Posted by: Cornwall Business Forum on 24/10/2015

Cornwall Business Forum - Its Origins and Opportunities

Cornwall Business Forum - Its Origins and Opportunities

We Create Opportunities For Every Member Business in Line With Their Needs and Ambitions

Every Operational Business Should be a Member 

Cornwall Business Forum (CBF) was established in 2010 in reaction to advice received from government to form an umbrella organisation through which all of the business community could communicate with the public sector. The aim being to support the formation of a genuine Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 

Cornwall Business Forum were the only private sector business group to put forward a prospectus for a LEP in Cornwall and Scilly. Sadly that document which proposed that the private sector should be able to appoint, hire and fire their representatives on the board of the LEP and be instrumental in the way that business support, promotion and funding for local businesses was ignored. Cornwall now has a "LEP" which is a quango unaccountable to the business community it is in place to serve. We failed in 2011.

Since then we have been building our membership. We currently (24/10/2015) have over 9,000 businesses as members, with in excess of 8,400 in Cornwall. As such we are by a very long way the largest business network within the county. Those numbers have brought opportunity one of which being that we now have a seat on the LEP "Business Consultative Group". This group is meant to be a "Critical Friend" of the LEP. There is a very long way to go, but we are doing our best to work positively with the LEP to communicate the needs, wishes, ambitions and opportunities facing our members.

Advisory Board

In order to help with engagement with the Cornish and Scillonian business community and the LEP, CBF has the ambition to vastly increase representation on its "Advisory Board". The target is to have 30 Advisory Board members with expertise in all market sectors in each of the four regions of Cornwall (Scilly & West Cornwall; Mid Cornwall; North Cornwall; South East Cornwall) a total of 120 board members. The target then is to arrange bi-annual meetings with the LEP in each area, the minutes of which will be communicated to all members in that area. If you would like to be part of our Advisory Board, do please get in touch.

Member Promotions

We have run many member surveys asking what we (CBF) can do to add value to member businesses. The outcome of those surveys clearly demonstrates that members would like us to help create enquiries and sales for them online and particularly with social media.

Our research into what makes a website sell and which social media channels work for which business revealed that:-

Video is Key - Websites with effective video have conversion rates considerably in excess of those that do not.

Facebook - Still the biggest and maturing well. Over 25 million accounts opened daily in the UK. Marketing through Facebook works best for B2C businesses with a target market aged under 30.

Twitter - Works well for any business in any market sector. With Google updating its algorithms to find tweets and Twitter accounts, this is now a virtual must for businesses wanting to promote themselves online. The problem with Twitter is establishing a meaningful following to make it viable. Hence very many businesses try it and give up on it before it becomes viable. CBF has a solution for its members.

Linkedin - A terrific door opener. A great place to promote individual expertise and hence very positive for inbound marketing.

The Omni Market

In reaction to members wishes, CBF has put in place this website, where members can have a free or paid for listing in line with their membership level. Members can be found through a wide variety of categories, by name or by location. Their listings can show all of their contact details and links to their website and social media accounts. Members can post articles, audio files, classified ads, coupons, events, job openings, photo albums, products and videos. For those with a website, the site enhances their online presence, for those that do not have one, it provides a very flexible online solution for them. Members can also benefit from our social media promoting their businesses.

The Professional Network - Member Help Member Business Support

A significant section of the membership is engaged in a business, or possess skills that are capable of helping a fellow business to become stronger or more profitable. From this section of the membership we are developing our Professional Network. The role of the Professional Network will be to provide solutions to our members when they are in need of solutions. This is a genuine member help member system.

The Future Opportunities

There is somewhere in the region of 75,000 businesses in Cornwall and Scilly with new businesses starting very regularly and others closing. Most of those businesses are micro businesses. Our aim is to add every operational business as a member and keep our data as up to date as we possibly can to give opportunity for every member business.. Your help with this would be greatly appreciated. There is no barrier to entry as there is a forever free membership although naturally we deliver vastly more for our paid members.

You will have seen above that there are some 600 or so members based outside Cornwall. These businesses have joined either because they like what we are doing in Cornwall and would like to see similar happen in their area, or because they would like to forge closer links with the Cornish business community. There is patently an opportunity to set up a business forum in every county across the country. In preparation for this, Cornwall Business Forum has put in place the County Business Forums website, which is attracting ever more members countrywide. The County Business Forums network, could be run from Cornwall and create meaningful employment.

Wherever your business ambition lies, CBF can help you achieve that ambition. Whether that is through driving trade local, promoting your business online, helping your voice to be heard, enabling collaborations, networking or signposting you to solutions.

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