Plus VAT.
Mine: a one-off fee of £200 for two pages (half a day plus consultation including the money-saving bad news delivered politely).
What would I have done?
Well, if it had been our website development I first would explained everything I was due to do – agreeing on the selected options – and get a sign off on it. At the same time I would have capped the fees at £2,000 and bespoke packaged the annual fees and updates to budget too. Basically a third of the price with a professional marketing set-up in place and with transparency and customer support. Perhaps I'm blowing my own bugle but the thing is, isn't this what we should expect?
This process of good practice, is in effect what SEO is:
It's not just in the copy: It's in the marketing from the ground up, it's in the user experience, the content, the files you upload, the clarity of the words, the appropriate language, the ongoing aliveness of the website and yes an abundant but astutely positioned set of keyword phrases.
There are more strategies of course beyond the casino of keyword listing, but they have to be bespoke to manageable budget, and unless you are a major corporation where it matters to your shareholders where you are online, this might prove a wild goose chase for you. It's enough to tick-box a common sense criteria above and include things that search engines like, for instance: well-ordered web pages, a good address, a map, contact details, associations with directories and clean back-end coding.
I have a list of more which I do as standard. Yet none of us have access to search engine algorithms and what they are doing week by week, so we can only do our best. But I will leave you with this:
*Remember Google isn't the only search engine
All those sites with a search box? They are effectively search engines. Not just Google, Bing, Yahoo, MSN and DickDuckGo. If you can be found on their site (Facebook? YouTube? Amazon? See pic above) then optimize the page you are on or have created.
And the most important thing for the big picture?
To sum up, the word is integrity. And no I'm not sorry if this points back to you and a bit more work for your enterprise, because I know you'll trust in me saying it to you. Plus it's logical: If Google et al are looking for the best – to be the best at search – then you too have to be the experts in your field and keep proving it for them to index you higher.
The good news is that it makes an even playing field for business and online projects. Steve Martin said: "Be so good they can't ignore you." And so it is when you optimize your website: Make yourself the best you can be then make sure your online presentation doesn't get in the way. Because another definition for SEO is: a set of criteria that inherently shows to searchers and search engines you know what you're doing and you care about your business.
For most of you, the word “tantra” either means nothing at all, brings up vague connotations to things you are not quite sure about, or maybe it conjures up salacious images of wild orgies. Either way, you’ll probably ask yourself what tantra has to do with business. Well, here you go:
You ask: “So, what IS tantra, then?” Actually, the question should really be “what are the roots of tantra?” in order to understand it better.
First of all, forget all you think you know about tantra! It’s all that, and at the same time it’s also very different. A lot of what you probably associate with it is an expression of what is called neo-Tantra, a movement that began with the study of ancient Indian texts and then bloomed into a new version of the traditional tantric practices in the West, during the 20th century.
You may have heard of Baghwan Shri Rajneesh (later called Osho) and his followers, and there are various offshoots of his very sexualised version of tantra that survive the ‘scandals’ surrounding his ashrams in Pune and later in Oregon. His teachings are thriving now, diversifying into new strains of the old spiritual movement.
If we go all the way back to its roots, steeped in times long forgotten, tantra is a spiritual movement that embraces our physicality and aligns it with the meditative aspects of spirituality. In that respect, tantra is relatively unique, as most spiritual movements are not all that hot on the subject of the physical body. Tantra, however, informs us that the mind engages with ourselves and our place in the universe, which is why meditation and mindfulness form an important part of this element of tantric practice. At the same time, the body is identified as a source of sensual enjoyment and yoga is one of the exponents of this idea, as in any other kind of physical activity.
In tantra, the individual is seen as separate and, at the same time, one with the universe around us. This means that interaction with others is no different from interaction with ourselves, mind and body alike, as they are extensions of what we perceive as ourselves. In this light, the interaction of mental and physical exercises start to make perfect sense: yoga engages with the body through postures and breath, while the mind is in meditative mode, meditation is augmented through focus on external stimuli or limitation of these stimuli. All is connected through energies, and through the practice of tantra we learn how to touch this energy, shape it, direct it and ultimately use it to reach different states of consciousness. When it all comes down to it, tantra is about connection, about love, about bliss, about being one with all, being at peace.
Tantra uses a mix of techniques ranging from meditation, visualisation, breath, sound, posture, movement, touch, and others (if you are practicing on your own), and all of the above plus interaction with one or more partners, aligning ourselves with their energies at a more advanced stage. Understanding your own experience will obviously be immensely helpful when practicing with a partner as this will not just involve mental synchronicity with each other, but also sharing of posture, movement, breath, and an intense connection with the other person.
Various schools of thinking
There are, and have traditionally always been, many different schools of tantra, each embracing slightly different sets of the various elements of tantric philosophy and interpretation thereof. Some of these schools focus on meditation to a point of Asceticism, while others embrace physicality to the level implied by Osho and his sexualised approach to everything under the sun. Most schools, however, find themselves somewhere in between.
Tantra does not stand alone. The fact that it has been around for a long time, has imbued both Hinduism and Buddhism with many of its ideas and interpretations, and you might often find it difficult to determine if a particular practice originated in Tantra, Hinduism, Buddhism, or if they are original developments altogether. One thing is for certain, though: tantra has always been notorious for breaking the moulds of caste, diet, dress, sexual practices, etc. If anything, tantra is the original “think outside the box” and “let’s shock everyone by doing things that are not quite acceptable in polite company” movement… and that partly explains why it became such a hit in the 60s and 70s.
How does this relate to business, then?
Tantra and business are aligned on many levels, if not always in the interpretation of very basic ideas, and while there are a whole lot of them, let me pick just a small number of these ideas that overlap and allow me to demonstrate the links. Believe me: there are many more, less obvious ones.
Tantra teaches to set intentions for each of our actions, and when interacting with others. Remember: you are one with everything, so intentions are a good things for ANY kind of interaction, even the mental ones as your mind touches everything as much as your body does!
On a business level, this could be interpreted as planning ahead, setting goals and working towards them in a way that serves ourselves and our customers alike, AND that does not have a negative effect on third parties.
Tantra also teaches us to focus on details, experiencing life and joy (including physical enjoyment) and appreciating every sliver of ourselves and the world around us to the fullest.
It’s a no-brainer to understand that it is good business to focus on details as part of our work: delivery, customer service, timeliness,… all of these notions are excellent business practices, and lack of engagement with a customer is the ultimate no-no.
Try this: sit comfortably with both feet on the floor, close your eyes and listen. Do this for a couple of minutes and you’ll be surprised how many sounds surround you. This is focus, and listening closely is a useful skill in business, on many different levels.
Tantra teaches awareness of the passage of time. Tantra does things exceedingly slowly in order to increase the physical sensation as a means of enjoyment and heightened focus on details. When the mind slows down, clarity comes.
Business is often about speedy delivery. Slowing down can, however, increase accuracy and care about what we are doing. We reduce the detachment from any task by doing it slower and with more awareness of what we are doing.
Think about it, time is flexible for each of us: when you wait in line at the doctor’s surgery, time seems to go at a snail’s pace. However, when you find yourself engrossed in an activity, work or any task that engages you fully, you might forget about time completely and only become aware of it again when your tummy starts grumbling!
Tantra also teaches us to embrace the sense of sensuality. Yes, that is part of a spiritual movement, believe it or not: tantra is okay with physicality! Seeing yourself as being one with the universe allows you to appreciate the totality of what surrounds you and being able to sense things that are unseen.
While that seems a little oogy-woogy, you might find that many successful business personalities admit to going with their gut feeling in business, in addition to logical thought, because it adds another dimension to the decision process. In general, we seem to disregard the sense of sensuality in our daily lives, and especially in business, but there is something to it, believe you me.
Try this: sit comfortably with both feet on the floor, close your eyes and touch one hand with the other (your skin will feel different depending on where you touch), try hair, clothes, the table, chair, and register the textures. Some of them might even invoke specific feelings. Give it a go.
Hopefully, you are now starting to get an idea that much of what goes for ‘common sense’ in business is very similar to what tantra teaches. I don’t claim that this is because tantra might have had any influence on these behavioural elements in business, of course. However, using tantra thinking and techniques to increase their use and influence is most certainly a valid train of thought. It also implies that some of the basic techniques in tantra may involve an element of ‘common sense’ that only looks strange if seen from the outside. Remember: tantra is all about connection, understanding, acceptance, love, bliss ... and the picture that is greater than what meets the eye!
Does this mean tantra is the bees knees of all business techniques? Of course not, no single technique could realistically claim that. However, adding that flavour and awareness of our interconnected nature into business negotiations and behaviour, into our understanding of each other and the world around us will most certainly change our perception of things.
Looking at the challenges we face all around the world, I would even venture that tantra might do a world of good if applied to all manner of interpersonal connections, the school curriculum, customer service training, or even (gasp!) the field of politics...
In the second of two blogs that uncover the secrets behind website marketing, Jonny Wills reveals some of the tasks pros should be doing with your online project
As we said earlier: Delivering a website without the proper set-up and relationship to the rest of the internet is like giving you a car without an engine or fuel. In my book, if you don't explain why, it's a form of misselling.
Honestly, and think about it, who is magically going to look at your site without pro-active preparation, effort or promotion on behalf of your organisation? For sure, it's my job to service you with a ready-for-market website... but the site itself is really 10% of the story.
So what tasks make up the other 90%?
Here's a quarter of what can be done (and value points of what you pay a web marketer for) in five points of plain English:
1. Researching and assembling all the words web-surfers might use to directly reach your site. Some digital consultants may tell (sell) you the idea they can get you 'top of Google' with the right language. Although it can be done, this is an impossible guarantee and one that has to be looked at almost daily.
Ultimately it depends on as many keyword permutations as you can list and each one ranking high. After all, although we can narrow down our target prospects to a niche, we are still second guessing what anyone anywhere could be writing in a search engine.
So, the least a copywriter can do is:
a) get your sector vocabulary right – so you are presented appropriately as the expert, if you're not they may have to adjust what they write;
b) consolidate your message – it probably took you years to hone of all your USPs, we have to ensure the best ones are upfront;
c) set your business up for the right audience – whether a demographic or target niche;
d) write in a way that isn't spammy, overselling or false – most people can spot and are put off by naked 'sell' wouldn't you agree?;
e) use as many searchable words and phrases as possible that don't read badly as in 'd)';
f) think about the layout: this includes font, colours, position of text and where it will sit on a page for a laptop, tablet or smartphone (see picture above).
2. Using those words in your copy and anywhere in your campaign, on or off your site. Having done all that research and consolidated a message it took you years to develop but not actually get across, the perfect position to continue doing that is the one you commissioned in the first place, for a start, I have an objective view and my sole project's purpose is presenting you without distraction.
3.Testing a site to make sure it loads, reads, looks , links, uses, searches and works well. Because a developer who provides copy, marketing and SEO or as I term myself website marketer, can look at the whole picture then we are more efficient, thus saving money and hassle all round. It would behove a business, having commissioned a designer/copywriter or a one-stop-shop like me to keep fine-tuning the project.
4. Make efficient those little things that creates interest or makes a sale through testing, fine-tuning and reporting results. What is the golden goose for everyone? Sales?
You'd think so, but actually it's specifically repeat sales.
Having had your website built with integrity, and as we said before this means so search engines prove themselves good by ranking your business, then inevitably you will not only climb rankings but improve your reputation in your sector. Essentially this would make your enterprise the perfect summation of the phrase: 'go-to'.
Quick tip: List the go-to businesses in your sector, the ones synonymous with product or service and list why people go back to them. Don't just curmudgeonly say 'because they have investment': you need to write all the positives related to things that make them attractive. Ask yourself why you are implementing them in your own business.
5. Providing a bespoke analysis of your online niche approach using all the above. I mentioned niche before, it's not a word to be afraid of because you are looking for your fans, followers, advocates, church, community, shoppers, customers and clients etc. These groups aren't everybody, they're not the whole population, you can relax. These are the people in need of your product of service who would come to rely on you for *clears throat: "repeat sales!" You being the go-to, you developing a livelihood because you have the foundation of integrity.
When I build a site I, as a matter of course, automatically incorporate the necessities of the above (commissioned time-frame permitting of course). We call it SEO, UX, Keyword Listing etc. Each of these things can start at basic set-up for budget to an advanced version of the services that take those extra work hours and analysis over time.
There's obviously an accountable difference between a starting point website and an ongoing online operation. Think of a shop, a company, a private trader always adapting to the market, a website is just a reflection of this, and what you sow counts for what you reap in the field of business dreams. It's for this reason most good web service facilitators with the objective 'project' view inherently care more for their client's needs rather than see how much money they make.
My job then is to avail clients of a bespoke package of as many of these services or routes to return as possible – including website design and content management system – to choose as and when a client is ready in their own time to green light them. Thankfully, one of my personal USPs is that I am perceptive and usually understand a person and their business intent within ten minutes, it's the part of the job I enjoy the most, as I'm fired-up and feel I'm being the most helpful.
A site being up on the web, but in reality not being looked at, may please some, especially those with business vanity but it won't please those with no long-term nous and certainly not me, looking to do their best for you.
For those of you with the business savvy to see that the reality of your dream goes beyond 'getting a website for the business' it ultimately comes back to the main questions:
1. How and to whom are you presenting your business?
2. Are you marketing your creativity, your work, your passion?
This leads to you asking:
How are we being results-driven effective in getting your audience to check out the site? What do we do now to attract more traffic? And what are doing to get those visitors to come again?
If you build the website, yes they will come... but only if you do the other 90% and market it so it has integrity so search engines will favour it and clients, customers and those needing your offering will return.
Copyright InfiniteBridgePosts 2017
The resurrection of Brighton and Hove Albion as a formidable proposition for top flight football is not just about sport, it is also one of the great business success stories of the city. To mark the Albion's long-awaited ascension (after three attempts) from the Championship to the Premiership – an event that will bring both multi-millions to its revenues and the city's hospitality sector trade – we repost an article first written back in 2011, the year that saw the Seagulls take residence at the £75 million-pound Amex stadium, a move that saw them multiply club revenues fivefold. Detailing Albion's 14-year fight to exist, Jonny Wills' article assesses the real value of it's achievements with chief executive Martin Perry and the AITC's then commercial manager Barry McLaughlin
In one form or another I am sure you will be aware of parts of the Brighton and Hove Albion story. I would also wager that as a resident you will know about parts of the Albion’s contribution to the city and its people. But notice I said ‘parts’. What I would also put money on is that many people are still oblivious – and I include myself in this group – to the scale of the Championship club’s relatively recent business success. And in context of its 14-year titanic struggle to even exist you are looking at one of the most extraordinary turnarounds not only in global sport, but also in international business.
The effect that the Albion has had and continues to have on our city is a monumental one, and by the time you finish reading this all but fleeting précis of the football club’s saga – from betrayal to exile through humble subsistence to now, its resurrection – you will realise just how stormy and bleak the waters have been for supporters, players and board members alike. And by rebirth we don’t just mean the gloriously modern AMEX stadium at Falmer (known also as The Amex or Falmer Stadium) though at £75 million that’s a start: enhanced by the future-white bling of NASA-like cool and price. But if this isn’t impressive enough, realise this: that the development was on time and on budget.
Albion venue for the top flight
Perhaps you’ve driven up over Falmer Road/The Drove and seen The AMEX tantalisingly emerge like a vast mothership in a heat haze, waiting to launch. Perhaps you felt it didn’t belong there. Keep reading.
The club looked at nine different sites in huge detail. None had their own dedicated station concourse, which of course is Falmer station. None would have been able to boast the fact that 68% of arriving fans come by sustainable transport, something which is practically unheard of in the football league. None would have come with the filmic story of itself, that it took a six-year fight campaign once the plans for Falmer were submitted in 2001. Before that fans were fighting the board and in particular Greg Stanley, Bill Archer and David Belotti in 1996, to stop them selling the Goldstone Ground in Hove, now home of Toys R Us. At the same the football side were struggling to stay in the Football League and narrowly avoided obscurity by drawing the final game of the season. And no new ground was arranged. Supporters were either distraught or fuming.
Without a home Brighton were forced to play at Gillingham in Kent in 1997 till 1999, after a deal with Portsmouth suddenly fell through. For fans it was a 150 mile round-trip, and remember for some supporters losing the Goldstone was like ‘losing a relative’. Many were so put out or angry that they couldn’t bring themselves to believe the Albion would return to its former glory. But with the Gillingham trips grew a bonding between fans, a strength of unity that laid the foundation stones for the club in its present form. This is what sends a ripple of emotion when you see the stadium, it’s light of its history to get there: the never say die attitude.
In 1999 the Albion returned to Brighton and Withdean Athletic Stadium. A lot happened for such a little venue. In 12 years the club rode an increasing swell of goodwill and Withdean was upgraded to Football League standards in 2002 after the Albion reached Division One (now the Championship). During this time they had a strong chairman, Dick Knight, they had a strong manager in the form of Mark McGhee (from 2003), and the team got promoted four times. Not only that, injections of cash kept the club afloat, either from sponsors Skint Records and Norman Cook or by a series of benefactors willing to invest beyond their means.
Simultaneously, a campaign to move to Falmer gathered momentum after planning permission was given the thumbs up by the unitary authority of Brighton and Hove.
Opposition to Falmer proposals
However, now Lewes District Council, local residents and the South Downs Joint Committee opposed the plans, citing boundary and beauty issues. A planning enquiry was thus engaged upon by the then Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. Albion fans supporters sent 18,000 postcards to John Prescott along with flowers and even a seven-foot Valentine’s card trying to try to sway his mind and give the go ahead to build at Falmer. First in 2005 he approved plans, then, in 2006, he withdrew them. But in 2007 the Secretary of State, Hazel Blears, responsible for all planning, re-affirmed the approval. By 2009 property investor and internet gambling entrepreneur Tony Bloom had succeeded Dick Knight (now the club’s life president) as chairman after an investment package worth nearly £100 million. Bloom eventually brought in Gus Poyet as manager and together led the Albion to their new stadium as Football League One champions and promotion to the Football League Championship in 2011.
An impact on the city
With such a monumental recent history – as you can now imagine – for followers Albion isn’t just about Falmer. ‘Brighton and Hove Albion has a huge impact on the community,’’ says the club’s chief executive Martin Perry.’’It isn’t just about the stadium. A whole series of events has made the transformation happen, and the club revolves around its changes. Indeed, the total turnover of the club breaks down into various areas, impacting on the surrounding area.”
On its first match day for example supporters sank 17,000 pints of Harvey’s beer, with the brewery struggling to supply pubs in Sussex for the next week.
“We source our pies locally,” continues Perry, ‘’As we try do with everything involved in our operation. Piglets Pantry, based in Shoreham, had to supply us with 7,000 pies for our opening match. To do this the company had to expand and employ more staff and use a bigger facility, which they did, basing its operations in Robertsbridge. For the recent games against Liverpool, Leeds and Crystal Palace they had to make 25,000 pies. This is one of many knock-on effects of the club creating jobs and growth around the county.”
It’s easy to focus on purely the fans and the football. Yes, it fuels the success, but it’s also the backroom work and the network that is the club’s reason for being, and a visit to Falmer to will tell you they are ready for the top flight. For the success of the club quintupling its revenues Is not solely based on ticket sales, it’s about the perfect synthesis of community spirit and conglomerate support initiated by a fight for survival.
AMEX stadium and the community
At Falmer, the spacious facilities of the AMEX dovetail with the Albion’s work with the commercial sector and the community, and it is estimated there are more than 1,500 businesses working with the football club. They stem from the in-house catering of Azure and its massive hospitality operation to the crucial interconnectedness of business networks. Friends of the Albion, borne out of the Withdean years, is one such network made up of everyone from solicitors to print-brokers, to florists and Juice FM, where more than 120 meet regularly for breakfast. Another, the 1901 club is a corporate supporters’ society, and invests in the ground by buying 2,500 specially-allocated seats and access to the 11 hospitality suites.
And then there is the Albion in the Community (AITC), the jewel in the club’s crown, and one of the country’s top football charities. Around 60,000 Brighton lives are affected to the positive by the AITC’s work in education, disability, social inclusion and 16-24 youth employment programmes, the latter naturally helped by Albion sponsors American Express and Brighton and Hove Jobs. All told the AITC has around 200 teachers, mentors and coaches working from an annual fund of £2 million delivering through to other clubs at Worthing, Hastings, Havant and Waterlooville.
“The business that’s been going on since June and July is from scratch, which is incredible,” said the AITC’s commercial manager, Barry McLaughlin. “But it makes sense when you take into account the fortunes and work the Albion as a whole has put in over the years. It’s three basic areas, the club, business and hospitality and our charity, Albion in the Community, all feed into one another and make it the success it is, not just in financial terms, but in terms of investing in the people around the club and in the future.’’
A visit to the club will find you perhaps walking by the cleverly-designed banners of past player heroes Peter Ward, Mark Lawrenson and Bobby Zamora. In the car park the 4x4 wagons scream of football’s current glamour and commercial power. The stadium takes fifteen minutes to walk round and the wind on inclement days bespeaks a daunting vastness to the undertaking. But that would miss the point. The position that Brighton and Albion football club has reached is already a cumulative achievement, less about the football business and more about the devotion of the supporters and the tenacious spirit of the people of immediate community. To paraphrase the Fatboy Slim track: They have...we have, come a long, long way together, and we need to praise them like we should.
AMEX Stadium, Falmer, 2011 statistics
14 corporate boxes sold within eight days of going on sale
15,500 season tickets sold within three months
138,00 cubic metres chalk excavated preventing an estimated 20,000 lorry trips
£93 million invested into developing the American Express Community Stadium