Eight in 10 UK business leaders are confident about the year ahead – but does success lie between the balance of a national and regional approach?

Big picture, fine details

Balancing national and regional strategies in the UK

UK businesses are focusing on finding opportunities in their existing regions, but does this limit growth?

Our research shows that business leaders in the UK are responding to the macro-economic climate with a resilient spirit. Our study finds that 80 per cent of UK professionals are confident in their business’ performance on a national level for the year ahead.

To maximise performance over the next 12 months, many will take a regionally targeted approach to engaging with their customers and prospects. But the research suggests that universal initiatives – which standardise marketing messages, products and services delivered across UK regions, from Scotland through to the south of England – remain untapped for many.

Respondents rank universal approaches as one of the two most popular focus areas for achieving growth in the UK. Just under 30 per cent of respondents (28 per cent) have regional strategies that will prioritise using standardised techniques to expand their outreach on a national scale over the next 12 months.

Primary Region
Other featured areas
Wales, Northern Island

The research shows that many UK businesses are realising there is more that unites UK regions than divides them, so a centralised approach in the UK is viable in many cases. Lessons from your most successful product launches can be compiled to create a standardised approach for your business to apply across multiple markets and regions. This templated best-practice process can reduce the chances of inefficiencies and mistakes in future launches.

Jamie Grant

Head of Scotland, Barclays Corporate Banking

A generic approach has its limits

Alongside universal tactics, the research respondents acknowledge that they still need to customise services and products where necessary. After all, only 12 per cent of respondents say that a universal approach to the UK is their most profitable strategy at the moment. There is still revenue in regionally targeted methods.

Looking at Scotland as a region, the research revealed that when asked where the majority of their revenue is currently generated, businesses registered in Scotland are most likely to say locally in their market of origin (50 percent say this, which is nine percentage points higher than the UK average). Looking ahead, the majority of respondents registered in Scotland plan to adopt a national focus to make the most of growth opportunities.

To avoid putting a significant portion of their current revenues at risk, these businesses must strike a balance. While they expand their reach through centralised, universal messages to connect with the UK population at large, these businesses must continue using the regionally targeted activities that are already resonating with their Scottish customers.

Jamie Grant

Head of Scotland, Barclays Corporate Banking

Companies need to balance the big picture and the finer details

This tension between the two dimensions raises a question. How can businesses maintain deep roots locally while benefiting from national - and even global - reach? The answer will be influenced by where decision making powers sit within an organisation: whether a business operates with a centralised structure, or uses a more decentralised format with dedicated regional units that control their own activities.

In the research, having a dedicated UK national team with a centralised strategy is one of the most popular ways for ensuring that brand positioning activities grow the company’s presence on a national, or international, scale without neglecting the importance of building strong connections with local communities. To live up to this responsibility, national teams often create and govern the universal frameworks that determine how the business should interact with its regions of focus.

However, centralised business structures can cause delays when debates arise around strategy adaptations for local markets. Streamlining the process of customising services to local trends stands as the most important improvement area in regional strategies according to 41 per cent of the UK business leaders surveyed. A regional adaptation might involve customising marketing communications to acknowledge recent changes made by local council initiatives in the community.

Regional adaptations are worth considering: according to research from McKinsey1, companies that excel at service personalisation generate 40 per cent more revenue than the market average.

Settling the debate of whether to stay generic or be regionally targeted

Listening to customer feedback and market research findings can help businesses to work out whether a generic approach will work for their business, or if strategies need to be customised to regional needs. We predominantly focus our approach to the requirements of our clients. Therefore, if we have a national client with requirements across the whole of the UK – we tailor our strategy accordingly. Whilst there will be regional variances within the markets that the national client operate – we endeavour to deliver a service that is consistent across the whole of their national footprint.

Richard Vickers

CEO, Recruitment Search

This customer-centric approach is paying off for many: our research results show that constantly learning from customer feedback and reviews is one of the top three ingredients for success in local markets.

When target audience insights confirm that universal approaches are suitable, companies should lean into the efficiency gains. This is demonstrated by the businesses surveyed that are registered in Wales. These companies demonstrate a strong appetite to prioritise automation to retain strong links in their local community, while at the same time growing nationally/internationally. The standardised nature of universal approaches presents an opportunity to expand productivity rates by automating tasks. For instance, ahead of scheduled maintenance works, a telecoms firm could reduce the strain on its customer service staff by proactively updating its chatbot service so its communications can offset any spikes in enquiries around service outages.

As UK businesses look ahead many will be considering universal engagement strategies. These businesses, however, should not rush to overlook the UK’s finer details, because in some cases catering to regional differences may provide the competitive edge companies are searching for.

The research was carried out by FT Longitude and Barclays Corporate Banking and comprised a survey of 352 senior UK business leaders, at organisations with an annual turnover between £6mn and £250mn. The study established an equal representation from each of the following UK regions in terms of the location each respondent's business was registered in: Scotland, North of England, Midlands, East of England, Wales, London, South of England and Northern Ireland.

FT Longitude

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