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Describing Intellectual Property in Your Business Plan

Describing Intellectual Property in Your Business Plan

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Most companies that are worthy of raising venture capital have proprietary Intellectual Property (IP). In fact, the quality of the IP and the management team are often the two most important aspects of a venture capitalist’s investment decision. The challenge that many ventures face, however, is that most investors will not sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and NDAs are critical to maintaining the proprietary nature of the IP. This article details the appropriate strategy for addressing proprietary IP in your business plan in order to attract investor attention while retaining the confidentiality of your inventions.” />

Describing Intellectual Property in Your Business Plan

Most companies that are worthy of raising venture capital have proprietary Intellectual Property (IP). In fact, the quality of the IP and the management team are often the two most important aspects of a venture capitalist’s investment decision. The challenge that many ventures face, however, is that most investors will not sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and NDAs are critical to maintaining the proprietary nature of the IP. This article details the appropriate strategy for addressing proprietary IP in your business plan in order to attract investor attention while retaining the confidentiality of your inventions.

Focus on the Benefits of and Applications of the IP: The business plan should not discuss the confidential aspects of the IP. Rather, the plan should discuss the benefits of the IP. Remember that even the most amazing of technologies will not excite investors unless it has tangible benefits to customers.

The business plan first needs to discuss the products and services into which the IP will be integrated. It then must detail the benefits that these products and services have to customers and differentiate them from competitive products. When applicable, it is helpful to include non-confidential drawings and backup materials of the products and services in the Appendix.

Focus on Customer Needs and the Relevant Market Size: The business plan must also discuss how the benefits of the IP fulfill a large customer need. To accomplish this, the plan needs to detail customer wants and needs and prove that the company’s offerings specifically meet these needs.

Secondly, the plan needs to discuss the marketplace in which the IP is offered and the size of this marketplace. Critical to this analysis is determining the relevant market size. The relevant market size equals a company’s sales if it were to capture 100% of its specific niche of the market. For example, a medical device’s market size would not be the trillion dollar healthcare market, but rather the sales of all competing medical devices.

Focus on Competition and Competitive Differentiation: Your business plan must also prove that your IP is better than competitive inventions. In identifying competitors, note that listing no or few competitors has a negative connotation. It implies that there may not be a large enough customer need to support the company’s products and/or services. On the other hand, should there be too many competitors, then the market may be too saturated to support the profitability of a new entrant. The answer — any company that also serves the customer needs that you serve should be considered a competitor.

The business plan should detail both the positive and negative aspects of competitors’ IP and products/services and validate that your offerings are either superior in general, or are superior in serving a specific customer niche.

Prove that you can Execute on the Opportunity: As importantly as proving the quality of the IP and that a vast market exists for its applications, the business plan most prove that the company can successfully execute on the opportunity.

The plan should detail the company’s past accomplishments, including descriptions and dates when prior funding rounds were received, products and services were launched, revenue milestones were reached, key partnerships were executed, etc.

When a company is a complete start-up, and no milestones have been accomplished, the plan should focus on past accomplishments of the management team as an indicator of the company’s ability to execute successfully.

Results: Getting Investors to Sign the NDA: If you are able to convince the prospective investor that the IP is integrated into a product/service which yields real customer benefits in a large market, then the investor will take the quality of the invention for granted when reviewing the plan. Later, during the due diligence process, the investor will review the actual technology. At this point, a discussion regarding signing an NDA would be appropriate.

Since its inception, Growthink Business Plans has developed over 200 business plans. Growthink clients have collectively raised over $750 million in financing, launched numerous new product and service lines and gained competitive advantage and market share. Growthink has become the firm of choice for venture capital firms, angel investors, corporations and entrepreneurs in the know. For more information please visit http://www.growthink.com

article source: adzines.com


6 Steps To Laying Out Your Competitive Strategy

6 Steps To Laying Out Your Competitive Strategy

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Why do so many companies languish and watch as their business turns into a zero profit zone, while others seem to thrive?” />

6 Steps To Laying Out Your Competitive Strategy

Why do so many companies languish and watch as their business turns into a zero profit zone, while others seem to thrive?

When you look at your business, whether it’s a new venture or a company with a long history, can you answer the following questions?

  • What does my company do better than anyone else?
  • What unique value do I provide to my customers?
  • How will I increase that value next year?

Companies that fail to answer these questions, and don’t believe they are of paramount importance, relegate themselves to marginal profitability at best and failure at worst. But companies that can answer these questions are able to raise the value bar for their customers and reap the benefits of success.

Of course, being able to answer 3 simple questions does not ensure success, but it is an important step in creating a strategic and focused operation which leads to a successful business. With today’s business environment being so competitive, businesses need to re-invent the rules on which they compete in order to be successful. Companies like Wal-Mart have figured this out and have redefined competition in their market by delivering a unique value to a selected customer group. By maintaining a focus and discipline, they make it difficult for other companies to compete under old competitive terms.

Simply, competitive strategy has never been more important to success in today’s business environment. It does not matter what type of business you are in or whether you are small, big or just starting out, a company can not survive without an adequate and focused strategic plan to best the competition. Yet many companies fail to execute a successful strategy; it is these companies that languish in the zero profit zone.

In simple terms, for a company to achieve success and enter the profit zone it must first decide where it will stake its claim in the marketplace and what kind of value it will offer its customers. A company needs a clear marketing thrust, a precise knowledge of its customer base, and a product or service with a niche or some competitive advantage to be successful. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs and business owners get stuck in the process of defining their competitive strategy. They often have the idea and the product, but being the technician they are not sure how to define its market. Even worse, many entrepreneurs assume or guess their target market and often glaze over a competitive strategy, usually to the detriment of the business.

So what are the steps to laying out a competitive business strategy? While there are different methods you can follow, I have laid a series of 6 basic steps to help you.

1. Financial perspective

This step may not seem to have much to do with strategy, but it is important to determine the value of success quickly. Why? Because, in simple terms if the venture can’t deliver significant returns, it may not be worth the risk, and you have to ask yourself if it is worth continuing with your business. In this scenario you complete a reverse income statement. You start by defining how much profit you want to see at the end of a certain time period, and then determine the amount of revenues needed to generate that profit and the costs to deliver that profit. Do the numbers add up and make sense? The goal here is to be objective, if the expected revenue is not sufficient to generate your required profit at the end based on an estimate of costs, don’t simply fudge the numbers and assume you can reduce costs or increase revenue. Be diligent in your assessment.

2. Understand the industry and competition

In step 2 you are going to assess your industry and the competition. This basically comes down to assessing 5 factors:

  1. Understanding who your competition is including factors such as competitor strengths and weaknesses, market position, pricing, new product development, advertising, marketing and branding. You should determine how you compare to your competitors.
  2. Assessing the threat of new entrants into the industry (which may include you) and any potential reactions from existing companies. There are basically 6 barriers to entry you can evaluate: economies of scale, product differentiation, capital requirements, cost disadvantages, access to distribution channels, government policy.
  3. Assessing the threat of substitute products (existing or future) that can place a ceiling on pricing.
  4. Assessing the bargaining power of suppliers who can increase prices, lower the quality of products or limit the quantity of supplies one can purchase. This all has an impact on profitability.
  5. Assessing the bargaining power of customers who can force down prices or demand better quality, more services and play you off versus a competitor.

3. Understand the Customer Perspective

In step 3 you assess your customer. This is a key step, get it wrong and you may not be able to recover. In fact, the customer value proposition and how it translates into growth and profitability for the company is the foundation of strategy.

Start by asking your self a couple basic questions: To achieve my vision, how must my customers look? Who are the target customers that will generate growth and a profitable mix of products/services?

Next, ask yourself what is the value proposition which defines how the company differentiates itself to attract, retain and deepen relationships with the targeted customers? There are basically 3 value propositions or disciplines that you can choose from:

  1. Cost leadership In this discipline you choose to provide the best price with the least inconvenience to your customers.
  2. Product leadership In this discipline you offer products that push the performance boundary (i.e. newer and better than competitors).
  3. Best total solution In this discipline you deliver what the customer wants, cultivate relationships and satisfy unique needs. In this case, you may not be the cheapest or the newest, but the total package you deliver to the customer cannot be matched.

In order to help you determine which of these value propositions you decide on, you may want to work through a value chain: 1. Determine your customer priorities 2. Determine the channels needed to satisfy those priorities 3. Determine the offering (products) that are best suited to flow through those channels 4. Determine the inputs (materials/knowledge etc) required to create the product 5. Determine the assets/core competencies essential to the inputs (ask yourself, in order to satisfy my customer at which processes must I excel? For example, product design, brand and market development, sales, service and operations and/or logistics).

4. Finish the business model

The business model shows how all the elements and activities of a business work together as a whole by outlining how the business generates revenue, how cash flows through the business and how the product flows through the business. By this time, you should understand the revenue capability of the business, how the industry works and your competition, who you customer is, what you are going to offer them and how you are going to offer it. By drawing a flow chart that shows how these activities are linked together you will understand how the business activities flow to generate projected profit, which you determined in step 1. This is also a good step to see if something is missing in your analysis.

5. Construct the business plan

By the time you get to this step most of your work is done. If you are looking for financing, a formalized plan will have to be completed. If you do not need financing, simply make sure the preceding tasks are documented so that they can be reviewed and changed as time progresses (strategy is an ongoing process, not a one time task).

6. Learning and growth perspective

In this last step, you ask yourself how/where the organization must learn and improve in order to become and remain successful. For example, determine the skills, capabilities and knowledge of employees needed, the technology needed and the climate and culture in which they work.

About The Author

You have permission to publish this article electronically or in print, free of charge, as long as the bylines are included. A courtesy copy of your publication would be appreciated. Send to:jeff@companyworkshop.com

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Five Crucial Components of a Business Plan

Five Crucial Components of a Business Plan

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The format of a Business Plan is something that has been developed and refined over the years and is something that should not be changed. Like a good recipe, a business plan needs to include certain ingredients to make it work.” />

Five Crucial Components of a Business Plan

The format of a Business Plan is something that has been developed and refined over the years and is something that should not be changed. Like a good recipe, a business plan needs to include certain ingredients to make it work.

When you create a business plan, don’t attempt to recreate its format. Those reviewing this type of document have expectations you must meet. If they do not see those crucial decision-making components, they’ll see no reason to proceed with their review of your business plan, no matter how great your business idea.

Executive Summary Section

Every business plan must begin with an Executive Summary section. A well-written Executive Summary is critical to the success of the rest of the document. Here is where you need to capture the attention of your audience so that they will be compelled to read on. Remember, it’s a summary, so each and every word must be carefully selected and presented.

Use the Executive Summary section of your business plan to accurately describe the nature of your business venture including the need that you plan to fill. Show the reasons why people need your product or service. Show this by including a brief analysis of the characteristics of your potential market.

Describe the organization of your business including your management team. Also, briefly describe your sales and marketing plan or approach. Finally include the numbers that those reviewing your business plan want to see the amount of capital you seek, the carefully calculated sales projections and your plan to repay the loan.

If you’ve captured your audience so far they’ll read on. Otherwise, they’ll close the document and add your business plan to the heap of other rejected ideas.

Devote the balance of your business plan to providing details of the items outlined in the Executive Summary.

The Business Section

Be sure to include the legal name, physical address and detailed description of the nature of your business. It’s important to keep the description easy to read using common terminology. Never assume that those reading your business plan have the same level of technical knowledge that you do. Describe how you plan to better serve your market than your competition is currently doing.

Market Analysis Section

An analysis of the market shows that you have done your homework. This section is basically a summary of your Marketing Plan. It needs to show the demand for your product or service, the proposed market, trends within the industry, a description of your pricing plan and packaging and a description of your company policies.

Financing Section

The Financing section must show that you are as committed to your business venture as you expect those reading your business plan to be. Show the amount of personal funds you are contributing and their source. Also include the amount of capital you need and your plan to repay this debt. Include all pertinent financial worksheets in this section: annual income projections, a break-even worksheet, projected cash flow statements and a balance sheet.

Management Section

Outline your organizational structure and management team here. Include the legal structure of your business whether it is a partnership, corporation or limited liability corporation. Include resumes and biographies of key players on your management team. Show staffing projection data for the next few years.

By now you’re probably thinking that you don’t need Business Plan just yet. Well you do, and there is business plan building software that can help you through this immense project. These software packages are easy to use and affordable. Use one today and produce a professional-quality Business Plan including all critical components tomorrow!

Copyright © 2004 Cavyl Stewart. Get more software tips, strategies and recommendations to help you create your business plan by signing up for my Exclusive 100% free, 100% original content ecourse: “How To Failure-Proof Your Business Instantly.” To sign up please visit: http://www.find-small-business-software.com/bizplan-ecourse.html

article source: adzines.com


Change Management – Restructuring

Change Management – Restructuring

Chasm of Change – Restructuring – The Goliath of Change

By: Rick Johnson

Richard L. Daft one of the country’s recognized academic leadership experts raises the question, “What kind of people can lead an organization through major change?” A Turn-A-Round restructuring qualifies as major change and requires transformational leadership. Daft points out that this type of leader is characterized by the ability to bring about change through innovation and creativity. This type of leader motivates people to not only follow their lead but to believe in the vision of corporate transformation, the need for revitalization, to sign on for the new vision and to help institutionalize a new organizational process.” Daft points to four principles in discussions about leading an organization through major change. These four principles are the foundation of the restructuring Turn-A-Round process.

1. Create a compelling vision
2. Create a new organization
3. Mobilize commitment, Empowerment
4. Institutionalize a culture change

Caution – Beware of the Dip
A “Transitional Performance Dip” is common when introducing major change accompanied by a culture shift. Performance most commonly gets worse before it gets better. There are four phases of the transitional dip with associated cause. They include:

  • Denial – Confusion exists, feelings of being overwhelmed, acting like nothing is different & checking out are common employee reactions in this phase. Communication and sharing of information is critical to overcoming this type of employee reaction
  • Resistance – Complaining, blaming others, spreading rumors, frustration, anger and erratic performance are common employee reactions. Again, communication, understanding and listening skills are critical during this phase of the transition. 
  • Acceptance – Renewed energy starts to become evident, optimism appears and doubt begins to dissipate. Excitement and risk taking become evident. This is when the vision must be restated and shared with every employee taking the time for full explanation and answering all questions.
  • Commitment – Discretionary energy is released. Employees become action oriented toward new goals. Ownership of the vision is now company wide. Rewards and reinforcement are essential during this stage.

The length of time or “depth & width of the dip” depicting this phenomenon cannot be accurately predicted due to the complexities that determine it. Factors contributing to the length of time before the change efforts begin to show improvement can be impacted by the following factors:

  • Magnitude of the structural changes
  • Success of the communication to all employees
  • External environment factors
  • Critical mass of the company itself
  • Competency of the middle management group and their experience with structural and cultural change
  • Competency of the executive staff and their people skills
  • Effectiveness of leadership at all levels
  • Severity of the financial crisis or level of financial success
  • Timing

Change Process
The restructuring change process begins with the strategic restructuring of the organization, which is required to “Stop the Bleeding.” This process starts with the immobilization of the old culture. This is mandatory, as introduction of change into any existing culture is difficult at best. Introducing change into a losing or stagnant culture is almost impossible. This change must deal with organization theory, social psychology and business history. It must be dynamic and include the introduction of fresh new
leadership. This is a behavioral process. People can create change but people also resist change. The change process introduced must answer the question, “How do we get from here to there?” The answer to that question is your new vehicle for success.

This vehicle includes the restructuring plan, individual one-year departmental plans and every strategic initiative developed by the new management team. Most importantly, this new vehicle is submerged in the empowerment theory releasing individual employee initiative. The plans must be unified, simple, consistent and universally understood by everyone. Most of the change that has been introduced must be induced change versus autonomous change. Autonomous change has a life of its own. It proceeds due to internal dynamics and follows its own course. It is not easily controlled as it forms its own dynamics. Induced change is calculated and planned. It can be controlled if buy in is generated through sincere communication and employee involvement. Each step along this path will be accompanied by distinct challenges. As questions arise, management must be prepared to answer openly and honestly. While the old culture is suspended, change can thrive under the right circumstances. It is the responsibility of the executive team to insure that these circumstances exist. The primary ingredients that create the right circumstances include open honest communication, empowerment, risk taking, acknowledgment and reward.

Organizational Behavioral Process (OBP)
This is basic to creating change, and it becomes an important part of the new vehicle for success. OBP may be described as the wheels of the new vehicle. This process will carry the organization on to new heights, new accomplishments. Organizational behavior has its roots in organizational theory and group dynamics. People are the most important ingredient to every organization and the organizations behavior. People and how they are treated will reflect the organizational characteristics, the way it acts and interacts with its own people.

Empowerment, the decision making process and the communication channels are examples of how the organization interacts with its people. Organizational behavior is not easy to change. That is why it is so important as mentioned earlier to immobilize the old culture to introduce change. (E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com for a list of immobilizers) The behavioral process of the organization can withstand personnel changes. In other words, changing out management does not guarantee change in organizational behavior. You must take proactive steps designed to create new organizational behavior. The new vehicle is part of that. It includes, focused specific objectives, open channels of communication, empowerment and a sincere respect for the individual employee and his contribution to the organization.

Organizational behaviors become generalizations. They are discovered from observations of everyday work habits and they have no independent existence apart from the work processes in which they appear. They are difficult to identify but they are extremely important. They affect the form, the substance and the character of the work processes themselves. They actually affect the way the work process is carried out. They are different from culture because they represent more than just values and beliefs. They actually are involved in the sequences producing work. The decision making process is a major characteristic of the behavioral process. The decision making process is a much studied process beginning with the studies of Chester Barnard and Herbert Simon who argued that organizational decision making was a distributed activity, extending over time and involving a number of people. In other words, decision-making is not the personal responsibility of a single manager but a shared, dispersed activity that they only need to orchestrate and lead. This is still a surprising and often unaccepted theory of managers today.

The Eight Road Blocks to the Change Process

1. The lack of a sense of urgency
2. The lack of buy-in, a coalition of support
3. An unclear vision
4. Failure to communicate the vision
5. Failure to provide resources and remove obstacles
6. Not systematically planning and creating short term wins
7. Declaring victory too soon
8. Failure to anchor change in the culture as it is occurring

Sense of Urgency
Success at anything requires a sense of urgency, a commitment to accomplishing something. If employees don’t have this sense of urgency, complacency can become an issue. To meet difficult challenges, to excel at anything, to create competitive advantage it is absolutely essential that employees release their discretionary energy toward achieving company objectives. Discretionary energy is that extra that you can’t ask an employee to give but is automatically given by those employees that have a sense of urgency. Of course, no employee will release that discretionary energy for a leader that has not earned their trust and their respect. A leader will not be respected by the employee until he shows respect for the employee. A leader will not be trusted by the employee until he shows trust in the employee.

Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition:
Success is not an individual accomplishment. Initiating change requires buy in and agreement. A group of believers, achievers and team players must be assembled to not only support the change process but to drive the process. The group must function as a unit showing unilateral support of the change process. Examination of market and competitive reality is part of the challenge as well as identifying and discussing potential crisis, critical constraints and major opportunities.

Creating a Vision:
Success at initiating change starts with the creation of a compelling vision that provides a roadmap for the change. This roadmap clearly answers the question “What’s in it for me”. WIIFM. The vision is supported by the development of strategy and action planning to achieve the vision.

Communicating the Vision:
Success requires leadership and leadership without communication is like a gun without a bullet. It looks impressive but it can’t do anything. A specific communication strategy must be outlined and acted upon to insure that all employees are aware of what the vision is and how it is expected to be accomplished including defining individual roles and contributions. It’s about buy in.

Empowering Others to Act on the Vision:
When critical constraints or roadblocks are identified, they must be removed or overcome quickly. This means allocating resources accordingly. Systems or structure that can undermine the change must be eliminated. Empowerment involves trust and allowing people to use their initiative and creativity.

Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins:
Milestones need to be set up to mark progress and allow victory celebration along the change path. Success breeds success and excitement breeds’ excitement. Create that success and excitement by setting interim goals that can be achieved and celebrated. Recognize and reward employees accordingly that are part of the accomplishments.

Declaring Victory too Soon:
Interim success and short term victories are important but don’t spike your own Kool Aid. Be realistic and keep your long term goals in sight. Consolidate those short term improvements to produce continuing change. Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, & policies that don’t fit the vision. Hiring, promoting, & developing employees who can implement the vision is essential to continued success during a major change effort. Reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents.

Institutionalizing New Approaches:
Success must be anchored as it occurs and then built upon by articulating the connections between the new behaviors and corporate success. Leverage this success to ensure leadership development and succession.

Make no mistake, effective leadership is about creating change. This is true in every circumstance, whether a company is facing restructuring or dealing with the challenge of accelerated growth. Change is the defining moment that identifies true leaders from imposters. To become an effective leader, understanding change, creating change and most importantly managing change is the first prerequisite.

Author Bio
Dr. Eric “Rick” Johnson (rick@ceostrategist.com) is the founder of CEO Strategist LLC. an experienced based firm specializing in Distribution. CEO Strategist LLC. works in an advisory capacity with distributor executives in board representation, executive coaching, team coaching and education and training to make the changes necessary to create or maintain competitive advantage. You can contact them by calling 352-750-0868, or visit http://www.ceostrategist.com for more information.

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Create a Powerful Vision

Create A Powerful Vision

Create A Powerful Vision

In the Client Abundance coaching programs, we work on implementing several strategies that are designed to PULL your business forward, almost effortlessly. One of those strategies is creating a powerful vision for your business. My private clients have found this exercise to be both motivating and inspiring, and I’m certain you will too.

Once a year, I take a short retreat to work on revising my vision for my business (and my life). This is an annual break I take away from my business (but with my family, although some of my clients prefer to go it alone, which is perfectly fine) to really think about and decide what I want the next 1 to 3 years to look like. I write my vision and I create a whole bunch of goals for my business. I also use this time to talk with my husband about my vision and goals. He is a great sounding board for all the ideas I come up with… and we usually have this conversation while hanging out on the beach… 🙂

Being near the water definitely has some powerfully positive effects on my brain, and I always come away from this retreat with a renewed sense of energy and passion for my work. (Here I am on last year’s retreat in the Turks and Caicos.)

Creating a powerful vision is your first step on your path to achieving your own business success. Knowing where you are going will make the journey that much easier and faster, as well as simply more enjoyable. So, let’s get started…

Step 1: Book your retreat
Book a 2-3 day retreat so that you can work intensively on your detailed 1 to 3 year vision. Get a very clear picture of where you intend to be 3 years from now. Book the time to do this. Make the commitment.

I have booked the following dates for my vision retreat:________________.

Step 2: While on your retreat, answer the following questions:
What do you want your life to look like in 3 years?
What is your inspiring and compelling vision for the future?
For your business? For your personal life?

The truth is: You CAN design the perfect life and you CAN design the perfect business. How does it sound to you to be earning 6-figures a year, working 40 weeks a year, 3-4 days a week? Inviting? This is not a dream – it is achievable. It won’t happen overnight, but – with some planning and hard work – it can be a reality sooner than you think.

So, the ultimate question is: “If we were meeting here in 3 years time, and looking back over the previous 36 months, what would have to have happened to you both personally and professionally for you to be satisfied with your progress?”

A few notes:

You don’t have to go (far) away to go on your retreat. Go wherever you feel most creative and inspired, and where you are least likely to be interrupted.

Some people think and write better in silence, while others think and write better when there is a lot going on around them. Choose whatever works for you.

Before you begin to write, close your eyes and really see in your mind’s eye how you want your entire life to be. For example, see your dream home. Is it a large home or something more cozy? Do you live on the ocean or near the mountains? Or are you in a fantastic apartment in the middle of NYC? Write about it in detail – and don’t hold back! Do the same for your business: Do you want a waiting list of clients? Or do you want to stop working one-on-one and move to working with groups only? Do you want to implement at least three new streams of income? Do you want to write your first print book? Do this for all the other parts of your life as well – for the tangible things (like your home, your car, your vacations, etc.) to the intangible (like who you want in your life, how you will give back, etc.).

Get the picture? Once you have written your vision, I promise you’ll be really excited and motivated towards making that vision your reality!

Author Bio
Alicia Forest, MBA, Multiple Streams Licensed Coach, & Founder of www.ClientAbundance.com, helps coaches and other solo service professionals to attract more clients, create profit-making products and services, make more sales, and ultimately make more money. For FREE tips on how to create your own Client Abundance, visit http://www.ClientAbundance.com.

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Branding and your name

What’s In A Name? The Six Essential Elements You Need To Know

What’s In A Name? The Six Essential Elements You Need To Know

By: Susan Friedmann

Selecting a name for your new business is not easy. A name does more than identify your company. It tells customers who you are, what you do, and more than a little about how you do it. Your name differentiates you from your peers, peaks customer interest, and invites further investigation — if you do it right.

I didn’t do it right. At least, not at first.

All entrepreneurs make mistakes, and I made one of my first ones right off the bat. Thrilled with the fledgling business I was starting, this precious enterprise so near and dear to my heart, I christened my company Diadem Communications. Diadem means crown– a fitting name for what I felt was a

crowning achievement.

What does Diadem say to you? Does it evoke thoughts of me coming into your company, training your sales team to be the best booth staff ever, ensuring that every single trade show you attend turns out to be amazingly successful? Does it make me sound so good that you just can’t wait to hire me?

No. It doesn’t say that to me either. And even worse, it didn’t say that to any of my potential customers. Going by name alone, no one would be able to determine the least bit of information about me, my company, or the services we offer. The name said nothing, and it did nothing for me.

The name had to go. More importantly, it had to be replaced by something effective. How do you come up with an effective name? Consider these six elements:

An Effective Name:

1. Tells Who You Are: Your name should reflect your identity. This is an essential aspect of branding. You’ll be promoting this name, getting it in front of as many eyes as possible as often as possible. How do you want the public to think of you?

For some, that means integrating your personal name into the name of your business. This is very common in some professions: legal, medical, and accounting leap to mind.

Others prefer a more descriptive name. One successful small baker runs her business under the name “The Cookie Lady” because that’s how her first customers identified her. It’s doubtful that most of the customers even know her first name (It’s Pat) but everybody in her market knows “The Cookie Lady”.

2. Tells What You Do: It’s incredible how many company names give little, if any indication of what type of work the organization actually does. Take the following examples:

  • Smith and Sons
  • Hulbert Brothers
  • Only One

Can you tell me what any of these companies does? Of course you can’t. They’re relying on customers already knowing who they are (a tricky proposition for new businesses!) or by having their name found in ‘context’, such as a yellow pages or on-line business directory.

3. Tells How You Do It: Words are very powerful. By carefully selecting what words you use in your name, you can convey a great deal about your company’s image. Consider the names of three different massage and bodywork centers:

  • Champlain Valley Therapeutic Massage
  • Clouds Above Massage
  • Speedy Spa

All three companies are providing the same service: massage therapy. Yet the first appears to favor a more medical approach, the second, a dreamy, luxury approach, and the third focuses on fast service.

4. Differentiates You From Your Peers: Your company name is the first opportunity to tell customers how you differ from the competition. This can be done by emphasizing what makes you unique, pinpointing what aspect of your products and services can’t be found anywhere else — or that you do better than anyone else.

Consider the massage therapy example we looked at in number three. Each organization clearly has a different focus and approach to their customer base. They’re attracting different types of clients, who are seeking fundamentally different approaches. All of which is conveyed in less than five words.

5. Peaks Customer Interest: Creating customer interest is an art and a science. Think carefully about your target audience. What qualities of your services are of the greatest import to your customers? What kind of words are likely to appeal to them?

Emphasize the important qualities in your name. For example, busy homeowners are drawn to the inherent promise of speed offered by “Bob’s Instant Plumbing” while a reader in search of a good mystery will gravitate toward “Crime Pays Books”.

Word choice is also important. Two yarn shops can both specialize in specialty fibers, but the one who labels themselves “All Hemp All the Time” will draw in a decidedly different crowd than the one named “Natural Beauty: Organic Yarns”.

6. Invites Further Investigation: Customers are funny creatures. What one group finds to be funny and engaging turns another group off. You want your name to be inviting and approachable — as those qualities are perceived by your target audience.

The best example of this may be seen in the individual investor segment of the financial services industry. Charles Schwab has spent years cultivating a classic, formal image — but now that the consumer base is changing from ‘old people with money’ to ‘everyone with a 401K’, Charles Schwab has launched the “Talk to Chuck” campaign in an effort to be more approachable.

Make sure your name doesn’t intimidate customers away! Some industries are more formal than others, but adopt pretension at your peril.

After following a series of simple step-by-step instructions to match my corporate identity with my service offering, I came up with the quintessential name: The Trade Show Coach. This name instantly tells customers what I do – assist companies with trade shows – and a little of the manner in which I do it – coach, rather than dictate, direct, guide, or organize.

See the difference? So did the buying public, some of who quickly became my best customers. The same thing can happen for you — if you pick the right name.

 

Author Bio

Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author: “Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies,” working with companies to improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training. For a free copy of “10 Common Mistakes Exhibitors Make”, e-mail: article4@thetradeshowcoach.com; website: www.thetradeshowcoach.com

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