Indigo New Media: Iain Scott

Iain Scott explains how working for free helped boost the profile of his company

When starting up a business, doing work for free for charities doesn’t enter most entrepreneurs’ minds. After all, you have a million and one things to consider – few of them involving spending your time and resources helping out the voluntary sector without getting paid, as honourable as that may be.

However, Iain Scott, founder of Indigo New Media, found that working with the voluntary sector was not just good for the community, it was good for his business too.

Founded in October 2003, Indigo is an online business development firm. The company creates websites, intranet sites, digital brochures and online marketing for clients.

From the outset, Iain realised the potential of the voluntary sector as a useful marketing tool, reckoning that the exposure of working for charitable organisations would boost the business and make those hours of unpaid work worthwhile.

“When we began trading, we had drafted into our business charter that we’ll take on one piece of pro bono work every year,” he explains. “It wasn’t just for that warm fuzzy feeling you get from helping out a charity, but because we recognised that a voluntary organisation would be a perfect sales person for our business.

“Even today, we don’t have thousands of pounds to throw at an advertising or marketing budget. What we do have is time and resources to that value.”

In a move that can be seen as either brave or risky, depending on your viewpoint, Iain approached an umbrella charity called Watford Council for Voluntary Services to arrange a collaboration, just six months after setting up Indigo.

Watford CVS, which represents over 160 charitable projects in the local area, were keen to link up with Indigo and before long Iain was producing online material for the organisation, as he would for any other client. Except the main difference was he wasn’t being paid a penny.

“As they represent over 160 members, we decided to help every one of those in the same way we would be helping Watford CVS – microsites,” Iain says. “In this instance, I mean smaller sites within one main website – sites that the members themselves would update and manage, but would be displayed around the Watford CVS template.

“Whenever a member promotes his own microsite, they are promoting Watford CVS and in turn, other members. It has the potential to be a very strong and powerful marketing tool.”

Indigo managed to launch the site just three months later. Watford CVS was given a year’s maintenance contract and shown how to use a simple content management system.

But what has Indigo got out of the arrangement? Surely the time and effort spent working for nothing could’ve been used more productively? Iain rejects this, pointing out the extensive exposure the move bought to Indigo – coverage the firm would not have been able to afford through conventional means.

A local newspaper in Watford ran several stories on the project, while Business Link is keen to feature Indigo in its newsletter. Iain also got the opportunity to speak at the Watford CVS’ AGM, where he was able to explain to over 160 businesses what Indigo could offer.

“I was personally very surprised at how the project worked out, but in hindsight, it’s almost obvious,” Iain says. “You could say we went in blind and took a risk, but then again, we had little to lose. We weren’t injecting any capital into this project nor turning work down as a result.”

So what should other small firms do if they want to get involved in voluntary schemes to help raise their profile?

“Get in touch with your local volunteer bureau, which can be found over the web or from the www.do-it.org.uk website,” Iain advises. “They will be able to direct you to a major charity or charitable organisation in your area.

“You may also like to contact the National Association of Councils for Voluntary Service. Their website will tell you what your local CVC is – www.nacvs.org.uk


The Watford CVS website can be found at www.watfordcvs.org.uk

Indigo New Media can be found at www.indigonewmedia.net

I was personally very surprised at how the project worked out, but in hindsight, it’s almost obvious

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