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10 Trade Show Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Been thinking about setting up shop at an expo or special event? Since trade shows are proven to help boost brand awareness, increase sales and enhance product knowledge, there’s no reason why your small business shouldn’t consider attending one. Get your promotional banners and book that well-positioned trade show spot. Be ready to assemble a sales dream team, grab some flashy swag and print up those can’t-miss marketing materials, because we’re headed to the trade show!

Get to Know the Event Before You Go

First things first: do some recon. Seriously though, the best trade shows and industry events will publish numbers pertaining to attendance, attendee demographics, competitors and other important items that you can use to create a highly effective trade show strategy. Focus on finding ways to draw in your ideal customer through buyer personas, and market to your target consumer.

Invest in a Custom Display Kit

If it’s your first time exhibiting at a major trade show, make sure you show up with a professional display. Small businesses typically can’t afford huge, custom-built rigs. These displays cost money to design, conceive and build, and also to transport to the event. Instead, invest in an all-inclusive trade show display that comes with backdrops, banners, tablecloths and other essentials. These bundles basically allow you to turn any space into a pro-level trade show display.

Write a Special Sales Script

Remember how we discussed marketing to your core consumer? Make sure that you tweak your typical sales script or pitch so that it very closely aligns with your target attendee. For example, if you’re hoping to get your product in front of C-suite execs or other decision-makers at a given show, then focus on positioning your product or service as a high-value investment that will bring big returns. If your goal is consumer-focused, make it more of an emotional experience.

Where Possible, Make it Interactive

In a world where we demo, interact and do business in a primarily digital setting, the trade show is a unique opportunity to get real face time with consumers and other innovators within your industry. Don’t miss out on this important component! Try your best to make your booth interactive and engaging by allowing attendees to touch, feel and play with your product. Videos, prototypes, virtual reality setups and mock-up environments can help people visualize products and experiences in a real, meaningful way without a massive spend on your behalf.

Send out a Digital Blast Beforehand

Before you set up at any event, especially a large trade show or convention, make sure to send out a digital marketing blast through email. Let everyone in your circle of clients, customers and partners know where you’ll be exhibiting (list the exact booth number, if possible). Even if your booth is flooded with existing fans or customers, count it as a win! Crowds beget crowds, and if event-goers see that your booth is happening, they’ll stop by, too.

Provide Sneak Peeks to Hype the Crowd

We probably don’t have to tell you that good trade show giveaways can earn you massive points in the exhibitor market. Of course, they’re great for drawing people into your booth and capturing the attention of attendees, but they’re also an amazing way to hype up your display before the event even begins. Tease your swag with sneak peeks a week or so beforehand.

Develop Incentives and Advertise Them

In the same vein, you can use your swag items to help you achieve specific event marketing goals. Maybe you decided to exhibit in order to develop leads, to build brand awareness or to grow your social media numbers. Whatever you want to do, your freebies can help. For example, you might offer a small giveaway to anyone who signs up for your email list or “likes” your page on social media.

Make Something “Share-Worthy”

These days, it isn’t enough for your audience to like and share content related to your business. They also have to create it themselves in what’s known as user-generated content (UGC).One of the best ways you can encourage them to do this is by having a totally unique photo opportunity in the midst of your booth. Think: a large, life-sized prop of some sort or a funny face cutout board with your logo and branding on it. Don’t forget the hashtags!

Draw Attention with Games and Chill Spots

If you’re setting up shop at a trade show that’s primarily business-to-business, remember that most attendees will be on the clock when they’re wandering through the aisles. Thus, anything you can do to provide them with a fun break in the day—which they have probably spent in exhausting meetings, presentations and networking events—will be welcome. Set up a place for attendees to relax, charge their phone or play some games (with prizes, of course) to help them take a much-needed rest as they ink deals.

Host an Event or Presentation

The exhibiting portion is only part of the equation when it comes to trade shows. You can, and should, develop a full-scale trade show plan by adding sponsored events and demonstrations to your schedule. Host thoughtful industry-related panels and question and answer sessions or keep it casual by inviting leaders in your field to mingle at a happy hour or luncheon hosted by your company.

Catering to the Right Crowd — 

 There’s no one-size-fits-all formula to marketing your trade show presence, but you should bank on the things that work. Effective event marketing includes creating an eye-catching display, handing out high-value freebies and building up hype around your exhibit. If you spend a bit of time beforehand conceptualizing a strategy that plays to your target attendee, you can bet that your exhibit fees will bring a pretty impressive return on investment.

Guest Post: About the Author

Leslie Pierce is the VP of Marketing for Half Price Banners. She has a demonstrated history of working in the wholesale industry and has been with her company for over 10 years. She is skilled in luxury goods, sales, retail, store management, and sales operations.

7 Things to Know When Writing Your Business Plan

Every business needs a strong business plan. Whether your motive is to attract potential investors or to have to a clear direction, your business plan is critical for your success. However, writing a business plan isn’t that easy. There are plenty of free online templates to help you out, but they don’t include all of the important details. Here are seven things to know when writing your business plan. 

Do Your Research 

The first thing you should do is research your market, your objective, and your product. You’ll have to spend twice the time evaluating, researching, and thinking about your business plan. To write a strong business plan, you need to know your company, your competition, your market, and your product as much as possible.

It’s up to you to know everything about your business and the industry before launching it. Read trade magazines and publications about your industry and find your target audience.

Determine the Purpose of Your Plan 

business plan can serve multiple purposes. It should provide you with a road map with different directions to plan your future and avoid any potential mistakes. You should keep this in mind if you’re self-funding or borrowing money to grow your business. For example, if you’re launching a fashion label, then you need to know the amount of money needed to start a clothing line.

If you want to attract potential investors, then your business plan should have a different purpose in mind. Since your business plan should attract investors, you want to make it as clear and concise as possible. When you clearly define your plan, make sure that you define your goals as well.

Create a Company Profile

The company profile includes the history of your organization, information on your audience and target market, the resources used, and the products and services you provide. It should also include how you plan to solve a problem and what makes your business stand out from others. When you create a company profile, you can include it on your website’s About page.

Company profiles are often seen on the company’s websites and are used to attract the right customers. Your company profile can also be used to describe your company’s mission and goals in your business plan. It’s one of the most extensive parts of your plan. Having a company profile in mind will make this step easier.

Document All Aspects of Your Business 

Investors want to know if your business will make them money before they put any money into it. They need to know the details of your business. Document everything involved with your business, including the cash flow, expenses, and industry projections. Don’t forget to include other details such as licensing agreements and your location strategy.

Create a Strategic Marketing Plan

A solid business plan should have an aggressive and strategic marketing plan. This includes having marketing objectives such as having a clearly defined content marketing strategy, entering into long-term projects with potential clients and extending or regaining a market for existing products. Of course, a marketing plan will come with its share of costs. You should include a section for allocated budgets for each of your marketing activities.

Adapt it to Your Audience 

The people who will read your business plan are lenders, bankers, employees, and venture capitalists. While it’s a diverse group of people, it’s only a finite group, according to Sewport CEO Boris Hodakel. Each reader doesn’t have the same interests in mind. If you know their interests, you can take those into account when creating a business plan for your target audience.

Bankers want the balance sheets and cash-flow statements, while venture capitalists will be looking for basic business and management concepts. You want to make sure that your business plan is modified depending on your audience. Keep these modifications in mind when creating various business plans. For example, if you’re sharing financial projections, that should be across the board.

Explain Why You Care 

When you’re creating a business plan for a banker, customer, investor, or team member, you need to show why you’re so passionate about your business. You can discuss some of your business mistakes and the lessons that you’ve learned. Explain what makes you stand out among your competition.

Maybe you’re someone who wants to change the world. You want to change the way that customer service is handled or the way online payments are made. Explain this in your business plan. Your passion will show through everything that you do. Explaining why you care about your business will help create that emotional connection with others so they’ll want to support your business.

Guest Post: About the Author

Tomas Smith is a production process specialist at Sewport – an online marketplace connecting brands and manufacturers, former advisor to various clothing manufacturing businesses. He is passionate about process optimization and all things related to garment manufacturing, writing and sharing his knowledge with the world.

3 Podcasts That Every Business Owner Should Listen To

It’s important for small business owners to continue educating themselves on running a successful business, managing employees, marketing and customer service. This is the only way to stay ahead of the competition by learning about the latest trends and concepts in your industry.

The roadback that many business owners encounter is lack of time; with spending all of their time managing their company, they are not always able to attend classes or read books. After reading today’s article, however, no one will be able to give the excuse of not having the time to sharpen their entrepreneurial skills as we will explain how to learn on the go, while driving in the car or during a morning jog – with business-related podcasts.

Dorm Room Tycoon

This podcast is led by William Channer, who is not only the co-founder of Panda, a smart online news reader, but also a journalist and co-author of Ways to Connect: On Interface and Product Design. Channer provides his real life experience in the business world, along with other well-known entrepreneurs and industry leaders, to help individuals grow their startups.

Channer has over 150 podcasts with the likes of co-founder of PayPal, Max Levchin; founder of Tumblr, David Karp; founder of Basecamp, Jason Fried; and co-founder of Recode, Walt Mossberg.

Popular topics on his podcast include:

  • Preparing for Startup Growth
  • Why Marketing is Everything
  • Building a Consumer Product
  • Pursuing Disruptive Ideas
  • How to Acquire Users

Mixergy

If you wanted to take advice from an entrepreneur who became a millionaire in his 20s, than you want to listen to Andrew Warner’s podcast, Mixergy. He was able to start an internet business that generated over $30 million dollars a year with no business experience.

When listening to his podcast, you’ll hear over 1,110 episodes containing interviews with the likes of Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales; star of Shark Tank and founder of Corcoran Group, Barbara Corcoran; and Jessica Jackley of Kiva.

Popular topics include:

  • Selling on Amazon? Don’t miss this interview.
  • How to build a company using the psychology of incentives
  • Case Study: Hiring a salesperson
  • Finding Your Message, Building a Tribe, Changing the World
  • Why sell a profitable company to take a risk on a new one?

The #AskGaryVee Show podcast

The host of this podcast,Gary Vaynerchuck, has an extensive resume and professional experience. His first win happened straight out of college, when he took over his family’s wine business and grew revenues from $3 million to $60 million in five years. Since then, he has started Vayner Media, co-founded VaynerRSE, a $25 investment fund and has invested in companies such as Uber, Facebook, Tumblr and Birchbox.

Gary shares his extensive knowledge of business ownership in segments that include his advice on business practices as well as segments from his public speeches and interviews.

Podcasts include:

  • When You Get to Do What You Want To Do, You’ve Won
  • Triple Down on Positivity
  • Losing the Micro Battle to Win the War
  • Instilling Confidence
  • Overnight Success

Once you hear the interesting ideas of these industry leaders, you will need capital to realize those goals. IOU Financial wants to help you grow your business with small business loans of up to $300,000 in under 48 hours. Contact us to learn more.

Why Restaurant Owners Should Think Carefully About Their Menu Design

There are many things to consider when you are planning to open a restaurant. You need to find the right space, hire employees and create the perfect menu. In the hustle and bustle of trying to get a new restaurant off the ground, one important step is often not given enough importance and is quickly completed at the last minute before opening. This step is menu design, and one that can have significant impact on yo

ur business. Read on to find out why!

Why is Menu Design Important?

While a menu can seem like a simple list of food and drink options offered in your restaurant, it is so much more than that! It is an internal advertising tool that every single patron of your restaurant, as well as online visitors, have access to. This document does much more than describe what people can expect to eat or drink, it “should communicate a brand, the vision, the ambiance and feel of the restaurant and the food and the experience a guest can expect to have,” according to one source.

What are Tips for Successful Menu Design?

Involve the Chef

While anyone in your restaurant can jot down the food and drink choices, it is only the chef that can transform a boring list into an appetizing and enticing experience. By highlighting special ingredients and local and organic products, the menu can provide more details to your customers.

When creating a menu description, focus on senses, such as the look, taste and texture of food when describing “the experience” in your menu. Use descriptive words that will bring the image of the items to life!

Finally, ask the chef to suggest pairings between food and drink options that can help your patrons have a more-pleasing experience (and help you push sales!)

Focus on the Image

Since a menu is typically a one or two-page document, it provides a small space in which to communicate your entire brand. It can be beneficial to employ the services of a professional menu designer to craft your menu.

Consider that the layout, fonts, colors, images and type of paper used in the menu – this will not only describe the food, but will also speak volumes about the type of restaurant (casual or upscale), food (Mexican or French) and environment customers can expect.

Add Value

One source suggests that there is a way to make a dish more enticing by highlighting its value. This strategy includes stating the geographic region where the item is from, such as:

  • Tuscan Olives
  • New England clams
  • Parisian baguettes

To differentiate yourself from the competition, highlight the exclusivity of the item by mentioning the very farm it came from, such as Sun Valley local eggs. You can also mention brand names if they are well-known and considered to be premium.

Whether you are opening a new restaurant, or simply reinventing your image with a new menu design, you may need financial assistance. IOU Financial can provide you with the help you need with a loan of up to $150,000. Contact us today to find out more!

How to Successfully Market Your Small Business on a Tight Budget

Television ads, billboards, direct mailers — these are all common ways world-known companies market their products and services. However, if you don’t have thousands of dollars to invest into your marketing budget, how do you engage with your potential clients?


Small business owners often find it difficult to stretch their tight budgets to effectively market their offerings. However, with a little creativity, there are ways to advertise your business on any budget!

Referral Program

Multi-million dollar companies hire marketing experts, PR gurus, and sales executives to advertise their products and secure sales. Although a small business owner with a handful of staff cannot compete with that, they can “hire” existing customers to help them market their brands.

One way to do that is with a referral program, where you reward your customers for bringing in new business. Offering discounts or freebies to those that help you generate sales has been a strategy many businesses have relied on for their success.

For example, Dropbox’s referral program, which offers 500MB of free cloud storage to individuals who refer their friends, increased their sign-up rate by 60 percent! PayPal’s financial incentive for referrals helped them achieve “7 to 10 percent daily growth” and “turned out to yield better marketing ROI than traditional marketing channels.”

It’s free to start a referral program, and the discounts or expenses of paying for the referrals will be offset by the new sales!

YouTube Videos

Another low-cost marketing tactic consists of creating self-made YouTube videos showcasing your products or services. All you need is a device with the ability to record and upload videos, and you’re ready to start marketing!

Skateboarding shoes company, DC Shoes, took this approach in 2009, when they started uploading short videos of Ken Block, the company’s co-founder, “driving a tricked-out race car around closed-off airports, theme parks, and even the port of San Francisco… the stunt driving is interspersed with glamour shots of footwear.”

These efforts paid off immensely, resulting in “180 million views—and in 2011 alone, sales jumped 15%.” Experts say this type of marketing would cost about 5 million dollars had it been done through traditional methods.

Cross-Promotion

Form a team with other, non-competing business owners to market each other’s services. Visit other small businesses in your area, and form agreements that will benefit each party involved. You can leave business cards or flyers in each other’s locations, cross-link on each other’s websites, and/ or create bundled promotions (get a haircut at Moe’s salon and a manicure at Lee’s Nails, and get 10 percent off both services!)

Cross-promotion is an beneficial tool that doesn’t just benefit your business, but your community by helping small businesses succeed.
There are times when you will need the funds to invest in marketing your business. When this situation occurs, contact IOU Financial to provide you with a business loan up to $150,000 in 24 hours!

How To Tweak Your Small Business for Success

Small-business owners usually don’t have the time or money to routinely make big changes to their businesses. However, you can consider easy changes that have the potential to make a big difference to your company’s bottom line. Here are four tweaks you can make to help ensure you spend your money wisely and increase your success:

Use financial tools:

It’s hard to optimize your business if you don’t perform proper financial management for critical areas such as revenue, taxes and payroll. You can cut this seemingly daunting task down to size by using relatively inexpensive financial tools like these:

  1. QuickBooks: A mobile, cloud-based accounting system that provides real-time insights into your business and accomplish tasks, such as banking and invoicing, via your computer, tablet or smartphone.
  2. Cyfe: A dashboard program that consolidates information from multiple websites you use, such as PayPal, Shopify, QuickBooks and social networks, to save you time and help give you the big picture.
  3. Mint MyBusiness: A business version of the popular financial tracking software that keeps tabs on your spending habits and even suggests budgets.
  4. Couponbox: A coupon calculator that shows the cost-effectiveness of your coupon-based marketing programs, so that you don’t hurt the bottom line with overly generous discounts.
  5. Trigger: Track part-time employees, freelancers, and contractors as they work on projects and tasks, a great way to measure productivity.
  6. TurboTax: The business version helps you prepare your taxes, maximize your deductions, and handle all the forms you need to file.

Streamline operations:

Businesses require more time to manage as they grow. Here are some ways to streamline your business and save yourself precious time and money:

  1. Cut back on email: Set a time limit on the amount of time you spend each day responding to email. Only spend time on urgent messages, and consider programs like Slack to handle internal communications.
  2. Outsource: Use accounting and HR services instead of tying up your own time doing tax prep, payroll, benefits administration, etc. It’s less expensive than you think and frees you up for more important tasks.
  3. Throttle meetings: Some meetings just suck the soul out of your business by being non-productive and boring. Don’t schedule meetings unless they directly contribute to your monthly or quarterly goals.
  4. Hire expertise: It’s easy to begin a company by hiring friends and family rather than expert talent. Fight this urge and hire great people from the outset. It might cost a little more, but it will help you avoid mistakes, wasted time and bruised feelings down the line.

Build company morale:

Happy employees are productive employees. There are many inexpensive ways to build morale, including company picnics, birthday parties, relaxation breaks, good medical benefits, employee discount programs, and allowing pets in the workplace. You might even organize a nearby child care center if you have several employees with young children.

Revamp your image:

Does your marketing image provide the best return on investment. Perhaps you can tweak it to give your brand(s) more oomph. First, conduct an image audit to find out what customers (and demographics) think of your branding. Pick a new logo, font, colors and designs that are more relevant to your target audience. Update your website and employ the latest SEO techniques. Get involved in the community and listen to customer suggestions.

There are many other ways to tweak your business, but these are a good start. If you need extra help organizing your business budget, be sure to check out our smart sheet. 

 

How Corporate Social Responsibility Can Help Your Business

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a strategy many small and mid-size business owners should embrace for two reasons: to help society and to help their own image. There are many causes you can choose to support, such as saving the rainforest, helping refugees, or contributing to a local boys & girls club. A source lists the most common causes of US companies as the following:
1. Efforts to protect the environment (74%),
2. End discrimination or restrictions based on sexual orientation (59%) or gender (54%),
3. Improve access to quality education (59%)
4. Protect human rights abroad (49%)
5. End discrimination/restrictions based on gender identity (52%)

Why adopt CSR into your operations? For these three reasons:

Set Your Business Apart

Regardless of what niche your business is in, you have competition. A way to identify your brand and let potential clients know what sets you apart from your competitors is with the adoption of a social initiative. For example, TOMS shoes, is a great example of an owner who built CSR right into the business model. For every pair of shoes bought, the company donates a pair to those in need around the world. This cause helped people connect with the brand, and sales soared!

People like feeling good about themselves and know that they are making a difference in the world by spending their money. If you align your business interests with a social or environmental cause, you can set your business apart and grab more market share away from your competitors.

Staff Engagement

While a CSR can help you connect with your audience, it is also beneficial to your own staff. Although they are motivated to come to work every day to receive a paycheck, they can become more engaged with the company and invested in its success if there is a cause they believe in involved.

For example, some real estate agents participate in a network called Charitable Agents, which donates 10 percent of commission from homes sales to charities. Agents can feel good about not only making a profit from a sale, but also contributing to a cause close to their heart. This benefits the business with more exposure, as people looking to make a difference when buying or selling a home will find an agent through this network, bringing new business to the agency.

Lower Costs

Corporate social responsibility doesn’t only have to involve donating money to causes, it can also benefit you within the confines of your company. For example, companies who pledge to help the environment should start with changes in their own offices, such as recycling, switching to energy-friendly appliances and technology, reducing water usage, etc.

Not only will these actions represent your true commitment to your cause to your clients and employees, but it will cut costs and promote your own sustainability in the years to come.

Oftentimes, small business owners need funds to market their CSR efforts, otherwise their clients may not know about them. IOU Financial is committed to helping business owners make a difference in the world, which is why we offer small business loans in as little as 24 hours.

How Redefining Your Core Values Can Benefit Your Business

As the new year momentum continues, it can be beneficial to review the core values of your business to see what you can amend and improve upon. Redefining your business core values to make them significant and actually mean something to your staff, partners, and customers can play a monumental role in the way your company is seen and how others relate to your brand.

A source for Harvard Business Review, who has helped companies refine their corporate values for over one decade, states that bland or meaningless values can damage the credibility of the company and alienate employees. To prevent this, revisit your current core values, find room for improvement, and take the following steps to redefine them.

Review Your Current Core Values

To start, re-familiarize yourself with the current corporate values you have established. Are they still relevant, achievable, and actually being implemented? For example, if one of the values is transparency, do your firm’s daily operations reflect that goal? Does information freely flow from top to bottom and in reverse? Are you open and honest with your investors, business partners, and clients about any issues, roadblocks or failures?

Remove any core values that are no longer important to your brand, don’t say anything about your corporate identity, or are simply impossible to achieve.

Survey Your Team

An organization is made up of the team members employed there; therefore, it can be beneficial to survey your employees to find out what their personal values are. If you able to align the personal beliefs and values of your staff with your business values, you can create a better corporate culture and overall working experience for your team.

Send out an email or online survey and ask employees to write down three to five personal values that matter to them. Review these answers and narrow down the top five to 10 choices based on popularity, significance, and relevance to your brand.

For example, if the majority of your staff value sustainability and the green movement, you may consider adding an eco-friendly component to your company’s philanthropic efforts. This can increase employee loyalty by supporting a cause that is important to them, and also start to promote your brand image with a new and important initiative.

Implement the Newly Established Core Values

Once you remove outdated and irrelevant values, and have worked with your staff to come up with meaningful new principles, you must create a plan to implement them. Core values must be ingrained in every decision and practice of the organization because they are the foundation of the brand’s identity.

If you added honest communication as a core value, for example, consider investing in training that would improve the communication skills of your managers and other staff members. Teaching them to better read nonverbal cues, actively listen, and understand difference in multicultural communication can lead to a more productive work environment.

Redefining your core corporate values can unite you with your clientele, partners, and employees by exposing the main principles that define your company and creating common goals for all staff to follow. Revisit your business’ core values while you’re still riding the momentum of New Year’s Resolutions and betterment initiatives!

5 Ways Your Small Business Can Innovate like Big Business

The New Year can mean new goals, products, developments and much more for small and large businesses alike. For many businesses, growth leads back to innovation and how it is essential. Without staying current and developing creative approaches, many businesses find the New Year a not so happy one. This is where small businesses can learn from bigger businesses about not only sales tactics, but how to come up innovative ideas that could keep them a contender in their industry for years to come. Let’s look at 5 ways your business can innovate like big business.  

Expand your Network of Ideas

Many larger companies are starting to go outside their walls to find the next best thing, newest idea, or latest innovative approach to delivering a similar product or service. Consider expanding outside your walls to see what other smaller companies are working on and how a partnership or collaboration could be more beneficial than competing. Harness new innovations by looking beyond your business.

Create an Atmosphere of Innovation 

It sounds obvious but does your business really foster an environment that promotes innovation? Many big companies are creating innovative “labs” or “programs” often called Accelerator teams tasked with developing new ideas, testing them out, and pitching the top ideas to the company. Start thinking about ways you can start to create small teams to create a new product, develop new ideas for marketing, or even ways to modify an existing service to make them more profitable. Test it out and if it renders good initial outcomes take it to market.

Innovate from Within

On the flip side of looking outside-look within. Ask for new ideas, discuss concepts with current team members, and research ways you can provide solutions to any problems. Many big businesses are learning more from the day-to-day employees and current teams on projects about various ways to stay above the technology fold. Look inward towards the employees you have on payroll to suggest and implement new ideas.

Diversify What you Have

Look at current products and find ways to expand and diversify that service. Offer it on new platforms and add new features as part of existing ones. If you sell sunglasses find ways to repackage, make small modifications, expand the line currently sold, or add new colors to your line. It is no surprise that this works… some companies add Emoji options to their platforms and call it the “next best thing.”

Access to Training/Resources Digitally

Are you accessing the most current training and trends in your field? If you are, how much time and money does that cost? Many companies are utilizing technology platforms to attend training online, developing training programs for employees to view, and even using in-house technology to expand messages to others without having to pay for costly travel expenses and meal reimbursement. Have staff take online courses from the office they work within. Many new companies are embracing the technology they used to develop their product to learn about ways to enhance it. Use technology to your travel and budget advantage.

Big or small, businesses can all learn from one another. Learning ways to maximize the market and stay atop of the newest trends and consumer “wants lists” can help carry businesses longer and further. What ties the success together is not only the implementation of innovation, but continuing to to execute innovative ideas all year long. So whether big or small, implementing the above 5 methods in the workplace can make or break the coming New Year’s resolutions.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) is a creative work, such as a design, invention or manuscript, whose rights are owned by your company. Those rights are established through a legal mechanism, such as a trademark, copyright or patent. IP is valuable – sometimes the most valuable asset a company can hold.

Here are the three major ways to protect your IP:ip-blog-image

  • Patents: You apply for a patent at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patents provide 20 years of protection from the filing date. You can apply for a:
    • Utility patent: Available to anyone who discovers or invents a new, useful process, mechanism, product, or composition of matter. You can also patent a significant improvement to any of these.
    • Design patent: Used for new designs of manufactured items
    • Plant patent: For use when you discover or breed a new, asexually reproducible variety of plant
  • Trademarks: Protect symbols, names, phrases, logos, artwork, colors and sounds used to distinguish your goods and services from others. Registration is not required, but is available. Trademarks remain in effect indefinitely.
  • Copyrights: Provide protection for original works of authorship, including musical, literary, dramatic, and artistic, whether published or unpublished. Copyrights automatically attach to original works, but you can also register them at the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyrights last from 70 to 120 years.

A startup company might, in its rush to get a product or service to market, not fully protect its IP. After all, it takes some time and money to register a patent. However, failure to protect IP can ultimately be very expensive and dangerous to a company. You have to worry about a partner, executive or employee stealing your IP, not to mention the threat of corporate spying. Here are some tips for protecting your IP:

  • Educate yourself and your team on the topic of IP. Learn the differences among trade secrets, patents, copyrights and trademarks. The time you spend up front understanding IP will pay big dividends later on.
  • If you have a novel idea, make sure it isn’t already patented. Do a Google search to see if it makes sense to spend your money on a protected idea.
  • Patent your valuable ideas, even if you don’t necessarily plan to develop them on your own. Someone else may want to buy a patent from you.
  • Use an expert attorney to file your patent. Always insist on a fixed fee.
  • Do not delay filing your patent application. It’s like taking a number at the deli counter – it holds your place in line. After initial submission, you have 12 months to augment your application and fill in any missing details. The approval process requires patience, since it takes up to five years. That’s why you often encounter the term “patent pending.”
  • Identify through an audit your non-patented IP, such as copyrights and trademarks, whether registered or unregistered.
  • You may need to file for international patents, because a U.S. patent won’t protect you from international competition.
  • Use non-disclosure agreements with all employees and consultants to prevent them from stealing your IP.

To research and file patents may cost you tens of thousands of dollars. A commercial loan from IOU Financial is an easy, fast and low-cost way to finance the protection of your IP. We can provide funds within 24 hours of approval, so contact us today.

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