Research shows how best to support business growth

Posted on 2nd December 2013

A new study has shed light on the best ways to support business growth and development, through the provision of information online.

By gathering data from over 20 Cornish business leaders, research at the University of Exeter Medical School has shown that businesses can best be supported with clear, concise and layered information, from a reliable source.

The project was commissioned as part of the Centre’s aim to engage with the Cornish business community, and has worked with private consultant Catherine Godfrey.

Small and medium sized businesses from across the South West were invited to trial a temporary website designed to present information in a number of formats – from text to video and audio. The site also offered options to ‘ask an expert’ and provided links out to other reliable resources.

Through detailed feedback, interviews and usage data, participants helped the research team to understand what the barriers and enablers are for small businesses when using websites to communicate business support services.

They found that whilst users tend to prefer text as the most useful format for conveying information, it must be focused and clearly structured to avoid ‘information overload’. It should also be supported by other visual tools, such as short video clips.

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The data suggested that businesses have a very clear purpose when visiting a website for support information; they need to find material for a specific topic quickly and easily and have little time to ‘browse’. The team found that users want to be able to trust the source of their support and build a relationship over time.

Video was found to be particularly useful when demonstrating a procedure or for role rehearsal, but it needed be short and specific. Being up to date, reliable and offering access to expert advice were also cited as important features in content designed to support business needs.

One of the project’s lead researchers, Jane Abraham, said

Staff at relatively small companies have incredible time pressures yet often need help with many areas of business support. We’ve found that quick and simple checklists, guidelines and downloads are the most efficient way to deliver effective information, and that businesses value peer to peer mentoring to help them learn from others.”

The team are hoping that the findings of this study will allow the development of effective resources for business support, both in Cornwall and beyond.

The report has been published in the International Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Research and is available here

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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