I’d like to recommend a book called “Significant Business Results… Ten sales secrets that your competitors know and use!” The author is Franne McNeal, a serial entrepreneur, business coach, the youngest person ever to be awarded a training contract with the City of Pittsburgh among other things such as restructuring, training and development at such places as PNC Financial Services, and SmithKline Beecham. She’s a certified Kauffman Foundation FastTrac facilitator, and Adjunct Faculty for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative. She started her first business while still a student at Princeton University. I occasionally facilitate with Franne and she is an amazing force.
So why should you care about Franne’s credentials and book? Well, creating your product is only part of the story of a successful entrepreneur. You then have to get it out the door (or to shameless plug the first chapter in my book, “Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing” – “ If I build it, they will come”.. I guarantee NOT if you don’t market, which goes hand-in-hand with sales). Franne tells you how to accomplish this in 10 steps – with exercises and examples sprinkled throughout the book at just the moments you need them to help you get to the next step. Her 10 chapters give you an idea of what you will learn when you read the book (and grow your business if you practice them):
1- Define Your Target Market
2- Create a Powerful Offer
3- Use Testimonials for Social Proof
4- Generate Unlimited Leads
5- Create Immediate Sales
6- Use Scripts to Increase Sales
7- Create Repeat Business
8- Double your Referrals
9- Reverse Risk to Increase Sales
10- Create Added Value
It’s a great book for your armamentarium – even if you know most of the topics covered, it’s always good to have a refresher.
And watch for Franne’s new book called Significant! From frustrated to Franne-tastic…Personal stories to inspire dialogue and decisions through commitment
About a year ago I judged the Chase Manhattan and Living Social “Mission Small Business” contest. During that one week, I and other judges reviewed about 600 business plan concepts (about 70,000 responded.) There were 12 winners each receiving $250K.
Here’s what I learned:
First, almost all the plans fell into the middle range meaning they were good solid plans but didn’t stand out in some special way. There were a few that were just plain confusing so much so that in some cases the name of the business was never mentioned, or I was left guessing what exactly the business was/did. Those were immediately rejected.
The ones that stood out, however, made sure that they answered all the questions asked in the entry information. One of the key points that separated the winners was their passion which came across through the written word. Another was their story…storytelling is very important because it draws the reader into your world and let’s them experience it. Also important, and part of their stories, was how they overcame or were overcoming obstacles and their strength and tenacity to keep going no matter what.
One of the requirements was how the business contributed to the betterment of their community…and by that I mean not just writing a check to the local charity but actually having a positive impact on their local community. This included job creation, another very important factor. Each of the 12 winners had all of these elements. Entrepreneurs I work with incorporate all these elements into their plans as well.
A word of caution…no funder wants to hear that your use of proceeds will go to retiring debt. Unfortunately, no one cares about your past…they are funding your future.
So remember, when writing your business plan, make sure to include all these aspects – they will help you stand out from the pack.
Check out business plan startup competitions: http://grasshopper.com/blog/startup-competition-guide/
Most have expired but some have not and if they are yearly competitions, then contact the competition host directly for current applications.
Here’s a case history about how a fashion company used customer-focused market research and marketing to establish a firm position in the apparel industry and a unique customer experience.
The TwirlyGirl clothing line polled their customers about their feelings/descriptive words around TwirlyGirl clothing. 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 a customer 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.
On November 20, a new 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
There’s a new tech idea/website that’s been specifically developed for fashion designers (although other businesses can certainly use it). It seems to be a cross between crowdfunding/sourcing and market testing. Here’s how it works: A designer posts several new items from their upcoming collection – or variations on one item – for instance the designer could post one item in multiple colors to see which color is the most appealing. The customer, if interested in the item, makes a commitment to purchase it. When orders reach a minimum number designated by the designer, then the customer is charged and the designer starts production. If the orders don’t reach that minimum, then the customer is refunded their money and the designer doesn’t produce it. It’s a fashion variation on the crowdfunding theme.
But this idea is taken one important step further.
In crowdfunding, you go to a designated crowdfunding website and put up your idea. Then there’s a huge hurdle which people rarely discuss – marketing. You have to market like hell to get people to go to the crowdfunding site. So you are essentially doing double marketing – first for your own website (assuming you have one) and second to the crowdfunding site. With this product, you actually overlay the crowdfunding program onto your own website, thus driving people to your website only, which I think is a much more organic way to market yourself (although you will lose the crowdfunding site surfers who might be a source of revenue).
The concept sounds like a total win-win for the customer and for the designer. It’s a great way for the customer to be not only ahead of the trend but to actually influence the trend – and to be the first wearing a new style. Customers order their clothes in advance, and designers don’t risk wasting materials and manufacture for a product that isn’t going to sell well, thus avoiding excess inventory and cash flow difficulties among other issues.
So far, Voy-voy, a NY based clothing company, Feit, a shoe and accessories company, and Gustin, a jeans company are all using this new concept.
It’s called Mimoona – to learn more and hear testimonials, visit the site and see if it’s something that will work for you. http://www.we.mimoona.com/Projects/1443?share=true&reffID=4299
If you’re a consultant, you’ve probably been approached by small and startup businesses asking you to do something for them in exchange for a success fee. This means, if you produce results, you get paid.
Often it’s helping to raise funds for a startup (which requires you have a license to do that, by the way). But sometimes it’s helping them sell or license a product into another, larger organization. Sometimes it’s just an introduction and they take it from there.
Any way you look at the situation, you are not being paid to do your job and provide your expert skills otherwise unavailable to your potential client. Although, if they are not paying you are they really a client?
Basically, what the company is asking you to do is assume their risk. Well, that’s fine if you are on their board of directors, or a major shareholder. But otherwise, why should you?
A hybrid solution to this negotiation is working on a retainer fee with a success fee attached. That way, you are being paid for your skill and efforts no matter what the outcome. If the outcome is successful, then everyone wins.
Now if you are the company doing the asking for services in exchange for a success fee, think about these two situations. The first is, how would you feel if the tables were turned and you were asked for work for a success fee? Second, would you give your product to customers and only ask them to pay for it if it worked for them? No way, you’re probably saying.
And therein lies the attitude that puts off the people you are trying to contract.
So it’s important that both sides try to remember that successful business and good business practices means a win-win for all parties involved.
A licensing agreement is like any other legal agreement. You can’t just sign on the dotted line and fold up the agreement and put it away for safe keeping. Like a relationship, you must nurture all the parties involved. It’s a living, breathing and highly dynamic bond. Sure you’ve agreed to amounts, the frequency of payments, milestones, if any, and all the other details. But, as in life, things happen. What happens if one party doesn’t reach the milestone? Or goes bankrupt? What if there are manufacturing or shipping delays? What if the product composition or the amount of product isn’t exactly what you agreed upon? And, probably most commonly, what if the personnel change or the license gets shifted from the original department into some other department’s bailiwick? Yes, the license should cover most of these possibilities but sometimes things come up unexpectedly.
This is why, whether you are the licensor or licensee, it’s really important to develop and maintain your relationship with the other party since both fates might depend on it.
The Licensing Executives Society’s upcoming meeting deals with a lot of these issues. The focus will be on pharma, since that’s the 800-pound gorilla in the region. However, if you attend, there will be lots of valuable information to gleam. Here’s the link:
Here are some other examples of what can happen with copyrights, license rights etc.
My parting suggestion: Start a relationship with an Intellectual Property attorney who you trust. They will prove invaluable when dealing with licenses.
Part 2: Focus on your Tag line
The tag line, slogan, customer promise, value proposition, etc. is a key part of your corporate identity and brand. Like your logo, it’s important to get it right the first time so that you start to build and reinforce a story/image about your company. It’s a verbal complement and reinforcement of your logo. And vice versa.
All those phrases I used do not mean the same thing – I’m purposely over simplifying to make a point. The same characteristics and endpoint should be the goal of that line and that is – it should provide a benefit with a very brief (a few words) phrase as pithy and memorable as possible.
Let’s take the value proposition – in short, it’s a promise from the company or the product, to the customer. It delivers a benefit or value to the customer. Some lines serve to differentiate the company from the competition at the same time. A really good line will do all of the above and take it even further. Those lines are rare. There are many methodologies to develop a tag line. Again, as in having an intuitive and creative designer for your logo, use a resource who will work with you to develop an equally sustainable tag line.
If the name of your company or product is not immediately understandable, as often happens in the tech world, then in addition to the tag line, add what I call a descriptor line – a few words that literally describe the product. For instance, Pfizer Health Solutions had a product called PenChart. The name might convey what the product does but, just to make sure, a descriptor accompanied it — Electronic Medical Records System. The tag line was The EMR that physicians actually use – a benefit and a differentiator (at that time many physicians bought electronic medical record systems, but they were so complicated many didn’t actively use them). Another example is Zenius – a great Computer Task Group (CTG) product but what does it do? Zenius integrated the enterprise behind an e-commerce site (this is when e-commerce was new). Zenius used a descriptor line was similar to the description I just gave which helped identify what the product did.
Here are some memorable taglines — some deliver a perceived benefit that is larger than the actual product:
BMW - The Ultimate Driving Machine
DeBeers - A Diamond is Forever
American Express - Don’t Leave Home Without It
Calvin Klein (fragrance) - Between Love and Madness Comes Obsession
Calvin Klein Jeans - Nothing Comes Between Me and My Calvin’s
Clarks - Shoes Designed for Living
Clarks - Shoes Designed to Live in
Levis - Original Jeans. Original People
Make your tag line memorable; it’s vital to capturing the image and story of your company, plus the immediate and aspirational benefit of your product/service.
Part 1: Focus on your logo
Every company should start out with minimal corporate IDs or branding – logo, name, tag line (value proposition), design templates and color palettes. There should be a template developed that shows how these items are used (in larger companies, a brand book is created that spells out exactly how sizes, placements, colors etc. are to be used ).
This is the core of your company’s identity. Like a skeleton, it supports your body. Do it early, and do it correctly. And especially don’t skimp on the fees to get it done. It’s a lot more difficult to correct a brand identity mistake or direction than to establish it the first time – to make a correction, you will have to re-ID your company, and then spend countless dollars and time on PR to explain why the company has changed its basic identity and to overcome confusion created by this change.
I’ve seen a lot of results from websites where designers bid for the logo work. Some of it is okay. Okay is not good enough for your company. A lot of the results are derivative of other logos, and leftover designs an artist hasn’t sold. Remember, you are going to pay for the result. Pay one time and get it right and it won’t cost you dollars and time down the road.
So invest the money into a designer or firm who gets you.
When it’s my money, I look for someone who is intuitive about what my client or my company is and what they are trying to do/say to the marketplace (how do you know they are intuitive? Check out what they’ve done for other people…you’ll get a feel for if they have a feel for their clients). My designer is one of my company’s secret weapons to success.
An interesting take on designers is expressed in this link:
What’s an entrepreneur to do?
What you should understand before you Do It Yourself
Is DIY an Efficient Use of Your Time?
You’re the CEO. You must figure out the value of your time in general against the value of your time spent against a DIY project. Is it worth it?
While you are writing the patent and filing it yourself (I know of at least two entrepreneurs that did this, one in fashion, one in tech), six months could easily go by and your business is headless during that time because your energies are focused elsewhere. Can your company really survive without you running it for that length of time?
How Good are Your Communications Skills?
“The only way to get something done right is to do it myself”. If that’s the way you think, then there’s a problem with the way you are communicating…you aren’t. Making yourself understood is crucial in business (and every other aspect of your life as well). Not only with employees and freelancers but with vendors and clients as well. You must be able to make yourself understood to grow your business and to operate it efficiently. You can’t do everything yourself (I’m sure you’ve seen org charts where every function is “YOU”) or you and your business won’t get very far.