Monthly Archives: March 2017

A trademark strategy for your business

In today’s modern and fast paced consumer society, the importance of brands cannot be underestimated. Never before has there been such a vast choice of products and services on offer to consumers across the world. When a company devises a new product, part of the creative and marketing process involves constructing a brand or trade mark for that product, writes David Flynn of FRKelly.

A trademark helps to separate similar products sold by competing companies and helps customers to remember a certain product.

Customers who are satisfied with a particular product link the trademark of that product with reliability and quality. This creates trust and means that in the future the customer will make repeat purchases of goods sold under that trademark. What this means for businesses is that trademarks are extremely important marketing tools and can add substantial value to a company and its products. Before adopting and using a new trademark, a company needs to have a clear strategy of how it intends to protect that trademark and prevent others from using it.

 

Searching Strategy

It is all well and good developing a new brand but a company needs to ensure that the trade mark is available and is not being used for a similar product by a competing company. It is crucial to conduct a search of the relevant trademark registers to ensure a third party has not already registered your trademark.

A comprehensive trade mark search requires specialist software as well as an understanding of trade mark law. A simple internet search is not sufficient. A trademark practitioner can review the results of a trademark search and give a good indication of whether a mark is available to use and register.

Business involves risk and while a trademark search is not infallible, it helps a company assess the risk posed by adopting a particular trademark. If a company launches a new product on the market without undertaking a search, there is a real chance somebody else has exclusive rights to use that trademark. This can have serious and severe commercial repercussions for the business such as a total re-brand, the granting of a court injunction to stop using the mark, damages and whole product lines having to be destroyed. A trademark search helps to reduce the risk of this happening.

 

Filing Strategy

Before launching, a business needs to be sure what territories it will be selling its products in. There are different registration systems available to secure trademark rights. For example, it is possible to register your mark on a country-by-country basis by filing national trademark applications, e.g. if you only want to protect your mark in Ireland, then you can register your mark by filing an Irish trademark application.

If you will be exporting to Europe, a very cost effective option of securing EU-wide trade mark rights is by registering your mark as a European Union Trade Mark. This gives you exclusive trademark rights in all 28 EU member states. There is also the option of the International Trade Mark System. This allows a company to protect its trademark in over 98 territories by simply filing one application and selecting the individual countries it wants its International Trade Mark to cover.

The cost depends on the number of territories selected. An International trademark also allows a company to manage their portfolio of marks through one centralized system.

It is also a good idea for a company to register its trademark in the country where their goods are being manufactured. Sometimes a foreign manufacturer contracted to produce branded goods for a particular company will go ahead and register the trademark themselves. This means that the manufacturer holds the trademark rights and could even prevent the company which hired it from using the mark in that country. Therefore, a company should secure its trademark rights before entering a deal with a particular manufacturer or company, especially abroad and in countries which are intellectual property abuse hotspots (such as china).

If a company’s goods are likely to be counterfeited, then it is wise for the business to register its trade marks with customs. Customs will seize any goods it suspects are counterfeit and will seek confirmation from the business owner whether the goods are genuine or fake.

Effort and commitment that goes into achieving success

We caught up with John at the recent AIB Start-up Academy Dublin Summit and asked him about the importance of self-belief and mentorship.

How important is it to have belief in yourself when starting off in business?

It’s a bit scary and a bit daunting to do something from scratch on your own. There will be days where you doubt yourself, so you definitely need to have that self-belief. I also think that you need to surround yourself with people who are similar to you and who can pick you up when you’re having a down day. You’ll be able to do it vice-versa with them. I’m pretty selective about the people I hang out with. I want to be around high-energy people who can boost me along when I’m not quite there.

As a coach, you act as a mentor to your fighters. How do you approach this role?

When a fighter is starting off, they’re able to lean on me a little bit because they’ve seen the experience I’ve had and the success I’ve had with different fighters. One of my main roles with them is to make them accountable. If they tell me they want to be a champion, I measure the hours they’ve been training. If they’re not training like a champion, they’re not going to be a champion!

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who was considering starting their own business?

Number one for me, in whatever you’re doing, is to make sure you really really enjoy it, because you’ve got to be ready for long, long hours. An average week for me is 60-70 hours and anybody I know who works for themselves would have a similar story. Unless you really enjoy something, you won’t stick with it!

Important to have contact with your customers

As a small business, it’s important to have contact with your customers. But some phone calls could easily be handled by your website and other digital channels — saving time for you and your customers. Here are some ideas for how to tweak your website to handle some routine calls.

 

1. Add an FAQ page

You already know which questions come up again and again. Answer them once and for all on your website by creating a frequently asked questions (FAQs) page. Update this page regularly to keep up with the latest developments and to answer timely questions.

2. Review your website navigation

Maybe you already have plenty of information on your site, but no one can find it. If you use a creative, nonstandard navigation scheme, take a look at your web analytics to see if that is preventing people from finding the information they need. Even if you use standard navigation, check your labels. Are they clear and accurate?

3. Add a video demonstration

If you’re spending a lot of time on the phone giving directions on how to use your product, a video demonstration could save time. And because nothing beats a visual demonstration, an online video will be more helpful to your customers than a phone conversation with you.

4. Offer Internet-only sales

Take a page from the airlines’ book, and offer lower prices for customers who purchase online. Or, offer online-only sales to encourage people to buy online rather than calling or visiting your store. Financially, this strategy makes sense because buying online does not use your staff resources they way an in-person or telephone sale does. And, a lower online rate helps defray the cost of shipping, which is one reason many customers prefer to shop in person.

5. Utilise your social channels

These days, people are very content to engage with a business on social media to get to the bottom of their issues. Instead of leaving an email or making a call, why not enquire on an open platform like Facebook or Twitter – you might even find your answer on a business’ profile already.

6. Display your security and encryption features prominently

Some people still prefer placing an order by telephone because of fears about online security. Help overcome this obstacle by highlighting the steps you take to safeguard their information, and make it clear that you won’t sell their information to third parties.

7. Offer email support

Display your email address more prominently than your phone number. Email is a real time-saver compared to a phone call. First, you don’t have to drop everything to answer an email. Second, you can take your time to find the answer to the questions, and you can get right to the point in your conversation with the customer.

8. Automate quotes, reservations and other functions online

If build an automated system to handle quotes, reservations, bookings or other critical functions, you can free up considerable resources for more mission-critical activities.

9. Include your business hours on your Contact Us page

If you own a retail shop or restaurant, you probably get tons of calls asking what time you open and close. Make sure your hours are displayed on your website and directory listings to help reduce these calls.

How to managing farm Cash Flow

Getting to grips with cash flow management is integral to farming success. But with farmers facing a variety of challenging factors from the weather, to volatile output prices, to Brexit, it can often feel like navigating a minefield.

To get an overview of some of the options available to farmers, we spoke to AIB Agri Advisor Patrick O’Meara about the current landscape and its effects on cash flow. He also provided us with some useful methods for cash flow planning and dealing with common cash flow concerns. Read on to find out more.

 

The Current Landscape

For all farmers, the outlook for 2017 depends on the specific sector you are working in. “Pig and dairy sectors are going through a positive period at the moment in terms of increases in market prices,” Patrick notes. “Both those sectors have come through a difficult period so it’s encouraging to see. In the beef and tillage sectors, there’s some frustration at farmer-level with prices and also concern around Brexit.”

Brexit will continue to throw up challenges for farmers and add a level of uncertainty, but there are some aspects of the changing economic climate you can plan for. “It’s difficult to know exactly what the effects of Brexit might be,” Patrick explains. “But in the short-term, you’ll need to consider the impact of exchange rates on output prices when planning.” In the medium term, he says, legislative changes will come into play: “You’re looking at the potential impact of CAP reform and you’re also considering tariffs and trade agreements that may be developed between the UK and Europe.”

While there are many uncertainties that are outside of the control of farmers, it is important to control what is inside the farm gate. “Improving on-farm efficiency and competitiveness is essential to managing risk and sustaining your business through any future potential challenges” according to Patrick.