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This is part two of a series of three. Part one can be read here.
According to the experts, Egg – a branding & marketing company in the States, just 7 per cent of consumers are socially responsible to the core, but 70 per cent of the population (I’m assuming they’re talking about the population of the USA) will recycle and occasionally seek out organic food. So there’s a huge market out there for offering sustainable products. But you can’t badge your company “green” and hope that your product will walk off the shelves – there simply aren’t enough consumers that care to their core to make that happen.
No, what you need to do is engage your client with your values. And that’s why I asked you what shade of green your business is. Consumers are looking for brands with values that they identify with, plus communicate with them honestly and create transparency. And that’s why you need to put your brand values at the heart of your marketing plan. And if “green” in whatever form is a part of your brand values, then you’ll find it much more authentic to market your green credentials than if it’s a periphery activity.
If I think about brands that place green at the heart of their marketing strategy, I think of Dorset Cereals, Abel & Cole and Riverford. Their marketing communications are about so much more than say, how good the oats and raisins are in the cereal. They’re about community, sustainability and the environment. Dorset Cereals, in particular have taken their brand values much wider than food, their communication is about “simple pleasures”. They build edible playgrounds for schools and they team up with like-minded businesses who share their values.
How clever is your communication? Dorset Cereals don’t continually bang the drum that “we’re green, we’re green” – it’s implied through their activities, their copy, their packaging and their design. Is your marketing strategy as sophisticated as that?
Highlights of episode four in the latest series of Dragons' Den.
Quote of the Episode: “You're a Dragon, I trust you” Layla Bennett, Hawksdrift Falconry
Product: Hawksdrift Falconry - Falconry experience business.
Investment sought: £50,000 for 25 per cent
Handling: Her pitch was succinct and told the Dragons all they needed to know. Honest about need for advice in marketing.
Outcome: A small business that the Dragons felt they could not scale but Duncan saw an opportunity and made an offer to reach the required investment.
Verdict: Good pitch and solid business run by someone who has given their all, reaped the small rewards and now earned an offer from Duncan.
Product: Rotaball - Football on a rotating poll, recreational equipment.
Investment sought: £150,000 for 10 per cent
Handling: His children that performed the demonstration looked to be there under duress and the product seemed weak. Duncan was critical and Theo scathing, “Explain to me how company a selling a ball on a stick can be worth £1.5million.”
Outcome: Weak product and very little to back up his pitch with no written order confirmations. Peter Jones said he should get a “Reality check”
Verdict: Pitch poor, product poor
Product: Blooming High - a stackable plant pot product.
Investment sought: £50,000 for 15 per cent
Handling: A classic example of a hobbyist with a true passion and spotting a gap in a very niche market. The product needed to be less fussy and the business plan was leaky. Initial stock order was huge and now surplus stock needs selling. No distributors taking it on.
Outcome: No investment but some sound business advice from Duncan to help them push on the business (and shift all that existing stock!).
Verdict: Need a business partner to bring some focus to what is a useful niche product that has a patent. Catalogues and shopping channels are a likely source of custom.
Product: Lumacoustics and their ‘Your Wall’ - Indoor graffiti technology
Investment sought: £50,000 for 10 per cent
Handling: The product split the Dragons. Some could not see any potential. The inventors nearly talked themselves out of a deal but got there in the end.
Outcome: After playing hard to get they managed to secure a matched investment of £50,000 for 40 per cent between Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones.
Verdict: A great product that will do well unless the inventors talk themselves into trouble.
About a month ago, I attended a presentation and workshop on marketing where the presenter, Helen Dowling of Exceptional Thinking, said that the most important part of marketing is to have a way to follow up, and then to follow up. We all come back from seminars and networking events with pockets full of business cards; how many of us actually make use of them?
With the development of social media, the channels through which you can follow up have multiplied, and it is no longer necessary to email everyone you met – some people may warrant an @mention on Twitter, others a connection request on LinkedIn, while others will require an email, and lastly some will need a phone call.
This diversity of follow up opportunities means that you need to have a means to decide who gets what. Hopefully you will have an idea of how likely it is that you will do business with each of the people you met, and so you can use this to decide how you will follow up with them: the most likely you can phone; the least likely you can say ‘Hi’ to on Twitter.
Whatever means you use to do your initial follow-up, you need to have a record of what was said, where, through what channel, and by and to whom. As your business grows it will very soon become difficult to keep track using pen and paper, and so a Contact Management System on a computer and/or smart phone becomes essential.
Choosing a Contact Management System can be a difficult task, especially if you want it to work with Social Media. And Contact Management Systems can be expensive – though a lot of people are using the Outlook Contact Manager add-on successfully, which is part of the Microsoft Office Small business package. Other options include Gist, ContactZilla and Glasscubes, to name a few.
I am always on the lookout for solutions, and am in a position to help and advise you on the best solution for contact management with social media, should you need it.
OK, so you’re blogging away, producing content regularly and starting to enjoy the writing process.
Visitor numbers are rising, albeit slowly, and you’re starting to deliver useful content. But something isn’t quite right, something doesn’t add up. There’s still a stilted edge about your blogging, something mechanical and clunky. Want to know what it is?
It’s probably due to my Number One of these quick six tips to better business blogging. If it resonates, you know you’ve got some changing to do. Nothing worse than that niggling internal voice telling you to change what you’re doing. Here goes:
1. Be authentic
Lose the corporate, parental, unemotional writing style. It’s dull, boring and your readers won’t engage. Try dropping your barriers and opening up. Write with passion, authenticity. Listen to yourself.
2. Be confident
There’s nothing worse than a safe, anodyne, sterile blog. Open up, be confident in your knowledge and expertise. Now share it!
3. Be challenging
Do you accept everything you see, read or hear? No? Thought not. So challenge what you see, hear and read out there, too. And highlight your challenging nature in your blog. Ask questions to make your readers stop and think. You can challenge anything.
4. Be humble
Not sure what this means? For me, it means there will always be better, smarter, faster, richer people blogging out there. And I am grateful that they share their mistakes, so I don’t have to make the same ones. Be humble for the wise old coots who exist.
5. Be funny
Nothing worse than a corporate blog which is totally devoid of humour. Boardroom bores. The antidote? Try humour, flex your funny bone, and engage with some witty banter online. Lightness, fun, and frivolity can get powerful messages across very well.
6. Be passionate
Are you passionate about your areas of expertise? Yes? Well, why hide it? Too many business blogs are devoid of passion. With so much competition out there, one of the best ways to stand out is to demonstrate your passion. Get emotional. Fight your corner.
Extra tip: just to keep you on your toes. Final nugget – ignore the critics, cynics and emotional drains in business. They are too many to count.
Wish them well, ask the gods that be for their success and happiness, and send them on their way. Ignore it and focus on the positive elements to your blogging instead.
There will always be a critic in the background. Usually an unhappy one.
A slight shift from Wednesday to Monday for the remainder of this series of Dragons' Den. It will take more than that to catch us off guard.
If you missed last week's, catch up here and below you will find the highlights of episode three.
Quote of the Episode: "If you were to wear glasses you'd look a bit like Theo" Peter Jones
Product: Tatty Bumpkin - ethical children's brand
Investment sought: £200,000 for 20 per cent
Handling: A confident start but confused the Dragons with so many aspects of the business. She demonstrated one of the classes when Peter Jones questioned what her business is about. An argument broke out when questioned about her brand and she became defensive.
Outcome: No offers
Verdict: Lots of ambition but not a strong enough brand and an unrealistic business model.
Product: Golfers' Mate - a pitch repair multi-tool
Investment sought: £100,000 for 12.5 per cent
Handling: A very shaky start, had to restart the pitch three times. Eventually recovered but was instantly faced with harsh criticism from the Dragons. He gave jokey responses to the Dragons' questions, which didn't impress them.
Outcome: James Caan offer: £100k for 30 per cent share – negotiated to 25 per cent with a proviso that they could buy back 15 per cent when James gets his £100k investment back, retaining a 10 per cent share – accepted
Verdict: Not a great pitch and quite blasé when questioned, however he managed to impress with his confidence in receiving bulk orders from large potential clients, which was enough to seal the deal.
Product: Aquatina - a collapsable drinks bottle that can be re-used
Investment sought: £100,000 for 10 per cent equity
Handling: A very confident pitch but the Dragons found it hard to see the point of the product. Duncan Bannatyne became quite irate and threw the product across the den. As the questioning continued, the Dragons became more hostile, accusing him of 'pulling the wool over their eyes' and misleading them in regards to the point of the product.
Outcome: No offers
Verdict: The Dragons struggled to see the point of the product and felt it was not a solution to the problem it was designed to solve.
Product: FGH security - Manned security company
Investment sought: £75,000 for 10 per cent
Handling: An excellent pitch, very knowledgeable and instantly likeable. They presented an excellent business proposition which was attractive to all of the dragons. James Caan made an offer within minutes and was soon followed by the others. Deborah Meaden said she was finding it hard to think of reasons not to invest.
Outcome: Joint offer – Peter Jones 50k for 10 per cent and Theo Phaphitis 50k for 10 per cent with 5 per cent of the equity given back to FGH when the investment is repaid. Offer accepted
Verdict: A highly professional pitch which offered the Dragons an extremely attractive business proposition.
Networking is a great and powerful way to meet people, get your name and business cards out there and even win some new business. We've done our fair share of networking now, and quite successfully, but it's always surprising that some business people out there make a few mistakes that are a huge turn off.
Here are top tips, dos and don'ts from your team at ahp design:
Now go and find yourselves some networking events to attend, go to as many as you can until you find ones that you enjoy and are worthwhile, and then stick with it. It's not a quick win but it will help your business.