Digital skills are “critical” for UK’s small businesses navigating economic headwinds


Businesses across the UK are being urged to harness the power of digital marketing if they want to navigate inflation challenges and protect against a potential looming recession.

With fresh business support measures unveiled by the Government last week under its Help to Grow Digital scheme – and the extension of the Vodafone business.connected initiative which offers a raft of free online training to businesses – one tech provider claims there has never been a more crucial time for companies to bolster their digital marketing skills.

According to Michael Carlin, CEO and Founder of Zym, firms without digital marketing and sales skills will be more exposed to economic headwinds, however, support programmes from the public and private sector have never been stronger to bolster defences and facilitate growth.

“It’s encouraging to see the number of start-up businesses growing as we emerge from the pandemic. However, support for digital skills will be critical if they are to survive, stay resilient and drive growth.

“With one in five businesses failing in their first year1, new start-ups in particular, will need an in-depth understanding of digital skills – whether that’s social media, digital marketing or cybersecurity to make it over the sink-or-swim hurdle.”

A recent survey by Enterprise Nation and Vodafone found businesses believe being digitally savvy is crucial for survival. Four out of 10 small firms in the UK have invested in growing their digital capacity to try and mitigate the soaring cost of doing business, with 45 per cent of small and medium-sized firms reporting they increased their digital capability last year. 68 per cent said they plan to do so over the next 12 months.

According to the survey results, the decision to invest digitally was primarily to drive growth (47%) with others saying it was a consequence of the pandemic (29%) and 16 per cent attributing it to the cost-of-living crisis (16%).

Through Help To Grow Digital, companies will be able to access Zym’s automated digital marketing software, aimed at accelerating sales growth from just £24.50 per month (including the Government-funded 50% subsidy).

Zym has also been confirmed as a new delivery partner for Vodafone’s business.connected newly extended initiative, which provides a range of free online training and mentoring to UK businesses with 0-249 employees.

Operated alongside partners Enterprise Nation, Samsung, Zym and Cisco, more than 100,000 small businesses have benefitted from the program’s suite of subsidised digital products and offerings to help businesses grow. It is hoped the scheme will result in the upskilling the digital capabilities of an additional 800,000 small businesses over the next three years.

Daniel Cairo, Zym’s Programme Manager, said: “In 2014, there were 1,000 marketing technology providers to choose from, but today, there’s a staggering 9,932. Aside from the price rises businesses are facing, SMEs can also be paralysed by choice – because they need to navigate this minefield of digital tools.

“Once they’ve chosen the solution and signed up, wraparound support for how they integrate the software is critical, if SMEs are to make the most out of the tools. Taken together, the Help to Grow scheme and business.connected will provide holistic support – access to discounted software, a proven methodology and, crucially, education, so SMEs can better implement the tools to their full potential.

business.connected courses have resonated particularly well with Britain’s SoHo (Small Office, Home Office) businesses – defined as those organisations with 10 workers or fewer – who account for nine-in-10 signups to the programme. One such business, Cup a Sweet, a home-based dessert company in Essex, has already seen stronger engagement online as a result of taking up the courses on digital marketing.

Entrepreneur and Cup a Sweet Founder Saarah Dakri, said: “The business.connected marketing and social media modules have given me a broader insight into ways of expanding the business. By marketing my products in alternative ways, I’ve been able to make my social media posts more engaging and therefore attract more clients. This has opened more opportunities for Cup a Sweet, allowing me to ship custom-made orders rather than just supplying to those in my surrounding area.

“Starting a business in the midst of the pandemic proved to be very difficult when my main packaging supplier went into liquidation, however, the business.connected resources have now helped me source suppliers in a more efficient way to help expand and develop the business. I highly recommend small businesses to take advantage of the resources on offer, there’s something to cater for all levels, whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned business veteran.”

Michael Carlin continued: “From day one, our goal at Zym has been to help business owners access digital technology to fast-track the growth of their businesses — a vision that is mirrored by the Help to Grow Digital and business.connected initiatives. We believe small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of our economy and crucial in the UK’s fight against what many are describing as a looming recession.

“We are a small, growing business ourselves and created Zym for people like us — real business owners who want to save time, save money, and grow – which is why we believe these new initiatives across the private and public sectors have the potential to be a real gamechanger for small business owners right across the UK.”

View the full range of free digital business courses available through business.connected.

Zym is an automated digital marketing solution, which integrates the functionality of nine different platforms in an easy-to-use cloud-based ecosystem, providing marketing automation and lead generation Marketing/CRM tools for SMEs. For more information on Zym, please visit: