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VIDEO: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TRADEMARKS.

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While I’d love nothing more than to spend a few hours writing a fairly comprehensive guide about United States trademark law, who needs a trademark, what a trademark actually protects, the application process, which marks actually get approved and everything in between, i’m not going to. There is a much easier (and refreshingly thorough) way for you to get this information: straight from the horse’s mouth.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office produced a 41 minute informational video that — while a wee bit heavy on the scripted cheesiness (sorry to anyone at the USPTO, I say that with love), is an excellent crash course for any small business owner to watch and come out relatively well-versed in all things trademark. Enjoy. Grudgingly sit through it. Either way, you’ll be smarter on the other side.

RESOURCES AND LINKS:

The USPTO website can be found here, and the basic trademark search tool on their site (TESS) can be found here. If your Trademark Application is relatively straightforward, I’ve successfully used LegalZoom.com in the past to submit my application.

SHOULD YOU BUY BILLBOARDS & PRINT ADS FOR YOUR WEBSITE?

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Website owners often get the idea stuck in their heads that they should run out and buy billboards and magazine ads to get traffic to their new website.

I’m not sure if this is because they are used to seeing billboards everywhere — or if it’s really a subconscious thing for them to feel like “they’ve finally made it,” but 99% of the time this is not where they should be focusing their initial (and limited) marketing dollars if their goal is to get traffic.

Billboards and print advertising are expensive, nearly impossible to update quickly, limit you geographically and are absolutely inefficient when it comes to targeting and capturing your audience. And that’s not even the shittiest part.

Because they are legitimately expensive to produce, you’ll likely get locked into some sort of a multi-month (or annual) contract for a promotional medium that is more about your ego than it is results.

Here is an easy way to remember how to use them:

Digital Advertising = Click-Thrus, Conversions and Sales. 

Billboards and Print Advertising = Branding, Awareness and Cool Factor. 

Billboards and print advertising can have a positive promotional value towards your overall brand. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve — as long as it isn’t traffic to your website, billboards can easily serve as a part of a larger smart strategy. The key is to know what that strategy is.

Below are a couple of case examples to help that make sense.

[For additional information on using billboards for indirect and strategic branding, check out Step 3 in the StartupStud.com guide of How To Amplify Your Website’s Initial Success.]


“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

– Winston Churchill

 

An Example Of When To Use Digital Advertising:

StartupStud.com launched in July 2015 and is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. My target audience for this site is English speaking digital entrepreneurs of any age and who aren’t tied to any specific location.

If my marketing budget is $1,500 a month, this means I can divide $50 a day between mediums like Facebook, Ad Words, Redirect Traffic and others to see what actually gets people to this site and signing up for the newsletter (speaking of which, you should do that at the bottom of this article!).

I can test a variety of campaigns for as little as $5 and then easily change them based on how the response was. There aren’t any contracts and I’m not limited to any one location for my ads. As I find what works, I’ll simply plug a lot more money into it and monitor if the results continue to scale.


 

An Example Of When To Use Billboards:

When we launched Blackout Artist Management in July 2013, we needed to establish ourselves as a force to be reckoned with and to make sure that Las Vegas nightlife booking managers knew that we were someone they needed to keep in their toolbox.

As a part of a larger branding strategy, we invested $1,500 a month for three months into digital billboards throughout Las Vegas, targeting the areas where we knew the right people lived, drove by on the way to work or would see while they were stuck in traffic.

It wasn’t about getting anyone to BlackoutArtist.com — we couldn’t have cared less about that, it was about having the right people remember Blackout Artist the brand when it came time to schedule a meeting (and to get something out of the meeting!).

Notice the difference in purpose between StartupStud.com and Blackout Artist Management’s promotional campaigns?

I’ve been on my share of billboards over the years and would be the first to admit it’s a little fun to have your buddies call and say “dude! I just saw you on a billboard!”

If I just wanted to feel cool, I’d probably buy a whole lot of billboard space, sit back with a drink in my hand and tell myself how totally important I think I am.

Unfortunately, feeling important doesn’t get traffic to your new website. I’ve never once seen an uptick in traffic analytics because of any billboard that was up. Ever. It’s never happened. If you buy billboards, you’ll almost certainly get little or no traffic out of it.

If you want results, forget your ego and stick with what works! – JC

AMPLIFY: HOW TO BUILD ON YOUR WEBSITE’S INITIAL SUCCESS!

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Once your website has achieved a noticeable amount of traffic, you’ve hopefully landed your first group of clients, vendors and are now busy providing your best work to a growing audience. What you do next can make the critical difference between years of stagnated growth and finally being able to strategically drive your brand into the stratosphere.

To get your project where it is now, you’ve been fighting for respect, begging for sales and struggling for each second of everyone’s attention. You know as much as anyone, it hasn’t been easy!

Coming from where you’ve just been, it can be awkward to use your new leverage (rising web traffic and market influence) to confidently ask for previously hard-to-get meetings, to request consideration for solid strategic partnerships and to hopefully increase your revenue from those who are profiting handsomely from your efforts.

It’s time to learn your new place on the totem pole. Before you were a weak little fish, now you’re quickly becoming a shark. If you want to get further ahead with your new business, let’s start throwing your weight around!


_better-than-a-mop


 

1: Get Your House In Order.

Before you begin taking strategic measures to raise your profile and expand your business, it’s important to first get your existing house in order and to be as efficient as possible in handling the customers and traffic that you already have.

Taking things to the next level means freeing up your time and increasing your capacity to handle more business. Start by honestlyanswering these questions:

  • Are you handling everyone’s needs to the best of your ability? Can their experience be better?
  • Are there things taking up your time that can be outsourced to a qualified third party service?
  • Is marketing automation a good option for you? What about accounting?
  • Should you consider hiring someone? Even a part-time, virtual assistant?
  • Is your SEO optimized? Is it, really, optimized?
  • Are you wasting money on monthly expenses that you don’t actually need?
  • Have you researched all available resources to look for ideas for services that will help optimize everything from the get go? [View them here.]
  • Have you used the competitive analysis tool recommendations on this site to see if your competition is doing anything that you should be? [View them here.]
  • Have you explored A/B & Multivariate Split Testing options to ensure you’re maximizing your current site audience? [View them here.]

The goal for your business is a perfect execution, which will require a constant attention to detail and never letting your ego get in the way of shifting some of the workload to qualified vendors, employees and services.


“In life, you need many more things besides talent. Things like good advice and common sense.”

– Hack Wilson

best-advice-possible


 

2: Get The Best Advice Possible.

The most brilliant and powerful entrepreneurs rarely go at it alone, choosing instead to surround themselves with the best available advisors, strategists, and high-level consultants. The top athletes in the world wouldn’t have ever come close to their full potential without having had at least one experienced coach pushing them to perform their best. This is true for any kind of high performing individual.

Smart people always aim to be the dumbest one at their table.

Not surprisingly, low performing individuals have a tendency to do mostly the opposite. They assume that they know everything. They feel more comfortable listening to whatever information supports what they wanted to believe. Continuous education throughout their career is rarely a priority. And, while they may still be the dumbest one at their table, they’ve done a pretty good job at making sure this intellectual bar was pretty low to begin with!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve operated on both sides of this fence. When I was in my mid-20s, I was terrible about understanding that I didn’t know everything. My closest friends, love them as I may, weren’t entrepreneurs. And while I managed to muddle my way through it all — inefficiently at best, the exponential gains didn’t come until I completely surrendered to being a student of everything and everyone around me.

Getting the best advice possible isn’t only about making sure that you’re operating to the best of your ability, it serves as a constant reminder that there is always another level and that mediocrity isn’t something that you’ll tolerate.

Knowing what I know today, I would have easily made 3x the revenue onmy last two businesses. I can’t wait to see what I learn next and how that changes things in the future.

Go out and seek counsel from the people who will help to challenge what you believe, who won’t sugarcoat things to keep you happy and who will keep your game razor sharp throughout each and every one of your triumphs. Read books. Lots and lots of books.

And if you believe that you’ve finally become the best that you can be, it’s time to find a better quality of advisors.


“I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.”

– James Joyce

your-confidence


 

3: Make Sure Everyone Understands Your Value.

We have a natural tendency of gravitating towards those who we view as being successful, noteworthy, knowledgeable or who have the influence to amplify what we are working on. It is what it is. You might say it’s why the Kardashians are a thing. So while humility may well have a useful place in your personal life, you need to be willing to suck it up and brag a little when you are working to capitalize on your new professional successes.

If you have something that legitimately increases your credibility, it’s important to regularly (and tastefully) make sure that everyone in your industry knows about it. Shout it from the rooftops. Get them talking. Then keep the conversation going.

Examples:

  • When you have had a substantial jump in consistent website traffic.
  • When you’re delivering an impressive amount of leads, sales or business conversions to those you work with.
  • When you have partnered with a well-known brand, celebrity, product or event series.
  • When you receive positive press attention, accolades, awards or endorsements.
  • When you release an innovative or acclaimed new product, piece of content or artistry.
  • When your brand or business now has the ability to massively influence your following.

You’re not trying to overhype things, or to be inauthentic in selling yourself as something that you aren’t — that will backfire spectacularly (especially on social media), but it’s hard to compound your successes when no one is talking about them.

One size most assuredly does not fit all when showing off victories. Your techniques should always vary depending on who you’re reaching out to. Be nuanced with some, brazen with others.

I’ll usually treat this as a full on marketing expense, every so often allocating a decent budget for promoting towards people who are relevant to a growing business. Get creative in what that means for you.

Sometimes a simple Facebook post will do, other times you should print marketing decks, direct mailers or even drop off boxes of delicious cupcakes to help wash down the accompanying 8.5″ x 11″ branded folder that’s full of your latest professional accomplishments.

When someone needs something to help them look good, who are they going to call?


“Without initiative, leaders are simply workers in leadership positions.”

– Bo Bennett

meetings


 

4: Take Action. Start Scheduling Meetings.

Once your business is efficient, the best available advice is in place and you’ve established some positive buzz around your recent wins, it’s time to take the money shot.

If your buzz went well (and your mentors recommended some good contacts), it’s possible that you already have more people calling and e-mailing you with pitches for various opportunities.

Take the calls, answer the e-mails, but now is no time for being lazy or limiting yourself only to those who took the time to reach out to you. Have the initiative of scheduling face-to-face and phone meetings with everyone of relevance. And don’t wait to do it, either. It’s important to always ride the coattails of your last successes while everyone is still talking about them.

You’re not trying to hard sell anyone on anything, but merely having one-on-one time with the right people will usually enhance your business relationships and can easily result in increased revenue.

How to break the ice? Tell them that you would like to meet and share some of the things that you’ve got going on, learn more about their upcoming endeavors and to see if there are any ways to further collaborate or work together on anything in between. Simple as that.

Don’t forget. What is one of the easiest ways to get what you want? Try asking for it. – JC

15 WAYS TO CONNECT YOURSELF WITH OTHER ENTREPRENEURS THROUGH FORUMS & MEETUPS.

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You know that saying “birds of a feather flock together?” In business and in life, we end up behaving as the total of the people and influences that we choose to spend the most time around. People who are at or above where you want to be will inevitably help you to reach your goals, whereas those who aren’t quite ‘up to par’ will often serve only to anchor you away from getting anywhere that you really want to be.

If you’re trying to eat healthier and lose weight, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to keep agreeing to hang out with people who will just make fun of your resolve and encourage you to order cheesy nachos and beer. When you’re building a business and working towards your goals, you shouldn’t be filling your free time with people who constantly make excuses about the things that they haven’t yet done and who are visibly jealous of anyone else’s success.

With this in mind, it is essential to make a consistent and relentless habit of spending the most time only with those who share similar passions, ambitions and who continually encourage us to be better than we are. Also, to rid our day-to-day lives of the junk media influences which serve only to distract us, while replacing them with quality sources of inspiration, education and improved skill sets which will help to fast-track our overall contentment and success.

While it can be difficult to aggressively cut out all of the unnecessary people from your life (though you absolutely should), I’d like to offer you the homework of two easy assignments that will help in upping your game and bringing better influences into your entrepreneurial journey.


“Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway.”

– Warren Buffet


 

bird-feather

#1: Join A Local Entrepreneur’s Group.

One of the easiest things you can do is immediately join one or more local entrepreneurial groups who meet on a weekly or monthly basis. These will vary depending on where you live, but I’ve found Meetup.comto be an absolute goldmine for small business owners and online entrepreneur groups. Go on there, register a free account and RSVP for the ones that interest you. It’s admittedly a little awkward to go to these kinds of things by yourself at first, but once you introduce yourself to the people there and start conversation you’ll be on Cloud 9 that you made the decision to go.

If you don’t live in an area that is very active on Meetup.com (or something similar), e-mail your local Chamber of Commerce and see what recommendations they can give you for groups and / or even just business mixers and workshops that you can attend.

If your Chamber of Commerce sucks (some are better than others) and you’ve not found any luck with area meetup groups, then we need to either build our own Mastermind Group (read more on that here) or hit the pavement and take responsibility for putting something together ourselves. Point being, unless you live under a rock in rural Nova Scotia, you can find business owners and entrepreneurs around you if you simply make the effort to reach out to them.

No matter what method(s) you take, homework assignment # 1 is to find and schedule something locally where you can meet in person with like-minded entrepreneurs on a regular basis. And I don’t care how good you think you already are, there is always another level. This isn’t the time for arrogance.


“A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.”

– Tony Robbins


sky-721912_640

#2: Join An Online Entrepreneur Forum.

Remember what we said about ridding your day-to-day from junk media influences? I’m going to go on a limb and say that you spend a fair amount of time on Facebook, Instagram, reading the news or watching TV. It’s a nasty habit and we all do it. Whether you realize it or not (and likely you do), this only serves to distract you and hype you up about things that don’t even matter.

Unless you’re planning to physically make posters and rally against the latest celebrity breakup, let’s admit that these kinds of things don’t actually matter and choose instead to more efficiently spend our time reaching our goals.

Below are ten excellent online entrepreneurial forums with very active communities of like-minded people who are discussing everything that is relevant to what you’re working on.

What I’d like you to do is go through and pick at least one to spend thirty minutes a day on for the next three days. That’s not much to ask. You can be a lurker if you want, but it’s better if you register (they are free) and actually contribute to the conversation(s). Your second homework assignment will be to learn three things each day on these forums that you didn’t already know. These can be tactics, ideas or even just resources that will help you in your own projects.

Forums are one of the easiest ways to interact and learn from people that you aren’t already around, and you’re almost certain to find things within them that can help make your business soar to your highest aspirations. – JC

STOP RELYING ON SOCIAL MEDIA TO GET CUSTOMERS & PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS!

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If your entire strategy for building a customer marketing database is to beg and plead for people to follow your Facebook page – an all too common marketing mistake these days, then you shouldn’t be surprised when someone like me comes along and completely obliterates your sales numbers and customer reach!

Social media is one tool in your toolbox. It shouldn’t be your toolbox.

You’ve heard the old adage “never put all of your eggs in one basket.” In this case, it’s more like “never put all of your energy into something you have no control over.”

Facebook, more than any other social network, is easily the best example of who you shouldn’t be driving your existing customers to as the primary way stay in touch with your business.

Setting aside the very real possibility that your page could be deleted or hacked at any given time (aka: say goodbye to your entire “database”), Facebook doesn’t even show your posts to everyone who follows you!

This means if you’ve worked your butt off to get 100 actual customers and supporters to follow your new “WeLike2Party” Facebook page, it’s very likely that only a handful of them will even see your post about your upcoming customer appreciation event.

While Facebook will happily let you pay for more of them to see your posts (“boost this post”), this problem could have been solved by you controlling your own customer mailing addresses, e-mail addresses and phone numbers in the first place.

Those are the basic pieces of contact information that you should always be collecting.

And this brings up the next important point: always diversify your marketing. 

Relying on any single form of traffic or marketing is just plain dangerous. I learned this one the hard way. Readers of SS may recall that we ended up just trashing a 7 figure project because Facebook’s 2014 change to their outgoing post algorithm dealt us a fatal deathblow.

It isn’t just Facebook.

Google is continually changing their search algorithms. Their latest update, Penguin, was devastating to the organic traffic numbers of anyone who had hyper-optimized their websites through “grey hat” SEO techniques. One day their business was based on getting 1,000 visits a day, the next organic traffic wouldn’t get passed 200 visits per day. That’s terrible for business.

Instagram is chock full of people who’s entire business is based on their @lookatme account. That’s it. Their websites — if they even have one, aren’t properly developed. They have no hard database of followers. If they’ve managed to transition into an actual e-commerce website, most of them are still relying on their bajillion Instagram followers for 98% of their marketing.

I suppose we can all just sit back and wait for the crying duck-faced selfie that comes when they wake up to find that Instagram changed something significant to their posting and impression count procedures. #ohshit. #betterfindajob.

I could go on for days about different ways to diversify your marketing (it’s a complicated topic), but for an example of how you should be thinking about this, let’s stick with that customer appreciation event that you’re promoting for WeLike2Party.

Most people now-a-days will set up an event on Facebook, invite a bunch of people from their friends list (who probably won’t even check the invite), toss up an Instagram post, crack open a beer and then consider their job done.

That’s not how it works. 

If you actually want people to show up, then you need to be hitting them multiple times, from more than one angle, through a variety of promotional outlets. Call them, text them, mail them a paper invite and then e-mail them confirmations the day of the event. Have your event flyer plastered in as many (digital or physical) locations as possible. Offer to pick them up and drive them there if you have to!

Do whatever it takes to make your event a success!

This same approach should be used in anything that you’re marketing.  Should you be promoting your business on Facebook and Instagram? Of course. But you shouldn’t only be promoting your business on social media.

And you sure as @#$% shouldn’t have that as your primary customer database. – JC