Category Archives: Business

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.

More interactive and lists media

Claire didn’t follow a traditional path into Silicon Valley, having attended Ballyfermot Art College’s Rock School and studied communications at DIT, before eventually co-founding Axonista in 2010 with former colleague Daragh Ward.

“If you look back to when the iPhone came out, that was a pivotal moment for me, it was probably the founding vision of our company. I think Daragh showed me an episode of Family Guy on my mobile phone and I remember thinking this is the future – you can actually watch video on your mobile phone, what does this mean for the future of video? So, that’s what Axonista do. We help brands navigate that whole new era of television that is online and has leaped off the TV set in the living room and is now on all these different smart devices.”

“Previously, I worked in sports TV – in Setanta, which was also a really cool start-up. I knew back then that the market was shifting and going through phenomenal change. TV definitely isn’t dead but it’s evolving into a two-way interactive system with audiences. Our company name Axonista means ‘revolutionary thinking’ which comes from the word ‘axon’ which is the cell that processes and transmits information travelling through your brain.”

“Starting out, we got a Horizon 2020 grant for 2 million Euro. We also raised seed capital from Enterprise Ireland and from some angel investors, but we always reinvest back into the business and into research and development. We have about 20 people in the company now but there’s no school that teaches you how to be the CEO of company – you just have to do it. Being a female CEO in a tech industry I try to be approachable and visible so that young women can see me and say ‘ok she doesn’t have a strictly tech background but she’s making it and maybe that’s something I could do’, I try to put myself out there.”

This and much, much more on The Capital B below. Download and subscribe here.

The Capital B is available every Monday morning from 7am; listeners can tune in on Soundcloud and can also download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and other podcast providers.

Pointy Helps You Find it Locally

Mark Cummins, the man behind Pointy, spoke on The Capital B this week. Not his first foray into the world of tech (he previously sold a company to Google), Pointy aims to help get local stores online as well as help consumers find the products they need fast.

So what exactly does it do? Pointy is a device that attaches to the barcode scanner in each shop and automatically lists the products to a website, Mark explained where the concept came from;

“It really simplifies making a website for a local shop, quite a lot of local retailers have websites but they’re not getting anything out of it. Consumers are looking for products and that product information is not available online so all the local shops are invisible. When people are doing these searches on Google they’re getting redirected, so local stores are not picking up the business that by rights they should be”

“It’s like a location service, most of the time people just want to go in and pick up the product in person, you’d be absolutely amazed by what people search for.”

Pointy also has some big name investors behind it, international rugby star Jamie Heaslip is involved, who Mark says has a huge interest in tech.

“He’s actually very tech savvy, it’s an interest of his, he likes that we have a local Irish angle”.

Also on The Capital B this week, we’re chatting to the Commercial Director of Lidl Ireland, the founder of Popertee delivers a lesson on how to find the perfect retail space for your store and Freshii’s Dave O’Donoghue on why talk is big but execution is everything.

The Health and Safety Authority

Unfortunately, between January and June this year we have already seen twelve farm fatalities. In the last ten years, excluding 2017 incidents, almost 200 families have suffered the loss of a loved one because of an accident on an Irish farm – that’s almost one every three weeks.

Farm Safety is About Real People

These aren’t just statistics – they are real people, real farming families – and the scary thing is that they don’t even account for the 2,500 plus farm families impacted by serious farm accidents each year. The fact that there are very few of us who don’t know of someone impacted by farm accidents shows us the scale of the challenge. It also shows that they occur all over the country, across all sectors, and that neither young nor old are immune to the potential dangers – over 45% of farm fatalities in the last ten years have involved children or older farmers.

 

“It Won’t Happen to Me”

The blurring of the farm as a giant playground and place of residence, the diverse workload (often completed alone and under time pressure) and the fact that few farmers ever really retire, explain in part why the rate of agricultural-related fatalities is far higher than any other economic sector. But does it really get to the heart of the issue? Does it justify why the level of farm accidents is so reluctant to decline or why similar accidents occur year after year on Irish farms?

The simple answer is no, and to improve requires collective effort and acceptance by us all that a farm accident can happen on any farm. All too often, myself included, we think it won’t happen to us: “I know every inch of the farm, I was born here and have worked here every day since. I know where the dangers are and can avoid them”.

 

Don’t Take Chances

Chances are often taken as a result. And whether it’s getting into the pen with a freshly calved cow, not turning off the PTO when dealing with a blockage or making sure the handbrake is on and all brakes/lights working, the outcome can be fatal. I’m not in any way trying to paint a picture of negligence on the part of the farmer. Instead, I’m hoping to point out that sometimes familiarity leads to complacency and because we are so familiar with our surroundings, and our activities, we fail to see the wood from the trees.

And it’s not just the obvious things that we need to be conscious of. It’s the smaller or more trivial things where in hindsight we’d say, ‘I should have fixed that weeks ago’ or ‘What was I thinking of going so fast on the quad?’. Speaking to anyone about farm accidents, very often the bull or the uncovered PTO shaft spring to mind. But combined, they account for less than 5% of farm fatalities in the last 10 years. Nearly three times more have died from falls on Irish farms and five times more after being crushed by farm machinery.

 

Small Changes Make a Huge Difference

Ultimately, managing safety on our farms is our own personal responsibility, and should be a constant in our daily farm plans and activities. Not just for our own safety, but that of our families, employees and visitors to our farm.

The good news is that small changes to farm facilities and practices can make huge differences and there are a range of supports available. For example, The Health and Safety Authority have a range of practical guides and safety tips on their website to help identify and control potential challenges across a range of farm activities.

Identifying your target market

Identifying your target market is one of the most crucial steps you need to take when you’re starting a business or launching new products and services. When you have a good handle on who your target customer is, you can not only create a product that suits their needs, you can also produce advertising and promotional copy to capture their interest and get them to buy. But how do you identify that target market?

Start with the problem

A good way to determine who is likely to become your customer is to clarify the problem that your product or service addresses. For example, you run a housecleaning service. The problem that you solve is doing cleaning for people who cannot or do not want to do these jobs themselves. Upper income families, families where both parents work, and older people who no longer have the ability to do their own housekeeping, are all potential customers for your services.

Define your customer’s characteristics

Listing out the characteristics of your typical customer is another good step towards identifying your target audience. These characteristics need not be personal ones; they can pertain to lifestyle, income, geographical location, hobbies, and many other things. For example, for a gardening service, one type of target customer are people who live in neighborhoods with well-manicured lawns, attractive plantings and colorful flowers around their homes.

The business could also target corporate clients who want their office surroundings landscaped. For a business that specialises in home security, the ideal customers may be in a residential area that has a high crime rate and in high-income residential areas. Women living alone who worry about safety may be another potential target for sales. Listing out these characteristics allows you to zero in on your target audience accurately.

What is your primary market?

Many products and services address the needs of a variety of people but they still have a primary audience. These are the people who:

  • Gain the most benefits
  • Have the greatest need for these services/products
  • Have the ability to pay for them
  • Buy the biggest quantity of them on a regular basis.

Knowing who makes up this primary audience should be your goal when you are trying to identify your target market. For example, for a bakery, the local consumer may be a recurring source of business, but the icing on the cake (forgive the pun) may be local restaurants who buy breads and desserts in quantity to serve to their customers.

If you’re starting out in business, be sure to check out our business start-up package for tips, tools and more.

Dress to Impress in the Workplace

“If you’re too casual in your dress sense, you’re going to be casual in your job.” That’s the advice of tailor Louis Copeland, and there’s no shortage of places to get fitted in Dublin these days either.

Copeland has described how Conor McGregor single-handedly breathed new life into his business, and that the UFC superstar’s influence has altered men’s fashion in Ireland.

The 28-year-old from Crumlin has built up an association with the Louis Copeland tailoring business since his earliest days in mixed martial arts, and the man behind the Dublin business told Nick Webb on The Capital B about working with one of the biggest names on the planet.

It all started with an appearance on The Late Late Show.

“The first suit we gave him, he went on The Late Late Show and Ryan Tubridy told him he was looking great. Conor said, “Louis Copelando!” revealed Copeland.

“He’s been great for us because he’s given us a younger image, and people now realise we cater for everybody. The everyman on the street is our regular customer.”

McGregor continues to visit Copeland in his flagship Capel Street store, one of six owned by the Copeland family as well as its online business.

“The Conor McGregor look has been the best thing that’s happened to us. It’s been brilliant because he’s brought style to younger people. When did you ever see 16 or 17-year-olds dressing up in suits, bow ties, pocket squares and nice shoes? It really has made a big difference in the fashion industry.

“You’ve got to go out there and hit them between the two eyes, but now he’s beginning to tone it down a bit but he still wears nice clothes. He’s made people aware of how to dress up.”

Copeland also spoke about the constant evolution in men’s fashion in this country, and the reason why Irish men prefer darker suits to those worn by people on the continent.

“Everyone’s wearing blue suits, light brown shoes, etc. Things are changing all the time. The light brown shoes are going darker, they look a bit more subtle,” he told Webb.

“The thing about Irish people is their complexion. Irish people haven’t got the complexion that Italian or French counterparts have. They look better in darker colours – if you put light colours on a fella who’s a bit pale, he looks like a milk bottle. It’s important you match the colours to the complexion.”

He’s also keen to see Irish men start to ‘dress up’ for work, as he believes a casual look in the workplace leads to a casual attitude.

“If you’re too casual in your dress sense, you’re going to be casual in your job. You don’t see a guard or an army officer wearing a t-shirt. If you put a good suit on you, it’s like a suit of armour. You feel good, your head goes back, your shoulders go back and you just feel better.”

The Capital B is available every Monday morning from 7am; listeners can tune in on Soundcloud and can also download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and other podcast providers.

USP for your Start up Business with Lisa Hughes

As a business coach with over two decades of experience and a mentor with the AIB Start-up Academy, Lisa Hughes knows what it takes to make a successful start-up.

We spoke to her to find out how finding your Unique Selling Proposition or USP can make a serious difference to your business.

Get an Outside Perspective

As an entrepreneur herself, Lisa cautions that it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of running your business and lose sight of what truly makes your product unique. “You can’t see a building in its entirety when you’re inside the building,” she explains. “And when you’re an entrepreneur, who’s living and breathing your business every day, you can easily lose perspective on it. What ends up happening is that the business owner is not looking at the product from their customers’ perspective. They’re looking at it from the inside out.”

“We are all here to serve our customers, to take people’s pain away or add value,” she continues. “Until we get that message baked into our thinking, then sometimes it’s going to feel like we’re pushing a rock up a hill because we’re selling something that perhaps we don’t necessarily want or need. Ultimately, your USP is what your customers value. Not what you value.”

Learn From Customer Behaviour

Know your customer is a familiar business mantra, but finding your USP can require a more wide-ranging approach than traditional market research. “Sometimes if you ask a customer what they like about your product, they will tell you things that they think you want to hear,” Lisa says. “But ultimately, it’s their buying behaviour that tells you what they really do value. Lynne Twist always says, “Look at your chequebook”. Where you send your money is what you really value.”

“If we take the example of Kiki Moon from this year’s Start-up Academy,” she explains. “Keelin had developed this beautiful baby blanket, but what happened is that people started asking if she had it in a bigger size. It completely changed her view from ‘this is a baby product’ into ‘this is a product that everyone can enjoy’. And all of a sudden she had all kinds of market segments opening up.”

While Lisa doesn’t discount the value of market research, she cautions that a holistic approach to examining customer behaviour can pay greater dividends. “Listening to your customers for unprompted things is probably going to give you greater insights,” she says. “If you’re asking your customers specific questions you already have an agenda. Whereas listening to the online conversation around your product can really help you to understand what people really want from it because they will discuss it more naturally.”