The Growth Voucher programme offers SMEs up to £2,000 to gain advice on a variety of topics, including “marketing, attracting and keeping customers”. The £30m fund will also offer expert support in areas including managing cashflow, developing skills and improving leadership.
Small businesses can apply for the financial support, with the vouchers offered to randomly selected qualifying businesses. The Government will cover 50 per cent of the total spend, up to £2,000, with the small business expected to pay for the rest.
In a speech at the Federation of Small Business’s policy conference this morning (27 January), Prime Minister David Cameron said: “This will make it easier for you to grow, to create jobs and to help give this country the long-term security we are working towards.”
The advice is available via an online marketplace, with marketing professionals able to register as preferred suppliers on the site. SMEs will only be able to spend their vouchers with advisors accredited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Small businesses that do not receive a Growth Voucher will be able to pick from either accredited or unaccredited advisors.
CIM has given its backing to the scheme, highlighting how marketing both in the UK and overseas can help businesses boost sales and highlight growth opportunities. It believes the scheme will help marketing firms bring in new business, as well as raising the visibility of marketing consultants that are not yet accredited.
Anne Godfrey, CIM’s chief executive, says: “The marketing advice available to SMEs as part of the Growth Voucher scheme will be particularly important as a company that understands its customers and knows how to engage will reach its full potential more quickly that one that does not.
“Marketing is critical to a company’s customer base, sales figures and profit levels regardless of their size and industry. The Growth Vouchers scheme can allow thousands of small business to realise the power of marketing as a driver of growth.”
While organisations including CIM and the FSB have welcomed the scheme, a number of parties have raised concerns over the scheme.
In particular, there are worries among business people that this will be little more than a gravy train for consultants. They believe the money could be better spent providing financial backing to new businesses and helping with capital costs, rather than on advice.