Other Business Archives

Trade marks: making the right choice

Trade marks are what distinguish one business and its products from another.  In selecting a new trade mark, whether as the name for a business or just a new product, there are a number of important issues to consider.

Is it distinctive?

A trade mark should be distinctive.  It should not merely describe the products being offered.  Why is that?  Because other businesses in the same industry may have a legitimate need to use non-distinctive words and phrases, and the law recognises their right to do so.

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What is a Trade Mark?

Trade marks are what distinguish one business and its products from another.  They allow goods and services to be recognised and selected by the trade marks that they bear.

Good trade marks are memorable and distinctive.  They will be remembered by the consumer, who has either seen an advertisement or used the product.  They then allow that same consumer to look out for products bearing that same trade mark when shopping.  As such, it is important that businesses can protect their trade marks from competitors using something similar.

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User-Centred Graphic Design

User-centred Graphic Design is an approach to designing creative projects that focus on delivering information relevant to the end user that views the design. In its essence, it puts the needs and perceptions of the end user at the centre of the creative process.

Whilst this concept may seem apparent and be common sense, it is an often over-looked or under-valued component of the creative process. And the reasons why are usually the same regardless of the type of project – such as a website or a corporate brand.

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A Simple Approach to your Financial Year Plan

Let me start by stating that you don’t need to wait till the end of a financial year, calendar year or any other ‘end’ to look at what you are doing in your business and change it to something different or better.

That being said, dates like June 30th, December 31st or March 31st (depending on where you are) can prompt as a reminder to take stock of your business and re-align where it’s going.

Firstly, check to see if you are happy with how the business has performed the past 12 months. Are you pleased with the results? If not, what are you not happy with that you could have done better, given different resources? If your business has grown and you are happy with its performance (taking into account the issues below), then it’s a matter of keep doing what you’re doing.

If you are not 100% happy with the results thus far (lets face it, most people think that something could have been done better or differently), find out how you have been perceived by your customer. This means asking for feedback. You may think that things weren’t great, but what did your customer think? The information you can get from your customers can help with your next 12 months.

Did you set a budget for the past 12 months? If so, did you perform well against your expectations? Where did you fall short? Were your expectations too high? Were there unforseen factors that impacted on the results? Did you set the bar too low? Checking your dollars is not the only measure of success in a business (see the first point), but it goes to checking the financial viability of the business now and in the future.

What do you want to achieve in the next 12 months? What types of business, customers and opportunities do you want to experience? If it’s as simple as “I want to grow my business”, you’re got to know by how much or have a rough idea of the target you’re aiming for. Otherwise, how will you know if you have reached it? Your targets may be financial, cultural, or ideological – it’s important that you know what you want to achieve before you work hard at getting there.

Lastly, how are you going to do it? Employ more staff, sub-contract, buy another business, create new business, or conduct a joint venture? There are so many different ways you can create the outcome you want. It’s a matter of picking a way that you believe will work.

Two important final points:

  1. This process is fun. It takes the impossible and crazy ideas you dream of and helps you figure out a way to make it a reality for you
  2. You can change the plan! If the ideas you set for yourself now are not working for you in 3-4 months, change it. Go through this process again.

If you have any ideas you want to share, please feel free to list them below.

9 Tips to Generate More Work

The art of getting new business is no mystery. The trouble is, we get busy in the daily Doing that we can often overlook some simple ways to seek new business.  Here are 9 tips to help you get started on growing your client base.

  1. Get New Business From Old.   Ask existing clients for more business before you try warming up a stone cold lead.  Ask the happy clients for referrals to people they know that you don’t – and be sure to keep track of who referred whom. Your client’s needs change, so stay up to date with how you can best serve them.
  2. Pitch a Stranger. It’s like bad advertising when you blow hot air when pitching to a new prospect.  In face-to-face mediating you’ve got to know what to say, and say it with conviction. Start with friends and work from there. See next point too!
  3. Give It To Me Straight.  No one has time for the “warm-up”. Prepare well-honed phrases and practice them in front of a mirror.  People like it when you can get to the point rapidly and intelligently.  If it’s by email, make sure they don’t have to scroll down to read it all. Answer the ever-present question that your prospect has in their minds – What’s In It For Me?
  4. Talk About Your Failures.  Sounds crazy, but it builds credibility.  Everyone can’t be perfect all the time, and when you can tell a prospect why you lost a client and what you’ve learned it’s a welcome change.
  5. Offer a “Loss-Leader”. People are less and less apt to buy impulsively from a person if they don’t have a good feeling about them.  Offering a loss-leader allows the relationship to mature over time.  This is very important in B2B clients. (Loss-leader is the practice of offering a product or service at a considerable discount and loss of profit to attract future business.). Look at your product or service offering and see if there is something you can provide that is of low cost to you but high value to your customer.
  6. Get Sold Yourself.  Pick the most successful competitors in your area and let them sell you.  Play customer and be aware of how you feel during each step, and see why their approach works so well.
  7. Start an E-mail Newsletter.  This is much like #5.  Give your clients and prospects useful information on a periodic basis.  Make them happy to see your name in the “from” field.  If they only hear from you when you want something, they’ll turn you off when they hear from you.
  8. Offer Testimonials.  Satisfied clients or customers can say things about you that you can never believably say about yourself.  Use the person’s full name if possible when doing this.
  9. Ask Questions.  This cannot be over-emphasised about how important this is in business.  Simply allowing people to verbalise their needs makes them happy and tells them you listen.  It also allows you to hone in on the points to make when it’s your turn to talk.

Do you have any tips you can add to this list? If so, please share them by filling out your comments below.

Thanks

Start With The End In Mind

Starting and managing a business is overwhelming, especially for the uninitiated. There always seems to be so much to do, and so little time to do it. You spend your days working very hard at getting the job done, responding to customer enquiries, making sales calls, and so on, that very soon the days blur into weeks. You forget what it was that inspired you to begin the journey in the first place.

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Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

Just like the successful self-help book written by Susan Jeffers, feeling the fear and doing it anyway is one of the secrets to achieving success in business. In fact, it is one of the key secrets to succeeding in almost anything you ever want to do in Life.

In case you weren’t aware of it, you a salesperson. Before you deny this fact till you are blue in the face, let me explain. You are a salesperson if you:

  • Promote your own business to others
  • Promote the business you work for to others
  • Promote yourself to others

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Business Systems

You may have heard about them before, but never quite thought about how they can help you personally. They seem to be an ambiguous element of the business world, and when they are discussed, always seem to be this …thing… that other companies and organisations do.

What I am referring to is Business Systems. Read the rest of this entry

Business Mentoring

A business mentor is someone that can provide you with advice, coaching and support as you tread the path to the success you plan to achieve.

In many ways, they act like a coach. A word of warning here, some encouragement, and help with clarifying your thoughts makes the world of difference when you are just starting out.

Many people, when they begin their business venture, can feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. Finding customers, managing the bills, promoting the business – it can all add up to a feeling that you can’t cope with the demands on your time and energy.

Then someone asks you if you have a mentor. You stop for a moment, and realize that you don’t know what a mentor is, let alone have one.

A business mentor is someone that can provide you with advice, coaching and support as you tread the path to the success you plan to achieve. In many ways, they act like a coach. A word of warning here, some encouragement, and help with clarifying your thoughts makes the world of difference when you are just starting out.

But, how do you get a mentor?

For most, finding someone that has done what you hope to do is not easy. Let’s say that you are running a tyre shop and a service centre for family sedans. Is there someone in the industry that has made a huge success that you can copy? Would they give you a fraction of their time each month to help you as you start out?

It doesn’t matter what industry you are in – there are hundreds of successful businesspeople that have ‘made it’. Many of these professionals have publicized their success in books, magazines, and audio programs. Your first step when finding a mentor is to take a look at some of these business success stories that have been published. Find which story best resonates with you – the one that you connect with the most. Then, read all the publications of this person or business model. Listen to any audio sessions and programs. Attend their seminars if they are available.

Absorb as much as you can from this source as your first step in finding and using a business mentor.

One business mentor that I have benefited much from is Mark Victor Hansen. Here’s a man that developed his ideas in a partnership with Jack Canfield to form the hugely successful Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Since then, both authors have experienced trials and successes and have overcome them. The principles of their success can be modeled by anybody with an open mind, regardless of the business or industry they are in.

You will most likely find that there’s more than one mentor that can help you. It’s a great idea to build a team of business mentors that have an area of expertise. You might have a mentor that helps with your overall success thinking; another for your marketing, and another for your people skills. Don’t expect that your first business mentor will be able to provide all the support that you need.

If you know someone that can play the role of a business mentor, then take them to lunch and ask them if they wouldn’t mind being your mentor. Tell them exactly what you are asking from them, (time, commitments, etc), and how often you would need their support. Remember that successful people are also busy people, and if you can make it as easy as possible for them to help you, you stand a better chance of hearing a “Yes” to your request.

Starting and running a business does not and should not be a lonely path to travel. Others have gone before you, made mistakes and had successes that you can benefit from by learning what they did and didn’t do. Get started by checking out what books and audio programs you can learn from, and then take it from there.

Find A Need, Fill A Need

In any business venture, you will need customers in order to be IN business. Anybody can start a business – even tomorrow – but without the promise of a customer (in fact, a lot more than one), the chances of succeeding long-term are slim to none.

When you were growing up, you had needs. You were hungry, so your parents fed you. You were cold, so you were given clothes to wear. You needed support and encouragement, and your family and friends supported you and gave you the love and social interaction that we as humans need. So, how is this relevant to your business?

In one sentence, here it is.

If you are not satisfying a need, you will make little to no sales – period.

If you are in the process of starting your business, you can research a category, idea or product on the Internet very easily. There are websites that you can visit that will help you find out how many people were looking for a particular piece of information, according to the number of times a certain keyword search or phrase was used. A popular site for this is http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/search.html, which has helped fill a gap after too many drop-outs from the Overture Yahoo! Keyword Search tool.

By typing in a keyword or phrase, such as mustang car parts, you will be presented with the results for the previous month. For February 2008, a total of 651 searches were done for this term on the Yahoo search engines.

What this tool does is give you an idea of the potential customers for your product, and helps to highlight potential need in a product or service. The higher the number of searches, the higher the potential for sales

Another great way to find out what your customer’s needs are is to ask them. You can do this in person, over the phone, by email or in the mail. This is great for all types of businesses – online and offline. You can also ask other questions that will help you in growing your business. Questions such as what products they would prefer, how much they would pay for them, and how they go about finding the information for that product. This information is invaluable when you are putting together your business and marketing plans.

Starting, growing and expanding your business is often portrayed as a complex process. Honestly, some of the stages are. But the part that truly matters – whether you are making sales or not – is whether you are meeting the needs of your customer. If the answer to that is yes, then your next stage is to let your customer know you exist.

By finding out what need they have and filling it, you will have a product that will interest them when they find you.

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