Three words Debbie Burrell uses to describe her role as Archant’s Head Of Events.
We can see why.
During our half hour chat, we were several times interrupted by Debbie’s phone and some of the strangest one way conversations we’ve heard…
“The fire eater uses what? Do Health and Safety know?”
“I’d go for the less whiffy cheese. You can never be too careful around a Prime Minister”.
and our favourite…
“I really don’t think that would work…sorry it’s got Rod Hull and Emu written all over it.”
Debbie apologies, explaining she’s sorting last minute preparations ahead of the next awards ceremony whilst busily arranging the spread for the PM’s latest visit.
She makes no more comment about Rod and Emu. To be fair, we think its best not to ask…
What does Head of Events mean?
I lead a really fantastic team that produces a diverse range of events across the UK. We produce many of the biggest B2B events to smaller ‘hands on’ networking sessions where local entrepreneurs get to network and spark up interesting ways in which they can work together. Many of the regions Archant serves are major food producers hence our commitment to Food And Drink…and of course there’s the mighty tear-jerking community awards, championing local unsung heroes.
What value do business events have?
Put simply, you just can’t buy face time. Bringing business people together where they can discuss their challenges, collectively find solutions and look at combined opportunities is extremely powerful. It’s so much more than handing out a business card. I hear many stories of individuals who have gone on to help each other and formed life-long partnerships having initially met at an event.
In a Linked In world, is face to face networking still relevant?
Yes, and I can prove it by the waiting list we have for tickets to our Business Awards. There’s nothing like meeting face to face and the atmosphere is electric. Guest speakers have ranged from the former Director General of MI5 to the face of Breakfast Television, sports stars, motivational leaders and A-list opera singer Laura Wright who received a standing ovation. Many leaders provide their insight. Karen Hester from brewer Adnams gave a speech entitled “From Mop to Top” – her amazing story of starting as a part-time cleaner at the company and climbing the ranks to become it’s Chief Operating Officer. Totally inspirational.
Aren’t the Business Awards geared up solely for big businesses?
Absolutely not. We have entries for businesses of all shapes and sizes including director of the year, young businessperson of the year and the well fought customer care award – all regularly won by SMEs. It’s not just for the suited and booted either. Our winners include farmers, butchers and one of my favourites…the Suffolk Canine Creche – a doggy daycare centre!
What makes for a good award entry?
Our judges come from some of the leading businesses across Britain and clearly they all look at things differently, but I’d say you should see it like a business plan. Carefully outline your objectives and then explain how you have met them. Provide evidence – data or testimonials are powerful. Be creative. Many of our winners have wowed the judges by showing they have broken the mould, looked at things differently. A good example was an entry we received which as well as including all of the information the judges needed, they produced a video to introduce themselves to really get the message across.
Do you ever get a bit lost in showbiz?!
Actually, it’s great working with celebrities. As I’m usually running around backstage and barking instructions at people, I’ve found them to be terribly polite and conscious of my time. David Cameron was particularly sweet when we met last year.
What’s the best thing about your role?
I guess it’s something I forget, but it really is a brilliant job. I can’t think of any other role where I can picture something in my head, then, some months later see 350 people having an amazing time, learning from each other and making their business stronger. It’s magic!
How can people find out more information about Archant events?
Do you know how long the average person spends with their digital devices per day?
According to a recent report its 8 hours and 41 minutes. What a shocker. And to put that into context, its 20 minutes more than the average nights sleep.
So, just for once, I put the Iphone down, switched off the Kindle and went about buying a book I’ve been after for a while. I’m into local history. I won’t bore you with the details but I thought it would be a nice bit of respite from swiping a screen just for once.
Having picked the Iphone up again in order to find the nearest stockist (oh the irony) I came across a wholesaler who told me they could send it through to my local high street book store within a couple of days for me to pick up.
Yes, Amazon could have delivered to my door in a flash, but I had the week off work, had little planned and actually quite relished popping into the shop for a browse anyway. There’s nothing like the smell of a good book shop.
So how disappointed was I when I wandered down the high street and found it was closed. I thought the owner might be having a late lunch so hung around town for a bit, but still the shop remained in darkness.
The next morning I popped back. Still no sign of life. Pulling the Iphone out of my pocket (we will never get away from them will we…) I quickly found the shop in question on Google.
No opening times. Bummer.
But hey, a phone number to call…
I expected at least an answering machine. I didn’t even get a ringtone. It was clear this phone number was incorrect.
Hey, link to the website…Oh wait, link is broken. No website.
Eventually I found another phone number…a mobile. This time I did get an answer. It wasn’t the calm, vocal-serenity you expect from the owner of a book shop. Rather a gruff Glaswegian who sounded like he’d been woken from the world’s worst hangover. I apologised and hung up.
As the rain started to fall I made a dash back to the car…on the way, making two clicks on the Iphone and buying the book from Amazon.
Local traders must make it easy for consumers. Some do a brilliant job on a budget one millionth of what companies like Amazon spend on marketing in a week.
Others seem to have given up.
Keeping your digital presence accurate and up to date is easy and cheap to do. There are products that automatically straighten up your opening times, phone numbers and address details, removing broken links, filling in the blanks and validating your company info.
It’s even more crucial if you want your business to be found online. Search engines will mark you down if your info is inconsistent in the 50+ places it appears across the internet.
We all know in tough times, personal service is the cornerstone of the local high street. It’s why people don’t go to the big boys.
So don’t fall at the first fence. Ensuring your business is consistent right across the internet makes it easy for customers to find you, trade with you, build a relationship with you…
whilst making sure Rab C Nesbitt soundalikes get the beauty sleep they need without the unnecessary disturbance.
I always get a certain response from people whenever my job comes up…
‘So what do you do?’
‘I work in marketing actually…”
comes my reply.
The response always tends to be the same. An awkward silence as a follow up question is desperately scrabbled together to carry on the conversation.
Marketing these days tends to be an umbrella word that covers just about every element of business. Ask a marketier what they do and even they’ll be hard pushed to answer in a sentence…
Marketing is simple. It’s just communication. And we all know the best communicators are the ones who listen as well as talk.
This is a blessing for local businesses, because quite frankly if I’m the Marketing Guru at Averylargecompanyindeed.com I spend my days in a swivly chair at the top of a tower overlooking Canary Wharf deciding where to spend my mega million marketing budget.
Sure, I have a data department and someone somewhere will be conducting focus groups for me on a lovely colour coded spreadsheet, but the reality is I’m so far removed from the coalface of my business, how can I ever have real conversations with my customers?
For SMEs, that ‘face time’ (as the marketiers call it), those one to one conversations is your every day. You sit on the frontline. There’s no hiding in offices. From dawn till dusk, you hear direct from your customers. You answer their queries, take on their problems. Spot the trends. You listen.
Of course there’s no getting away from the relentless need for convenience driven by today’s online world – but personal service, a business that will go overboard to help me, offer the right solution and build a genuine relationship is still craved by customers…
The funny thing is, the big boys know this and are desperate to convince customers...
The funny thing is, the big boys know this and are desperate to convince customers they do local just as well.
In the last few years we’ve seen company logos redrawn into more friendly lower case fonts. Every retail outlet seems to have ‘We love ‘TOWN NAME’ signage in the front to convince us they are personal, relevant and human.
One of the biggest utility companies has just produced its latest series of online videos on shaky iphones with graphics that look like something off Windows 98 and staff with the broadest accents they may wish to consider subtitles – anything to look less corporate.
But you – Mr or Mrs SME – you are the real deal. No faking it. No smoke and mirrors. And that’s something to celebrate.
So grab your iphone and piece together your own video. Spend twenty minutes every other week summing up those customer conversations in an online blog. Create a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website. Offer some top hints and tips.
Your potential customers will love you – as will Google, which actively promotes fresh, local and unique content in its search rankings.
Some people call this ‘Content Marketing’. I just call it conversation. And it all starts with listening
. The most powerful marketing tool you’ll ever have.