With the way things are right now in the business world, there are many four-letter words that I’m sure you have no problem saying! But, at the same time, have you thanked your customers, partners, associates, and media contacts lately for helping your business stay afloat? If not, here are three simple ways to [...]Continue Reading
Archive for “Plan Your Business”
Do you think of social media first when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing and PR? Well, before you start Tweeting, posting photos on Facebook and adding videos to YouTube, tell your story to the media. After all, if your business is featured in a major news-story on radio, television, print, or online, you can build [...]Continue Reading
When I was an employee, I hated it when my boss was in the office. The boss always managed to muck things up and did more damage than good by running around being self-important and annoying. As soon as we could get him out of the office, systems started moving smoothly again. We got more [...]Continue Reading
If your business is not getting the sales you want, it’s time to take action with public-relations activities. Do you want some free publicity within the next two weeks? Here’s what you can do right now: Research. If you don’t already have it, find the name and contact information for a reporter at your local [...]Continue Reading
We have all heard the horror stories of big business pitted against small business. The classic David and Goliath tale played out from Wall Street to Main Street with all kinds of financial causalities in their wake. While the tales may differ, the moral is the same. The big fish will always try to eat [...]Continue Reading
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen an increase in small-business marketing budgets in the last few weeks. More small businesses are realizing that they need to market and promote their services more than ever to get their piece of the consumer’s shrinking budget. After all, if you don’t get your name [...]Continue Reading
Just got this from a casting agent for NBC TV: Do you have an idea for America’s next great restaurant? Are you sitting on a billion dollar concept? If you think your restaurant idea has what it takes to go national and bring in millions of hungry Americans, read on… From NBC and [...]Continue Reading
If you want to get some new business, here are three quick tips that may help you boost your customer-list fast… 1. Make A List. Check It Twice. Look through all of your contacts and review the people you’ve met in your industry or at various conferences, local business meetings, presentations, etc. Then, make a list. Research [...]Continue Reading
A recent survey conducted by StartupNation’s friends at Wakefield Research for Brother® International, http://bit.ly/cIsNF5, indicated that small business owners “believe that stockpiling their cash now is the best strategy for survival.” The survey also revealed ways that small business owners plan to make their businesses more efficient this year. To find out more, I interviewed [...]Continue Reading
Once you do your research and contact media members with targeted pitches, there are several other things you can do to build buzz about your business. As Step 7 in our “7 Steps to Successful Public Relations” at http://www.startupnation.com/steps/77/3856/1/1/public-relations-action-plan.htm states, it’s time to get the word out! Here are some additional activities to add to [...]Continue Reading
After conducting extensive research and preparing your story ideas (discussed in previous blog entries pertinent to our “7 Steps to Successful Public Relations”), the next step is to contact the media. Introduce Yourself. You can start with a press release announcing your new business and call or e-mail the appropriate media member with a simple [...]Continue Reading
For many small business owners getting a write-up in Entrepreneur magazine is the holy grail of media coverage. A few lines in the magazine can make all those sleepless nights, hard work, and determination seem rewarded. No trophies or plaques required. So what does it take to secure this much coveted ink? Aronado Placencia, host [...]Continue Reading
Ok. You’ve probably heard that you need a media kit but aren’t sure why or what goes in it. Well, as part of our “7 Steps to Successful Public Relations,” here’s the information you need to know. What is a Media Kit? A media kit is a package of information that allows reporters to get [...]Continue Reading
Want to know how to get some free publicity? Well, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve covered the first two steps in our “7 Steps to Successful Public Relations.” Now, it’s time for Step 3 – Develop Your Story Idea. As a new business owner, it’s easy to rush through publicity efforts in order [...]Continue Reading
As you may know, StartupNation offers a franchise selector service. You basically use the finder tool to identify franchises that fit your interests and financial realities. At this time of year, interest in finding a franchise is at fever pitch. People seem to come out of the self-reflective New Year and holiday period charged up and on [...]Continue Reading
As a bootstrap entrepreneur, I’ve learned there are just some things you don’t cut corners on. My “golden rule” has always been to hire the best Lawyer, Accountant, and Business Consultant you can find, even if you can’t afford it. The truth is you simply can’t afford NOT to. Running my small business over the [...]Continue Reading
It’s time. Right Now. Stop dilly-dallying. Starting a business doesn’t have to be scarey. And you don’t have to wait. Start on a path to opening your own business. Get our life-changing book, StartupNation: Open for Business. There are easy steps you can take. And there are over 30 examples of success stories using our process, [...]Continue Reading
Happy with your day job? If so, you’re in the minority. 55% of Americans are not happy with their work and wish they could be doing something else, according to the latest study by The Conference Board, reflecting the highest dissatisfaction level in the 22-year history of the study. In just one year (from 2008 to 2009) [...]Continue Reading
Here are the two logos at issue:
Apparently, Jimmy has a great sense of humor and set up his company to sell some t-shirts and hopefully raise money to cover his college tuition (he did end up raising something like $100,000, according to Hurst). I love this disclaimer on his website:
We are not in any fashion related to nor do we want to be confused with The North Face Apparel Corp. or its products sold under “The North Face” brand. If you are unable to discern the difference between a face and a butt, we encourage you to buy North Face products.
(Sound of author trying to compose herself after period of robust laughter)
Anyhoo….long story short, management at The North Face failed to see the humor in this situation (or apparently the difference between a face and a…. bottom) and actually slapped Winkelmann with an expensive trademark infringement lawsuit.
Hurst’s post does a great job of analyzing what the North Face would have to establish to prevail on their claim (something Hurst doesn’t think they will succeed in doing – and I agree with him).
But this does bring up a couple of really important points for those of us launching and running businesses.
(1) Don’t Use A Name That Is Already In Use!
When you are choosing a name and logo for your company, make sure to research whether that name is in use already (particularly in the industry that your company will be in) and make sure you do not create a logo that looks like one from another company (as best as you can determine). You need to search your state records for names (usually the Secretary of State’s office will have the ability to search LLCs and Corporations in your state; also search any other state in which you plan to do business now or in the future). Also search national records, such as the TESS at the US Patent and Trademark office. I also recommend doing a Google search for the name to see if the domain is taken (or any variation of it) and to see if anyone is already using that word or combination of words for their business already.
Right or wrong, big companies generally are not shy about enforcing their trademarks (as you can see in the North Face case) and you don’t want to end up getting a cease and desist letter from an in-house legal department just after you spent your last red-cent having your logo and branding designed.
If your name or logo could cause confusion between your company and one with an already established trademark, you could be found to be infringing on their trademark. If you are, you could be forced to change your name, logo, packaging and anything else that uses the infringing mark. If you have any market traction already, you would then have to rebuild your brand and lose the work already put into marketing the infringing name/brand/logo. Add to that potential money damages and attorneys fees, and not doing your homework about your trademarks becomes an expensive (and potentially fatal) detour for your business.
(2) Protect Your Own Trademarks!!
Once you are sure you aren’t at risk of infringing on someone else’s trademarks, make sure that you have properly trademarked your own logo, tag lines and even product names and packaging so that you have the ability to protect your intellectual property and branding if someone does attempt to infringe on your trademark in the future.
Generally, “use” of the trademark itself does give you some protection (use the ™ symbol as soon as you start using anything you want trademarked). That means, always include the symbol on your website, on all of your advertising, correspondence/emails with customers, and written materials at a minimum.
But the best way to protect yourself if to file with the US Patent and Trademark Office in order to have a “registered” trademark (at which point you use the symbol ®).
Of course, I recommend hiring a good lawyer for this, as the paperwork can be tricky and you want to make sure it is done right. However, there are services out there that can help you file your own paperwork, such as Legal Zoom, so you have that less expensive option.
Just don’t decide to NOT trademark your branding. That could be an expensive mistake if someone else decides to use your name, logo or a variation of your logo (deliberately or without knowledge of yours). If you don’t have a registered trademark, you might not be able to stop them from using it, you will have less protection under the law to go after them, and might even lose your right to use your own name or logo in the future.
I’ve glossed over this because it is really fairly complicated subject, so make sure you find someone knowledgeable in trademarks to help you navigate this process. (And now for the required disclaimer: this post is NOT intended to give legal advice, so seek your own independent counsel for that!)
And if you have any experience with trademarks for your business (positive or negative), or questions, we want to hear from you so make sure to post a comment below!
You can read all of Hurst’s post at the link below.
I just came across a great blog post by a fellow attorney, J. Michael Hurst at Keating Muething & Klekamp PLLC. Apparently, 19-year old Jimmy Winkelmann created a company called The South Butt LLC, which was meant as a parody of The North Face. Here are the two logos at issue: Apparently, Jimmy has [...]Continue Reading
So what does this mean for small business?
If you haven’t jumped in on the social media bandwagon yet, now is the time. Customers and clients are using their blogs, tweets, facebook status updates, and more to talk about your brand. (Don’t believe me? Watch this.) With the birth of social search, these conversations will now be mainstream for all of Google to see. In other words, your customers will directly effect your Google search rankings.
Will Twitter be more business friendly in 2010?
Absolutely. Their real-time search collaboration is a big step in the right direction and Twitter isn’t stopping there. It has also launched a “Contributors” function (invitation only for now) which allows companies to have several authors send tweets under the same company profile. It is rumored that this may be one of the many new features in a “business class” Twitter account. These accounts would be part of an anticipated paid model launch in 2010. Also highly anticipated is the new emphasis on GeoAPI which will allow tweets to be seen with geo-location information. (Click here to read more.)
So what should you do?
Take advantage of this new opportunity to leverage social media in your favor by developing a listening strategy (read my post here for a how to), ensuring that your current web collateral can easily be shared socially (use AddThis or ShareThis buttons), and abandon spamming your marketing messages via your social networks in favor of developing mutually beneficial online relationships with key influencers in your industry.
Share your thoughts below in the comments! Are you using Twitter for Business?
Need help with your social media campaign? Contact me directly here!
I wouldn’t encourage the naysayers to start chanting “the wicked witch is dead” just yet, but there has been a definite decline in Twitter users. According to the latest research from eMarketer, Twitter posted a decline in users from 23 million to 20 million. How is this possible you ask? Easy. The honeymoon is over [...]Continue Reading