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BT pours millions into wooing pandemic start-ups

BT is pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into winning business from the army of start-ups that have launched during the pandemic.

The telecoms giant will offer marketing services to lure the smallest new firms to sign up to its phone and internet packages. 

BT has identified a £1.5 billion market in offering telecoms for micro-businesses after 800,000 new companies were set up in Britain in the past year.

It expects to spend a ‘large chunk’ of the £500 million set aside for its business-to-business enterprise arm on a new division called SoHo, which will target the smallest ‘single office, home office’ businesses.

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Investment: The telecoms giant will offer marketing services to lure the smallest new firms to sign up to its phone and internet packages

Investment: The telecoms giant will offer marketing services to lure the smallest new firms to sign up to its phone and internet packages

Chris Sims, managing director of the SoHo unit, revealed that it will offer a service that allows small firms to advertise easily on websites and social media, with BT acting as the middleman.

He said the service would launch ‘within a matter of weeks’ after a successful pilot which has seen retailers, plumbers and electricians advertising through the online tools.

Sims said the ‘simple’ service would free up entrepreneurs to spend time in other areas: ‘Small businesses are time poor. You’ve got to make the benefit and the return on investment really clear.What we want to do is to help drive sales for these businesses.’

Sims added: ‘The labour market is going to change as well, with more people choosing to work flexibly and contractors setting up their own organisations to do that.

‘So we see significant growth in that market, not least over the next 10 years, as older millennials come through who really work in fundamentally different ways to the more established workforce.’

The SoHo unit will launch with an ‘unbreakable’ Wi-Fi package where internet coverage automatically switches to a 4G back-up if a firm’s broadband goes down.

It will offer digital phone lines which divert desk phones to mobiles and transcribe voicemails.The UK’s analogue phone network will be switched off in 2025.

The unit also plans to offer cyber security support and digital training to its customers.

More than 95 per cent of the UK’s private sector companies, around 5.7 million firms, have up to nine employees.

BT said lack of experience, time and budget are holding 2.4 million small businesses back from running their own paid digital media campaigns, fuelling its decision to offering marketing services.

A BT study showed that while 64 per cent of small businesses think digital marketing is ‘vital to their survival and growth’, almost 60 per cent need more support with digital marketing skills.

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