Archive for February, 2011

A brand ambassador is a current term used for individuals that promote a brand to the public. Brand ambassadors are very familiar with the product or service and they have a desire and motivation to share their knowledge to generate excitement. Most times they are individuals not affiliated with the brand/organization.

Some companies like Fiskars have quite an elaborate ambassador program. If you are interested in starting a social media brand ambassador campaign read this post: Ten Tips for Using Brand Ambassadors In A Social Media Campaign which should be helpful.

In my opinion, before starting a campaign outside of the brand I believe a brand must have ambassadors within the organization. In a franchise system the ambassadors should begin with the franchisees and the franchisees employees.

At the end of the week COMPUTER EXPLORERS franchisees will arrive for their annual conference. As I mentioned in an earlier post we are approaching this conference differently. We have  invited the best of our best, “our brand ambassadors”  to moderate sessions. These are franchisees that excel in business, are passionate about sharing their success and as Wikipedia states, “are  people who have the potential to appeal to the desires of the participants and strengthen their relationship with the brand.”

The video below represents a few of the COMPUTER EXPLORERS brand ambassadors.

Who are your brand ambassadors?

Seth Godin’s Domino Project

Poke the Box

Last night on Social Geek Radio, AK Stout shared that she is part of Seth Godin’s Domino Project! AK is one of less than 100 individuals that received Godin’s new book Poke the Box. As a member of the project she has enthusiastically read Poke the Box and highly recommends that everyone pre-order.  It will be released on March 1st but if you order before the public release, it is only $1 for the Kindle Edition!

AK is a subscriber to Godin’s blog and newsletter. She decided to apply to be a member of the “Street Team” and was very surprised to learn that her application was accepted. AK indicated that she is very impressed with the bios of the other members and believes that she is ” not in the same league.” I found this link to the other members of team. Yes, very impressive but I am confident that AK is a perfect fit for the team and will make valuable contributions!

AK is very excited to be part of the project and I’m equally excited for her. Our audience is excited too! During the show I received text messages and Twitter DMs from our listeners that they were ordering the book. We announced that we will use the Social Geek Radio Facebook page as a discussion board as we start reading Poke the Box!

If you are a Seth Godin fan or if you have never heard of Seth Godin now is the time to join his fan club! Order the Kindle version before March 1st by clicking here If you do not own a Kindle you can download the smartphone app as I did. Be ready to start reading March 1st and join us in the book review discussion on Facebook!

We can be the extended Street Team and be part of the Domino Project!

What’s An UNConference?


This year we (COMPUTER EXPLORERS corporate team) decided to be very UNconventional in our conference planning. Our system consists of creative, brilliant and successful franchisees. We know that listening, engaging and connecting IRL (in real life) is a once in a year opportunity to learn in a peer-to-peer atmosphere. Top producers are always willing to share their successful business practices and newer franchisees share fresh ideas.

With all of this in mind, we organized a conference where the franchisees will moderate sessions that involve a hands-on, tell your story, share your challenges, brag about the successes and empower each other to charge forward attitude. Participation will be expected. No one will take a back seat as an observer. It  will be a large networking, brainstorming, strategic planning weekend. Certainly, UNlike any of the 26 previous annual conferences.

The 2011 Franchise Business Economic Outlook report indicates that franchise businesses are poised for stronger growth in 2011.  We know that the same old same old isn’t working today. In order to grow we need to look at our current strategies and UNdo old habits.  Now more than ever we need to UNcover new strategies. As a system we need to be UNrelenting in setting ourselves apart from the competition. As a team we will define “the new normal” and leave conference ready to thrive instead of merely surviving. We will discuss what’s working, what’s broke and what needs to be thrown away.

We gave up the expensive entertainment, high cost speakers and extravagant door prizes to cut our costs and pass the savings on to the franchisees. By charging the bare minimum for registration, the franchisees are in a better position financially to attend. When we say there will be no “rah rah” we mean fluffy speeches or UNrealistic expectations for the future.  There will be plenty of rah in our celebrating but a lot of hard work in a short amount of time.

We will go high-tech for little cost. Our keynote speakers will present virtually from Australia! We will use Web conferencing and Video Skype to open the conference. Our business partners are joining us over the weekend as we discuss social media, marketing messages and PR strategies. Franchisees will lead discussions on implementing new programs, how using the tools available affect their bottom line and what accountable action steps are needed to build a positive culture and profitable franchise system.

2010 was a tough year in franchising. When talking with other franchise leaders at IFA I learned that COMPUTER EXPLORERS is not alone. I heard other leaders declare that survival mode is so last year. 2011 is a year of potential and growth. I agree!  It’s especially exciting  knowing that in less than 8 days the corporate team will be strategically planning and charting a new course for COMPUTER EXPLORERS – side by side with the franchisees!

My goal for our UNConference is to be an UNbelieveably successful start to establish our “new normal.”

Last week I wrote my monthly letter to the COMPUTER EXPLORERS franchisees. I shared my beliefs about participating in conferences to learn from peers, attend educational sessions and grow personally as a leader.   The connections I make at conventions like IFA (International Franchise Association) or ISTE (International Society for Technology Education) allow me to network with my peers, connect and learn from other leaders in the industry and in turn help implement new strategies that will increase our bottom line and grow the system as a whole! I can share my successes and challenges and always return home with new ideas and a renewed enthusiasm.

The sessions I  moderated and presented mostly dealt with social media. It  is a well known fact that social media is not a fad. It’s not going away any time soon. Applications that are strongly used today may be replaced with another one tomorrow. The key to success is to be aware of the social media platforms, how to implement into your brand/organization and be ready for the next one to arrive. The Technology Summit and sessions related to social technology were standing room only events.

The round-table discussions I participated in dealt with lead generation, growing your system in tough economic times, local marketing strategies, etc. I used my iPad to take notes and have distributed to the group. They are adding their comments and we have now established a new network group.

There are several great blog posts and articles about the convention. Here are few you can link to and learn more about what you may have missed.

Brooke Howell, Editor of SmartBrief wrote this blog post: Live from #IFA: How franchises can put social media to work. Brooke covers the presentation by Ford Saeks, president of Prime Concepts Group, who spoke during the Technology Summit: Social Media — Ignore it at Your Own Peril.”

Thomas Scott, CEO Brand Journalists shared this post “Top 10 Marketing Take Aways from the IFA Convention.” He shares his thoughts on how to use social media for lead generation, business blogs and PR efforts.

My takeaway from IFA is the use of or lack of knowledge about  QR codes. A QR or Quick Response code is  a two dimensional bar code that contains information that can be scanned and saved. The code may link to a Website or contain contact information that can be saved quickly to a smartphone.  Below I listed a few ways that QR codes can be used in business.

QR code scarf

QR code scarf: Attending a convention with 2800 others using identical bags needed a little personalization. I had a QR code scarf created that I used in the winter. I used it with the tag line “scan me” so those I met for the first time could scan my code and save my information. The IFA convention was held in Las Vegas and there was no need for a winter scarf to wear but tied around my bag it distinguished my bag from other attendees. My contact information was at my fingertips. I had a great time sharing what I knew about codes and showing attendees how to download a scanner and then how to scan my customized code.

IFA QR sticker

QR code stickers: I had stickers customized to link directly to the IFA Website The stickers were distributed and placed on the back of name tags, program brochures and notepads. The use of smartphones this year compared to last year was exponential. It was great to see franchise industry leaders using their smartphones and connecting to social networks but many were unaware of QR codes and what to do with one. A quick 3 minute demonstration was all that was needed and it was great to witness “aha moments.”

Business card with QR code

Business card displaying QR code: Michael Wright, Business Development Director of People To My Site and his team had impressive business cards. Not only did they have a code on their cards containing their contact information, it displays an icon of a smartphone next to the code! I can imagine that anyone who receives their card will quickly understand what the QR code represents. Brilliant!

When I attend a conference or convention I am always prepared to share and ready to learn! What did you share and what takeaways did you return home with?

Note: QR code scarf and stickers were developed by IFA Supplier Graphic Management.

This is the last day of the annual International Franchise Association Convention and my brain is beginning to hurt. So much to learn. So many people to meet and network with. So many things to blog about that I don’t know where to begin!

I will start with a few quick highlights for now and details later:

  • Women’s Franchise Committee Leadership Conference – “Leading Through the New Normal: How to Define and Empower Your System” The discussions from franchise top leaders about defining your brand’s “new normal” was powerful! This is an exceptional  committee to be part of. They have a strong mission, a clear vision, effective leadership and a dedication to franchising and team work.
  • IFA TweetUp – Great attendance of new and current Twitter users! It was a pleasure to finally meet @JackMonson (Engage 121) and @Franchising411 (Matt Haller, IFA Communications Director) in real life! Both successfully use social media to promote franchising and I encourage you to follow them.
  • Technology Summit – Ken Colburn,  Chair – Social Media Task Force & Information Technology Committee at IFA did a fantastic job putting together a conference on using social media to increase sales! The keynote speaker Ford Saeks engaged the audience that are new to social media. They walked away with new insights of why and how to implement the basics. He also provided great takeaways for those that are emerged in social media.
  • Best Practices in Training: 10 Ways to Make Your Training More Fun and Impactful – It was a thrill to watch Kathy Muller shine at what she does superbly for COMPUTER EXPLORERS. Her session was full and you can read this Smart Brief post by Brooke Howell about the session.

Here is a fun video that I took during a session I was moderating on the use of YouTube. It proves that I should move in front of the camera and not behind it! The group was great and we had a wonderful time brainstorming about the use of video for lead generation and franchise support.

All of the above happened in the first two days.  I’m still digesting day three and ready to run back to the MGM Grand Convention Center for the final day of learning and networking!

Greg Pitkoff, Managing Director for GRiP Communications, LLC was the guest on Social Geek Radio last night. Greg shared his background in PR and franchising. He also revealed a new campaign he established for the upcoming IFA (International Franchise Association) convention. The campaign is called #FlatGreg

The #FlatGreg idea came as he followed the social media conversations about the  IFA Vegas Convention. Conversations were from franchise industry leaders that he is connected to on Facebook, LinkedIn and Facebook. Greg heard that IFA developed a special app for the convention and downloaded it. (Click here to download.) Soon after, he was receiving emails and Tweets from people asking if he was going to be in Vegas.  Greg made a business decision not to attend IFA this year but was beginning to question it due to the rising volume of chatter surrounding IFA events and attendees.

Greg starting thinking about the International Literacy Project FlatStanley and thought that if someone were willing to take a Flat version of him to IFA he could gain some valuable exposure at the convention. When Greg was asked why he wanted to attend IFA virtually he responded with the following:

  • The internet and social media specifically creates so many opportunities to exercise creativity
  • In branding, if you have an interesting idea there are endless opportunities to build on them
  • Ideas blossom to something bigger!

I wanted to be part of the adventure! Since Greg’s first Tweet just last week I have been working with him on the #FlatGreg IFA campaign. We have added Lorri Wyndham, #FlatLorri and I expect that the three of us will have a grand time in Vegas. For this trip, what happens in Vegas will be very public. There will be #IFA Tweets, Foursquare posts and lots of photo opportunities. Please follow us! Introduce yourself. Be part of the fun.

Greg Pitkoff and Lorri Wyndham Via Coach!

If you are attending IFA in person take a minute to read this blog post by Mary Ann O’Connell, FranWise, IFA Convention: Investment or Expense. She outlines easy to implement steps to get the very best out of attendance!

Virtually or in real life…IFA convention attendance is a must!

Who Will Be Franchisee of the Year?


The annual COMPUTER EXPLORERS conference is always something I look forward to. It’s an opportunity to spend time with the franchisees as a group. Time to brainstorm, learn from their successes and time to work through the challenges!

Each year we recognize one franchisee for their outstanding individual performance and their contributions that have enhanced the COMPUTER EXPLORERS franchise system. The Distinguished Achievement Award, “The Franny”, is an IFA (International Franchise Association) award and the highest honor a franchisee receives.

Last year the “Franny” was awarded to Jen Morack.  Randy Hall, CEO 4th Gear was in the audience. Randy was our keynote speaker which followed our award ceremony. Your can find a clip of Randy on the COMPUTER EXPLORERS YouTube channel here. I highly recommend him!

Jen Morack, Franchisee of the Year

Here is what Randy posted about Jen on his blog It’s Time to Lead:

“I had an opportunity to speak to business owners from across the country recently at their annual convention.  Prior to my keynote address they gave out several awards to members of their group.  There was one individual who, it seemed, hardly had time to sit down before she was called back to the stage to receive another award.

Her name was Jenifer, and she not only received an award for how well her business performed financially, despite the challenging market conditions, she also received an award for mentoring and helping others along the way, as well as the top award for all around best performance.

Would you stand out as a leader?

The interesting thing was, even after only meeting Jen on the bus ride from the airport and watching her interact with others at dinner the night before, I wasn’t a bit surprised at how many awards she received.  Her leadership skills were clearly evident.

Everything about Jen, the way she carried herself, her energy level, her interaction with others, her desire to help, even if it was just holding the door for someone dragging a suitcase, demonstrated that she was a leader.  At the dinner table she listened intently to the conversation, made everyone around her feel important and participated, but didn’t dominate.  You could tell that Jen understood that leadership is not about the leader; it’s about everyone else.

Jenifer’s role within the group isn’t even a position of leadership, at least not in the hierarchical sense.  She is, from an org chart perspective, a peer with the other business owners attending the convention.  And yet, you could see people consistently seeking her out and asking questions to learn more about how she was running her very successful business.  She always shared, and she always did it with a smile and a sense that it was conversation she could learn from too.

Jen was a reminder to me that leadership isn’t about position; it’s about mindset.  It’s not about being in charge; it’s about making a difference.  It’s not about telling; it’s about sharing.  And it’s not about having authority; it’s about adding value,”

The next Franchisee of the Year has big shoes to fill following Jen!


2010 was a year of challenges and opportunities. Franchisors and franchisees financially took a hit but the strong were using Web 2.0 technologies to regain strength in their industry. The term is used to describe popular technologies invented after the last wave of Internet innovation (1995-2001).

The following is a short list that characterize the Web 2.0 era.

  • A massive connected world – there are over one billion people who have access to the Internet. Web 2.0 software applications rely on there being a vast number of people connected to each other via the Internet.
  • Users are cocreators – We are no longer a generation of just online readers; we are writers and creators. Our creations enhance the services we use.
  • Global but Central – We interact with people all over the world but acting together we create central communities. Individuals and communities have become very influential via the Internet.

IFA (International Franchise Association) will celebrate their 51st convention in Las Vegas this month. IFA is the world’s oldest and largest organization in franchising. It is an old organization that is using new technologies to recruit, organize and engage their members.

The convention has incorporated a new mobile app to enhance attendees experience. The app provides 24/7 access to the  schedule of events, list of speakers and exhibitors, the latest news and best of all tweets! The app can be found here so attendees can build their schedule.

Foursquare Swarm Badge

Foursquare users can checkin to IFA Convention (@MGM Grand) when they arrive. Since I have the foursquare Swam badge I’m hoping there is an opportunity to earn the Super Swarm badge. This badge requires over 249 Foursquare users to checkin to the same location.

TweetUp fun!  This will be the third annual TweetUp held at IFA. The difference this year is the event is recognized by IFA. I am honored to have worked with the new Communications Director, Matthew Haller (aka @Franchising411), Jack Monson (aka @JackMonson) to host a TweetUp at The West Wing Wine Bar at MGM Grand. Register today and remember to use hashtag #ifatwtup when you tweet from the event.

The final brochure of sessions can be found here. I am anxious and prepared for the moderation of the roundtable discussions on social technology. Hopefully you can join me with Jon Carlston, Ken Colburn and BJ Emerson as we discuss:  Beyond Facebook: Reaching Your Audience Where They Live Online on Tuesday, Feb 15th 10:45.

If you need help preparing for IFA using the new technologies, contact me and don’t forget to connect at IFA!

Social Media Bait And Switch

Social Media Hook

Wikipedia defines   Bait-and-switch as a form of fraud, most commonly used in retail sales but also applicable to other contexts. First, customers are “baited” by advertising for a product or service at a low price; second, the customers discover that the advertised good is not available and are “switched” to a costlier product.

A few months ago I felt as though someone pulled a social media bait and switch on me. Time has passed but I’m still disturbed by it. Here is what happened and you tell me how you would react.

A Twitter user with over 30k followers was promoting his/her new book. I kept up with the tweets but didn’t pursue ordering the book since it appeared to be a topic I am well versed in. Not to mention that I have a stack of books that I have yet to read. Then the  book promoting tweets started mentioning me.  There were tweets that indicated I, @DebCE was mentioned on page 33. Hmm…mentioned in a book. Hooked me right away and I jumped from Twitter to Amazon to place my order.

I was indeed mentioned on page 33. At the bottom of the page in a footnote with 154 other Twitter names.

Smart marketing or social media bait and switch?