January 28, 2014

The Power In Smart Thinking

Let's be honest: with spiralling energy costs and the recent threat of strike action from a leading electrical provider, who hasn’t looked wistfully out their back garden and wondered "If we could just get rid of the dog’s kennel and the dilapidated garden shed, maybe there’d be room for a small wind turbine!" 

All joking aside, with the risk of ever increasing energy costs, there's never been a better time to offer renewable and cost-effective energy sources.

Bright Sparks

Our featured business on Kickstart Your Business this week, Ár-nuaTec (which means ‘Our New Technology in Irish) has set out to create an internationally-recognised Irish business known for offering high quality, cost-effective renewable energy products. Its first flagship product is Dunk-E, a micro Hydro-Turbine designed to generate electricity in small streams or rivers.

Smart Thinking

Already backed by Enterprise ireland, Ár-nuaTec clearly have an offer that has huge potential in the domestic and international markets. What they need to look seriously at is protecting their offer through a strong and recognisable identity. As an example, the name of the company is hard to say and more importantly, has no resonance outside the Irish market. When looking to promote smart technology, it's vital to demonstrate instantly the smartness of the offer through clear messaging and visual language. 

Over To You

What advice would you give to Anthony when it comes to naming his company? 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.

January 21, 2014

The Craft Of Distributing Irish Artisan Beer

Here in Ireland, we’ve always has an appetite for beer but recently we’ve developed a real taste for sampling a wide range of Irish craft beers. With their distinctive local taste and personality, craft beers have quickly become a popular alternative to mainstream beer in pubs and restaurants across the country and with nearly forty local breweries up and running, we won’t be stuck for choice. 

However, for the small, local brewery, the challenge lies not in the demand for their beer, but in the logistics of supplying and delivering their artisan product nationwide. And for the publican, dealing directly with a large number of small independent brewing companies means a mountain of unnecessary paperwork and multiple delivery times.

A Crafty Solution

The time is perfect for someone with direct experience of the trade to step in and provide a knowledgeable and dependable supply of beer. And we know just the man for the job! Enter James Winans of Vanguard Beer, our featured business on Newtalk’s Kickstart Your Business this week.Vanguard Beer Collective offers pubs and restaurants a one-stop supply of Irish craft beers from a growing range of independent, artisan brewers. 

Connoisseur Credentials

In his feedback to James, Gerard said how much he liked the Vanguard Beer website but saw a missed opportunity there for James to present himself as the expert he is and display his credentials as a restauranteur and chef. James also has an excellent relationship with the local brewers and his commitment and passion for their products will help to keep him a step ahead of the large distributors who may be looking to muscle in on his market territory.

Over To You

How do you suggest that James might project more of his personality and unique relationship with the Irish craft brewers and the hospitality industry on the website? 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.

January 15, 2014

Pinpointing Your Bullseye Customer (5 Questions To Ask)

Imagine being invited into a department store, and asked to choose a gift for some person unknown to you. No matter how dazzling the array of goods and how persuasive the sales person, you would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to choose the right gift for that person without knowing something about them. Depending on the choice of possible gifts, (for example, a bottle of perfume or a set of golf-clubs), you would need to know many important details about them, such as their gender and interests. Otherwise, there would be a real danger that the bottle of perfume or the set of golf clubs, no matter how well made or luxurious, would be left lying in a drawer or under the stairs, gathering dust.

Incredible as it seems, like shoppers in the dark, many business-owners simply don’t know enough about their customers to set out their stall with the right selection of goods or services presented in just the right way. Instead, they make their pitch hoping to appeal to the widest possible number of people, and end up pleasing nobody. This indiscriminate approach is almost always costly, and often fatal, to the business.

The smart business-owner isn’t so indiscriminate. By getting to know their customers better, they get to know which customers are most likely to want what they have to offer, and develop their offer to match.

Building The Right Brand

In order to succeed in business then, the business-owner needs to build a brand that makes their offering the ‘natural choice of customers’. But how can the business-owner know what their customers want and equally as important, how can the customer know what business offer is ‘just right for them?’

If our understanding of the role of a brand is that it stands for the relationship between the customer and the business (the buyer and seller), then we need to
make sure we know exactly who we are as a business, why we do what we do, what business we are in, and how to communicate that clearly to our customers. And the converse is also true; for a brand to truly reflect the relationship between the customer and the business, we need to know exactly who our customers are, what they need, why we are the right choice for them and how they like to buy from us.

The Natural Choice Of Customers

Imagine looking out over the marketplace and being able to appeal directly to the person most likely to buy from you.

In order to become the natural choice of customers, business-owners need to understand the type of customer for whom their product or service is just right, or ‘most right’, and build a brand that presents their offering in a way that makes most sense to that matching customer.

One very important step in brand building is identifying an ideal buyer (at lslandbridge we call this buyer the ‘Bullseye Customer’). Identifying this customer is one of the most powerful ways for you to frame your marketing and sales messages so that you can present your offer in a way that’s just right for your target market. 

This approach isn’t so restrictive as it might first appear. Other customers who have a lot in common with your Bullseye Customer, may be a little less likely to buy from you than this ideal person, but they are much more likely to buy from you than the wider market of people who are not a match for you in any way.

When you have a clear picture of who you’re seeking to win over, your messages are more relevant and persuasive, and those customers clustered around your Bullseye Customer are much more likely to buy from you.

Pinpointing Your Bullseye Customer

Here are five questions you can ask to help you to identify your Bullseye Customer:

The Perfect Match
Ask: At what time and place in their lives is a person most likely to need, appreciate and be ready & able to buy what I have to offer? 

Zooming In
Ask: What are the key qualities and characteristics of this person, which makes them most likely to buy from me?

Adding Colour
Ask: Where is my ideal customer and what are they doing at the moment when their need is greatest, and how do they make their decision to buy?

Under The Influence
Ask: Who are the other people who influence the decisions of my ideal customer?

Mapping Your Market
Ask: Who are the other people who share the key qualities and characteristics of my ideal customer?

The Right Match

Where will you find the answers to these questions? First off, once you give the questions some thought, you’ll be surprised at how much you already know about your ideal customer. We then recommend you look at your current customer mix and identify customers who most appreciate your offer and would be happy to give their honest feedback on your offer and service. Then go ask them some questions. Ask all your staff to identify their favourite customers and to give reasons for their answers. 

Armed with a clear picture of your ideal customer and target market, you’re now able to build your brand so that everything you say and do helps your customer make the choice that’s ‘just right’ for them, and makes you in turn the natural choice of customers in your target market. All your communications will be directed towards them, your marketing and sales strategies will take into account how they buy and where to reach them and your offer will be tailored to suit their needs. No more unwanted perfume or golf clubs gathering dust.

‘Pinpointing Your Bullseye Customer’ is just one of the vital marketing tools participants of our popular 6 week Raising A Brand programme develop to help grow their business. If you'd like to grow your business in 2014, Check Out how previous participants report doubling the number of new customers to their business as a result.

January 14, 2014

Healthy School Food For Thought

It’s an all-too-common sight: the gang of school kids traipsing back to school from the local convenience store or chipper, armed with a chicken box and a bottle of coke. Or for anyone working in a primary school, the  lunch box filled with sweets, chocolate bars or crisps, or even worse, the empty lunchbox and the hungry child who cannot concentrate on the afternoon lesson.

A Delicious and Healthy Alternative

Our featured business on Kickstart Your Business this week, The School Food Company promotes healthy eating by providing a full catering service to schools, including the fit-out of canteens, and the preparation and delivery of healthy meals. As Ken Boland, the business’ co-owner reports, the student uptake has been fantastic and the teachers have themselves noted improvements in behaviour and academic performance. 

Food Glorious Food

Looking at the SFC Website, Gerard was very impressed with how Ken presents the food and overall offer but would recommend that the written messages in particular be more about delicious food (that happens to be healthy) rather than healthy food (that happens to be delicious). Whether we are children, parents or school managers, we buy first because we want something, not because it’s good for us. For example, the messages used to promote Innocent smoothies are all about the passion and love of great, fun food.

Over To You

How do you suggest that Ken might help make the The School Food Company’ website more about the fun and pleasure of great food?  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.

January 08, 2014

Stop Waiting For Your Customers To Call

I remember sitting at the window waiting for the postman to call. I must have been four or five at the time, and had recently cottoned on to the fact that some very interesting things arrived by mail. We had a relative in America who’d sent on a parcel of goodies and I was still buzzed by its unexpected arrival and the excitement of pulling off the wrapping and finding the presents inside. Now I’d taken to watching at the window for the postman and hoping against hope that he’d bring more gifts. 

At The Window Once Again
As business-owners, we often find ourselves sitting at the window waiting for our customers to come. We’re not sure who they are or where they’re going to come from but we’re hoping against hope that they’re out there somewhere and headed our way.
We go to the front door and shout to the world at large that we’re open and ready for business. We place our ads and send out our brochures, confident that our offer will prove irresistible. And then we go sit by the window. And wait.

Who Are You Waiting For?
You’ll have heard people say that when you build a business for everyone, you build it for nobody. And so most of us narrow things down a bit and decide that our offer is for business-travellers or families or whatever. And then go to the door, shout out our offer and return to our place by the window. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.
So how can we make certain it will work? We’ve got to go further, a lot further. Calling out hopefully to the faceless crowd is not a strategy that will increase our chances of hitting the target with the certainty that we need in our business. We need to narrow it down even more. We need to sharpen our focus to a needlepoint and home in on one person.

Right On Target
Yes, you’ve read right, that’s one person. Now this seems counter-intuitive. How can we build a business if we’re only talking to one person? It doesn’t seem to make sense. But right at the heart of our audience stands one person who was born to buy what we have to offer. In business terms, we’re made for one another. We can call them what we want: our ideal customer or our target bull’s-eye but we are describing a customer who is just right for us, who appreciates and can pay for our offer. 
In targeting our customer in this way, we’re plucking them out of the faceless crowd and placing them carefully at the very heart of our business. Many of the great breakthroughs in product development arise when we actually consider how one customer in particular (rather than our customers in general) makes use of what we have to offer.

Reach Out And They Will Come
So how do we begin to picture our ideal customer? If we have existing customers, then we can study them more closely to get a sense of who is typical and who is ideal (the two may not be the same and we will need to move our ideal customer to the heart of our mix). If we’re a new business, then we’ll need to speculate a little more or look to customers who are buying something similar to what we have to offer. Either way, we’re looking for patterns of appearance, behaviour, lifestyle or preferences that will give us some clues as to where our audience stands. 

This simple act of picturing our ideal customer will take us away from the window and lead us to make practical provisions for bringing them into our business. Instead of calling hopefully from the doorway, we’ll go confidently to those places where they are to be found and issue them a personal invitation (or one that feels very personal to them). And in return, they are much more likely to come knocking at our door, ready to do business.

January 07, 2014

Success In Mind: Feeling Focussed

Mental health is never an easy subject to talk about and when our difficulties are tied in with disorders around eating or anxiety, it can feel impossible to share or deal with our problems in a public forum. Experts in this very sensitive area agree that for every person who does step forward to seek professional help, there are many others who are too ashamed or embarrassed to talk about their difficulties face-to-face.

Help Is At Hand
Our recent Kickstart Your Business feature Feeling Focussed (www.ChangePanda.com) is an online platform, which offers programmes enabling customers to tackle mental health disorders such as bulimia and anxiety in a safe and confidential environment, and aims to become a recognised provider of quality online mental health support.

A Positive Experience
The business owner Emma Murphy, is also a trained counsellor and psychotherapist and with her wealth of experience and expertise, understands how important it is to put her clients at ease. And that is exactly the advice Gerard gave Emma during the show; make the online experience as warm, immediate and friendly as a visit to her offices, by introducing more of her personality into the site.

Over To You
How do you suggest that Emma might help make the ‘Feeling Focussed’ website more accessible and welcoming?  Listen back to the show on the Newstalk's Kickstart Your Business blog and let us know what you think. We'd love to hear from you.