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Green businesses have a positive impact on society.

September 07, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

This is part three of a series of three. Catch up on part one and part two.

In the case of my business, that means looking after my staff well, sourcing our consumables responsibly, ensuring that the print we sell is environmentally friendly and putting something back into the community with our Flourish Foundation. If I’m honest, this is at the heart of me, which is why it’s come through in my business. I haven’t yet put together a “green mission statement”, and I probably should. I know that one of the reasons that our clients come to us is for our authenticity and values – but do I need a mission statement to get that across?

The short answer is probably not. Everything about the way we’ve built Flourish communicates these values, partly because we fall into the Autumnal colour personality, which is the most “green” of the lot. All of our print is recycled and uncoated and our muted, warm colours suggest sustainability, community and integrity. But marketing your green credentials takes more than a bit of fancy design and an understanding of colour psychology.

It’s about making sure that your communication is consistent. Follow us on twitter and you’ll find the very same person that you meet in the studio, warm, supportive and with integrity. Read our blog and you’ll find the same transparency and “giving” nature as you find in our workshops and one to one sessions. I guess I don’t scream green because green is inextricably linked with what we do. How about you?

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


Dragons' Den digest - Week 9

September 07, 2010 by Cat Arnold

If you missed last week's, catch up here and below you will find the highlights of episode eight.

Quote of the Episode: "I’ve just got to get my chequebook." Theo Paphitis

Idea 1
Sweat Sportz - a plastic vest worn during exercise to allow the user to sweat more and therefore lose weight at a faster pace.
Investment sought: £100,000 for 10 per cent equity.
Handling: A confident start, but nerves got to them a little bit towards the end of the pitch. The Dragons seemed impressed at first but concerns were raised over the price of the product being too high for a disposable item. They seemed confident about their figures but then were caught out by James Caan when he asked them about their profit forecasts. Theo Paphitis and Duncan Bannatyne raised concerns that the vest was not an innovative idea and that the majority of people would not use it.
Outcome: No investment.
Verdict: A confident start but fell down when it came to the numbers. The product seemed too niche for the mass market and was not an innovation.

Idea 2
Content and Calm (Traykit) - An innovative children's bag which folds out into a tray to be used on long journeys.
Investment sought: £80,000 for ten per cent equity.
Handling: A very confident and passionate pitch. She knew her product and market well and demonstrated excellent knowledge of the financial situation of her company. She impressed the Dragons with the news that she has been approached by several large retailers. Duncan Bannatyne wondered why she needed an investment, as the company seemed to be doing very well already. Peter Jones went straight in with an offer of the full amount for 25 per cent, but was quickly undercut by James Caan who offered the same amount for 15 per cent equity. After some negotiation, Peter Jones suggested he joined forces with Deborah Meaden and they offered to make the investment for 12.5 per cent equity each.
Outcome: Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden - full £80,000 for 25 per cent equity.
Verdict: Excellent product and pitch, she knew her stuff and it showed. She managed to keep cool under pressure and went away with a good deal.

Idea 3
TailorMade - 3D body scanning technology which takes measurements for bespoke handmade suits.
Investment sought: £75,000 for ten per cent equity.
Handling:  An interesting start to the pitch with a demonstration of the 3D scanner, followed by a confident presentation of his company. The Dragons initially seem impressed with the technology and the speed with which it works.  However Theo Paphitis felt the product was over-engineered and that it fixed a problem that didn't exist. Peter Jones added that the cost of installing the technology was so high, few tailors would be able to justify the expense. 
Outcome: No investment.
Verdict: A good idea but over-engineered and expensive, this product solves a problem that doesn’t need to be fixed.

Idea 4
Proppa - a website that sells accessories for vans, motorhomes, pickup trucks, etc.
Investment sought: £50,000 for five per cent equity.
Handling: An impressive and honest pitch, where he clearly demonstrated his knowledge of the financial side of his business. James Caan questioned his financials and soon uncovered that he had a large bank debt. Deborah Meaden became frustrated and demanded to know why he borrowed so much money from the bank. Not satisfied with his response, Deborah declared herself out. Duncan Bannatyne thought differently and offered the full amount for 20 per cent equity. Peter Jones then came in with another offer, the full amount but for 25 per cent, claiming he was worth more due to his online expertise.
Outcome: Duncan Banntyne - £50,000 for 20 per cent equity.
Verdict: A good business opportunity with potential to make money, and an honest pitch helped him gain credibility with the Dragons.

What did you think of the episode?

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Are you practising what you preach?

September 02, 2010 by Kate Spiers

We all have a mission, in life and in business. You’re in business to help people do certain things, right? Whether it’s providing people with a great meal, building them a cutting-edge website, training them to be brilliant at something or providing certain types of information, you’re in business because you are good at something.

But are you practising what you preach? Are you immersed in your company’s service and values, and do you treat yourself as a client?

What I mean is this: Wisdom London is in the business of helping our clients to communicate their messages brilliantly, creatively and clearly, to specific audiences. But we can’t hope to be seen as authentically good at that (especially as a relatively new business... we’re less than a year old, after all) unless we practice what we preach. Which is why we are just as obsessed with our own communications as we are with those of our clients.

I can’t advise on social media without using it. I can’t argue the value of thought leadership without producing it. I can’t justifiably critique a client’s web copy, without regularly doing the same to our own. I’m not saying we always get it right, but we are never knowingly hypocritical. We’re trying hard every day to practice what we preach.

So think about what you do for your clients. Do you do the same for yourself and your own company? Is your website as amazing as the ones you aim to create for your clients? Is your own business tangibly benefiting from the software you develop, or the services you sell? Do you regularly eat the food you serve, wear the clothes you sell, or use the products you source?

Credibility and authenticity are all – doing your own business a service by benefiting it the same way you aim to benefit your clients not only builds these positive values, but demonstrates a true belief in your own products and services. And that is worth more than you might imagine.

Make it a priority.

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London.

Honesty is the best policy

August 31, 2010 by Drayton Bird

In marketing, people often say what they would like to be the truth rather than what it is. It always catches up with them.

It reminds me of something I read in a New York Times obituary in 1984. "Honesty is not only the best policy. It is rare enough nowadays to make you pleasantly conspicuous."

This is not only funny; it is very good advice and came from Charles H. Brower. He was chairman of the advertising agency BBD & O — Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn — a name the great W. C. Fields said sounded like a man dragging a heavy trunk down a flight of stairs.

When he took over, the agency was in a mess, and he was the architect of its renewal. Today it is one of the world's three biggest advertising agencies.

 Sometimes telling the truth can get you out of a tricky situation. For example years ago I was writing copy for a slimming product when the law changed, and you had to say in your ads that such products had to be used in conjunction with a calorie-controlled diet.

My client was very worried. Now losing weight didn't sound nearly as simple and easy.

I just revised the ads, putting at the start the following:

"Doctors agree: you can't lose weight without having a calorie-controlled diet."

I believe the ads did just as well or better, because most people don't believe in miracles — and the mention of doctors did no harm.

The principle of accepting and even capitalising on your short-comings is well worth considering. Here's another -—something we wrote for a client about a year ago.

"To be honest, you may find a slightly lower interest rate if you hunt around. That's because the loan industry is in a price war. But will there be a guarantee it will never go up? 6.8%APR is one of the lowest rates around (in fact we are committed to being amongst the very best value providers for every product we offer)."

There are plenty of examples where people don't tell the truth in their marketing. What's more, finding a claim that is true and differentiates you is not easy.

But Waitrose - Quality food, honestly priced — may not seem creative but it is good. 

As is Never knowingly undersold — John Lewis

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

Dragons' Den digest - Week 8

August 31, 2010 by Anna Mullinder

If you missed last week's, catch up here and below you will find the highlights of episode seven.

Quote of the Episode: "I think you are a product genius." Peter Jones

Idea 1
Yum Yums – collectible series of books to encourage children to eat healthily.
Investment sought: £100,000 for 20 per cent equity.
Handling: The Dragons didn't look impressed with the dancing fruit that opened the pitch. The company had a good deal with Borders but it went into administration. Peter Jones was disappointed with the stories and the lessons they teach to young children and told them to go back to the drawing board with the whole product. Duncan Bannatyne noticed spelling/grammar errors in the books. Deborah Meaden encouraged them to sell what stock they have left and not to invest any more money.
Outcome: No investment.
Verdict: Lack of attention to detail in the books led to disappointment.

Idea 2
Product: – online antique valuations.
Investment sought: £100,000 for 20 per cent equity.
Handling: Confident pitch but gave over-complicated answers to the Dragons' questions. Peter Jones questioned his figures, but Patrick answered confidently. After three of the Dragons declared themselves out, Theo Paphitis explained that he could see the potential of the buiness and thought that there would be further demand for his services. He offered £50,000 for 20 per cent equity and Deborah Meaden matched it.
Outcome: Patrick tried to negotiate down the equity but failed. He accepted their offer of £100,000 for 40 per cent equity. 
Verdict: As James Caan said: "What a charming man."  

Idea 3
Odourbuster – toilet odour extractor system.
Investment sought: £75,000 for 15 per cent equity
Handling: Confident, well-rehearsed pitch. Duncan Bannatyne couldn't see a need for the product and claimed he'd never had any complaints about bad smelling toilets in his health clubs, hotels or spas. They changed their tack after this, although their original aim was to remove bad smells, the product also complies with building regulations and removes the need for extractor fans. They struggled to convince the Dragons that it was an investment on which they could make a return. 
Outcome: No investment.
Verdict: A confident pitch but while the product met residential building regulations, it wouldn't work in cubicle rows in commercial premises without a solid wall.

Idea 4
Power8 Workshop – cordless power tool set.
Investment sought: £150,000 for 5 per cent equity
Handling: Strong pitch and an interesting product demonstration. The Dragons were very impressed by his product design but the complicated share ownership structure led to three Dragons declaring that they were out. However, Peter Jones saw that the real value was in the inventor and the products.
Outcome: Christopher accepted Peter Jones' and Duncan Bannatyne's offer of £150,000 for 30 per cent equity going down to 20 per cent once the investment is repaid.
Verdict: Nice to see a successful inventor in the Den.

What did you think of the episode?

Related articles:

The IT Donut is born

August 26, 2010 by John McGarvey

IT DonutAfter a lot of hard work, more than a few donuts consumed, and assistance from a whole bunch of helpful experts, we're really pleased to announce that the IT Donut has launched.

We're really excited about getting our new site out in the world, so head on over to to get your fix of IT advice and information for small businesses.

What do you think?

To use a bit of IT jargon, the IT Donut is currently version 1.0. We're pleased with it, but we're still looking for feedback and help so we can make it even better.

If you have any comments on the information the site contains, or how it looks and functions, send a quick email to Alternatively, leave a comment on the IT Donut website to tell us what you think.

Be one of our experts

We're also working hard to expand the information on the IT Donut. To do this, we're recruiting IT experts to help us.

If you're knowledgeable about any area of IT, we'd love to hear from you. Again, just send an email to and we'll see how we can get you involved. In return you'll get exposure on the site, plus the warm feeling that comes from knowing you've helped out lots of small businesses.

Finally, don't forget that we'll be continuing to update this blog as normal alongside the main IT Donut website. You'll soon be able to see all the latest posts directly on the IT Donut homepage, but in the meantime, do keep checking back here for news and information too.


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