Head of SME Sales Ireland at Google, Skibbereen woman Marie Davis describes herself as someone who is always looking for a challenge. With future ambitions to help small businesses grow, not just within Ireland, but also internationally, and a personal goal to one day climb Kilimanjaro, this is a woman who always sets the bar high.
Marie’s role at Google involves helping small and medium businesses in Ireland grow their businesses online. She recently gave a presentation at The Marketing Institute Cork’s January event entitled ‘Empowering Your Digital Future’, where she discussed ‘Understanding your customers, winning the moments that matter, and being agile’. Marie explains to Mary O’Brien why, as a small business, understanding your consumers’ behaviour is key to empowering your future. She also talks about her close connection to Skibbereen.
“Digital is a powerful tool, which not only helps businesses understand their consumers but enables them to reach their consumers with relevant messages at the moments that matter the most for them,” says Marie. “We know that consumers search online for goods and services and if a company cannot be found online, then it is losing opportunities to do business. Having a basic online presence is the equivalent today of having an entry in the telephone directory in the 1980s.”
According to Marie, a significant part of understanding your customers is understanding the moments that matter to them.
“Sixty per cent (and growing) of all Internet access is now from mobile devices and with this, consumers have the opportunity to take immediate action whenever they want to learn, find, do or buy something. Whether it is researching, purchasing or searching, expectations for consumers are high and there is an opportunity using digital for businesses to show quality, relevant and useful messages to consumers when they need them.
“Technology is fast moving and the impact for Ireland is that the digital landscape is evolving rapidly and businesses need to keep up with this change in order to survive.”
Currently eight out of 10 Irish consumers are online at least once a day with 84 per cent stating that the Internet is the first place that they now look for information. The average Irish person has 3.2 devices connected to the Internet, which is 14 per cent higher than the European average.
“If you think back to Ireland four years ago, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were not on the radar, but by 2015, retailers across Ireland targeted these days and consumers were aware of them. Consumer behaviour is evolving and it is vital for Irish businesses to take advantage of the opportunities available to them to build more successful and profitable businesses that will ultimately lead to jobs being created across Ireland,” says Marie.
She encourages West Cork businesses to look at the international market, as well as the local opportunity. “Technology has broken down borders and businesses that once targeted locally now have the opportunity to target nationally and internationally. Using digital, companies large and small can reach customers globally and Google is the growth engine to help small businesses do this. There are a number of online tools and resources that can help identify and execute opportunity such as Google Trends, Global Market Finder, AdWords Help Centre as well as online tutorials on YouTube that run through the fundamentals of digital. The resources are out there and just as businesses invested in their physical stores they must now invest in their digital strategy.”
Originally from Lisheen, just 15 minutes outside Skibbereen, Marie now lives in Dublin. She says that her colleagues joke she represents the West Cork tourist board because of how highly she speaks of her home town.
“I feel very lucky to have grown up in Skibbereen and both myself and any other West Corkonians living in Dublin would still have a deep connection to it,” says Marie passionately. “Skibbereen has a rich heritage of artistic creativity and sporting achievements and whether it was music, theatre or Sunday trips to football matches these are still some of my passions in life.
“I find it difficult to pick just one thing that I like most about Skibbereen. I love the Farmers’ Market and swims at Cunnamore. The Farmers’ Market on a Saturday morning is one of those places that everyone knows each other even if they have just met and where you can buy everything from fish caught that morning, local organic vegetables, delicious cheeses and meats and seeds to treats from Kalbos or Eithne McCarthy. I often arrive back up to Dublin with Field’s shopping bags full of the most amazing local foods all produced by people that I have come to know from Saturday mornings. It is a local treasure.”
Marie is also very proud of Skibbereen becoming Ireland’s first rural digital hub. “I have been to visit Ludgate and the facilities are excellent. The team has created an innovative and creative space that really makes it stand out.”
Google brought a successful breakfast briefing series to Skibbereen for National Digital Week. “We gave talks on the basics of AdWords, Analytics, website optimisation and some basic but powerful tools that can help businesses identify their digital opportunity. We combined this with Digital Garage workshops where expert Account Strategists were on hand to do 1:1 clinics with businesses attending the event on their Digital Strategy. As part of this we are launching our ‘From Mentor to Master’ program where we will be mentoring selected local businesses including Ludgate on their online strategy. It was a great week to be a part of and I was especially proud coming from the area to see such a progressive and innovative energy throughout the town.”
What does Marie believe has been key to her own career success? “Success is a very difficult thing to define and I believe that we always have a lot to learn no matter what stage of our career we are at. I have always enjoyed working with people and managing teams and for me success is seeing other people succeed and helping them reach their goals. I also have a strong ethos that you should you always looks for opportunities to explore new ideas and new approaches and Google certainly offers this.”
Her biggest piece of career advice to anyone is the importance of networking and building up strong connections no matter what the industry or area. “You might just be surprised by where opportunities come from.”