How to Protect a Catchphrase

How to Protect a Catchphrase
7 Graces community member Lubna Gem Arielle explains how to protect a catchphrase as a trade mark.

Note from Lynn Serafinn : Sorry for the break in blogging over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been busy celebrating my 60th birthday! I’ll be back on schedule starting next Friday. Until then, I know you’ll enjoy this highly informative article from Lubna.

Gwyneth Paltrow unsettled media and the masses when she announced that she and Chris Martin were going to deal with the break-up of their marriage with a ‘conscious uncoupling’. The press had a field day, supposing, smirking and jabbing at what this could possibly mean. This vampiric thirst may recently have been quenched a little, as Paltrow announced that she did not invent the phrase.

So, where did this phrase come from? Several years before Paltrow’s pronouncement, I heard an online interview with the coach Katherine Woodward Thomas. She mentioned a process, the crux of which was to enable couples to end a relationship without ‘turning your soul mate into your soul hate’ and she referred to it as ‘conscious uncoupling’. The interview stuck in my mind because she also talked about how a graceful parting becomes a hard task once lawyers get involved, and I’d reflected on how the legal process reduces relationships to procedural frameworks and tactics.

Since the press interest in conscious uncoupling, a few articles and news reports have attributed the phrase to Woodward Thomas, and the US Patent Office website shows that she has applied to register ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ as a trade mark for her coaching business.

To me, this highlights the importance of being clear as to when, whether and how far you can protect phrases you use in the context of your business.

How to protect a catchphrase as a trade mark

In my experience, there is some confusion amongst business owners as to whether and how a snappy catchphrase can be safeguarded against use by others and protected as a business asset. A question I’m often asked is: ‘Can I copyright it?’ This is a good question, as copyright can protect the written word as a literary work, where it is original and there has been some degree of skill and effort. Unfortunately, a catchphrase will generally be too short to qualify as a literary work.

It may, however, be capable of protection as a registered trade mark, and here’s my four-stage guide.

Stage 1: Check that you use the phrase to indicate the source of certain goods or services.

The function of a trade mark is to indicate the source of goods and services (such as ‘Google’ for a search engine) and is often described as a ‘badge of origin’.

A trade mark does not give anyone absolute control and ownership to use a phrase or word throughout the English language, but it can give you an exclusive right to use it in the country or countries of registration for specific classes of good and services set out in an international classification system known as the NICE system. For example, a business coach might provide 1:1 training and corporate training in Class 41, with newsletters and training manuals in Class 16 and recorded and online materials in Class 9.

Stage 2: Check whether anyone else is already using the phrase.

Make sure your phrase really is unique and no one else is already using it – at least not in the countries where you operate. Trade marks are territorial, in that your rights apply in the countries where you have registered a mark. The exception to this is the Community Trade Mark or CTM, which is a single mark effective in all countries within the EU.

To check whether the phrase is in use, search the relevant trade mark registers to see whether there is an existing registration or application. The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) have a free search facility, and other countries may as well.

If there are existing marks, but in different categories of goods and services, in general, this would not be problematic.

I also suggest checking your phrase on Google or another search engine to get a general flavour of what else is about.

Stage 3: Apply to register.

As trade marks are territorial, applications have to be made on a country by country basis. Application in the UK is via the Intellectual Property Office, or for a Community Trade Mark or CTM via the Office for the Harmonisation of Internal Marks. Other countries have their own national registries.

The practical effects of this are that even if you consider yourself to be ‘global’ (and, indeed, the Internet means many of us have a degree of global presence), unless you have an unlimited budget, you will have to be selective and strategic in where you register, bearing in mind that in any case, in most countries you can only register a mark where you are actually using it, or will do so within the next 5 years.

In the UK, you can apply directly via the IPO or engage the services of a trade mark attorney.

Stage 4: Look after it!

Once you have a registered trade mark, you must treat it with care. Otherwise, you will be at risk of losing it. You must maintain its essential quality by using it to identify the source of your goods or services, rather than allowing your trade mark to become known as the name for whatever it is you provide. If you do, it will be considered generic and no longer valid as a trade mark. For example, ‘Escalator’ started out as a trade mark for moving stairways, owned by the OTIS company, but later became used for ALL moving stairways and the OTIS company lost its trade mark.

To prevent this from happening, there are a few key points to keep in mind:

  1. Use the mark to identify your product, rather than as a substitute for the product name. For example, compare: ‘Let’s take the escalator’ to ‘Let’s take the ESCALATOR moving walkway’. The first is generic use; the second respects the trade mark.
  2. Emphasise your wording – use either upper case (as in ESCALATOR) or quotation marks (‘Escalator’) and use the registration symbol ®.
  3. Don’t use it as a verb. Google have experienced challenges with this. To be very precise, we actually ‘use the Google search engine to search’, but many of us simply ‘google’ for information. Google has even made it into the dictionary as a verb, but the saving grace is that it is not an ordinary verb for any old searching, but instead refers to a search online using the Google search engine. Had ‘googling’ referred to any online searching, this would have posed a serious threat to the trade mark.
  4. Prevent others from misusing your mark. If others are misusing your trade mark – as a verb or to identify any product in your class – you should write them a friendly email or letter, telling them it is your trade mark, how it should be used and asking that they please do so.

Where you come up with a unique catchphrase and use it as part of your business describing products or services that you offer, registering a trade mark will give you limited but exclusive rights to use the catchphrase; but, as mentioned, you will not be able stop others from using that phrase altogether.

Also, if you want to use your phrase ‘globally’ the process of obtaining ‘global’ trade mark registration can be time-consuming and costly. Trade marks are effectively the legal part of ‘branding’, so it makes good sense to check how far a catch phrase is part of the longer-term branding if you decide to register it as a trade mark.

I’d love to know your approach to any catchphrases you use in your business. Have you applied or considered registering them as a trade mark or are you happy for your catchphrases to be in a wider use? Let me hear from you in the comments below.

Until next time,

Lubna Gem Arielle
30 January 2015

Lubna is a graduate of the 7 Graces Foundations of Ethical Marketing course . Contact the 7 Graces Project to find out how you can have this course delivered to members of your organisation.

Lubna Gem ArielleLUBNA GEM ARIELLE is a lawyer who went back to art school and has a portfolio career. As a legal educator, she lectures on MA programmes at Birkbeck and Sotheby’s Institute of Art, makes law accessible for creatives as a professional speaker and trainer and is a writer/presenter for Legal Network Television. She is a legal adviser to Artquest, providing advice to visual artists. In her creative practice, Lubna works with sharing and integrating information, stories and knowledge across real and virtual media. She is also a legal experiential practitioner specialising in outcomes-focused communication with the Personal Communications Academy. Lubna is a graduate of the 7 Graces Foundations of Ethical Marketing Course and member of the 7 Graces Community and the Professional Speaking Association.

CLICK HERE to read other articles by Lubna on this website.

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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:

The 7 Graces of Marketing BOOK COVER The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sellby Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues

 

Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media . eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.

Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com

The Social Entrepreneur's Guide to Successful BloggingComing later in 2014

The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project .


Lynn Serafinn author of The 7 Graces of Marketing LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller  The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.

Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.

7 Graces Project CIC

Twitter: http://twitter.com/7GracesMarketng

Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/7GracesGlobalGarden

Posted in Blog, Business Tips, Community Blogger, Law and Legal Tips, Lubna Gem Arielle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

6 Questions Every Business Owner Should Ask Once a Year – Part 1

Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?Marketing consultant Lynn Serafinn invites you to dive into six investigative questions to help understand your business at its core. Part 1 of a new series.

Traditionally, the New Year is the time when we make resolutions. Every year we make a plethora of nebulous promises that we’re going to lose weight, give up smoking, drink less, exercise more, etc. And just as traditionally, we joke about the fact that few of us actually succeed in bringing our New Year’s resolutions to fruition.

Nonetheless, I believe setting intentions at the beginning of a new year is important – especially for our businesses. But saying something like, ‘This year I’m going to increase my income,’ or, ‘I’m going to get more clients,’ is just as amorphous as all those ill-fated resolutions. While initially it can feel inspiring and even energising to do some ‘blue sky thinking’ about what we want to achieve over the next year, simply creating a feel-good vision is rarely enough to help us actually attain it.

As a marketer, I frequently tell clients that saying we want to increase our income or become an international best-seller is not enough. To give our vision a chance at success, we need to dig right down into the core of what lies beneath the surface of our understanding about ourselves, our business, our customers, our services and even our network of professional peers. One way we can get to that place, so our business visions and intentions have a fighting chance to WORK for us on a practical level, is to engage in rigorous self-examination. A great vehicle for this is the journalists’ practice of asking these six key questions:

  1. Who?
  2. What?
  3. When?
  4. Where?
  5. Why?
  6. How?

Within these questions lie all the parameters of our business. However, they can only work if we are brave, patient and self-honest enough to get to the heart of each. Just as a good investigative journalist needs to probe relentlessly to make his/her story not only factual but meaningful, we business owners also need to examine many facets of these questions to make them meaningful, practical and feasible within our businesses.

Over the next few articles, I’m going to walk through each of these questions so you (and your team, if you have one) can do your own self-examination and start the coming year with the clarity and focus that can help you succeed in achieving your ethical business goals this year.

Because it is such a substantial topic, today I’m going to focus on just the first of these self-enquiry questions:

‘WHO?’

Defining the ‘Who?’ of Your Business

Most of us walk through our day-to-day lives operating upon assumptions that may or may not be entirely accurate. Our self-beliefs and beliefs about others often direct our thinking and actions at an unconscious level. While it’s impractical (and would probably drive us insane) to continually challenge our own assumptions, unless we give at least some periodic attention to them, we are likely to make decisions in our lives – and in our businesses – that backfire on us, without understanding why.

For example, we might have spent months (or years) developing a wonderful new product, service, course or book, but when we go to launch it is an indisputable FLOP. So, what was the error? Is the product ineffective? Is the branding off the mark? Did we get the marketing wrong? While asking these questions might highlight some superficial flaws in our product or marketing, the issue often has to do with our maintaining out-of-date beliefs about the different levels of ‘Who?’ of our business, namely:

  1. Who are you/your company?
  2. Who are your customers/clients?
  3. Who are your partners/collaborators/support/suppliers, etc.?

Let’s look at each of these levels in turn.

WHO #1: Who are you/your company?

First and foremost, it’s vital to take a moment at the same time every year (it doesn’t have to be in January, after all) to reassess who you and your company are NOW, compared to the previous year. Initially, you might say, ‘I’m the same person/company I was last year.’ But, whether you are aware of it or not, you have inevitably changed:

  • Your experience has changed.
  • Your circumstances have changed.
  • Because your experience and circumstances have changed, your outlook has changed.
  • Because your outlook has changed, your desires have changed.

Even if all the above has occurred in barely noticeable micro-increments, the sum total of all those little changes may have created a big shift in your bigger vision. However, you may have yet to acknowledge it. After all, change can be a scary thing. If you remain oblivious to these changes and simply plod on in the coming year the same way you did the previous year(s), you might be working to an obsolete ‘you’ and not be taking full advantage of the ‘you’ you have now become. Perhaps you have not yet incorporated your new experience into your product offers, and are losing potential new customers as a result. Perhaps you are working to priorities you set in the past, but find yourself wondering why you don’t have the same drive or enthusiasm you had two years ago.

Defining who you are in the present tense can sometimes mean letting go of old dreams and pre-conceived ideas that are no longer working for your company. Understandably, this can ‘rattle your cage’ a bit; you might feel disoriented, disappointed and overwhelmed. You might even feel like a failure or a fool. You might experience grief or a sense of loss. But once you get past these normal responses to change, you will see that your decision to let go of obsolete definitions of your identity can open up entirely new possibilities for you and your company.

 WHO #2: Who are your customers/clients?

Taking some time once a year to ask the question ‘Who are my customers/clients?’ is equally important. Again, many of us THINK we know the answer to this question, when in reality we have either superficial or outdated notions. Just as you and your company will have changed over the past year, the same will be true for your client base:

  • You might be serving similar clients but with a higher (or at least different) level of needs, perhaps owing to your increased experience over the past year.
  • You might be serving a more specific sub-category of clients, and are gaining a reputation in that area.
  • You might have expanded OR narrowed down your demographic pool (by age, location, gender, etc.).
  • Changes in the economy, technology or even the political climate may have shifted what your clients need or want.
  • Your client base might have shifted organically due to an increased volume of referrals in a specific area or niche.
  • Conversely, you might have found yourself turning away certain kinds of clients (or getting into ‘difficult’ communicate quagmires with them), without taking time to understand what it is about them that didn’t work for you.

Changes to our client base don’t necessarily mean we have ‘lost focus’ in our business. However, it is my observation that when we have an amorphous idea of who our customers really are, we tend to allow our customers to determine our direction to such a degree that our business can lose its identity and cohesiveness. Conversely, if we maintain a fixed, rigid idea of who our customers are – ignoring, resisting or even resenting the inevitable and natural changes that occur over time – we will soon feel like a salmon swimming upstream, only to die of exhaustion (or, in our case, eventually go out of business).

This is why one of the first questions I ask my marketing clients is, ‘Who is your audience?’ New clients will often respond with a list of external demographics, e.g. ‘women between 35 and 50 with some college education’ and so forth. While these kinds of stats have their usefulness, they fail to provide you with enough information to give a true picture of who your customers really are. Without this depth of understanding, your brand is unlikely to have a clear identity and you will be less likely to attract the kinds of clients you ‘should’ be serving.

When I say you ‘should’ be serving a particular kind of client, I mean there are certain personality traits and prerequisites that contribute to making a client more likely to succeed and be satisfied with your products/services. Again, to reach a point where you understand what those traits and prerequisites are, you have to get to a deeper level of questioning than mere demographics can provide.

For example, these are the defining criteria of our clients here at the 7 Graces Project:

  • They are micro-business owners (often sole traders), possibly with out-sourced support staff.
  • They run an ethical, service-based business that helps individuals, communities or the environment is some way.
  • They have been in business for at least a year (hopefully longer), and have a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses. In other words, they have reached a level of ‘conscious incompetence’, where they ‘know what they don’t know’.
  • They desire to promote their business, but they don’t want to resort to cliché hard-sell tactics.
  • They would like to make all their products and/or services work cohesively in their business.
  • They TRUST our company to help them! While they ask lots of questions, they don’t continuously challenge, look for faults or try to micro-manage things they don’t understand.
  • Their business has the potential to generate a sizeable percentage of their income via their online activity. In other words, if they are a local osteopath drawing upon a small, geographically-based audience, we’re probably not the best match for them. However, an osteopath who has developed training videos, written books or who can offer some kind of services over Skype, might benefit from working with us. Similarly, someone who is looking to organise a speaking tour or be on national TV or radio would be better off going with a PR firm, whereas someone who is looking to set up online events (webinars, telesummits, etc.) or an Internet radio tour might be a good fit for us.
  • They might not understand social media, but they are not resistant (or scornful!) towards it and are curious to learn how to make it work for them.
  • They enjoy expressing themselves through the written or spoken word (blogs, books, e-books, webinars, video, etc.), and already have at least some experience with one or more of these media.

Defining the pre-requisites of our clients (in particular, the last three bullet points) is as important as defining their qualities, desires, etc. Speaking from experience, whenever you ignore this aspect of your client profile, you will be prone to saying ‘yes’ to anyone who calls you up. Sometimes it will work out fine, but often the mismatch between you and the client will result in frustration, leaving all parties feeling as if they have failed.

So when you ask yourself, ‘Who are my clients/customers?’ don’t take it lightly. Go deep. Then, go deeper. I really cannot stress this enough.

WHO #3: Who are your partners/collaborators/support network, etc.?

One question many newer business owners fail to ask is, ‘Who are my “allies” in this wide world of business?’ In other words, who are my potential partners and collaborators? Who comprise my support network of peers?

Being able to answer this question is what will take you from feeling like a lone wolf to an established brand in the business world. Ethical business success is impossible inside a vacuum; isolation, lack of transparency and competition are the cornerstones of the ‘old school’ and have no place in the new paradigm of business and marketing. Networking with – and actually making time to get to know – other professionals related to your industry is essential. It is from this pool of peers that you will find a wealth of ideas, connections, solutions and possibly even some business collaborations.

Here’s the big bonus: once you’ve proven you are a trustworthy person, whose work is full of integrity and who treats others like human beings instead of vehicles to advance their own interests, your network of peers will become a resource from which a large portion of your referrals will come.

There are many business networks that attempt to create these kinds of connection artificially, via weekly or monthly meetings. Some of these groups even have mandatory reciprocity, in which they are required to exchange referrals in order to remain in good standing. In my experience, only a small percentage of members of such networks manage to create strong ‘power groups’ within the larger group. Apart from these isolated examples, as there is no shared professional interest or value system amongst the members of the larger group, there is little potential for authentic partnerships to emerge within such an environment.

The new paradigm marketer creates his/her own partnerships organically by watching and listening (often via social media) and then reaching out personally to explore whether or not they ‘click’ with the other person. Over time, they also help facilitate partnership between others in their extended network. Those who understand the new paradigm also understand there cannot be ‘rules’ around reciprocity. Giving referrals to someone else must arise from a genuineness of spirit; we must believe fully in the person to whom we are referring a customer, and we cannot do it with the expectation of receiving something in return. Of course, true friends will support and help each other anyway, without feeling the need to ‘keep score’.

To start addressing the question, ‘Who are your partners/collaborators/support network, etc.?’ ask yourself:

  • What interests, values, attitudes, outlooks and personality traits do I most appreciate in others? Which do I find abhorrent or distasteful?
  • What qualities do I most respect or admire in others? What qualities put me off?
  • What professionals do I know who are in the same (or closely related) industry as I am?
  • Which of these do I respect or admire the most? Why?
  • Which of these are the closest match to me in terms of the interests, values, attitudes, outlook and personality traits I most appreciate?
  • Of those I listed in answer to the previous two questions:
    • What is my relationship like with them right now?
    • Which ones are already close to me?
    • Which did I used to know, but have fallen out of touch with? Are they still on my ‘A-list’?
    • Which ones would I like to get to know better this year?
  • Which people in my network are the furthest from me in terms of interests, values, attitudes, outlook and personality traits? How much energy am I putting into cultivating a relationship with them? How is this working for me? (Clue: Ask yourself if you’ve been spinning your wheels trying to curry favour of big celebrity or brand names rather than deepening relationships with people with whom you actually have something in common).
  • If I ‘cleaned house’ and stopped putting energy into dead-end connections, how much time, money or stress would I be able to free up?
  • If I started putting attention into fresh, vibrant connections, what kinds of collaborations might open up for both of us?
  • Who can I introduce to one another, so they might benefit from their alliance?

 Closing Thoughts

If you’ve read the book The 7 Graces of Marketing, you might recall my definition of marketing is ‘the act of communicating that we have something of value to share’. Marketing has nothing to do with how clever we are. It doesn’t even have anything to do with selling. It does, however, have everything to do with the interaction between ourselves and others:

  • Unless we know who we are, we cannot speak with authenticity; without this, we cannot market ethically or effectively.
  • Unless we know who our customers are, we cannot address their needs; without this, even the slickest marketing campaigns will fall on deaf ears.
  • Unless we know who our support network is, we will be working and marketing in a bubble; without the help of others, we will burn out and fail to achieve all those bright shiny goals we resolved to reach at the beginning of the New Year.

So even if you’re reading this sometime in July, if you haven’t spent any time over the past year reassessing the big ‘Who?’ question, put the kettle on, get your team together and take out your flipchart, your notebook or whatever helps you generate ideas. Print out this article and go through these three questions. Then, be prepared to see yourself, your customers and your network in perhaps in an entirely new light.

Let me know how you get on with this. I’d love to hear your comments.

And if you’re looking to create a comprehensive portrait of the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’ of your business this coming year, drop us a line via the Contact form on this site, and enquire about our new 7 Graces Mentoring Package that we’ll be launching later this month. More on that another time.

Lastly, do be sure to subscribe to this blog so you can receive the other articles in this series, when we’ll explore the next 5 questions every business owner should ask at least once a year.

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
8 January 2015

Like this blog?

Then please subscribe using the form at the upper right side of this page, so you can receive our articles to your inbox.

Looking for a Tribe? 

Come join our 7 Graces group on Facebook, and join us at our monthly meetings. They’re free to attend and we have them both in person and online, so you can participate from anywhere in the world. This is NOT a “business group” but an active community where people actually know and support each other.

Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:

The 7 Graces of Marketing BOOK COVER The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sellby Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues

 

Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.

Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com

The Social Entrepreneur's Guide to Successful BloggingComing in 2015

The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.


Lynn Serafinn, MAED, CPCCLYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.

Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.

7 Graces Project CICTwitter: http://twitter.com/7GracesMarketng

Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/7GracesGlobalGarden

Posted in 7 Graces, 7 Key Relationships, Blog, Lynn Serafinn, New Paradigm, Relationship with Our Audience, Relationship with Our Business, Relationship with Self | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on the 7 Graces – the First Five Years

Reflections on the 7 Graces – the First Five YearsLynn Serafinn, author of the 7 Graces of Marketing, looks at the evolution of the 7 Graces ideology from original concept to expansion into the wider community.

Dear friends,

I haven’t been blogging very much lately because I’ve been having surgery on my eyes, so work has been challenging. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to end 2014 without wishing everyone a happy holiday season, and also to take a moment to celebrate the third anniversary of the publication of The 7 Graces of Marketing (and the fifth anniversary of the seed idea for it), and to reflect upon some of the wonderful things that have happened as a result of it coming into my life and, hopefully, the lives of many others.

December 2009 / January 2010. The story of the 7 Graces really began five years ago, when I first got the idea to write the book. Originally it began as a book to encourage sole proprietors – especially those in artistic professions (including authors) and holistic service industries – to take faith that they did not have to sell their souls or use aggressive marketing to build their businesses. However, as I began writing, I also started researching the history and impact of marketing over the past century, and saw that the issue was much, much bigger than I had ever imagined. The more I researched, the more compelled I felt to bring awareness to the public – both consumers and business owners – about how marketing on a broad level has affected our economy, our personal finances, our personal identity, our health and our natural environment. Thus, while the book was originally conceived as a small ‘feel good’ project, it took on a life of its own that felt beyond my conscious control, as it evolved into a historical and social commentary.

July 2010. This is when I began speaking publicly on the subject. To that point I hadn’t identified ‘the 7 Graces’ or even come up with the name for the book. The paradigm suddenly revealed itself one hour before I was to deliver a talk to a group of about 30 holistic business owners at the One World Camp in Gloucestershire, England. I had been sitting in my room, preparing for the lecture and felt I hadn’t yet hit on the ‘hook’ to communicate my thoughts, findings and feelings. I reached a point where I literally held my hands up to the sky and said out loud, “What IS it?” And then, faster than I could even write it down, a list of ‘The 7 Deadly Sins’ of marketing (as described in the book) almost magically appeared in my mind’s eye. Within seconds, their counterpart ‘The 7 Graces of Marketing’ appeared immediately after. My brain was firing at lightning speed, as I suddenly realised this was the paradigm through which I could present these important ideas, and with which I would structure my book.

January 2011. At the beginning of 2011, I travelled from the UK to California to speak about the 7 Graces paradigm. Again, the audiences were comprised mainly of sole proprietors in creative or holistic industries. At the time, I was deep into my historical research for the section in the book on the ‘7 Deadly Sins of Marketing’. Thus, my talks tended to focus on these findings. Many people expressed how heavy and weighty the subject felt; some told me they wanted to hear about more positive things. This gave me pause for some reflection. I felt with every ounce of my being that the seriousness of the issue of unethical marketing simply could NOT be addressed without raising awareness about the methods behind it and the widespread effects it brings to our world. What I didn’t quite realise at the time was that the 7 Graces concept was actually a call for independent business owners to become leaders. For me, it was not enough simply to talk about ethical marketing; my ‘dharma’ (my ultimate purpose) was to connect with and switch on those who would lead the way for change at a societal level. This meant that this was not about me and my book, but rather a life mission that extended well beyond my personal reach.

December 2011. This was the month I launched the book online, using the same book launch techniques I had used with my clients for the past several years. The book became an international #1 bestseller (on Amazon) in ethics, marketing and other categories. It later went on to receive various awards, including the silver medal in social issues from the E-Lit Book Awards.

June 2012. Almost immediately after the launch, I began planning a 7 Graces conference in London. My vision was that it would be a highly interactive event that would include live streaming, enabling people attending at a distance to participate in the break-out sessions. With the help of an amazing and highly-motivated team of volunteers from London, the 3-day conference took place in June. While attendance was somewhat lower than hoped (about 80 altogether, including live-stream attendees), and I spent at least four times what we brought in, the conference was a great success in that it marked the beginning of our 7 Graces community. This community IS the life-blood of the 7 Graces work.

September 2012. This is when we started designing the first draft of our ‘Foundations of Ethical Marketing’ course. It would take many months to get it to a stage where we felt confident to deliver a pilot.

December 2012. In response to requests from the community for a book that could help them apply the 7 Graces at a more practical level, I published the book Tweep-e-licious, a manual for using Twitter for ethical marketing. Unlike The 7 Graces of Marketing, this book seemed to write itself in less than two months.

February 2013. In February we officially registered the 7 Graces Project, CIC, a social enterprise created for the sole purpose of training, supporting and serving independent business owners in both the theory and practice of ethical marketing . My colleague and dear friend Nancy Goodyear came on board as a co-director for the project.

May 2013. We launched our first pilot of the Foundations course that month. Our participants were all business owners from our community.

September 2013 – December 2013. During these months, Nancy and I met two or three times a week via Skype to do a rigorous review of the Foundations course. We also used this time to design our Applications of Ethical Marketing course.

October 2013. This was the month we launched the pilot of Applications of Ethical Marketing with a small group of participants who had completed the Foundations pilot. This 6-month programme included a lot of one-to-one mentoring, which later became pivotal to our business direction.

Throughout 2013. In addition to these projects, Nancy and I were hard at work behind the scenes on many other projects. We focused on creating a substantial body of blog content for the site, so we could increase our flow of loyal readers. By the end of the year, we had received over 2.3 million page views (compared to about a half-million the year before, and only 100,000 in 2011). We also created a number of new consultation products, including our platform building packages, which are now our most in-demand offers.

February 2014. I was invited to deliver a lecture about the 7 Graces of Marketing to the department of business and marketing at the University of Greenwich in London. Although I came from a teaching background and had taught college and university students for years in the past, this was the first time I had brought this specific message to an academic community. The experience of speaking to an audience of students who (mostly) had never been business owners was a real eye-opener on the different kind of work needed to address these distinct audiences.

Throughout 2014. After completing the pilot of the Applications course mid-year, we also designed (and redesigned!) assessment strategies for the course. We continued to develop and expand our blogging content, opening our site to guest authors who had completed our courses.

December 2014 (today). It is now three years since the book was launched to the public, and nearly five years since the seed ideas first glimmered in my mind. By the end of this month, our blog will have received nearly 4 million page views, meaning we have had a 40-fold increase in traffic since the 7 Graces first started to appear online. Our Facebook community has almost 1300 members, which is the result of organic, word-of-mouth rather than any concerted promotional efforts.

Looking ahead to 2015

It is my desire that 2015 will not be a year of continuous expansion, so much as a year for consolidation and refining. Sometime in 2015 I will publish my book The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging. It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve discovered with some frustration that it’s hard to write a book when you’re designing and delivering courses – and serving a full roster of clients – all at the same time.

I have been invited to speak again at University of Greenwich, and they have also asked us to present a proposal for the possibility of delivering our Foundation course there. If this happens, I hope it will open the door to our delivering the material to other universities as well.

Also, by dint of our experiences over the past two years, Nancy and I discovered that active business owners actually want services and guidance more than they want courses. And so, we have created a new programme that combines our platform building package with mentoring. This programme is aimed at assisting business owners to create a sustainable business and marketing plan for their business, utilising the 7 Graces principles. We are excited about launching that early in the year.

We also look forward to awarding our new kite-mark ‘Certified 7 Graces Ethical Business’ to our first candidates in April 2015.

Closing thoughts

Truthfully, the 7 Graces is both a brand and an ideological concept. If it were merely my own business, it would look quite different. But it is not, and cannot be. Anything that is meant to create social change needs to be given time to grow, take root, flourish AND reproduce. It is only by expanding that ideology into the public – who then take it and make it their own by applying it in a multitude of different ways – that genuine and lasting social change can happen.

That thought is what keeps me going on those occasional days when I feel like I’ve sunk a disproportionate amount of time, money and effort into the project compared to what it has returned. However, in writing it all down, seeing the journey as it has evolved over these years, I realise it is still unfolding, one petal at a time. Just as fruit does not come until the tree is mature, so too for any project of this nature.

I do hope YOU will be a part of this journey in the coming year.
The best ways to do that are to subscribe to the blog (there’s a form at the top of this page) and join our Facebook community at http://facebook.com/groups/7GracesGlobalGarden. When you’re there, be sure to introduce yourself where it says ‘Hello, My Name Is’.

We are off until the New Year now. Please do use the navigation links on the right to read one or more of the hundreds of past articles we’ve published since we started.

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
19 December 2014

Like this blog?

Then please subscribe using the form at the upper right side of this page, so you can receive our articles to your inbox.

Looking for a Tribe? 

Come join our 7 Graces group on Facebook, and join us at our monthly meetings. They’re free to attend and we have them both in person and online, so you can participate from anywhere in the world. This is NOT a “business group” but an active community where people actually know and support each other.

Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:

The 7 Graces of Marketing BOOK COVER The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sellby Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues

 

Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.

Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com

The Social Entrepreneur's Guide to Successful BloggingComing in 2015

The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.


Lynn Serafinn, MAED, CPCCLYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.

Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.

7 Graces Project CIC

Twitter: http://twitter.com/7GracesMarketng

Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/7GracesGlobalGarden

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Journeying through the Marketing Funnel – the Client’s Path

Journeying through the Marketing Funnel – the Client’s Path

7 Graces co-director Nancy Goodyear explores the journey your clients take through your marketing funnel and asks: does everyone have to take the same path?

When you have a product or service to sell, it’s all too easy to think that’s it. You have your ‘thing’; all you need to do now is find people who want to buy it from you. But that is the route to a lot of hard work trying to sell, sell, sell to lots of different people. Once those people have bought your ‘thing’ they no longer need it. They already have it (or they’ve learned what you have to teach) and you don’t have anything else to offer. The relationship is over almost as soon as it’s begun and you need to find yet more people to sell to.

The result is that most of your workload is unpaid – you spend an inordinate amount of time connecting with more and more people in the hope that one or two of them will buy what you have to offer. What a slog! This isn’t why most of us went into business in the first place. We wanted freedom and flexibility. We wanted to escape our old bosses who stood over us, cracking the whip. We wanted to drive our own destiny, but instead, we’re working more than twice as hard for less than half the money – we’re being driven by our businesses. We’re not free!

So what’s the solution?

If you’ve read any marketing books or done any marketing courses, you may have heard of the marketing funnel. Essentially, it’s a model that explains your client’s relationship with your business. It says that once you have a potential customer or client, you develop a relationship with them, moving them closer and closer to you until they know and trust you enough that they are ready to buy your product or service.

Here at the 7 Graces of Marketing, we have our own version of the marketing funnel that we use with all our clients, whether they’re on one of our courses or our Platform Building packages.

7 Graces Marketing FunnelAt the top of the funnel are your social media contacts and network connections – your Twitter followers, your Facebook and LinkedIn connections, people you know from business networks. This is where you have the largest number of people.

Some of these people will visit your blog, thus getting to know you a bit better, learning about your area of expertise, getting to know what you do and whether they like you (and it).

Some of these people will subscribe to your mailing list or become loyal readers of your blog (becoming regular visitors to your blog).

Some of your loyal readers will want a bit more of what you have to offer and will sign up for your free offer.

Some of them will decide they really like what you’re saying and want to learn more, so they will buy your entry level product (this is the scary/exciting bit for lots of people – the point at which money starts to change hands).

If they like your cheapest, lowest commitment product or service, they might move down to the next layer of the funnel and buy something a bit more expensive from you – something that requires a bit more of a commitment from them – your mid-point product.

Finally, a handful of the many, many people in your social media cloud will like you and your offering so much that they will invest in your most expensive all-singing, all-dancing, snazziest top-end product.

Here’s a concrete example:

A Twitter follower reads your coaching blog. They like what they read, so they subscribe and sign up for your free offer, a lifestyle self-assessment. They really like the freebie because it teaches them something about themselves they weren’t aware of before. Wanting to learn more, they buy your cheapest offer (entry-level), an ebook that expands on the self-assessment and provides simple exercises they can do by themselves. They love it; it makes a big difference to their outlook on life, which inspires them to book a consultation with you for 1:1 coaching (mid-level). The consultation blows their mind because they get your undivided attention for half an hour and come away feeling inspired by your insight and understanding. As a result, they hire you as their coach (top-end) and get to meet with you once a week.

From this example, you can see how, as they travel the path through the funnel, your clients get closer and closer to you, getting more and more individual time and attention from you. As they get to know you better, they are more likely to tell their friends about you (if you do a good job), which might bring them further down the funnel – straight to your blog, for example, or even straight in at the mid-point for a consultation.

This is how the funnel can work for you – making your life easier and reducing the amount of work you need to do to bring in new clients. Notice too how the higher up the funnel, the less personal input you give people and the less time and effort you have to put in. You tweet and blog (blogging does take time, but it has the potential to reach a lot of people) but the free offer is something you prepare once (a simple self-assessment, in this example). It sits on your website for people to download. Likewise, your entry-level product (the ebook) requires preparation, but once it’s done it’s done, it’s there on your website for people to buy for a pound or two forever (or until you take it down).

It’s also worth pointing out that if you have a nice entry-level product but, say, no mid-level product, the jump for your audience might be too great. They paid a couple of quid for your ebook, but if the next step up is 1:1 coaching at £100 an hour or a weekend retreat for £1,000, well, why would they spend so much money on something delivered by someone they don’t know, someone untested? If, however, there were an intermediate product, something for about £50 – an online course, for example – it’s a manageable amount of money.  It’s another opportunity for them to get to know you and your product a bit better and another step closer to that magical top-end product.

Here’s the secret to a successful marketing funnel: there’s no point having random, unconnected products at each layer of the funnel. There needs to be a relationship from one to the next, to draw your audience through; there needs to be a natural flow. In fact, it works best if all your products are variations of the same product. Let’s take a more lavish example of a top-end product:

A residential weekend retreat all about building a relationship with your Self, held at a luxury spa, including lots of practical exercises and pampering treats. They may even get a 1:1 coaching session with you as part of the package.

From here, the mid-point product could be:

1:1 coaching

The entry level product could be:

A self-guided course covering the same points as the online taught course. Participants are given a workbook and access to recordings of the taught course sessions.

The free gift could be:

A self-assessment quiz that tells them what their relationship with themselves is currently like and some tips on what issues they might need to address.

Notice how each of the steps on this path builds on the previous step. They are all variations on the same model. At each stage, the client gets a bit more of you and goes a bit more in-depth into the same subject. They get to know your model well and see the difference it can make to them.

But what if you had more than one path through to your top-end product? What if you had another mid-level product?  For example:

An online course taught to a larger group that uses the same model you teach on the retreat, but it’s spread over a few weeks. Participants get to explore their relationship, mostly on their own, although some of them might get the chance to work with you on in-call demonstrations.

And another entry-level product:

An ebook about how your relationship with your Self colours your relationships with others.

Or you could write an actual book and that could be an entry-level product, too.

I’m freewheeling on this, but you see the point. You can have a lot of entry points to your funnel and multiple paths through it. The more paths you have, the more your potential clients can find a path that suits them. Some people like watching videos, some like doing courses, some love self-assessment quizzes, some people prefer reading. But all paths lead to the same prize: your top-end product (i.e. more personal time and input from you). And the more paths there are, the less you have to do to bring people through. It takes a bit of work to get to this point but, once you have it all in place, you will be able to reap the rewards of self-employment and finally taste the freedom and flexibility you were looking for in the first place.

If you want to develop your own marketing funnel but aren’t sure how to go about it, in the New Year Lynn Serafinn and I are launching a brand new package that will combine the Platform Building package with Business Development Mentoring. This 13-week package will not only help build your social media network and develop your blog but will also include 1:1 mentoring sessions with both Lynn and me. These sessions are designed to guide you through developing a coherent, cohesive marketing funnel for your business. To find out more, please drop us a line using the ‘Contact’ page on this site.

Nancy Goodyear
12th December 2014

 

Nancy GoodyearNancy V Goodyear is a Business Mentor and Coach who loves to help social entrepreneurs and small business owners cultivate their relationship with self, their business and their audience. With a BA (Hons) in Learning Disability Nursing, she has extensive professional experience working in health & social care within the non-profit sector. She is fluent in French having lived in France for some time. She is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute and the Co-Active Leadership programme. She is also a director of The 7 Graces Project CIC.

Nancy on Twitter: @NancyVGoodyear
Nancy’s website – http://nancyvgoodyear.com

Like this blog?

Then please subscribe using the form at the upper right side of this page, so you can receive our articles to your inbox.

Looking for a Tribe?

Come join our 7 Graces group on Facebook, and join us at our monthly meetings. They’re free to attend and we have them both in person and online, so you can participate from anywhere in the world. This is NOT a “business group” but an active community where people actually know and support each other.

Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:

The 7 Graces of Marketing BOOK COVER The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues

 

Tweep-e-licious by Lynn SerafinnTweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.

Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com

The Social Entrepreneur's Guide to Successful BloggingComing later in 2015

The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.


Lynn Serafinn, MAED CPCC LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.

Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.

7 Graces Project CICTwitter: http://twitter.com/7GracesMarketng

Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/7GracesGlobalGarden

 

Posted in 7 Key Relationships, Community Blogger, Marketing Tips, Nancy Goodyear, Platform Building Programme, Relationship with Audience | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

#VATMOSS – New Tax Law Discriminates Against Small Businesses

VATMOSS - New Tax Law Discriminates Against Small Businesses
Social commentator and marketer Lynn Serafinn discusses the new EU legislation called VATMOSS and tackles the ethical, practical and economic issues it raises. 

Over the past decade, we have witnessed both a digital and an economic revolution on a global scale. The two primary contributing factors have been advances in technology and the worldwide recession that began in 2006.

We saw, on the one hand, millions of people being made redundant and struggling to find employment. Young mothers – who might not have chosen to work until their children were older – no longer had the luxury of being stay-at-home moms, and now needed a way to earn an income without becoming dependent upon full-time employment.

At the same time, digital technology boomed in leaps and bounds. The coming of Web 2.0 and social media, along with advances in digital publishing, automated email systems and mobile technologies have not only changed the way we communicate, but the way we create products and do business.

This unique combination of factors had a profound effect on our world:

It enabled millions of individuals, who in the past had been dependent upon employers, to become independent business owners – often sole proprietors.

Moreover, it enabled them to create their own jobs, express their own values and invent their own lifestyles. It also enabled them to serve their customers and clients in ways that weren’t possible through big business.

But now, there are new tax rules that will impact EVERY business owner who sells digital products to customers in the EU (European Union). If you’re not sure which countries are in the EU, here’s a list (yes, we in the UK are part of the EU): https://www.gov.uk/eu-eea. And yes, that includes business owners who reside in the US, Canada, Australia and anywhere else in the world. I’ve put that in RED, as so many of our readers live in those countries. So regardless of where you live, if you sell (or want to sell) to customers in the UK and Europe, I strongly recommend reading on.

Vital Income from Digital Products and Services

One of the primary income earners for micro-business owners is the digital (i.e. downloadable) product, i.e. eBooks, MP3 audio, apps, software, eCourses and so on.

Both for myself and my clients, eBooks and eCourses are especially essential to our businesses. Not only do they provide an income stream, but they are also stepping stones in our ‘marketing funnel’ in that they give customers an inexpensive option to buy from us, and allows them to get to know more about who we are.

Selling digital products on our websites has been easy. All it really took was an e-commerce set up and an auto-responder system. Of course, many of us have used large digital portals, such as Amazon, Google Play, etc. to sell our products, as well. While they take a cut of our revenue, they also make it easier to deliver and can often give us the benefit of higher visibility in search engines.

Whichever way we preferred to distribute our digital products, we micro-businesses have enjoyed a freedom of choice, which opened the door to many possibilities for us, both economically and creatively.

But with the new VATMOSS laws, this freedom of choice is about to crumble. To understand why, let me explain the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of this whole issue.

‘BEFORE’ – How VAT Has Worked So Far

If you live in the EU, you’ll be familiar with the term ‘VAT’, which stands for ‘Value Added Tax’. To Americans, VAT is the equivalent of ‘sales tax’. The VAT rate varies from country to country. Here in the UK, VAT is 20%, while the rate may be higher or lower across Europe.

To date, digital services sold business-to-customer (B2C) in the EU have been taxed at the location of the seller. This means a customer pays VAT of 20% on any digital service bought from a UK company. If we buy from a company in another EU country, we pay the VAT of their country.

To date, VAT has never been a concern for smaller businesses. A business does not need to charge their customers VAT (or register as a VAT company) unless their taxable turnover is over £81,000 a year. Few sole proprietors (especially those just starting out) would be so lucky as to have an £81k annual taxable turnover.

This threshold means most sole proprietors haven’t had to think about VAT at all. This has helped the micro-business owner in two significant ways:

  • They haven’t been required to charge VAT. This has allowed them to keep their prices down for their customers and therefore compete with larger companies with greater volume and/or buying power.
  • They haven’t had to keep track of and file VAT reports. This has helped keep their administrative and accounting costs down.

Furthermore, the law as it currently stands determines VAT/sales tax according to the country in which the business is based. This means:

  • A business owner located outside the EU (in the US, for example) doesn’t need to understand anything about international tax laws.
  • They also don’t need to worry about paying taxes outside their own country.
  • Thus, online trade across international lines has been relatively easy for the small business owner, especially for the one-person operation.

But with the new VATMOSS rules, all that is changing.

‘AFTER’ – How the New VATMOSS Rules Will Change Things in January 2015

As of January 1st, 2015, a new VATMOSS ruling will come into effect. Under VATMOSS, there are several critical changes that will impact anyone who sells digital ‘services’ to customers who reside within the 28 countries of the European Union:

  • The EU now defines downloadable eBooks, images, music, apps, software, as ‘services’ rather than ‘products’. Their reasoning is that they are ‘essentially automated’ (i.e. delivered automatically). Therefore, they are subject to these new rules.
  • The ‘place of supply’ rule is changing. In the past, the ‘place of supply’ was the country in which the business was located. Now, in the case of digital services, the ‘place of supply’ is the country in which the CUSTOMER is located. This means that if a business sells any kind of downloadable digital product (um…’service’…) on their own website, they need to be able to detect where their buyer is located and charge their customers VAT according to the buyer’s country. For example, VAT is 17% in Luxembourg, 20% in the UK and 27% in Hungary.
  • There are no VAT thresholds for digital sales made outside your own country, meaning you are now required to collect and report VAT from your very first EU sale.*
  • All businesses are required to store their sales data securely for 10 years.
  • All affected UK companies will be required to file detailed and SEPARATE quarterly UK VAT accounts and EU VAT transactions or face penalties.

*   I should clarify that for a UK-based business, the VAT thresholds still apply for digital sales made WITHIN the UK. In other words, unless you have £81,000 of taxable turnover per annum, you do not need to charge or report VAT for UK sales.

What Kinds of Products and Services Are NOT Affected

The new laws ONLY apply to things that are considered ‘hands off’ (i.e. delivered automatically with little or no human intervention). So:

  • If you’ve designed a bespoke product for a client that you sent them via email, you are not subject to VAT laws.
  • Similarly, if you deliver training where you are live on the air with your customers, you are not liable to charge/report VAT. However, if you later SELL that same training as a stand-alone product and deliver it automatically (or passively, such as when you run a membership site), you would be liable.

In recent social media discussions, HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs in the UK) ‘implied’ that if you manually deliver a product via email rather than via an auto-responder, this is considered to involve human intervention. Some people online saw this as a loophole they could exploit, so they wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle of the new tax rules. But personally, I think the statement comes from HMRC being essentially ignorant of the way online businesses operate, and I wouldn’t be too quick to jump into that loophole, as I’m sure this comment will be contracted at some point in the near future.

B2B (business to business) sales are also NOT subject to VAT laws. For example, if you sell eBooks through a major sales portal like Amazon, you are technically selling it to another business, and Amazon is selling to the customer (B2C). Thus, in this case, Amazon is liable to track, charge and pay VAT to the respective countries, not you.

However, be aware that this new ruling will affect the COST of your products on Amazon, and in many cases you will be forced either to raise your prices (potentially putting off customers) or keep your prices low while taking a cut in profits. That’s not Amazon’s fault, but a result of VATMOSS.

The Difficulty for the New VATMOSS Ruling

The new ruling creates a quagmire of bureaucracy for businesses. In the past, if someone bought a digitally downloadable product from our website, we didn’t need to ask them for their physical address. In fact, most of us are loathe to give such private information unless we are ordering a physical product that needs to be shipped to us. But with VATMOSS, our customers will need to provide us with this information. And, of course, we need to have a way to collect it, store it, calculate the tax they should be charged, charge them, and then report our sales on a quarterly basis to as many as 28 different EU countries.

Doing this is both technically and financially out of bounds for many (if not most) one-person operations (or even those that are bigger). To make things easier, HMRC created something called ‘VAT MOSS’. MOSS stands for ‘Mini One-Stop Shop’. The purpose of MOSS is to give businesses a way to register for VAT in one ‘one-member state’ (i.e. their own country), rather than 28 different countries.

However, while registering for MOSS *might* make it easier to report our sales to the government (I was told by @Taxamo on Twitter this needs to be done quarterly), we are still left with the technical and administrative challenges of determining, applying and tracking VAT for all our European sales in the first place.

Furthermore, MOSS is for UK residents. I have no idea what other countries (including those in the US and Canada) are supposed to do.

The Options for the Business Owner

Essentially, business owners now have five choices:

  1. If you’re a UK business owner, you can register for VAT and MOSS and collect VAT on all UK and EU sales (you will still need to track and report sales to them quarterly).
  2. You can register for VAT in each non-UK EU member state separately (certainly the least practical for the smaller business owner).
  3. You can forget about selling directly to the customer altogether and sell ONLY through third-party retailers, such as Amazon.
  4. You can continue to sell directly to customers, but stop selling to EU countries altogether (except your own). In the UK, this would mean you could still maintain the £81k threshold.
  5. You can continue to sell directly to customers, but do NOT deliver your goods automatically to customers in an EU country other than your own. This would still mean you’d have to collect people’s country of origin information, and then manually send them the goods via email. While this is an option I see some people online toying with, I think it’s likely to prove extremely unwieldy.

The Irony, Contradiction, Discrimination and Potential Harm of VATMOSS

It is no secret that VATMOSS was originally conceived because big companies (more specifically, Amazon) were building a financial empire from sales made in Europe, but they weren’t paying a penny in tax to the countries in which these sales were made. Certainly, this has been a huge scandal here in Britain for at least the past year. Recently, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants were pretty transparent about the link between cause and effect when they said VATMOSS ‘should remove the incentive for businesses to locate offshore and level the playing field for all digital service suppliers’.

The official stance of HMRC is that this new ruling would ‘level the playing field’ for smaller businesses who are unable to compete with companies like Amazon in the cyber market.

While it all sounds reasonable, there is a tremendous irony in the original purpose of VATMOSS and the ultimate ripple it is likely to create. I believe the new ruling law is so complicated and demanding that it will, in effect, drive micro-business owners – regardless of where they are based – to DEPEND upon large companies like Amazon for their digital sales within the EU, thus increasing revenues for the big corporates the government are trying to hold accountable.

This is also likely to have a negative impact on the income for many small business owners. For example, those who have been selling eBooks on their websites will take an immediate cut of at least 30-65% of their profits, as Amazon Kindle takes these fees from your retail sales, depending upon the retail price you have set. There are also some limitations to retail pricing, which can be restrictive to authors who have higher-priced items. For me personally, this is not such a big issue, as I pretty much use Amazon for my sales anyway. But not all our 7 Graces clients do (especially those in America) and I know this will hit them in the pocketbook.

And even though I tend to use Amazon for my own digital products (um…again…’services’), what I really object to is that I feel like using large portals for sales is now no longer a choice but a matter of having no other choice.

I also find the ruling contradictory in the light of other VAT exemptions. Here in the UK, books are actually EXEMPT from VAT. However, eBooks are not. I know this was already the case, and is not one of the issues that arose as result of VATMOSS, but I only became aware of this discrepancy when the whole VATMOSS scandal popped up.

I’m also concerned that VATMOSS will finally put the nail in the coffin for (mostly) American businesses who will decide it’s too much trouble to sell directly to EU customers. If that happens, how much is this going to compromise what we EU customers have at our own disposal online? How many resources will we cease to have access to because the laws are just too much bother for US business owners?

Sadly, I fear this ruling will increase the cultural divide that already exists between the US and EU.

So, while I have no issues with the government trying to hold Amazon and other companies like them accountable for their taxes, THIS IS NOT THE SOLUTION. It is unfairly discriminating against the small business owner, especially the sole proprietor. It leaves them with no choice but to lose income by one or more of the following:

  • Lower sales, owing to having to raise prices to cover VAT and their administrative costs
  • Lower sales, owing to having to eliminate certain markets from their customer base
  • Lower income, owing to having to split sales with retail outlets
  • Higher expenses, to cover the administrative costs of tracking, bookkeeping, etc.

What We Can (and Should) Do

Burying our heads in the sand or giving up on this issue will help none of us. I would like to call upon our readers to do the following:

  1. ESSENTIAL: Listen to the replay of this webinar with the HMRC and EU rep at https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/live-vatmoss-qa-with-hmrc-registration-14287754057.
  2. UK readers: please sign the petition ‘Uphold the VAT Exemption Threshold for businesses supplying digital products’ at https://www.change.org/p/vince-cable-mp-uphold-the-vat-exemption-threshold-for-businesses-supplying-digital-products.
  3. Join the Facebook group ‘DigitalVAT2015′ to stay informed of the latest developments (they are a VERY vocal group) https://www.facebook.com/groups/DigitalVAT2015/
  4. READ the articles and information in the resources below.
  5. WRITE to your MP or similar political representative.
  6. Above all, please DO NOT give up. Do not stop selling your digital goods to the EU.
  7. Leave a comment below, and share any thoughts or information you have with other readers.

‘Official’ Reading List

‘Vat on Digital Services in the EU’ by HMRC – https://www.gov.uk/vat-on-digital-services-in-the-eu

Explanatory Notes (92 pages) on ‘How VAT Works’ – http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/resources/documents/taxation/vat/how_vat_works/telecom/explanatory_notes_2015_en.pdf

‘Register and Use the VAT Mini One Stop Shop':
https://www.gov.uk/register-and-use-the-vat-mini-one-stop-shop

‘ACCA Guide to VAT Mini Stop One Shop (MOSS)’

http://www.accaglobal.com/content/dam/ACCA_Global/Technical/buslaw/acca-guide-vat-moss.docx

Commentary and Additional info (DO read these!)

‘News EU Rules Threaten to Kill UK Micro Firms’, in The Telegraph - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businessclub/11254829/New-EU-VAT-rules-threaten-to-kill-UK-micro-firms.html

(and the follow up to the above) ‘Victory for UK micro firms as HMRC tweaks EU VAT MOSS rule’, in The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businessclub/11268706/Victory-for-UK-micro-firms-as-HMRC-tweaks-EU-VAT-MOSS-rule.html

‘VAT-MOSS Webinar  2nd December 2014 – Quick Notes & Comments’ by Clare Josa. http://www.clarejosa.com/vat-moss-webinar-2nd-december-2014/

‘Micro-businesses and #VATMOSS – your reaction to new EU tax laws’ in The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2014/nov/27/micro-businesses-vatmoss-your-reaction-new-eu-tax-laws

‘Implementation of VAT MOSS in UK’ by Rita de la Ferer – http://www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/40681204

‘Twitter Storm – A Modest Proposal’ by Wendy Bradley – http://tiintax.com/2014/11/27/twitterstorm-a-modest-proposal/

‘Why #VATMOSS needs you’ by Enterprise Nation
https://www.enterprisenation.com/blog/posts/why-vatmoss-needs-you

‘How small companies and freelancers can deal with the VATMOSS EU VAT changes’ by Rachel Andrew http://rachelandrew.co.uk/archives/2014/11/25/how-small-companies-and-freelancers-can-deal-with-the-vatmoss-eu-vat-changes/

‘How VATMOSS fundamentally misunderstands the nature of direct e-sales’ by Juliet McKenna http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=1524

‘They didn’t know the impact of #VATMOSS on really small business’ by Ysolda Teague http://ysolda.com/blog/2014/11/26/they-didnt-know-the-impact-of-vatmoss-on-really-small-businesses

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
2 December 2014

Like this blog?

Then please subscribe using the form at the upper right side of this page, so you can receive our articles to your inbox.

Looking for a Tribe? 

Come join our 7 Graces group on Facebook, and join us at our monthly meetings. They’re free to attend and we have them both in person and online, so you can participate from anywhere in the world. This is NOT a “business group” but an active community where people actually know and support each other.

Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:

The 7 Graces of Marketing BOOK COVER The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sellby Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues

 

Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.

Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com

The Social Entrepreneur's Guide to Successful BloggingComing in 2015

The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.


Lynn Serafinn author of The 7 Graces of Marketing LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.

Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.

7 Graces Project CIC

Twitter: http://twitter.com/7GracesMarketng

Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/7GracesGlobalGarden

 

 

 

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Why It’s So Important to Make Your Blogs EASY to Read

Why It’s So Important to Make Your Blogs EASY to Read
7 Graces co-director Nancy Goodyear explains why readers don’t want to work too hard when reading your blog posts, and gives tips on how to keep it simple.

There are all sorts of reasons why people start blogging, but it all boils down to the same thing – they have a message they want to communicate, whether it’s about the products or services they offer, a political or ideological viewpoint on world affairs, or advice about how to slow down and take care of yourself. Put simply, the aim of blogging is to build an audience of loyal followers who are interested in what you have to say.

Blogging is a big commitment. It takes time to do it right and it’s such a waste if, having put in all that time and effort, nobody reads it. First, you need to tell people your blog is there and get them to have a look. Once they’re there, you want them to stay and read what you have to say. Otherwise, your message stays hidden on your unread website and all your hard work is for naught – no one hears your message, no one gets to know you and no one hires you. Finally, you want readers to come back to read more.

So how do you get people to stay and read? The secret is – don’t make your readers work too hard!

Putting Yourself in Your Readers’ Shoes

Think about it. When do people read blogs? In their downtime, between one brain-heavy task and the next, during lunch, in the evening after a hard day’s work – NOT when they are at their sharpest and ready to concentrate. In this state, people have very short attention spans. They’re not going to stick with something that requires them to concentrate or look up unfamiliar words. You might give loads of great information and advice, but if your blog is too hard to read, people will click away and find something less challenging. Remember, the whole world is blogging! The internet is a busy place and there’s a lot of ‘noise’ for you to compete with in the battle for your readers’ attention.

So it’s in your interest to write clear and simple blog posts. This means not assuming your readers know your subject – or your jargon. It means taking them through the subject of your blog slowly and carefully, and explaining what might be unfamiliar to them, in plain English. This can be hard when writing about something you have studied for years. It can be difficult to think back to the time when you didn’t know all the ‘short-hand’ or technical terms you use in your industry. But this step is key to building your readership.

If you’re using your blog for marketing purposes (as 7 Graces Founder Lynn Serafinn and I advocate), there is self-interest in blogging. You need to inform your readers about what you do, what you know and keep them on your side. If they like what they read, and understand it, they will (hopefully) hire you or buy your product. If you’re blogging as part of a marketing strategy, you want your reader to pay attention to what you’re saying. You don’t want them struggling to make sense of what you haven’t explained clearly.

You also can’t assume they have read your blog before and understand things you’ve explained in previous posts. You need to assume every reader is visiting your blog for the very first time, with no knowledge of your subject.

Rules of Thumb When Writing Your Blog Posts

Here are some tips to help keep your readers informed and entertained without making them work too hard:

  1. Assume they are brand new to your blog and to your subject.
  2. Avoid all technical jargon or ‘industry speak’. If you can’t avoid it, be sure to explain it simply and clearly.
  3. Keep it simple – each blog post should be about one idea. If you want to say more, save it for next time. Then remember to write your next blog for brand new readers who missed part one (making sure you summarise what was in part one and providing a link so they can catch up if they want).
  4. Keep it structured – ensure there is a logical flow from point to point, so it’s easy for your readers to follow your train of thought.
  5. Explain the connections between your thoughts and the points you’re making – be explicit (never imply ANYTHING).
  6. Write in plain English – try not to sound like you swallowed a dictionary. Don’t try to be (or sound) clever by using big words or unnecessarily long sentences.
  7. Be informative, clear and concise.
  8. Follow our template for writing good blogs.
  9. If you feel you need help making your blog work for you and your business, you might consider our Platform Building Package or a similar programme with another reputable online marketing strategist.

Closing Thoughts

Blogging is a great way of communicating with your audience and getting your message out, whether it’s an ideological stance or part of a marketing strategy for your business. But in order to do that effectively, it’s important not to fall into the trap of trying to sound knowledgeable and ‘professional’ by using language that bamboozles your readers, or a deeply academic structure that leads them into a web of arguments they can’t fight their way out of.

Be kind to your readers; share your expertise in easily digestible chunks. Entertain, inform, stimulate – but don’t intimidate your audience, confuse them or make them work too hard.

If you manage to walk this tightrope, your readers will not only stay to the end, but they may come back for more and maybe even tell their friends to pop by – and that is how you build an audience of loyal followers who want to listen to and share your message.

Happy blogging,

Nancy Goodyear
22nd November 2014

Nancy V Goodyear, Co-Director of the 7 Graces Project CICNancy V Goodyear is a Business Mentor and Coach who loves to help social entrepreneurs and small business owners cultivate their relationship with self, their business and their audience. With a BA (Hons) in Learning Disability Nursing, she has extensive professional experience working in health & social care within the non-profit sector. She is fluent in French having lived in France for some time. She is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute and the Co-Active Leadership programme. She is also a director of The 7 Graces Project CIC.

Nancy on Twitter: @NancyVGoodyear
Nancy’s website – http://nancyvgoodyear.com

Like this blog?

Then please subscribe using the form at the upper right side of this page, so you can receive our articles to your inbox.

Looking for a Tribe?

Come join our 7 Graces group on Facebook, and join us at our monthly meetings. They’re free to attend and we have them both in person and online, so you can participate from anywhere in the world. This is NOT a “business group” but an active community where people actually know and support each other.

Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:

The 7 Graces of Marketing BOOK COVER The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues

 

Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.

Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com

The Social Entrepreneur's Guide to Successful BloggingComing later in 2015

The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.


Lynn Serafinn author of The 7 Graces of Marketing LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.

Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.

7 Graces Project CICTwitter: http://twitter.com/7GracesMarketng

Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/7GracesGlobalGarden

 

Posted in 7 Key Relationships, Blog, Blogging, Community Blogger, Marketing Tips, Nancy Goodyear, Relationship with Our Audience | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment