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Dragons' Den digest: Week 2

July 22, 2010 by Anna Mullinder

After the exciting start to the new series last week, we are back once again with a bite size round-up of episode two.

Quote of the Episode: "Love the knickers" Theo Paphitis

Idea 1
Subeo ― submarine
Investment sought: £1.45m for 45 per cent equity
Handling: Confident delivery of pitch, a positive start. Dragons were fascinated by the product and enjoyed testing it out. Duncan Bannatyne tested them on their figures. Financial row between the Dragons while pitchers looked on bemused.
Outcome: With a sale price of £595,000 and such a high risk, the Dragons didn't invest.
Verdict: Interesting product but huge financial risk.

Idea 2
Vintage Patisserie
Investment sought: £100,000 for 30 per cent
Handling: Confident delivery, knew her pitch. Brought dancers and sample cakes, knickers and chocolates. Dragons questioned her premises costs and she struggled to remember her figures. Made a heartfelt plea at the end of the questioning. Very passionate.
Outcome: Deborah Meaden offer: £50,000 for 20 per cent, Theo Paphitis offer: £50,000 for 20 per cent ― accepted.
Verdict: Lots of passion and personality but needed to know her figures inside out.

Idea 3
EDH Washing Line ― Motor powered washing line
Investment sought: £80,000 for 25 per cent
Handling: Honest, down to earth, not a traditional sales pitch. He explained both the good and bad points of the product and was honest about the high parts costs. Dragons liked him personally.
Outcome: No offers.
Verdict: Nice natural down to earth pitch but the Dragons thought the price was too high. Peter Jones liked the idea but told him to speak to washing line manufacturers instead.

Idea 4
Shopbox Systems Ltd ― innovative storage system for storing groceries
Investment sought: £250,000 for 10 per cent
Handling: Self-assured pitch in which they explained the product well. Spent almost £1m already. They upset Theo Paphitis after he questioned whether a child could get locked inside. Mentioned that they had other parties interested but wouldn't disclose the details.
Outcome: No offers.
Verdict: They had spent lots of money already and didn't seem to need the investment as they had other offers in the pipeline. Peter Jones said they had made the pitch quite unattractive.

What did you think of the episode?

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So, exactly how do you market your green credentials?

July 21, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

In the first of a three part series, Fiona Humberstone explores the concept of a ‘Green business’

When was the last time you stopped and considered how effectively you market your business’s green credentials? Many of us are so busy trying to get from one day to the next and see out the downturn that marketing our companies’ green credentials has slipped waaaaaaay down the agenda. But should it have done?

I’m mid-way through a series of seminars I’ve been asked to run for Gatwick Diamond businesses on Marketing Your Green credentials. And preparing for and running the workshops has been an interesting exercise. I wonder whether I’ve given enough thought to how I market Flourish’s green credentials, and whether it’s something that matters at the moment? Are consumers as concerned about green as they are about price at the moment? Can you leverage value and loyalty from being green?

Do our clients even understand what being green means? On Twitter there was a little confusion when I asked my followers: “How do you market a sustainable business?” The responses were varied, and interesting. It appears that the buzz-word, sustainable, means different things to different people. And many simply weren’t sure what it meant at all!

So, is sustainability about reducing resources, the impact of your business on the environment, is it about sourcing locally, creating a business that will be around in 30 years? Is it about the way you treat your staff? Or is it about being socially responsible: about putting as much back into the local economy as possible and adding value where you can?

The truth is it’s probably all of the above. When I asked my first lot of delegates what sustainability meant to their business, one group came up with the answer “You need to be seen to be being green”. And at a truly cynical level, we can all “greenwash” our companies and pay lip service to the environment, but that’s something that both consumers and journalists will see through very quickly.

As Elizabeth Cairns said, you need to put green at the very heart of your business and communicate that with passion. Which leads me on to asking you the question: Just what shade of green is your business? Are you green to the core? Is the setup of your business focused around reducing the impact of your activities on the environment, sourcing responsibly, treating your staff well and working in the community? Is green at the heart of your business? Or is it on the perimeter? Have you felt as though you “ought to do something” and switched your paper buying from normal to recycled? Neither answer is right or wrong, but how you market your green credentials will very much depend on how much it matters to your business.

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

A little learning is a wonderful thing

July 19, 2010 by Drayton Bird

I am amazed how little people study in this business. It’s very hard to pick it up as you go along. More to the point, why spend years learning by painful trial and error when you can get guidance over a weekend from someone ten times as smart as you, who spent years finding out what works?

So if you agree that a little learning is better than no learning at all, here are some of the books I have learned from most. They are not all about marketing or advertising. If you learn about nothing but these two subjects your vision will be very narrow, your development as a human being stunted and you’ll have nothing to think about when you get old.

A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. This convinced me that you probably can’t actually know anything, but you can explain even the most complex thoughts clearly if you learn to write well. It also helped me think a little more logically – though not enough.

How To Write A Good Advertisement by Vic Schwab. He was a partner in one of the first specialist mail order agencies. Well-written, practical – with a list of 100 good headlines that I’ve often used as a starting point when looking for ideas. You will find many of them copied or adapted by internet marketers.

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy. Almost as amusing as Confessions of an Advertising Man by the same author, but more informative. If you work in this business and haven’t read it, you’re really making things hard for yourself. It reminds me of something important every time I pick it up.

My Years With General Motors by Alfred P. Sloan. His approach is no longer in fashion, but few people had more impact not just on business but on the 20th century than the man who built up General Motors.

How To Make Your Advertising Make Money by John Caples. Caples explains better than anyone what works, what doesn’t, and why, because he conducted more tests than anyone. Ogilvy once told me he learned everything he knew from Caples.

The 100 Best Advertisements edited by Julian Watkins. We learn best from example. This is the best selection I know – many described by their creators.

Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. Judges who should know – like Ogilvy – consider him the most able advertising man ever. In his day that encompassed marketing. This very short book, written in 1924, is near-perfect. You can download it free at

There are quite a few more books I like, listed at, but that little lot will keep you busy. More to the point, they’ll give you a priceless competitive edge.

Drayton Bird is a renowned direct marketing teacher, speaker and author. Find out more about him on his profile. 

Tell us about the books that have inspired, informed and entertained you.

Dragons' Den digest: Week One

July 15, 2010 by James Ainsworth

The new series of Dragons' Den began last night. As well as tweeting along to the episode, we will provide a Dragons' Den digest each week.

Quote of the Episode: "You win the worst invention ever brought into Dragons’ Den today” Peter Jones

Idea 1
Flowsignals - light up traffic signs
Investment sought: '£50,000 for 10per cent’
Handling: Struggled to make a case for the product and appeared not to have conducted sufficient research into if the product was needed. Muddled.
Outcome: Having invested £24,000 of his own money, Flowsignals walked away with no interest from the Dragons
Verdict: Pitch poor

Idea 2
Pebble Bed Vineyard - own your own vineyard
Investment sought:  ‘£60,000 for 20 per cent’
Handling: Nervy start was not a problem. Business plan interogation from Deborah Meaden highlighted a number of flaws in return on investment. Entrepreneur knew his sums but they didn't add up. Duncan saw a way to make it pay.
Outcome: Accepts an offer of £60,000 for 40 per cent from Duncan
Verdict: Pitch perfect

Idea 3
 Dhamaka Events/Flex FX Productions - Bollywood dance events
Investment sought: ‘£200,000 for 30 per cent shares’
Handling: An excellent pitch and dance demonstration. Both well rehearsed. Handling of the Dragons was cagey. Not open enough about the business plan and frustrated all Dragons.
Outcome: No takers
Verdict: Pitch poor

Idea 4
 Worthenshaw's - healthy frozen food desserts
Investment sought:‘£65,000 for 15 per cent equity stake’
Handling: Confident with her research and had done a lot of leg work to get to advanced stages with Tesco. Passionate.
Outcome: £100,000 for 40 per cent from Theo was declined in favour of a joint deal with Duncan and Peter to the tune of £65,000 for 30 per cent 
Verdict: Pitch perfect

What did you think of the episode?

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Get personal with marketing

July 14, 2010 by Ben Dyer

I read with great interest this week the news that Twitter is getting into the ecommerce space.

In an idea copied from the very popular US-based service Woot, Twitter will be advertising time-sensitive deals via a dedicated account (@earlybird). In a reversal of traditional marketing norms, you will only receive the daily deals by following the account.

Sites offering time sensitive deals, vouchers or private sales clubs have rarely been off the front pages of tech or retail blogs for the past year. It seems almost every day I am reading about a Groupon clone springing up. Even the old man on the digital high street, Amazon, is in the game with their recent acquisition of Woot.

I can see the attraction. As humans we like to feel special, we like the sense of getting a good deal or “beating the man”. Sites like this play as much towards our egos as they do our budgets.

We can learn from this. Why not experiment with your online or traditional marketing or sales processes? Make things personal, spend time researching your customer base and tailor the offering. I love it when I walk into our local fishmongers and they know my name and what I normally buy. I always get offered something special that they know I would like. It may sound gimmicky, but it works.

Technology is enabling us, ironically, to become more personal. Why not give it ago?

Ben Dyer is CEO for SellerDeck

What shape is your recession?

July 12, 2010 by Simon Wicks

As a writer/editor, I have a vested interest in the way people use the written word. With the Donut sites (and our other small business offerings), for example, we editors encourage all of our house writers and external contributors to write in a clear, straightforward way.

Jargon doesn’t help anyone, except the select group of people who speak it. Likewise, unnecessarily long words or complicated phrases are both barriers to clear communication. When you write for a general audience, as we do, you can’t afford to lose them because you’re speaking the wrong language.

Unfortunately, the business world loves a bit of jargon. Why spell things out when you can come up with a smart-sounding phrase that makes you look like you belong to the club? What amazes me is how quickly these things are picked up and how readily people use them without really thinking about what they mean or whether they are even making sense.

Last week , a colleague interviewed a spokesman from a well-known small business body, who suggested that we were experiencing an ‘L-shaped’ recession. I’ve heard about a ‘W-shaped recession’ before, which at least is reasonably self-explanatory – although the alternative phrase, a ‘double-dip’ recession, is a bit clearer.

But an ‘L-shaped’ recession? Does this mean a total economic collapse, followed by a period of zero-growth? Surely not, because the reality is very different. Perhaps this person meant an ‘L-on-its-side, a-bit-like-a-tick’-shaped recession - ie a rapid fall followed by a slow climb back to where we were before. Something like this, I suppose (though with a shallower tail):

To make things even more confusing, he went on to say that instead of a “double-dip” recession, we ought to watch out for the “triple tumble”. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always associated tumbling with gymnastics. So I had a vision in mind of a young woman hurling herself across the floor, bouncing and flailing, legs and arms akimbo, before finally coming to rest – miraculously – on her feet.

Are we really saying the economy is like a gymnast? I’m sure we’re not, because what on Earth would happen if the gymnast took to swinging around the parallel bars? Would that be an ‘O-shaped’ recession?

There’s a lesson here. Keep it clear, keep it simple, say what you mean. And if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, just admit it. There’s no shame in that. Let’s face it, nobody has made any reliable predictions about the economy in the last three years, so why do we keep pretending we can?

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