Belfast Telegraph

Businesses are keen to broaden horizons even in challenging times

By Des Gartland

From quality traditional craftsmanship to computer software, businesses of all kinds in the North West are showing a sustained commitment to broadening their horizons to secure extra sales, despite the current challenging economic conditions.

Recently Art Glass, a specialist stained glass design, restoration and conservation company, secured what is believed to be the biggest stained glass design project this year on the island of Ireland — for 20 large scale, religiously themed windows at Enniscronne, Co Mayo.

Meanwhile, 8over8, the locally-based software development company, is investing almost £3m to bolster its commercial management, software development resource and marketing initiatives to double its already significant international sales.

Art Glass and 8over8 are, of course, only two of the 400 businesses in the North West that have used Invest Northern Ireland support to undertake investment and business innovation activities including research and development (R&D), trade development, training, and technology and process development projects.

All these companies share a common commitment to grow their business through increased efficiencies, heightened marketing and growing exports. Whilst many use Invest NI’s extensive range of trade missions and market visits to explore new regions, others are accessing foreign markets and increasing sales by using the latest online marketing techniques.

Recently, some 35 companies from the North West and across Northern Ireland attended Invest NI’s internet marketing workshop in Londonderry to learn how pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimisation can build brand awareness, attract new customers and bring real business results.

Although applicable to most sectors, internet marketing has been embraced most openly by the creative and digital sectors, with innovative growth areas, such as mobile gaming and e-learning, emerging alongside more traditional forms of entertainment and media like music and film.

Converting technical and creative expertise into sustainable business success involves identifying and protecting the associated intellectual property (IP) and it was hugely encouraging to see around 50 companies from the North West and across Northern Ireland attend a recent Invest NI seminar on this subject at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus.

Clearly many businesses in the North West are continuing to invest for longer term growth by focusing on innovation and exploiting new opportunities and new markets.

Des Gartland is Invest Northern Ireland’s North West regional office manager

Belfast Telegraph