Acoustics business listens to sound advice

The business

Soundguard Acoustics is a consultancy which specialises in many fields of acoustics, including Approved Document E sound testing, building and architectural acoustics, sound-proofing design, environmental noise monitoring and control, wind turbine assessment and industrial noise at work risk assessment.

Based in Bideford, Devon, it has an extensive customer base in the South West of England and South Wales, but also enjoys a growing national reputation which is winning new business throughout the UK. The company is a full member of the Association of Noise Consultants and an accredited test body for Building Control Approved Document E sound insulation testing – one of just 200 in the entire country.

Soundguard was founded in 2008 by Acoustic Consultant and Director Rob Shaddick, who works with a range of professionals – architects, developers, contractors, design teams, local authority environmental health officers, residents, industrial health and safety advisers, and commercial managers – across a range of industries and vertical markets in the commercial and public sectors.

Recently, Rob has reassessed the role of ICT in his digital marketing and mobility strategies. With a new website up and running, he started to explore the benefits of cloud-based applications – Dropbox in particular – to run the business more efficiently.

“We’ve moved completely away from print advertising, so the web is our main marketing platform, and social media is an increasingly important way of building our profile,” he says.

“Having developed a new website, I was looking at how we could maximise its effectiveness for mobile business. At the same time, I really wanted to have my office in the van – or wherever I happen to be – so that I can use my time more efficiently. I began using Dropbox in an ad hoc way but I didn’t really have a formal understanding of how it could work for the business.

“As we’ve become busier, it is increasingly important to be able to respond more quickly. When you go to a secure environmental site, you can set up the monitoring equipment and leave it to gather the data, while you go away and do something useful. But if it’s non-secure, you tend to sit there waiting for the data to be captured – and without good mobile access, that’s dead time which I can’t afford to waste.”

The opportunity

A timely call from an adviser in response to an enquiry about high-speed broadband alerted Rob to the benefits of the Superfast Business advisory service and the possibility of getting an independent perspective on Soundguard’s digital ICT strategy.

The initial meeting proved highly productive in terms of identifying key areas in which Soundguard could make more effective use of cloud technology, as well as exploring ways in which Rob could use analytics to measure the effectiveness of his web strategy – which also includes business blogs – and fine-tune the company’s web presence.

Following this meeting, the adviser drew up an action plan, which included eight hours’ specialist advice from independent IT solutions provider Nexus Open Systems, as well as recommending a Superfast Broadband connection.

Rob said, “That first meeting, where we spoke about the business, was a really useful exercise which focused my attention on so many possibilities.

“How I could make better use of social media, how I could use Dropbox more effectively to give our book-keeper access to data for invoicing, the possibility of introducing cloud-based CRM tools, and generally how to implement better systems for remote working, and to make sure that our ICT infrastructure could be made robust enough to support these new applications.”

For Rob, the opportunity to tap into specialist advice with an independent third party who could discuss all aspects of the website and its performance, and recommend the most effective ways to adopt cloud applications, was vital.

“Having a fresh pair of eyes looking at the website, answering questions about how to measure the impact of a new marketing campaign on web traffic, telling us how to use Google Analytics properly, explain how we could implement a cloud accounting system – this was all immensely valuable,” says Rob.

The solution

The specialist support included an extensive look at how to use Dropbox correctly with shared folders, and comparisons between Office 365 and Google Apps, as well as a demonstration of the cloud-based accounts package Kashflow, and its ability to provide some basic CRM tools, compared with Sage.

“As a result, we’re looking at Kashflow right now. Our accountant already uses the system, and with specialist advice we’ve discovered some of the extra features that will introduce the benefits of CRM without having to invest in an expensive CRM package.

“Nexus also reviewed the website and it soon became clear that while the design was nice and pretty, we had failed to check how it was loading on customers’ mobiles!” says Rob. “The images were large and took quite a while to load, the contact phone numbers weren’t optimised for direct dial, and the formatting in the headers was wrong.”

This feedback meant that Rob could go back to the web developer with specific issues to correct. Soundguard also adjusted the formatting of the text to make it more reader-friendly, adopting a Q&A style and including a call to action on each page.

“We also wanted to find out how our blogs were performing, and it was a surprise to discover that the one we really expected to be the main voice of the business wasn’t the most effective,” confirmed Rob. “Again, the feedback was really useful in addressing that. They showed us how to link our Google+ profiles to our blog posts, for example, so that our pictures would automatically appear.”

Business benefits

Soundguard has already realised Rob’s main goal, following input from the Superfast Business advisory service: a fully streamlined administration infrastructure.

“We now run every single aspect of the business on Dropbox,” he says. “I was recently away from the office for three consecutive days in London – and I could access everything I need to run the business, including reports and manuals – wherever I had a WiFi connection.”

As he makes better use of Google Analytics, Rob will be able to measure the impact of the new website and social media connections more accurately. In the meantime, he says it is possible to discern how much busier the company has been by the amount of digital interaction with potential new customers.

“Those few hours of expert advice have made a huge difference in terms of how we do business,” he says. “We’ve noticed an increase in web traffic, and the way in which people are finding us. Just making some adjustments to our blog has pushed us up the search rankings – we’re consistently on page one or two, rather than page five.”

High-speed broadband connections have also made the business more efficient, by helping to slash upload and download times for large technical files and documentation.

What next?

Soundguard will implement Kashflow at the start of its next financial year in April, when Rob expects to see immediate evidence of the benefits of cloud-based accounting.

“We did everything that our advisers suggested – otherwise, there wouldn’t have been any point in going through the process,” says Rob

 “There is so much value in being able to sit down one-to-one with a Superfast Business Adviser – and later with the specialist they put you in touch with – having the chance to ask all the ‘stupid’ questions, and getting meaningful answers in layman’s terms.”

“Hearing what was wrong with the website was an eye-opener. And if you take something like CRM, there are so many possibilities out there and you can quickly lose your way –and get sold something that you don’t need. Thanks to the advice we received, I was able to say, ‘I want this, I want that, but I don’t need anything else,’ and make a properly informed buying decision.”


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