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It’s hard to believe but it’s almost 6 months since our Sponsor for a Day with Bank of Ireland and Leinster Rugby. Those of you that followed our campaign to win the overall Sponsor for a Day (SFAD) vote will be well aware of how much it meant to us: from a personal perspective as we love our sports but also from the perspective of business accounting software and the national and international exposure we were given.

Lest we not forget and simply put, the key driver behind SFAD was to generate new leads for the business. After all, we are a business that sells accounting software to small businesses so besides all the razzmatazz of the day itself, we never lost sight of that key objective.

In the intervening months we were asked to speak at several small business networking events on the subject of SFAD and the key lessons learned that we could impart to other small business owners. There were many lessons learned on our journey to winning SFAD and for today’s blog we are going to focus on three lessons. There will be tasks arising that you can schedule that will have an immediate impact on your business.

Lesson No 1: The Power of Social Media

We knew but we didn’t – if that makes sense? We knew that social media would have a part to play in the SFAD campaign but we didn’t know how important it would be. Two social media channels that worked really well was LinkedIn and Twitter.

LinkedIn has a feature whereby you can download all your contacts into a .csv file and then use your email client to send a personalized email to it. It’s not complicated and it’s very easy to do. We sent dedicated emails for all the management team’s LinkedIn contacts and it was our most effective campaign. If you have a major campaign, be it a product launch, an additional new service or celebrating ‘x’ years in business then consider leveraging you LinkedIn network. It’s powerful and it’s at your finger tips.

Note: If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, consider opening a LinkedIn account. It’s free and until you engage with the platform you can’t say whether it will work for you or not. Check back in a few weeks as we’ve a guide to using LinkedIn coming.

Twitter-Email-Footer-GreyTwitter also proved to be a powerful channel. Not as effective as LinkedIn but we certainly generated massive brand awareness of our online accounts software. We sponsored a number of small business networking hours on Twitter and on several occasions #BigRedCloud was trending Number 1 in Ireland. Twitter is a very powerful networking platform. We’ve found that we create many relationships online and follow on by meeting face-to-face at small business networking events.

Note: Twitter is very easy to engage with and is an excellent resource for promoting your small business. At a minimum you should register a Twitter account and gently ease your way in by watching and listening. When you are comfortable with the platform you can begin to engage with other members. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how welcoming the networking events are.

Lesson No 2: The Power of Old School Marketing
With the rush to ‘everything online’ it’s akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water and many marketeers are foolishly turning their backs on the ‘old’ physical marketing tools. We decided from day one of our SFAD campaign that we would leverage as many marketing tools as possible. This was a clever move as a direct mail shot proved to be a resounding success. This is such a simple example but adequately demonstrates the lesson.

Big Red Cloud Sponsor for a Day LeafletsOur marketing manager lives in an estate with just over 250 houses. He wrote a personal letter to each house and for a grand fee of €10 (€5 each for his son and friend) had the letter delivered. The simplicity of the direct mail piece belies the importance of its impact – the response from his neighbours was very positive. The exact number of SFAD votes couldn’t be counted but it was significant.

We also printed 10,000 ‘Vote For Big Red Cloud’ leaflets and our work colleagues dropped them into the businesses in all their local communities. So simple, yet so effective.

Note: Don’t underestimate the power of traditional marketing techniques. Literally on your doorstep they are a powerful route to market, especially if you sell your products or services to the local community.

Lesson No 3: The Power Of Human Emotion
This is so true. Early on in our SFAD campaign our CEO Marc O’Dywer came up with the idea to run a competition in conjunction with A lucky member of the community could win €5,000 by voting for Big Red Cloud and sending their confirmation email on to us whereby they would be entered in to the draw.

Roches - Edel, Nicole and Pat with Marc O'Dwyer

Roches – Edel, Nicole and Pat with Marc O’Dwyer

First of all, we ‘d no idea that it would spark such interest and that so many people would vote. We were truly amazed but what knocked us for six was the winner’s story. The winner, Edel Roche, nominated the South East Cancer Trust which had helped her family through a very difficult time.

Note: It’s all about people. We are interlocked by a common set of experiences and this is especially true in the small business community. What story do you have to tell your community about your business? Get that right and you’re on the right road.

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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