Sunday, November 11, 2007

Help Make Your Mark Change Lives

As part of Enterprise Week, four young people have been invited to pitch their social enterprise ideas to a panel including Dragons Den's Peter Jones, Glastonbury's Emily Eavis and The Apprentice Winner Tim Campbell.

The winner of a public vote wins £5,000 from Unltd to help their idea become a reality.

Please help support the campaign, view the pitches and vote here.

Coca-Cola is less than refreshing

As more companies are alerted to the power of engaging with their audience through Social Media and as Facebook launch their new advertising strategy in New York, it is interesting to see just how wrong the big brands can get it.

Recognising that users of Facebook, MySpace and other social media will not respond positively to old-fashioned,in your face, advertising on the sites, savvy companies are setting up profiles, clubs and using viral videos to make an impact. So many have made great strides, yet Coca-Cola seem to have demonstrated perfectly how to get it so wrong.

The Technobabble Blog this week highlighted Coca-Cola's Facebook page. Quite why anyone would sign up as a 'fan' on their page is beyond me and very worrying (although I am sure that the whizz kids on their marketing would have envisaged more than 489 people expressing their devotion).

The quest is surely made no easier by their attempts to engage with their young, socially aware, cutting edge audience in their company overview:

The Coca-Cola Company engages in the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of nonalcoholic beverage concentrates and syrups worldwide. The company offers nonalcoholic beverages, principally carbonated soft drinks, as well as noncarbonated beverages. Its beverage products comprise bottled and canned soft drinks and beverages products. The company's products also include beverage concentrates, such as flavoring ingredients and sweeteners; syrups, the beverage ingredients produced by combining concentrates, sweeteners, and added water; and fountain syrups that use equipment for mixing the syrups with carbonated or noncarbonated water for immediate consumption, and are sold to fountain retailers, such as restaurants. The Coca-Cola Company also produces and markets noncarbonated beverages, including waters and flavored waters, juice and juice drinks, energy and sports drinks, teas, and coffees. The company markets its nonalcoholic beverages under various brand names, including Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Fanta, and Sprite. It sells its finished beverage products primarily to distributors. The company sells its beverage concentrates and syrups to bottling and canning operators, distributors, fountain wholesalers, and fountain retailers. The Coca-Cola Company was founded in 1886 and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

Increasingly businesses of all sizes are looking to Facebook and other similar sites for their commercial value as well as just a social tool. Failing to recognise and respect the nature of the media and its users will render these attempts futile.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Are You Feeling Enterprising?

Next week is Enterprise Week in the UK. Part of the Make Your Mark Campaign, Enterprise Week (12-18th November) is a national celebration of enterprise in all its forms with thousands of events and activities happening across the UK. Last year there were 3,184 events, and 448,000 people took part!

Make Your Mark is the national campaign to create an enterprise culture in the UK. It aims to inspire young people in their teens and twenties to have ideas and make them happen. The not-for-profit campaign is backed by an unprecedented coalition of businesses, charities, education bodies and government.

It was founded by the four leading UK business membership organisations – the British Chambers of Commerce, the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors. Their Director Generals sit on Make Your Mark’s board. It is also supported by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and is endorsed by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

As part of Enterprise Week, I'll be speaking at Bucks New University on Tuesday 13th and at The Young Retailer Forum on Friday 16th. I'm also attending The Future Face of British Enterprise at The British Library on Monday 12th.

There are bound to be events in your area. Check out the Enterprise Week website for more information. If you are already attending or organising a networking event next week, find out if they are part of Enterprise Week already, or willing to join up with the campaign.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Conference Commando

I have just returned from a fantastic, if exhausting, weekend at the Annual Convention of the Professional Speakers Association, where I was honoured to be elected to the Board.

This was my third such convention and, by far, the most valuable. For many small businesses, the investment in such events, both in time and financially, prompts a lot of thought about where the value lies and whether it is worth their while attending. This weekend will see a return of several times my investment should I follow through with a number of the connections made. That's what I call a 'no-brainer'!

That has not, however, been the case before. Previous conventions, while enjoyable, have not necessarily produced similar results.

At my first convention, three years ago, I learnt a lot, an incredible amount. I wrote pages and pages.....and pages.... of notes from the excellent speakers and focused workshops. Over the weekend I came up with idea after idea after idea which could transform my business.

And I put none of them into action.

The simple fact is that I learnt too much. I didn't have a plan to put the ideas learnt into action, hadn't put the time aside to review my notes and implement key thoughts, I failed to allow for follow-up. One of my contacts took the following week off just to go through her notes and ideas and look at her business, how many of us can add this to the time already invested?

Wary of this problem the following year, I was too resistant to new ideas and didn't really understand what I was going to get from the convention. I didn't really understand why I was going and got exactly what I planned for from it...nothing.

As a result of that experience, I didn't attend in 2006. With the change in my business in January, coupled with my impending election to the Board of Directors, I needed to be there this year, so I started to think about what I could get from the convention.

I knew not to write page after page after page of notes from the speakers. Instead I kept an 'Action Sheet' at the front of my notes and focused on writing down the two or three key points from the convention that, added to my business model or speaking style, could make a difference. I wrote only a few notes beyond that, most of them focused on particular areas I need to address.

That is no reflection on the quality of the speakers and workshops. I learnt a lot from some of the best speakers in the world; but there is a huge difference between what you learn and what you implement.

The main focus for me at Convention, however, was the networking. That may sound obvious coming from me but my networking this year was far more focused and planned than previously.

The week before the event I was reading Keith Ferrazzi's book 'Never Eat Alone'. In his chapter 'Be a Conference Commando', Ferrazzi talks about networking at conventions and says, "Conferences are good for mainly one thing....they provide a forum to meet the kind of like-minded people who can help you fulfill your mission and goals." Going to a Professional Speakers Convention and focusing on time away from the talks may seem strange but, in a lot of ways, that's where the value is.

Taking Ferrazzi's advice I contacted some of the attendees in advance of the events, suggesting that we take time to meet over the weekend. I arranged breakfast meetings, rather than focusing on finding a spare seat, and spent time with individuals. In addition, I have a range of meetings to set up over the next few weeks with other contacts made in the last three days.

The opportunities already created from these connections include a promised meeting with a Director of an NHS Trust to look at networking within that Trust, an invitation to speak to a group of Chief Executives, a meeting to discuss synergies with another speaker that may lead to the creation of a new CD and cross-referrals and the possibility of establishing speaking opportunities overseas.

That's not a bad return for an investment which, although for many may look large initially, pales into insignificance against the potential return.