WISH co-founder and executive director Nicola Dibb has featured in 24 Housing’s Top 50 Power Players list.
It is the first time that Nicola has appeared in the annual list of housing’s most influential people which is voted for by those within the sector.
24Housing asked voters to “think about not just who is powerful, but who uses their power to influence the sector and wider society for the better”.
Nicola has worked tirelessly to break down barriers within social
housing and construction since she and Debra Constance founded WISH over
20 years ago.
She has been recognised for her years of commitment in fighting the
gender equality cause and growing the WISH network, positioning it as a
leading force for the sector.
Nicola said: “I am delighted that the work of WISH has been
recognised in this prestigious list. We have come a long way in terms of
gender equality since WISH was set up just over 20 years ago, but we
still have some way to go before the playing field is truly level.
“WISH will continue to support women into the industry and help them
to progress in their chosen career path and accolades such as this help
to highlight our work and to raise our profile.”
For International Women’s Day 2019 Nicola Dibb, co-founder and executive director of WISH (Women in Social Housing) shares her story of challenging stereotypes and gender inequality.
Why did you decide to set up WISH and what is the organisation’s main purpose?
WISH was set up in London in 1998 as an informal group of women working in housing, who wanted to share experiences. We all worked in an almost exclusively male-dominated world and being able to have conversations without their opinions being challenged based on gender, was something that was needed at that time.
We recognised that men and women communicate differently. Friendships
grew and the professional networking side flourished, as did the desire
to build our little group into something more formal.
Jo Savage, now CEO of Wellingborough Homes, but then at Aster, was the first person to approach us about developing a region outside of London and WISH South West was born, nearly 10 years ago. WISH now has nine regional groups.
Tell us about your career journey so far
After completing a degree in Housing, I have been passionate about the sector ever since. I started work in Manchester developing some of the earliest shared ownership schemes before moving to Notting Hill Housing Trust (as it was then) and then working for a number of contractors co-ordinating estate regeneration schemes.
I was always ambitious and remember a female CEO saying that to grow you need to step out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you – I have never forgotten that!
Do you feel you were given the flexibility in your roles when it came to family commitments?
When I had my son there was a culture of long hours, where leaving at 5pm was frowned upon. As a single mum, I often had to rush to the nursery just before it closed or drop my son off at the childminders in his pyjamas at 6am because I had to get from Surrey to Rugby for a 9am meeting. In the end I left the corporate world after 22 years to start my own consultancy. I hope there is more flexibility for parents now.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Organisations like WISH will be needed as long as gender disparity exists and International Women’s Day provides a global platform to push for change, while celebrating the achievements of women.
A leading woman you admire and respect in relation to women’s rights and equality is…
Having been born in Manchester, you grow up learning about Emmeline Pankhurst and she has always been a hero of mine. I think we can all learn from her resilience and bravery and follow her example of never giving up.
How have you found working in a male dominated industry?
I felt like I had to be doubly good at my job to be taken seriously. I learnt that men are not always right – even the loudest ones. I made myself ‘visible’ to the people that mattered, found my voice, participated in meetings, asked important questions, utilised my support network and kept my sense of humour.
In your opinion what things should we focus on as a UK housing sector to improve gender equality?
Empowering more women into leadership positions and driving top down, cultural change within organisations. We need to encourage positive action when it comes to recruitment and to develop talent through mentoring. Flexible working options for parents is also important.
For International Women’s Day 2019 and beyond, how will you #BalanceforBetter?
WISH will continue to encourage more young women into the sector and to address career progression for those within it, offering guidance through our mentoring programme and peer-to-peer support at our networking events. We will also carry on challenging stereotypes and working to tackle gender inequality.
Nicola Dibb, Marketing & Business Development Consultant, reveals some key tips for creating a winning bid document.
Pre Qualification Questionnaires and Invitation To Tender’s are a particular curse of the construction industry. Often consultants and contractors feel under pressure from clients to fill in yet another form or write a compelling response – when all they really want to do is to get on with the day job.
Unfortunately, though, PQQ’s and ITT’s are necessary evils in the process of applying for projects and winning new work. The ideal scenario is when a company has been tracking a specific project with a client so they know all about it when the PQQ lands. Sometimes, if they have been managing relationships with their clients, they will be well prepared and have resources to respond – they may even know what questions are likely to be asked.
The bids that are most successful are where there is an existing relationship between bidder and client but having said that, sometimes clients are looking for ‘new blood’ especially if they are unhappy with current incumbents or the usual suspects that always apply. When that is the case, it’s a great opportunity for an organisation to really shine with their PQQ document, ensure they get through to ITT and hopefully secure the project.
Putting together a high quality PQQ or ITT can be a daunting task however. Sometimes the process and content can become stale and in need of a refresh to make sure you are still pulling the right punches and presenting your business in its best possible light.
I have been working in the construction sector for 27 years and have project managed and written many bids in my time. So, I thought I would give a few useful tips to consider before you start to craft your PQQ and/or ITT answers:
Ask yourself what the client is really looking for? What are their aspirations and vision for the project or framework?
What are the issues or problems that the client is seeking to be solved?
Really drill down into the brief and requirements so you understand all that you can about the client and how they operate,
Consider how you will add value to your proposal. What is your strategy for success?
Carefully consider which are your most appropriate projects and people to offer as your expertise.
How will you best showcase these?
Don’t underestimate the power of a good Executive Summary,
Sounds obvious but make sure you answer the exact question that is being asked especially if there is more than one ‘part’ to it,Be clear on the key messages and benefits you are presenting in each answer,
Don’t use bland, unsubstantiated statements and try to add in quality, relevant testimonials
Nicola Dibb Associates Limited offers bid writing, including document design. I can run training sessions on PQQ/ITT preparation and strategy. I also offer a ‘Bid Audit’ service which includes reviews of previously unsuccessful documents. I’d be delighted to hear from you if I can help.
Well ‘they’ say, don’t they, that variety is the spice of life and I’ve been reflecting today on the different clients and projects that I have been involved with over the last few months.
From training sessions on bid writing, to managing planning applications, working with retirement village operators, designing websites and organising social media campaigns – it’s an exciting and busy time.
Some of the projects I’m working on include:
Appointed by PRS Developers to source PRS and mid market rented housing sites in London and South East
Bid submission audits and running best practice training sessions
“Your experience in the construction industry allied to your acute understanding of how to get behind the questions and analyse what they are really asking was impressive Nicola” Architect client, Feb ’16
Social Media management for various clients including posting website updates, writing blogs and newsletters
Project Management of planning application for 8,500ft2 super-prime house in Surrey including selecting and appointing consultants
Business development for retained QS/Project Management Practice helping them to source new clients and opportunities
Running a competition on behalf of vendors to find a purchaser for 8 acre Retirement Village site in South East England
Marketing audit for large Trade Association including overseeing their branding, marketing campaign and new website.
Delivering new digital brochures and websites for Private Equity client
I love the variety of what I do!
If I can help you out please let me know.
I have graphic designers and digital marketing specialists working with me so we are always ready to get started at short notice. Quality service guaranteed!
Nicola Dibb Associates have been working with several clients recently helping them to either update and refresh their existing website or designing for Organisations that have not had a website before.There have been lots of interesting discussions with our clients along the way in our role as content writer and designer that I want to share if you are thinking of updating your website, completely redesigning it or even developing a site for the first time.
1. Does your home page convey in a few seconds what your business is about?
Your website needs to Clearly answer “Who we are ” and “What we do.”
With so many Organisations working in Construction, your home page needs to describe what you are all about so that each visitor knows immediately they are in the “right place.”
Steven Krugg sums it up in his best best-selling book, Don’t Make Me Think. If visitors can’t identify what it is you do within seconds, they won’t stick around long.
Your homepage description needs to be snappy and focused on your audience, specifically speaking to them in their language. Make sure it is not too ‘corporate’ but also not too flippant or informal.
Make sure you clearly outline your ‘value proposition’ so that clients stay on your website and are not tempted to navigate away to your competitors.
A recent Architect client of ours had a slider of images on their website together with a lengthy description of their services. We have re-written the content into a more logical flow and updated the homepage with a brief but engaging description of what they are all about.
Think about creating a ‘says what it does on the tin’ strapline which will go on to enhance your brand across all your PR and marketing collateral. Think: Simple but effective.
2. Does your website reflect you or your Organisations personality?
Ask yourself what are the three words that reflect your business or what words you would like people to use when they are describing you. Do the images and content on your website reflect these words and, therefore, your ‘brand’?
The ‘voice’ (or tone) of your website needs to reflect your brand values and principles.
On a website redesign we have carried out for a Project Management, QS and CDM consultancy, we used their recent staff and client surveys to extract genuine feedback for content on the ‘About us pages’. By using this unique raw material we were able to really reflect their best attributes as noted by their very own customers.
3. Do the images and photographs on your website do your business justice?
Pictures of real people are automatically categorized as important by our brains and are studied in detail. If you have a blog, Linkedin profile, Twitter account or website, people want to see the face of the person communicating with them. In this way you can build trust and engagement far more easily.
With all the websites we have worked on we encourage the business owners to spend time talking about their people, giving a personal touch, using decent photographs. This gives a personal touch to an otherwise faceless organisation. People naturally want to see the individuals behind a company. We always recommend that our clients invest in a good photographer and get some great authentic photos of their staff in action.
Some other interesting facts on images I have seen recently include:
a) 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. (Sources: 3M Corporation and Zabisco) [Tweet this stat!]
b) 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. (Source: Zabisco)[Tweet this stat!]
c) 46.1% of people say a website’s design is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of the company. (Source: Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab) [Tweet This Stat!]
4. Is the content engaging yet professional?
You’re a business working in construction but that doesn’t mean boring content! You need to strike a balance between being chatty and engaging and being professional.
Remember this is a website not a sales brochure or bid document. The tone of the writing needs to be concise and conversational and always remember – less is more when creating website content!
You need to recognise and solve your visitors problems. Ask them questions and make compelling statements about your value proposition.
We worked on a recent website for Sayers Commercial who offer dispute management solutions for the construction sector. Although a potentially ‘dry’ subject, we drilled down to their client proposition and the key messages. Hence the ‘hook’ on the home page is “Got a potential contractual dispute on your hands? Speak to us first to save yourself time and costly legal fees” and empathy is created in the subsequent description of the offering.
5. Have you worked out what you want visitors to your website to do?
Make sure your home page will entice visitors to dig deeper and engage further with your Organisation.
What is your website’s ‘Call to Action’? Do you want visitors to ‘read more’ or ‘send an enquiry’?
Think about this when discussing with your website designers.
One of our clients, a fire protection company, wanted the ability for Main Contractors to send tender enquiries through the website so we set up an enquiry section enabling large documents and drawings to be sent.
Our Architect client wanted to promote their land offering and free viability studies so we designed the content with opportunities on every page to ‘click here’ to contact us.
Don’t forget to make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch with you and your team. Be visible, accessible and friendly.
6. How will you keep the content up to date?
If you are technical enough and have the time then you can update your website yourself by ensuring your designers build in an accessible Content Management System.
However, if you would rather concentrate on the operational side of your business, you could appoint your website designers to update your site for you. After all – they are the ones that built it and know it inside out!
We are apointed by one of our clients, to ask them every month for news articles, write up content and post on the website, ensuring it is always as up to date as possible. We will also give them blog ideas and scopeout the content of those for approval.
7. Don’t forget your testimonials!
If you are thinking of a holiday and someone recommends a Hotel, what is the first thing you do?
If you said you check Trip Advisor, you are within the 80% of consumers that are more likely to believe other peoples view on things than the marketing ‘blurb’ of the Company that is selling you something.
Testimonials on your website are really important. Your customers saying how good you are is worth so much – don’t underestimate this. Get good quality ones and always attribute.
Take a look at NDA’s testimonials here. Please get in touch if you’d like a chat about how we can help you with your website.
Think about changing how you communicate with your customers
It’s a frequent lament that I hear talking to Business owners in the Construction and Property Industry that ‘we don’t need to ‘do’ Twitter because none of our customers use it’. Also they say ‘I’ve got a LinkedIn account but I only use it to accept offers from people to connect’ or ‘I can’t see the merits of Facebook in our Sector’. These comments are nearly as frequent as ‘We want to send out a 6 page Newsletter to our Clients three times a year’ or ‘we don’t think that updating our website is a current priority’.
And when I mention ‘blogging’ that is when the real glaze comes over the eyes!
It’s a shame that the people that make these comments are often not in touch with the way the world is changing in terms of technology and most importantly how people (yes even your clients!) are choosing to communicate and gather information.
It’s a bit like those marketing and product selection challenges on The Apprentice when Lord Sugar advises – “don’t think about what you like as an individual – think about what will sell the best.”
This is where I think so many people in the Construction Industry go wrong in terms of marketing their services. No doubt, how you market your Organisation is about how much you want to grow and how much you would like to identify new clients and I also recognise that it is a ‘generational thing’ but if you are hesitant about the benefits of updating the way you communicate with your customers here’s 6 reasons why you should stop hesitating and start changing now!
It is a reflection on you as a business: Prospective Customers might think are you unlikely to be up to date with other technical issues in the Sector (like BIM or On-line file sharing systems) if you have an out of date website. Even more so if you tend to send boring Newsletters with content that isn’t relevant to them.
It builds trust: If you are more accessible to your customers, they can read about you, your opinions and see your photograph (please get your LinkedIn profile updated with your photo!) your prospective clients are more likely to trust you and consider placing an enquiry with you…
“If you have a good story to tell, tell it in a way that’s an authentic conversation with the customer. You can’t just preach to them. You have to engage them, so that they can come to learn and believe it, and build that trust with you.”— Joel Yashinsky, McDonald’s Canada.
Source: Youtility by Jay Baer
It makes things easy for customers to gather information: Remember “Up to 90% of purchasing decisions start with an online search” Source: jeffbullas.com
This includes business services – not just when you want to buy a new car or book at Hotel!
If your customers can’t find quick, relevant and engaging information about you and your Organisation, they are more likely to click the ‘close current tab’ button and look for one of your Competitors on line instead!
If you don’t do it – all your Competitors will. Eventually!
If you think that ‘nobody else’ in your Sector is up dating the way they communicate, trust me – they will be doing so eventually, so why not be one of the Leaders of the bandwagon rather than jumping on it when everyone else is already there.
It’s a recruitment tool: Having an up to date Website and Social Media presence can help attract new, younger staff to your business. Did you know the following facts?:
“LinkedIn has 238 million users internationally. The majority of users are aged between 26-34 followed by 35-44 age group. It is the number one social media networking tool for business-to-business interaction.
Twitter meanwhile has over 500 million users internationally with the majority of users between 26 and 34. It is the best tool for interacting directly with clients or customers in real time” Source: Susan Dolan
So – its worth thinking about how you want your business to appeal to the younger generation coming through. Get out there and engage with them.
It avoids the ‘Out of sight out of mind’ syndrome: As any good Business Development or Marketing professional knows, it is so important to keep in touch with your customers. No amount of social media can take the place of actually meeting someone for a coffee and discussing future business opportunities.
But you are only human and will have limited time for business to business meetings especially if you are the owner or partner of an Organisation. Communicating regularly in the right way to your Clients, with compelling, punchy content is your security blanket when you can’t get out there yourself.
Do you worry about how to make your Newsletter interesting? Well, I read somewhere the other day “If you create really awesomecontent, customers will flock to you.”
‘Content marketing’ is the new buzz word in the world of marketing, advertising and selling and relates equally to promoting Business to Business services as well as Business to Consumer sales. The theory is that ‘content marketing’ is a far more effective way to engage customers than offering them flashy, ‘in your face’ traditional ‘buy buy’ advertising.
So – if you are an Organisation working in Construction or Property who wants to get their message out there but is worried that ‘we haven’t got anything interesting to say’ or ‘we haven’t got any new projects to talk about’ – you need to think about the following: Stop Telling People what you have done and Start Helping!
The fact is: You can create brilliant, engaging content that appeals to your customers if you focus on helping them, rather than making sales or merely telling people what you have done recently.
You want your prospective customers to keep wanting to receive marketing information from you because ‘actually its quite useful’ and ‘I might learn something relevant’. Don’t give them a reason to hit that ‘unsubscribe’ button!
How to make your marketing messages speak to your customers
Tip 1 – Find out your customer’s needs
You talk to your customers all the time and keep abreast of market drivers through the media. Work out what the key issues are that currently effect your customers. Carrying out regular customer reviews and keeping up with your Business to Business meetings are crucial to make sure you are in touch with what you customer’s challenges are.
Tip 2 – Link Customer Needs to Useful Marketing Content
Now that you understand what your customers issues and problems are, you can set about creating content in your marketing that will resonate with those needs. Don’t forget that this is a stage by stage process and you need to create a circumstance where a new customer will say ‘that’s interesting, tell me more’. Your customers will desire specific information about their circumstances, and eventually, they might have a problem that your company can solve!
Tip 3 – Market Your Marketing
You need to put your content everywhere that your customers might find it.
Think about how you communicate and gather information and then ensure your Organisation is promoting itself in similar medium. Also – think of it as a ‘generational thing’ – but you need to be aware of where a lot of your younger (but still influential) customers go for their information and to keep in touch with their Sector. Make sure you are there too!
Tip 4 – Make ‘Helping’ a Step in Your Marketing Strategy
Change is inevitable. A customer’s needs may be different tomorrow than they are today. In addition, new technologies open doors to new ways of helping. People change. Technologies change. You have to keep adapting.
Follow these tips, and why not think about creating a great Newsletter with fabulous images that captures interest and you will be on your way to developing sustainable relationships with a whole host of new customers.