Monthly Archives: June 2011

Will falling forward get me to the top of Kilimanjaro?

KilimanjaroWith just a few days to go before my big trip (hopefully) to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, I have been told about a revolutionary new way of walking.

Apparently all I have to do is ‘fall forward’. and I will be at the top without even realising it. This ‘new’ technique is called Chi Walking (with a Chi Running offshoot).

What I find interesting about this idea, is how even the most basic of human activities can be re-invented and turned into  a commercial product or service.

As one of the videos explains, when we are children we run by leaning forward, but by the time we are adults we have unlearned the natural way to move.

loiclemeur.com-how-do-you-like-my-new-five-fingers-shoesSo you can now buy a range of books, ‘five-finger’ shoes, or join classes to re-learn from the experts how to walk or run properly.

I am aware than many runners do get injuries from their activities, especially road running, but my scepticism is still high on whether this whole thing is some kind of Snake oil charm. Try watching this video of Master Stephen Hwa’s Tai Chi Walk Lesson, and see what you think.

However, I am prepared to try pretty much anything reasonable that might aid my path to top of the highest mountain in Africa, so will try it for a while.

Although my climb was not planned to raise money for charity (more to prove I’m not quite over the hill yet), quite a few people have asked if they can sponsor me. justgiving_logo_detailSo I have created a JustGiving page with a choice of charities to donate to if you would like to contribute.

What is Chi?
http://www.chiwalking.com/what-is-chiwalking/what-is-chi/

Master George Xu, our T’ai Chi teacher, asks us to focus on our dantien, our center and to allow all movement to  come from that place. The energy moves from the center into the body and into the  limbs to create movement. Why? Because Chi is stronger than muscles, and movement that comes from Chi is more deeply powerful.

More powerful than muscles? In the West, muscles are almost akin to a god the way we worship them and what they represent. Covers of magazines and TV commercials extol rock hard abs and buns of steel. What is stronger than rock and steel?

In T’ai Chi we quickly learn that muscles are no match for the power of Chi. Like the flow of water that created the Grand Canyon the power of Chi takes you much further and faster than vulnerable muscles whose duration is very short lived.

Your dantien is the best home for your Chi and the best place for you to focus your energy so that you can come from a balanced, whole place in yourself. Your dantien is just below your navel and a few inches in toward your spine. In Chi Running, Chi Walking and Chi Living we encourage all movement, all action, all choices to come from this center, that deep place in yourself that is home to your greatest potential and power.

50 Excellent Lectures for the Small Business Owner

Many thanks to Rose King from Bschool.com for pointing me to their list of 50 Excellent Lectures for the Small Business Owner.

I have copied their introduction and first five ‘lectures’ below:

bschool logoWhether you have an MBA or are starting your own business before finishing your undergraduate work, there’s more to learn about business than what you get out of classes and textbooks. Supplement your traditional coursework — and even your own experience — by listening to these innovative, insightful and gutsy business leaderswho’ve got a lot to teach you about venture capital, collaboration, the new culture of leadership, and more.

Entrepreneurship

These lectures tackle topics in entrepreneurship, from appealing to the consumer to making great pitches.

  1. Entrepreneurs: Four entrepreneurs share their journeys to open a new business, and the talks inspire passion and excitement.
  2. Entrepreneurship and Society: This talk from UCTV is led by Tom Kemp, President and CEO of Centrify Corporation. He talks about what new ventures need in order to effectively appeal to the modern-day consumer.
  3. Women Entrepreneurs: Consider the differences between men and women as business leaders and owners.
  4. Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship: President Obama gives a talk to an international audience on entrepreneurship and realizing the American dream.
  5. Entrepreneurs: Then and Now: Guy Kawasaki compares the foundation of entrepreneurial strategy during the late 1990s and what’s popular and effective now.

The Apprentice episode 7 – Can engineers be successful entrepreneurs?

Covered-MagLast night’s Apprentice show was as entertaining as ever, although it had extra appeal to the over 60’s and ‘lads’.

In my previous job I created and edited our staff newsletter, so this weeks project of producing a free magazine was of particular interest.

As is always the case with The Apprentice, the teams were given almost no time at all to come up with the concept, the title and some content, including a photo shoot. The next day they then had to sell their ‘finished’ product to three media buying agencies.

Team Venture sensibly went with the over 60’s market as this is now a fast growth area, thanks simply to demographics (see my blog on The growing grey market in the UK). The others more predictably went with the ‘lads mag’ target audience. Although they didn’t seem to be aware that this has been in decline for at least five years (see our YouTube video of Loaded founder James Brown).

Team Logic initially planned to go for something tasteful and business related, rather than the clichéd girls in their underwear approach. But, somehow they ended up with something quite tawdry. It may have had something to do with their project leader Natasha Scribbins‘ belief that ‘porn sells’, or perhaps the lure of a catchy headline, with ‘How do you blow your load’, being the most memorable.

The teams struggle to come up with decent names for their magazines, the 60+ one was called Hip Replacement (it was supposed to be ironic), reminded me of our struggles when creating our staff newsletter.

After a company wide competition, with some very poor entries, we ended up with the uninspiring name of ‘The Insider’. I also remember all too well the hours we spent toiling over our story headlines. If it hadn’t been for my colleague Christine, who it turned out was something of a natural sub-editor, our headlines would have been almost as cringe worthy as those on The Apprentice.

Once again the winning team were as surprised as the viewers at the outcome. In this case one of the media buyers decided to go for an exclusive with the tasteless ‘lads mag’, giving them a massive winning margin.

glenn-wardAnd on the losers team was Glenn Ward, whose misfortune was to be a software engineer. As Alan Sugar said ‘I have never yet come across an engineer that can turn his hand to business’ so Glenn was fired.

This seems a rather biased approach to the selection process, but as Nick Hewer explained on the follow up show You’re Fired, Sugar has twice given engineers companies to run in his business empire, and they both times they failed.

This seems a rather un-scientific sample to base his decision on. The names of Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Wozniak of Apple Computers, Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google,  show that software  engineers can indeed be successful business leaders.

Hello Kitty – Goodbye Cathy

HelloKitty-vs-CathyI have to admit that children’s characters are not something I have spent much of my time thinking about since my kids left primary school some years ago. Despite this, the distinctive Hello Kitty brand has successfully impinged itself on my consciousness.

Such strong and simple designs obviously have a wide appeal. However, the lesson is that you need to ensure that yours are truly unique to avoid potentially damaging copyright wrangles.

A recent story from the Evening Standard about Cathy from the Hello Kitty range illustrates this problem (Hello Kitty waves goodbye to friend Cathy).

There have been months of legal bickering between the Dutch firm Mercis who own Miffy, the well known Dutch character created by Dick Bruna, and Sanrio, the Japanese owners of the Hello Kitty brand.

In the resulting settlement Sanrio promised to drop the character Cathy. And both will donate £135,000 to the victims of the earthquake in Japan, rather than spend more money on legal fees.

Here’s one we helped earlier – Seasoned culinary courses

Seasoned logoWe love hearing about people who we have helped, but it is even more gratifying when they contact us themselves to say thank you.

Last week we received this lovely email from Clare Tetley of Seasoned Ltd:

 

Clare_TetleyDear Business & IP Centre

A quick thank you for your help whilst setting up my business.

I spent one year living in London and researching my start-up business with you at the Business & IP Centre.  I attended a number of start-up courses which were fantastically helpful – everything from ‘knowing your market’ to SEO, IP and networking events.

I started Seasoned just over a year ago and so far business is growing and work is strong.

Here is a clip from ITV’s ‘Be Your Own boss’ series with an interview about setting up a business in a recession which you may like to see.

Many thanks again and I hope to continue visiting your events to further my knowledge.

Clare

Clare Tetley
Seasoned Ltd
01283 810275
www.seasonedcourses.com

Linking Marketing and Sales with Kimberly Davis

Kimberly_DavisHaving previously covered social media (The Marketing Master Class – Social Media for Business), Kimberly Davis kindly invited me along to the third in her Marketing Masters Series. And this time the topic was Linking Marketing and Sales.

Kimberly started with a very simple definition; Marketing is anything that represents your company.

Marketing vs Sales
–    example of a football team – team is the marketing effort – the striker is the sales
–    Better if different people due to different goals
o    Marketing – long term – brand building – consistency – impersonal
o    Sales – short term – translates interest into a sale – personal (one to one)

Fear of sales
–    If your product is good, you are doing them a favour by telling them about it.
–    It’s is just a conversation – not a sales pitch
–    People buy from people they know, like and trust

Company name
–    You should be able to say what you do in two words
–    Forget witty tag lines that say nothing
–    Example – Campbell’s condensed soup – Sasparilla marketing detoxification

Target market
–    Forget your gut instinct – you can’t sell to everybody
–    Who is your ideal customer?
–    Create a profile for them – age, race, interests, position, salary etc

Selling the right thing
–    What is going to make you the most ROI (return on investment)?
–    Are you selling the right thing to the right people?

Identifying need
–    Where does it hurt for your customers?
–    Solve a problem
–    People buy what they want, not what they need.

Focus on the benefits
–    What are your benefits?
–    What problem can you solve?
–    How can you make their life easier?

Unique Selling Point
–    What are you USP’s?
–    Be ‘the only …’
–    Focus – If you try to be everything to everyone, you will be nothing to no one

The Elevator Pitch
–    It is the most important thing in your marketing strategy.
–    You have twenty seconds to make an impact.
–    Can you clearly articulate what you do in that time?
–    People will decide whether to file or forget you based on this.
–    No more that two short sentences long.
o    Who, what, why when and how?

Communication
–    Find the right words to use
–    Keep it simple
–    Focus on fears and needs
–    Read it out and hear how it sounds
–    Test it on lots of people and get feedback
–    Ask them to say it back to you to see what they remember

Kimberly’s elevator pitch for Sarsaparilla:
50% of marketing is wasted. Sarsaparilla is a marketing consulting and training agency that specialises in marketing purification – the process of detoxing your marketing, protecting you from The Flash, Fluff and Fakers, and helping you make more money with less.

Sales across the Marketing Umbrella

Branding
–    How you create trust with your customers
–    You brand must be protected at all costs
–    Make sure everyone sticks to the same elevator pitch
–    Gives a consistent experience
–    Under promise and over deliver
–    Forget Richard Branson as a role model – He has more failed than successful business

Business cards
–    Don’t use cheap or free cards – it shows
–    Make sure you have a proper email address (not @yahoo.com) – makes you look established
–    Write down where you met on the back of cards you recieve
–    Keep your card’s content simple
–    What impression does your card make?

Literature
–    Brochures flyers are a waste of time in Kimberly’s opinion
–    Instead just give people your card

Social Media
–    Most people look to social media for information – not to be sold to
–    20% of all tweets are about business
–    LinkedIn search engine optimisation
–    Free download – 10 Ways to Use Social Media for Business – www.sarsaparillamarketing.com

Merchandise
–    You do not need stress balls or pens – not a good use of money according to Kimberly

Eshots, flyers, emails etc
–    Don’t always take, learn to give
–    It’s about building a relationship
–    Don’t SPAM people
–    Add Value – keep it short and simple, and interesting
–    MailChimp gives you up to 2,500 emails for free –

Website
–    Data capture – emails and phone numbers should be visible
–    Download offers in exchange for contact details
–    Don’t over use stock photography – professional personal are better – see where images are being used on tineye.com.
–    Videos – a brilliant way of experiencing your product or service – much less expensive than in the past
–    SEO – don’t pay for rankings – don’t use Flash only sites
–    Linking with other websites moves you up the Google rankings
–    50% will only look at your first page – so make sure it contains your elevator pitch

Testimonials
–    Get others to sing your praises
–    Find out why people don’t buy from you – then work out what would overcome that resistance
–    Keep them short – headlines are best
–    White papers and case studies for more in depth
–    Consider selective use of videos

Advertising
–    Generally not a good investment
–    Need to have a call to action – give people an incentive to buy or contact
–    Promo code to enable tracking
–    Coupons

PR
–    Getting other people to say it for you

Networking
–    Time to use your elevator speech
–    How to get in out of a conversation – ‘I don’t want to keep you from networking with other people here’… Don’t be too obvious
–    Business Cards
–    Carry a nice pen – cheap pen = cheap company
–    Think beyond the person in front of you – they may know someone relevant
–    Ask for what you want – they may be able to help
–    Pay if forward
–    5 minutes per person

Ways to measure your return on marketing investment
–    Take an inventory
o    List of clients and what they buy from you
o    Review you client profile
    How many
    Average spend
    Repeat clients?
    Their profile – hobbies, interests etc
    When they buy
    Why they buy
    Survey with SurveyMonkey
o    Do your market research – not with family and friends
o    Gives you a starting point for measurement

Creating a process (funnel?)
–    Your customers journey to your product
–    How do you get them to say ‘yes’

Positioning
–    Don’t be sucked into discount advertising that is not targeted at your customers

Permission Marketing
–    People don’t want to be marketed to
–    Much more open if you get them to come to you
–    Generate interest
–    Example of Sun and Wind in competition too get a man to take his coat off. Persuasion more effective than force.

Incentivise your customers
–    Free downloads
–    Upgrades
–    Gifts

Data capture
–    Building your database
–    Landing page
–    Collecting business class
–    What are you doing with the list?
–    Grow list organically

Generating new leads
–    Tradeshows, events, contests, social media
–    Buying databases is not straightforward

Ask why people aren’t buying
–    Overcoming obstacles
–    Ask why they won’t buy
–    An opportunity to show you can overcome these

Cost of customer acquisition
–    Calculate – x calls, x leads, x meetings, = x sales
–    Let other formats do the work for you – advertising, website, social media

Retention / Customer service
–    Don’t forget about your existing clients
–    Increasing sales through your current clients
–    Repeat business
–    Get current  customers to increase quantity, frequency and price

Multiple revenue streams
–    Don’t have all your eggs in one basket
–    Make money in your sleep

Reminders
–    Surveys, announcements, newsletters, special access
–    90 days or less
–    Remember to give as well as take

Experiential marketing
–    Sampling your goods and services increases your sales success

Pricing
–    Don’t fall into the trap of lowering your price in a recession
–    Clear pricing structure and clarity
–    Group into easy to understand sections
–    Be transparent
–    People don’t buy based on price
–    Don’t cheapen yourself with sales
–    When it doubt, put prices up

Referral and Affiliate plans

Stop selling and allow people to buy from you

Find a mentor
–    30 thousand businesses will fail this year because of lack of knowledge or experience

A Hobby or a Business?
– Plan and then take action

 

Kimberly’s keynote speaker for the final slot of the day was Sharon Wright, who’s claim to fame is delivering the best pitch in the history of Dragons Den.

–    Took one day off in the first year of developing the idea.
–    Single parent entrepreneur
–    ‘Think big and you will be big’
–    Decided to start with the biggest BT
o    2 hours of negativity
o    6 Sigma proof required
o    Would be virtually impossible
o    Had never been done before
o    One positive – the product had legs

–    First paying customer was with Cromwell tools – told them BT was a buy (a bit cheeky)
–    From creation to market within 6 months
–    Strong self belief is 1st important ingredient for business success
–    Aim was to be the best presenter on Dragons Den – achieved this goal
–    Preparation (2nd key ingredient for business success)
–    Practiced her three minute pitch 100 times a day for three weeks
–    Read all of the Dragon’s books to help choose which partner to go with
–    After the show was aired Sharon received 7,000 emails
–    Was now working 22 hours a day, seven days a week.
–    Loneliness of starting a business (3rd key ingredient)
–    As time went on her self belief began to drop
–    Met Tony Larkin at the British Inventors show who offered to invest in her
–    Sharon has now sold her Magnamole to an American company keeping a 10% holding.

–    The most important lesson learnt was to trust her instincts, and get a business mentor. You are often too emotionally close to your business to make objective business decisions.

–    Story reminds me of one of my earliest blog posts on Dragons Den
Dragon’s Con.

Sharon’s book ‘Mother of Invention – How I won Dragons Den, Lost my mind, Nearly lost my business and ended up reinventing myself’, tells of her personal struggle as a single mother, inventor and entrepreneur.
It has been reviewed on my colleague Steve Van Dulken’s Patent Search Blog.

A cake slice with a musical difference

cake server musicWhilst shopping for a new corkscrew today, I stumbled across another fine example of a niche within a niche, (Luxury foods in terribly bad taste).

This time the niche in question is cake slicers (also known as cake servers).  And I am rather ashamed to admit that the source of, what is in my opinion, a rather naff  product is my homeland the United Kingdom.

As you can see from the photo of the bright pink packaging on the left, the manufacturers are well aware of the rather tacky nature of their product. In fact the Kitsch’n’fun range from Kitchen Craft is deliberately aimed at the fun end of the market.

Kitsch’n’fun is a novelty range of items taking on a life of its own. Having quickly developed with some of the most talked about and fastest selling items available. Ideal accessories or pocket money gifts, the selection continues to grow and appeal to the youngster in all of us!

However, the photo does not tell even half the story. But, fortunately I was able to track down a video of the Cake Server in action on YouTube. Of the choice of four tunes available I think the wedding march has to be my favourite, as my mind boggles at the idea of it in action at some posh wedding. I challenge you to watch the video more than three times in a row.

Our Marketing Masterclass with Alasdair Inglis of Grow

grow_header1A couple of weeks ago I attended this excellent workshop from Alasdair Inglis of Grow, the small business marketing experts.

I liked the fact that Alasdair started the half day session by saying that his aim was for everyone attending to leave with a minimum of five concrete things they will do for their business.

I was also impressed by the way he refuses to use PowerPoint. Instead he handed out detailed notes and had lots of photos on screen to illustrate his points.

Alasdair started by briefly covering the standard elements of a small business sales and marketing strategy:
– What are you selling
– What is your USP (unique selling proposition)
– Competitor analysis
– Who are your customers
– Lead generation – which methods are appropriate

He quickly launched into the marketing ideas and concepts we needed to understand to give us a competitive edge.

The first of these was understanding the power of customer testimonials:
–    These can be the most valuable form of marketing in the long run, especially if you manage to get an influential customer to sing your praises.
–    Work out what questions you need to ask to generate testimonials
–    Make sure they include some measure of the benefit of your product or service.

Then we looked at the power of case studies and success stories
–    These are more in depth than testimonials and can include video.
–    They should include the problem – what we did – the positive result
–    When making video testimonials make sure you concentrate on the sound quality over the visuals. It is worth investing in a directional microphone.
–    We have used our Success Stories on our YouTube channel to generate 200,000 views.

The power of having a customer database
–    For long term success you should have a database with all your customers details and purchases in one place. This could be as simple as an excel spreadsheet or a full CRM (customer relationship management) systems such as SalesForce.
–    The best way to think about what to keep, is what would someone need to know to keep your business going if you were away from the office.

Know your competitors – ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’.
–    Take advantage of your competitors hard work to develop their products or services and their understanding of the customers they market to.
–    Sign up to your competitors email lists using your personal email address. Gives you insight into their marketing strategy.
–    Look at their websites and Facebook pages.
–    Use seospyglass.com to check out where your competitors are promoting themselves on the web.

Know your target market
–    Get to know your ideal customer – where do they live, shop, eat?
–    This will impact your choice of marketing strategy.

Understand the marketing funnel
–    Don’t try and get a sale straight away, build up to the sale.
–    You need to have a really good opening offer that hooks people in so you get them into your funnel.
–    Three examples
o    Free download – build up price as the customer goes deeper into the funnel.
o    First contact is a cold lead – move them from warm to hot to customer to raving fan
o    Initial enquiry from customer – build information until they become a customer.

Have an irresistible offer
–    What irresistible offer does your business have, so that people who first come into contact with your product or service make contact with you or buy from you?
–    Examples would include: first session free, money back guarantee, discount for first order, vouchers.

Understand the importance of having a clear call to action
–    Give people a compelling reason to get in contact.
–    E.G. On your website
o    Call you
o    Ask questions
o    Email you
o    Buy from you
o    Join your email list
o    Request information

Focus on benefits rather than features
– Look at all your marketing materials and re-word them.

Understand what problems do you solve for your customers.
–    What factors might make their business fail.
–    What market are they will be operating in – Information about their competitors and customers.

Be aware of approximately how much do you earn from each customer during their lifetime?
–    This will have a big impact on how you price and market your services.

‘If you sow seeds all year round, you get vegetables all year round.
–    Make sure you have a variety of customers, like a garden with a mixture of plants
–    This can help when a recession hits, or you lose one set of customers.
–    Examples:
o    Customer who buy or work with you once
o    Ad hoc customers
o    Regular repeat customers
o    Make sure you have a lead generation system in place that gives you a steady stream of leads.

Be aware of the importance of Search Engine Optimisation, especially on Google.
–    Google has revolutionised marketing, triggering a move from masculine to feminine.
–    Masculine – going out searching for customers using adverts, yellow pages and telemarketing
–    Feminine – waiting to found, by being attractive to your customers, let them come to you.

Alasdair covered quite a bit more during a very full half day, so I recommend you book yourself on and find out more.

One of the additional benefits of these workshops is meeting aspiring entrepreneurs, and it was here that I got talking to Bertie Stephens about Flubit. I’ve joined the fun Flubitron club

Get Out of this World at The British Library

wells-jun-130I’ve only managed to spend a few minutes so far exploring our exciting new exhibition Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it, but I will definitely going back for more soon.

It has already had a great deal of positive coverage in the media, and there are some great events associated including Sci-Fi legend Alan Moore.

The exhibition has some first editions and manuscripts of some of the great stories I discovered in my youth, such as John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.

One of the most memorable short stories I read way back then, was about an anti-gravity device (always a popular topic in Sci-Fi… and with some of our inventors, now I come to think of it).

The concept is that a selection of scientists from various disciplines are shown a grainy film of a working anti-gravity device, unfortunately the machine crashes and the inventor is killed. They are then shown the inventor’s study with  books on range of disciplines such as physics, biology, religion and witchcraft. They are then asked to try and re-create the machine. After many false starts they manage the impossible, and are only then told that the film was a fake, designed to help them get over their mental blocks.

The story is called Noise Level by Raymond F Jones.

Out_of_this_world_1

Out_of_this_world_2

Out_of_this_world_3

The professionals: business bootcamp

business-bootcamp-logoFollowing swiftly on from the launch (Boris boots up Business Bootcamps at the British Library), our very own camp is nearly here.

Put together by experts and business owners, this two day bootcamp is designed specifically for sole traders in the professional services, from IT consultants, marketing freelancers to accountants. We have noticed that many people are setting up their own businesses, based on their professional skills after having been made redundant.

The content across both days covers all of the essential issues you are likely to face as a new business.

Along with practical exercises and inspirational presentations, you will receive a fact-file of research reports and guides to use afterwards which would cost in excess of £500.

The benefits of the bootcamp:
• Meet with like-minded people
• Understand how effective networking can boost your business
• How to present a perfect pitch
• Best practice look at financial viable models
• Get information on professional service delivery from the experts
• Discover more about how to refresh your business plan
• Introductory guide to intellectual property
• Develop a strategy to carry your business forward.
Experts

• Johnny Martin – get to grips with your finances with the no.1 small business numbers coach.

• Nick Winton – understand how to grow your client base and potential profits with clever strategy and lead generation.

• Rasheed Ogunlaru – how you can learn to ‘be your brand’ and grow your profile with effective networking.

Event details:
Mon 13 June 2011, 09.30 – 20.00. Tues 14 June, 09.30 – 17.00 at the British Library Business & IP Centre.

Cost: £125

Booking: The professionals: a business bootcamp