Are you a successful business?

By , March 8, 2014 9:26 am

Three of the most important things startups need to focus on / demonstrate if they are raising money, want to grow or just plain want to be successful:

1.       Gaining customers (or if no proof of concept then a list of qualified customers)

2.       Showing they know how to grow their business

3.       Demonstrating profitability and ROI

These points may sound easy to achieve and you may be saying to yourself, ho hum, I don’t need to read further.

Point number 1 – gaining customers is something that many startups and small businesses don’t focus on. They fall into my Lie #1 – If I build it, they will come.  Investors (and actually the company owners should feel this way too) are looking to see where your market is – are you marketing?  And startups, even marketing startups, often get lost in this space.  Ask yourself:  Would I invest in a company that can’t show me their market?  The customers lined up to buy the product as soon as it’s available?  A list of beta-testers?  ANY INTEREST AT ALL?

More and more I’m seeing startups and small businesses flounder in this area.  Forget for the moment Michael Moore’s crossing the chasm…these businesses aren’t even getting the early adopters.  Take heed and show the market interest.

Here’s some interesting related points:

http://www.alleywatch.com/2014/02/5-red-flags-of-startups/?utm_source=AlleyWatch+Daily+Pulse&utm_campaign=c1ae92d926-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e01c347085-c1ae92d926-62886025


Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

A logo / design and tag line do not make a brand – especially a fashion brand

By , February 22, 2014 9:46 am

Yes. They are definitely contributors but there’s a 360-universe that comprises a brand and those elements are only a part of it. A key part of your brand is the brand promise:  what are you going to deliver?  It’s great if you can promise to deliver something no one else is talking about.  My company offers 60%-1,000% return-on-investment.  We back it up with numbers from actual clients.  A promise like this may not have clients knocking down the doors, but they ARE going to remember a promise that breaks through the clutter.

In what used to be called image marketing (such as fashion, liquor, and in the old days cigarettes),  you are often selling a story as the brand promise.  A story that the buyer believes will become their experience if they purchase and use the product.  Ralph Lauren is a master at creating stories that invite you to participate by wearing his clothing.

Below are some links that offer advice on branding for any kind of business (even Tom Fords’ advice works beyond the fashion world).

http://www.manta.com/TOTD/marketing/20140220/tm0h1bq

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/12/define-brand.html

http://www.vogue.com.au/fashion/news/tom+fords+14+tips+on+building+a+fashion+brand,28189


Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

3 Things Entrepreneurs should know about WordPress

By , February 1, 2014 8:53 am

Today’s blog is guest written by Stephanie Cockerl, a WordPress expert.
Stephanie owns nextSTEPH  a company that helps individuals, small businesses and companies take their websites to the next level.  She’s been doing this for over 16 years. nextSTEPH provides web development, search engine and social media services to clientele in the education, health, media, non-profit, and publishing industries.  For more information, visit http://www.nextsteph.com.

3 Things Entrepreneurs should know about WordPress

If you have been online for a while, hopefully you have heard the word “WordPress.”

WordPress has impacted the way people communicate and publish on the web.

Nearly 20% of the web operates on WordPress. (http://techland.time.com/2013/07/29/the-word-from-wordpress-catching-up-with-matt-mullenweg/). Many companies, media outlets, public figures, entertainers and non-profits run on WordPress. Here are some examples, http://wordpress.org/showcase/.

WordPress (http://www.wordpress.org)  is an open-source content management system or CMS for short.  “Open source” means that the software is non-proprietary. There is no additional cost for installing in on a website (other than web hosting.)

Anyone is free to contribute to the development of WordPress, from participating in the forums to attending and volunteering at WordPress conferences, or WordCamps. Developers contribute their support to the core software (http://wordpress.org/download/), themes (the templates), and plugins (mini- applications that extend beyond the WordPress core functionality.

Not long ago, if you didn’t know HTML, how to find web hosting, and create webpages, you were out of luck.  Now with WordPress, anyone can have a site within minutes.

One thing that entrepreneurs get confused about when getting started with WordPress is what version to use.  There are two versions of WordPress, www.wordpress.com  (hosted on WordPress ) and www.wordpress.org (self-hosted.)

WordPress.com

By using first method, www.wordpress.com. WordPress is hosting the website.

The benefit of having an account on WordPress.com is that you don’t have to contend with obtaining web hosting. You can also have multiple “blogs” or “websites” under one account.

When you sign up for a new account, you would be given a default web address like yoursite.wordpress.com. If you eventually obtain your own domain name, WordPress.com charges a yearly fee to attach it to your account. As the site grows, you may want to add more functionality. WordPress.com may not be able to accommodate it unless more space on the account is purchased. Also, if you don’t have your own domain, you are vulnerable if wordpress.com has hosting difficulties. If WordPress.com goes down, no one will be able to see your site.   That would be the point to consider self–hosting. When you establish your self-hosted website and you would like to forward your wordpress.com address to your own domain, there is also a fee for that.

WordPress.org

Most web hosts make it easy to install WordPress. WordPress is known for it’s “5 Minute Install.” Web hosts should also have a control panel in which WordPress is located.

Making your WordPress Site Yours

Once you install WordPress, it already comes with a default theme. If you want, you can start filling it up with content, or you can find a theme (http://wordpress.org/themes/) that better suits your website.

Once you find a theme you like and you have customized it to your liking, you may discover that the site needs a bit something extra. This is where plugins come in. Plugins extend the functionality of your site. If you want to install a form, or a place for banner ads, the plugin section of WordPress.org

(http://wordpress.org/plugins/) is where you would look.

WordPress has come a long way in under a decade. From what was once thought of as just another blogging platform to being the preferred CMS of not only the famous, but also those who want a flexible and manageable solution to make their mark on the web.

Stephanie M. Cockerl is the owner of nextSTEPH. The company has been helping individuals, small businesses and companies take their websites to the next level for over 16 years. nextSTEPH provides web development, search engine and social media services to clientele in the education, health, media, non-profit, and publishing industries.  For more information, visit http://www.nextsteph.com

 

 

So what’s the connection between marketing and intellectual property?

By , January 18, 2014 8:41 am

Here’s a key connection:
Marketing, and branding are essential foundations for creating a successful business. That’s why it’s crucial to protect your intellectual property. Not just patents, but your name and your company’s name as well. That’s what goes into creating your company or your personal brand. It’s what tells your customers that everything that comes from your company can be counted on to deliver the same quality over and over, even if it’s a different product. You come to expect the same quality, service, and experience at every Starbucks you walk into no matter what city, state, or country. Can you imagine what Starbucks would have had to do to re-name, re-brand and essentially re-create itself if, say two years into the company, another company came along and said, “hey, we have that name. And we have it registered as a trademark three years ago.”  That’s exactly what happened to a client of mine. After we created a beautiful logo, corporate ID package, website, sales sheets, a brochure, and convention panels, (all of which takes time, costs the client money, and wound up getting serious recognition for their brand) another company came along and sent them a cease and desist letter claiming their trademark rights. It turned out that my client, fortunately, had filed for their trademark before the challenger. Thus, it was the challenger that had to go through that whole long process of rebranding.

It’s a lot more time, energy, and money consuming to have to stop using a name or title, etc. than to do a trademark search to begin with.

Here are some other points of connection between marketing and intellectual property offered by Sharon Toerek:
http://blog.traklight.com/why-marketers-should-care-about-intellectual-property

 

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

Business Startup Basics

By , January 11, 2014 8:24 am

Okay so it’s still January and below is a link to another list –  this one is good for all times.  The 20 points are all business startup basics. Great post.

I’ll add one point to the list:  21. Protect your intellectual property. Trademark, patent, copyright, trade dress and protect your trade secrets.  Make sure you own your name (Prince vs. the artist formerly known as Prince; Bistro Laurent Tourondal/BLT vs. Café Ruhlmann are just two examples of an artist and chef respectively who have had to fight to keep their name).

http://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2014/01/07/20-business-lessons-you-dont-want-to-learn-the-hard-way/#!

 

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

Forget New Year’s Resolutions – it’s time to plan your marketing moves for 2014!

By , January 4, 2014 9:04 am

Actually you should have started in October but if you didn’t, then now’s the time.  No more procrastination.

The beauty of planning is that you know when opportunities (others or the ones you make for yourself) are coming up, you actually schedule them and you can prepare for them. If you can’t do this yourself, then find someone to work with who can.  It’s not that difficult.

Janet Falk will be giving tips on media planning (for non-profits but these tips will work for you as well) on the radio. If you miss her live, you can still hear the broadcast.

Check out her blog:
http://us6.campaign-archive1.com/?u=c87b80819a244b029786430f7&id=dd4f8da0fd

Connect to the broadcast:
http://tonymartignetti.com/2013/12/nonprofit-radio-january-3-2014-media-strategy-2014-social-sites-watch-2014/

Why you should have started planning in October:
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229642

 

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

Is big data* changing the need for focus groups?

By , December 21, 2013 8:52 am

Recent articles suggest that there is so much information being gathered about customers and spending and everything else you can think of, that the need to do traditional market research is starting to fall by the wayside.  Data will give you all the information you need to predict consumer actions.  As I noted in my recent post about consumers using Amazon and other sources to comparative shop for price and quality, features and benefits, big data still reports historically on what consumers have done, therefore, you are looking backwards to predict the future. Yes, I know, history repeats itself but when you’re selling next seasons’ clothing line, you might want to reconsider consulting the past.  And I agree that focus groups and other agency/consultant and client pre-conceived ideas put in front of customers should fall by the wayside (after all, a focus group puts these ideas in front of the customer and asks the customer what they think about your ideas, not what the customer wants).

I’m sure if you are a huge corporation, having access to all this data must be comforting. But it’s still all seen from the perspective of the market and not the customer.  I believe that nothing is better than asking your customers what they want and how they want it.  That’s a predictive, not historical, approach. I’ve done it for big corporations (one had a return-on-investment of 1,000%) and I’ve don’t it for solopreneurs (one had a return-on-investment of 60%).   I suggest you do it for yourself.  Get out there and poll your customers directly.  Mimoona, which is a new crowdfunding tool (http://www.mimoona.com/?reffID=4299), allows your customers to have a vote on your next seasons line – and it’s not an idle vote – they vote with their credit cards.

*Big data is a term coined for the collection of data that comes in such large volume and in groupings, that it can’t be handled by traditional methods. The value of mining big data, is that enables one to see connections on a larger scale than ever before, as well as see connections between things that were never before available.

 

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

Are you still the sucker you used to be?

By , December 14, 2013 8:46 am

New research was just released that demonstrates a big shift in how consumers buy and what influences their purchase. Traditional ads no longer have the same power to shape consumer opinions as they once did. Amazon (the ultimate cost and quality comparison, along with others) influence consumers more than ever.  The studies were based on the “compromise” effect – (see NYT article below for the full story) are probably now saying to yourself, ho hum… and why is this news?  Well, it took a while for the establishment to document what most of us already know and practice organically.  However, some of the results of the study suggest that digital feedback in the digital world allows marketers to see what works and what doesn’t – what messages are influencing customers and which ones aren’t.  And they can make adjustments accordingly…and very quickly.  This is all very well and good, and excellent support (although the writers and researchers don’t see it from the customers’ point-of-view, so they are still missing the point) for my position that customer-focused information and insight right from the beginning…pre- advertising/marketing/PR efforts and spending, is more valuable than measuring what works after you’ve spent all that time, money and effort and then correcting it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/business/theres-power-in-all-those-user-reviews.html?smid=pl-share

 

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

How a clothing line moved itself from product to brand

By , November 23, 2013 10:15 am

Here’s a really great case history about how a fashion company used customer-focused market research and marketing.

The TwirlyGirl clothing line polled their customers about the feelings/descriptive words that identified the clothing to them.  They took the results, which when all combined generated a single consistent image, and came up with the word “transformative”.  This was the genesis of the brand.  They next took this information a step further and changed all their copy to reflect the transformative attitude.

This not only became the brand, which TwirlyGirl now has established, but also positioned the company and clothing line in its own space with regards to other girls clothing lines.  A very important double punch to success.  Because there are lots of girls clothing lines, but only TwirlyGirl provides an experience with each piece of clothing. What a great differentiator and competitive advantage.  By following this course of action, they have created a strong niche for themselves.

http://www.twirlygirlshop.com/blog/post/3577776


Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

New law protects fashion/runway models and could cost YOU

By , November 16, 2013 8:18 am

On November 20, a new law New York State law will go into effect that qualifies and protects child (defined as anyone under the age of 18) print and runway models as “child performers”.
So what does this mean for a fashion designer using “young” talent?

Even if you are not paying your models a traditional fee, you are still affected by this new law. According to Wendy Stryker, who is  Counsel, Executive Compensation and Employment Group at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC (a law firm who has a specialization in entertainment and media law) “I think that the new law is at odds with any practice of having models work for merchandise or experience.  It makes clear that employers using print and runway models who live or work in New York must comply with the permit, trust account and other provisions.  This will place additional administrative and financial burdens on all employers, and particularly on those without staff who are equipped to deal with the new paperwork. “

For a lot of you this new law will present a huge headache when planning to present new lines.  When you plan for your next runway show, trunk show, catalog, look book etc.  check out the age of the models you plan to use and make sure you are in compliance with the  law.  If you violate the law and are caught, your permit could be suspended and you could pay a fine of $1,000 for the first time you are caught, $2,000 for the second and so on.  Make sure you are in compliance by checking out your specific situation with your attorney or you can ask Wendy at wstryker@fkks.com.
Here are some more of the basic parts of this rule concerning the new law. For more information contact your attorney or Wendy.

Permits: Employers must now apply for and obtain a general Employer Certificate of Eligibility from the New York State Department of Labor before they employ any child performers. Employers must also verify that all child performers they employ have a valid employment permit from educational authorities such as a superintendent of schools as well as a certificate of physical fitness. All certificates and permits must be available at all times for inspection by authorized entities. At least two days before employing a child model, employers must also file a Notice of Use with the Department of Labor advising of their intent to employ child performers.  Notice of Use forms can be found http://labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/wp/LS556.pdf?utm_source=11.5.13+Fashion+Law+Alert&utm_campaign=11.6.2013+Fashion+Alert&utm_medium=email.

For purposes of the new law, a “child performer’s employer” will be considered a person or entity that employs a child model either directly, or through an agency or loan-out company.

Parent or Guardian: Child models must now have a designated responsible person on set at all times (for performers under age 16) or a nurse (for infants).

Trust Accounts: Prior to the first instance of employment, the Department of Labor requires that a child performer’s parent or guardian establish a child performer trust account. Employers must deposit at least 15% of the child’s gross earnings into this trust account. Trust accounts may be set up anywhere, so long as they meet the New York State requirements, or are a California “Coogan” type account.

Limited Work Hours: Under the existing child performer regulations, child performers are limited to restricted working hours based on age and school attendance. A chart summarizing the permitted working hours can be found http://labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/wp/LS559.pdf?utm_source=11.5.13+Fashion+Law+Alert&utm_campaign=11.6.2013+Fashion+Alert&utm_medium=email.

 

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

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