UK firm wins global SMB award

Wiggly Wigglers

A UK gardening firm has picked up the first Dell Small Business Excellence Award, beating out competition from the US, Canada and other countries around the world.

For successfully using social networking and other web-based tools to cut costs and boost its customer base, Hereford-based Wiggly Wigglers takes home 25,000 in Dell technology and services.

Wiggly Wigglers sells organic gardening supplies, from wormeries to seeds and even English-grown flowers. Convincing people to buy such products took more than just an advertisement, however; longer explanations to the benefits were needed.

With that in mind, founder Heather Gorringe tried to get on radio to push her green gardening message, but without much luck.

But then she discovered podcasts. Wandering around on iTunes one day, she discovered she could host and broadcast her own radio show, and say exactly what she wanted. Wiggly Wigglers diverted part of its advertising budget for ten weeks to test the new marketing tool, about 250 a week.

Now, using social media tools such as Facebook, blogs and podcasting, Wiggly Wigglers has managed to cut its advertising budget by 80 per cent while boosting its customer base to 90,000 customers and expanding its reach around the world readers of the San Francisco Chronicle voted the wiggly sofa' their favourite gardening podcast.

The firm also produces video, publishes a blog, and used a wiki to develop its catalogue.

Erik Dithmer, vice president of Dell SMB in America, said that being innovative like the Wiggly Wigglers can help small businesses stay competitive in tough economic times. "In the small business space, there's huge opportunity for those companies who understand how to leverage IT," he said.

But it's not about being technically advanced, Gorringe said. "Small businesses thinking of using this tech shouldn't be put off because they're not geeks," she said. "We're farmers."

The firm isn't yet sure how it will spend the prize, but Gorringe said she'd like to improve the group's internal IT functions and communications. "I think we definitely have to sort out our internal IT better... I'm not sure what's on offer, but we definitely have got needs."

For more on Wiggly Wigglers and how it's been successful with social networking, check back for an in-depth feature next week.