December 24, 2013

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Is It The Thought Or The Gift That Counts?

Recently I heard the story of a P.A who, after selflessly working thirty hours unpaid overtime to facilitate an office move, was handed an envelope from her boss with a mumbled thanks. Inside was a €50 voucher for Argos (and to add insult to injury, the voucher had been purchased ten months previously). The ‘gift’ was met with incredulity and a resolve never to work a minute of unpaid overtime again. 

A gift as thoughtless as this one can end up costing a business so much more than the value of the voucher.

Leave It To The Experts

If only her boss had gone to the giftware section at Fortune Marketing, our featured business  on this week. Calling on us to ‘Promote, Reward and Incentivise’, Fortune Marketing offers promotional merchandise  and expertise to both blue-chip and SME companies across Ireland. A wide and thoughtful range of branded promotional products promises to deliver a significant return on investment for those who choose and use them cleverly.

The Personal Touch 

Like so many good business owners, John Fortune (and what a great name that is for someone in his line of work!) knows his strongest selling point is how well he engages with the challenges his customers face, and in turn provides them with tailor-made solutions to their promotional and marketing needs. 

John already has his name on the website but could do so much more to add those personal touches that bring more of what John himself uniquely brings to the business. For example, John could outline his philosophy of the business and give the visitor to the website a real taste of what is so different about how he finds just the right promotional item for his customer.

Over to You

What advice would you give to John about what gifts or items to include in his extensive catalogue? Listen back to the show on  Newstalk's Kickstart Your Business blog and let us know what you think. We'd love to hear from you.

December 17, 2013

He Shoots, He Scores

As any football fan sitting on the couch watching a game will confirm, half the fun and the adrenaline rush comes from disputing decisions the manager makes whilst offering expert opinions on the correct gameplay. And if there are other experts sharing the couch with you, all the better!. Now you can compete with the manager on the screen and the other wannabe managers in your life.

It’s A Goal

On this week’s Kickstart Your Business,  we featured Padraig Doolan of BeatYourManager, a fantasy football game that uses sophisticated player performance metrics to enable you to virtually manage your favourite football team and compare your performance against the club manager in real time. The game can be downloaded free onto your android or iPhone or played on your computer.

League Leader

As with any game, either virtual or physical, the main attraction is the sheer fun and pleasure of playing against worthy opponents. 

As Gerard advised Padraig during the show, getting people to play the game, then talk about it,  is the most powerful marketing tool, given how connected football fans are. 

Throw in a little controversy and soon everybody will be talking about the game. For example, imagine inviting a disgruntled ex-manager to pit his wits against the new gaffer...

Over to You
As a football fan or entrepreneur, do you have any advice for Padraig and who would you like to see going head to head on BeatYourManager? Listen back to the show on the Newstalk Kickstart Your Business blog and let us know what you think. We'd love to hear from you.

December 04, 2013

The Gift Of Giving (What People Really Want)

Despite the years spent in recession, there's something remarkable still happening in business today. And it doesn’t add up. On the one hand, business-owners are struggling to attract customers. On the other, when customers do turn up ready to buy, they’re often being given the cold shoulder and told to take their business elsewhere. They’re not being told directly, of course. But all the signs are there and customers are getting the message loud and clear.
Wasting Precious Time

Let me give you an example to show you what I mean.
Recently, I went online to choose a gift for my brother and his wife who were celebrating a special anniversary, and selected a popular, upmarket Dublin hotel. I called to book the package and was told that the person handling package sales was unavailable but would call me back. They didn’t.
I rang the following day. Yes, I was told, they had my details; hadn’t someone called me back? No, they hadn’t, but could I book the package now, please? I was told the person handling package sales was on leave today and they would have someone call me back the following day.
The next day, I finally spoke with the person handling package sales. She took my payment details but when I asked to have the voucher made out without the value written on it (as it was a gift), I was told no, all vouchers were made out with the cash value.
I grew obviously irritated then and asked whether the hotel really wanted the business. She checked with her manager and returned to tell me that exceptionally they would make out a voucher with just the package details but it would be valid for three rather than the usual six months. Under some time pressure now with the anniversary looming, I agreed but was left with a bad taste in my mouth and a determination never to give business to this particular hotel again.
What I Really, Really Want

What kind of business can afford to disappoint a willing customer in a struggling economy?

I believe I can answer that one. Despite common sense suggesting that business-owners are prepared to work doubly hard to generate business in challenging times, the evidence tells us that their hard work is often in vain. In my recent experience, this is down to business owners forgetting the business they are really in.
In the case of the hotel, it’s likely they believed that they’re in the business of selling accommodation. Well they are, in a sort of a way. But that’s not the real business that they’re in. The real business they’re in has something much more to do with the reason that brought me to their doors looking for a gift voucher.
Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, likes to say that “we’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee”. When I called, the hotel should have been in the people business preparing gift vouchers but proved distracted and in being so sent out a message to me that they didn’t want my business.
Give Them What They Really Want

We must step out from behind the counter to properly consider what our customers want. This is the time to focus again on what lies at the core of our exchange with our buyers. At the heart of every business, there is a simple transaction that is the basis for our brand. If we can repeat that transaction over and over again, to the satisfaction of our customers, then we are truly in business.
We cannot afford to turn people away or leave them standing neglected at the counter. Instead, we must demonstrate that we are not only open for business, but actively welcoming people to buy with us and keenly aware of what they want and need from us. 

December 03, 2013

Playing Mind Games

We’ve all been there; frantically searching the house looking for keys, trying desperately to remember where we last left them. 

And don’t get us started on forgetting passwords or phone numbers. 

The inability to remember things is down to our short term or working memory but the good news, according to researchers, is that we can train our brains not just  to remember more, but to work more effectively and creatively.

Play Your Way To A Better Brain

Even better news, courtesy of our latest Kickstart Your Business feature on Newstalk; Cogs: The Brian Shop offers us the opportunity to play our way to a better brain with an astonishing array of games and puzzles designed to stimulate the brain in a fun and enjoyable way. 

Located in The Stephen’s Green Centre (or on-line at, the traditional shop is a hands-on, minds-on experience with customers encouraged to try out the games and puzzles for themselves. 

Come Out And Play

The website is attractive and well laid out with a simple directory that makes purchasing the right games or puzzle easy. What's missing is that vital element that works so well in the physical shop itself; the invitation to get stuck in and play. 

Creating a playful and engaging experience on-line will allow the games to sell themselves. Who would have thought that shopping on-line could be child’s play?

Over To You

How do you suggest that Conor of Cogs: The Brain Shop could make both his shop display and website even more interactive and playful? Listen back to the show and let us know what you think. We'd love to hear from you.