Business Failure – How Not To Get Blindsided

business Sep 08, 2019

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Asking ourselves the question ‘what business am I really in’ is not just something that’s nice to do in order to identify business development opportunities. It’s actually critical to avoiding business failure.

Take Kodak as an example.

 

Kodak

Kodak is a cautionary tale that illustrates why it’s imperative to stay relevant to customers. Had that company asked itself this question it might have discovered that it was not just in the film business but in the memory preservation business too. 

By defining themselves and their role in this wider way they would undoubtedly have reacted more appropriately to the changing technological landscape that digital cameras presented.  

Kodak did not fail because it missed the digital age. It actually invented the first digital camera in 1975. However, instead of marketing the new technology, the company held back for fear of hurting its lucrative film business, even after digital products were reshaping the market.

Had they been more focused on helping customers achieve what they wanted to do, namely to preserve their memories, they would have created different products and solutions instead of continuing to push film products.

However, Kodak didn’t change with the times and didn’t effectively met the digital challenges that its business was facing. So, the business fell by the wayside and became irrelevant to customers.

I see a potentially worrying parallel for many law businesses such as my own intellectual property law firm unless we adapt to the changing market needs and provide the solutions customers want.

 

Intellectual Property

When I asked myself the question, ‘what business am I really in’, I realised that my business of intellectual property protection is as much in the branding business as it is in the intellectual property protection business.

Clients are trying to succeed in business. That’s why they need to get a brand, create an identity, and protect their intellectual property. 

What if we helped them to create and build an irresistible brand, that’s legally protected and makes them more money? That really fired me up and inspired me. 

Customers face real problems attaining a brand that’s legally protected and makes them more money because they often don’t know who to turn to achieve that goal. There are various disparate provisions out there - services for personal branding or brand identity creation, social media and marketing support and so on. However, rarely are these providers also offering a joined up service that’s mindful of the brand the client is aiming to build.  Rarely is intellectual property consideration dealt with side by side with branding services. IP is instead an afterthought.

Yet choosing the right name, domain name and social media handles are all part and parcel of branding the business as discussed in my book Legally Branded which I wrote 7 years ago. Choosing these elements requires intellectual property thinking to run parallel to branding.

All too often when we are asked to help people to protect their IP we find the client doesn’t own the copyright to their logo, or has an indistinctive name that is not capable of protection as a word trade mark, meaning the client won’t be able to fend off copycats. Or we find that the name conflicts with an existing trade mark because the name wasn’t first cleared before the brand was created. A name can never be perfect for you if it’s not legally available and legally effective.

Sometimes clients are blissfully unaware of the IP dimension, even when they’re rebranding and they’re unaware that a disjointed service can cost them a lot more money and risks giving them a brand that won’t give them the lift off they are seeking.

The intellectual property dimension falls by the wayside because its relevance isn’t that obvious to clients or to the agencies they use. Yet it’s part and parcel of business and plays a huge part in whether the business succeeds ultimately or not. It’s intrinsic to the business and its marketing.

 

Brand management

Once the brand is created, businesses are unsure how to promote themselves. For example, it’s not uncommon for established businesses to wonder whether the owner of the business should be promoting their personal brand as well as the business brand.

Many businesses lack a joined-up digital marketing strategy to support their branding. They don’t know how to follow through and communicate on social media in order to build their brands. Nor do they know who to turn to and what advice to follow to succeed. It’s a noisy world out there.

I can guide businesses on their journey to success online. 

Their needs go far beyond intellectual property protection or the creative branding process. Due weight needs to be given to the intellectual property dimension for sure because that is what enables them to stand out and protect their distinctiveness in the market.  IP is relevant whether you’re building a business to sell for a big pay off one day, or just want to run a successful lifestyle business. It needs to be the first consideration. 

However, clients need to promote their business to get customers and build their brand online. But then they also need to consider their content strategy for building the brand. Often these services are provided by disparate people and the client doesn’t get an overall strategic approach to their brand building. 

I realised that I’m well placed to deliver the more joined up, holistic service that customers need because I’ve been through a few branding exercises myself and identified what is done well and not so well by people offering branding services. I can save my clients a lot of time and money to ensure they build an irresistible brand that’s protected and that they don’t need to spend a fortune obtaining.

 

Understanding What Works and What Doesn’t 

Over the years I’ve developed an intimate understanding of branding, brand building, marketing and business development, using the internet and social media.  I know through my own hard experience of trial and error what works and what doesn’t work. It’s a no brainer therefore, that I should help my clients on their business journey by offering them brand management services.  

I know what it takes to succeed and what is required from branding at every stage of the business journey. The service provider that’s right for start ups will be quite different to the one I’d suggest to someone who has already built a business and is rebranding. 

I have a plan to guide customers to succeed. We’re creating products and services to give them a parallel to the sort of attention big consumer brands with a dedicated brand manager would receive.

Smaller businesses lack the insights into brand management so don’t get the best from their branding spend. They often don’t know what “brand” even means and how and when it needs to tie into intellectual property. By helping them to think strategically about their brand and intellectual property needs, we will help them to find the right suppliers and brief them properly when necessary. It’s so important that business owners avoid the disastrous mistakes that can otherwise scupper their chances in business, and even result in business failure.  

Whether we deal with their branding ourselves (using our trusted partners) or support them to use their own desired suppliers more effectively there’s a lot that Azrights can offer to guide clients to succeed in their businesses.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, it makes complete sense for us to offer products and services related to intellectual property to support clients to get a helicopter view of their business, build effective brands, and have a more joined up approach to marketing.

Whatever the size of the business, we will have offerings that go beyond intellectual property protection to help clients start, grow or exit. 

Every business, including lawyers in other disciplines, needs to think about how to better meet their customers’ needs to survive and thrive.

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