One sure way to beat this fire walk

Aren’t you just tired with people who make statements about small businesses but are far removed from the trenches of real business?

Politicians make yada yada in the media about supporting small business.

Academics chirp in on how jobs should be created by small business.

Conferences and summits with hefty admission fees are held on the state of small business where there’s much dreary theory but little hands-on practical advice. Continue reading “One sure way to beat this fire walk”

It took 5,000 ideas to take this product to market

James Dyson came up with an idea for a bagless vacuum cleaner — inspired by an industrial cyclone at a timber mill — in the late 1960s.

After five years of testing and more than 5,000 “mistakes”, or prototypes as engineers call them, his vacuum cleaner concept was ready to take to market.

But all the big brand manufacturers slammed doors in his face.

Why?

Their business model was selling vacuum cleaners and bags — which made them lots of money.

He had to eventually launch his vacuum cleaner himself – in 1993.

He became a billionaire.

It’s hard not to admire this guy. Think of the many rejections he had to face. Imagine having to deal with all the people who must have thought he was crazy.

“What’s important is that I didn’t stop at the first failure, the 50th, or the 5,000th,” he wrote in a news magazine. “I never will.”

Such persistence is incredible. How many times have we come up with promising ideas and keep working on them for years?

In my case I had an idea for a website similar to www.ideaaccelerator.co.za that I started in 2005 for entrepreneurs. But I packed in it after a year because of competing interests.

It was only in 2010 that I decided to start a new blog on the easier WordPress platform. Keeping the momentum for the first year was difficult but now it has taken on a life of its own.

Persistence, someone said, is to the character of people as carbon is to steel. It’s hard to define but so essential for bringing a product or service to life.

How often do we have ideas and just give up at the first obstacle? How far would you go in pursuing your idea for a product or service? Would you keep at your idea for several decades until you finally brought it to market? Could you keep going, refining your idea after 5,000 mistakes?

Look at it this way, each one of Dyson’s 5,000 mistakes actually involved coming up with a new idea each time. It’s a myth that innovation is one single event or flash of inspiration. You sometimes need to build ideas upon ideas as you refine your product or service for the market place.

It’s ironic that Dyson was forced to sue one of the companies that had rejected his design years back. Success leads to copycats.

Want to come up with and develop ideas of your own?

Tune into www.ideaaccelerator.co.za for ideas and articles.

Stay inspired

Chesney Bradshaw

Caught in the act

Doesn’t it make you angry when a large company that knows better copies an idea from a smaller entrepreneurial business?

A large retail food company was recently taken to court by a small beverage company that makes cool drinks with a distinctive retro brand image. The larger company thought that it could just “swipe” the branding slogan from the smaller supplier and stock its shelves with its own house brand product.

Click here if you want to see details: http://mg.co.za/article/2012-02-01-asa-orders-woolies-to-remove-frankies-slogan

Just do a Google search and you’ll see many large companies all over the world have been taken to court for copyright infringement. It happens in many industries – music, books, software.

But it’s not just large companies that do this. People do it all the time in all walks of life.

For business people, entrepreneur’s and solo artists it’s important to know your rights when it comes to copyright, company names and trademarks.

The first thing that you’ve got to understand is what is covered by intellectual property rights. Although ideaaccelerator.co.za is domiciled in South Africa its subscribers are from all over the world. We therefore would prefer to quote as our reference the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

You’ll see from the WIPO site that intellectual property includes rights relating to everything from literary, artistic and scientific works to industrial designs, trademarks, service marks and commercial names and all other rights from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artisticfields.

If you’d like to find out more, go to the WIPO website: http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/iprm/

This international website will give you an idea of what to watch out for. Make sure you check out information that applies to the country where you do business.

For entrepreneurs, consultants, small manufacturers and even coaches who sell specialised systems, make sure when you dealing with anyone from business partners and family to suppliers that they sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). It’s not an absolute guarantee that you’ll stop someone from trying to use your idea but it makes the disclosure of your ideas to others a serious and formalised process.

When you go about producing your own ideas for profit just make sure that you don’t inadvertently or unconsciously copy from others whether big or small.

It’s far better to do your own idea generation and idea combinations to come up with products and services.

If you feel unsure of anything when it comes to copyright or trade marks, make sure you consult with a legal professional.

Stay inspired
Chesney

Rather don’t try this to perk up slow sales

A “perfect” family moves into an upper middle-class neighborhood, invites their neighbours over and proudly shows them the products they’ve bought from high-tech toys and designer clothes to luxury cars.

Perfect couple Steve and Kate Jones, and their gorgeous teen-aged children Jenn and Mick, are all in it together – they’ve signed up as professional product promoters.

Unsuspecting, envious, neigbours buy high-tech golf clubs, high-priced jewels and gourmet food to keep up with the “The Joneses”.

Soon some of their buying behaviour starts to have tragic consequences.

“The Joneses” is a movie that shows the fictive world of stealth marketing gone crazy.

Stealth or undercover marketing involves inducing consumers to buy without realizing they are being marketed to.

Small businesses wouldn’t stoop at using such dubious techniques but with their biggest problem being weak consumer spending they need to find out more about their customers – why they are not buying and, when they do, what kinds of purchases are they making.

Formal market “research” – focus groups, interviews, questionnaires — costs a lot of money. You don’t want to do that if you’ve got a small business.

To get a better handle on what your market wants and needs generate ideas on how to find out your customers’ problems, how they use your products and what keeps them from buying more from your business.

You’ll get a better understanding of the realities your customers face when you get out and listen to them. You may find opportunities to better serve them, which could mean more business for you.

By taking time out to talk to your customers and observe them, you may find that they need associated products and services that you may not have thought about.

Knowing your market, what your customers want and their changing needs, is what all small business people need to know.

Especially when sales are down and could slow some more.

But how often do we assume we know what’s best for our customers, try outguess them and arrogantly decide what they should buy?

To keep in touch with what customers need, want and desire you have to get into their world and understand their problems.


Stay inspired.

 

Chesney Bradshaw

 

The power of generating low-cost promotional ideas: a fight-back strategy

Come up with your own free, easy and low-cost promotion ideas that can help you to lift sales in a difficult economy

In this rough and tumble economy, some business people sit, like frogs in a pot immobilised with the water temperature rising. Even when the temperature hits boiling point, they remain in the pot. If the frogs suddenly stumbled into the pot of boiling water, they wouldn’t hesitate to jump right out. Why then don’t small business people react quickly when they recognize warning signs?  

Many business people seem to stubbornly believe that they can rough it through the difficult economy doing business in the same familiar way, despite turnovers in some cases plummeting by a third or more. Small business has such a high mortality rate in “normal” economic conditions but when economic activity declines, the mortality rate rises.

Riding high and spending less

During the good times small business owners were riding high. They spent less on their marketing as customers walked in and bought whatever they wanted. Small business owners were spoilt as they had to do little personal selling or advertising.

Now, when times are tough and small business owners and entrepreneurs are more concerned with meeting personnel expenses and covering overheads they are even more reluctant to spend money on promotion. Yet clients and customers are holding onto their cash, waiting for times improve, hanging onto their homes, cars, computers, household appliances for longer, repairing them instead of replacing them.What should store owners and small service businesses do?

Ignore selling and promotion at your peril

Even though small business owners have seen turnovers drop many are wary of spending money on promotion. Some are trying to play it cheap by bringing in well meaning family and friends to help them promote their products and services. Other owners knuckle down on the technical areas and processes in their business, ignoring selling and promotion at their peril.Promotional ideas need to work

Little do those businesses who use retail space or have high visibility and walk-in customers realise that if they don’t do something to promote their business and lift sales, they will be forced into operating the business from home to chop overhead. Running a business from home ironically means needing to acquire a whole set of new marketing skills.

How do you go about promoting your business in a stormy economy where every cent counts? Small businesses and entrepreneurial enterprises cannot pour vast sums on vague institutional (image) advertising with no way to measure sales. Entrepreneurs need to generate sales — even when advertising in traditional print media, adverts have to be “keyed” and have special phone numbers specific to adverts. This way they can measure their advertising conversion. A small travel agent told me recently that she had a separate phone number for each advert to measure response. If the newspaper, magazine, radio or television advertising didn’t pull, it had to go.

Test, test, test

Promotional ideas that work are specific to each business and the mind or emotional triggers of their customers. Small business owners need to brainstorm ideas that they think will work for their business. Try some no-cost, low-cost ideas out first and see how they work. Remember to test, test, test. As Claude Hopkins said, “Almost any question can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign.”

To get fighting fit in this economy small business owners and entrepreneurs need to focus their attention on attracting customers to their business through a variety of low-cost, no-cost promotional ideas. Idea generation techniques can be effective as can meeting with fellow business people to share and swop ideas. In the next article on www.ideaaccelerator.co.za we’ll look at tips, strategies and other ideas to promote your business. In the meantime, take a look at what your competitors are doing as well try to spot other businesses that seem to be doing well no matter how hard the harsh economic winds blow.