Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business


This blog is written by members of the Business & IP Centre team and some of our expert partners and discusses business, innovation and enterprise. Read more

27 April 2016

The Sacred Bundle: a magical way to express your core business values


What is a Sacred Bundle?

Based on Native American and South American native tribal customs, a Sacred Bundle was made up of items that reflect the history, values, magical moments, important people and sacred objects of a tribe. It was not opened without a ritual and new objects were added only rarely and with great ceremony. In the West you can see a similar idea in the memory boxes we keep for our children, in scrapbooks, in treasured (but often externally without value) possessions handed down from generation to generation.

Why would a business need a Sacred Bundle?

Storytelling in a business context is now a well-known phenomenon and has been proven to allow a business to connect better with an audience, engage their customers and share their values internally and with new staff. But where are businesses supposed to get their stories from? Working to create your own business Sacred Bundle will identify the 'magic moments' that have made your business come alive and what makes it unique. In so doing, you can create storytelling that is true to your origins and values, making it more effective and engaging for your customers. A few organisations who currently make use of the Sacred Bundle in a business context: Southwest Airlines, BBMG (a brand innovation studio), The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Aveda, Sears and the United Jewish Appeal.

What does a Sacred Bundle look like?

Everyone’s bundle will be different. The items do not have to be ‘pretty’ or make sense to anyone else. They might be the actual item (an item of clothing from your first fashion collection) or symbolic (a photo of your first mentor). Items will accumulate over time, naturally, so an ‘older’ organisation would probably have more items than a brand-new business.

How do make my own?

  • Take the time to consider your business’ history and try to pick out key moments, people, items or values that have shaped it along the way.
  • Create a real-life Sacred Bundle made up of items that represent what you have chosen.
  • Use the Sacred Bundle to help you communicate more authentically, share values with new people in your business and even reshape your business vision or create new product ranges.

Over the course of about six weeks I am engaged in intensive sessions with eight companies, who were invited to create a Sacred Bundle. The sessions so far have been fascinating and the entrepreneurs with whom I have worked have been insightful about their businesses, willing to answer personal questions and give thoughtful responses. I have had people both cry and laugh during the time I’ve spent with them and I have greatly valued their honesty.

At the end of this time there will be a workshop, which is open to the public for booking. In it we will attempt to replicate the process on a wider scale, allowing our attendees to create their own Sacred Bundles and think of how best to use them for greater business success. If you think this session could be right for you and you are willing to see your business in a new light then I hope to see you there.


‘Your Sacred Bundle’ workshop takes place in the British Library Business & IP Centre on 6 June 2016 from 10.00 – 13.00. Register here.


Melissa Addey, Writer in Residence, Business & IP Centre

19 April 2016

5 ways to double your online sales with minimum investment

Commercial Photography by Bevan Cockerill-122
Photo credit: Bevan Cockerill

A few years ago, the European Commission described SMEs as “the lifeblood of Europe’s economy”, and with over 5 million SMEs in the UK their role here is ever growing. Generally the rise of the internet has made commerce both at home and abroad quicker and cheaper than ever before, but there remains a sizeable digital skills gap in the UK.

Whatever your industry, your company’s future success depends on your ability to make the most of the digital opportunity. As British businesses, you already have a relative head start in this connected world, but within the next decade the rest of the world is likely to be up to speed and, if we stop innovating now, others will overtake us.

To help small businesses keep pace, Google has recently launched a free digital learning platform called The Digital Garage which can help SMEs keep up-to-date with the knowledge they need to make the web work for them. Soon Google will deliver a webinar with the British Library Business & IP Centre to help learn how to reach new customers online. Tips include the best ways to use some cost-effective tools to maximise your sales potential; below are a few ways to meet and compete with this explosion of digital demand.

1. Setting up shop

Any successful e-commerce operation is based on navigability for your customer – just like a brick-and-mortar shop. Consider the last time you walked into a furniture shop: you probably didn’t walk in and just see a map of where to find the armchairs, but rather saw a nice sofa by the door you could sink into. You can do the same thing online, starting by promoting certain products right on your homepage or on search. Consider product merchandising: displaying very specific, featured products up front can help shift old inventory or feature best-selling items you want more customers to see.

2. Data-driven KYC

You may be a business leader, but remember you’re a consumer too. The last time you shopped online you were probably shown ‘recommended products’ after viewing certain items. As potential customers browse your site, you’re receiving data about their interests, and there are ways to increase sales potential by using this data to make predictions. Consider the furniture shop again – if you know your customer is looking for an oak desk, you can cross-sell by promoting related products, like matching bookcases, which they may not have even considered. Many shopping cart providers, such as Magento or Shopify, offer these product recommendation engines.

Commercial Photography by Bevan Cockerill-100
Photo credit: Bevan Cockerill

3. Optimise your customer experience to drive sales

In e-commerce, as with all aspects of your business, a process of continuous improvement is critical. You may learn through Google Analytics data that customers visit your site on mobile but rarely purchase – is this a clue that they cannot move smoothly through the payment process on mobile? One option is implementing ‘responsive design’ into your site, which adapts content to different screen size, or if you want to guarantee a more consistent shopping experience, create a dedicated mobile website. A recent whitepaper from Google called featuring ‘25 Principles of Mobile Site Design’ should help you drive conversions.

4. Utilising customer accounts

Investigate customer accounts to streamline their path-to-purchase. Once an online purchase is completed, by allowing customers to securely store shipping addresses, billing information and payment preferences in an account, you’re removing barriers for them and increasing your sales potential.

You can get more advanced too: use your customers’ past purchases, recent searches and recently viewed products to recommend specific items that might interest them. To use the furniture example again, if they have just bought a dining room table, you might recommend a set of chairs to match the design and wood finish.

5. Retargeting for e-commerce

Data around customer behaviour can be very useful information to your business by allowing you to create very specific advertisements aimed at people who have shown interest in certain products. This type of advertising is called retargeting. Let’s say, for example, that a customer looks at a kitchen table on your site but halfway through the checkout process they leave the website. Using retargeted ads you could automatically target that customer with an ad for that table at a 10% discount to remind them of the incomplete purchase or incentivise the purchase.

As with any advertising campaign, it’s important to measure and optimise the performance of your product retargeting campaigns over time. This means tracking conversion rates, testing new types of ads, tweaking your parameters, and using analytics to manage these campaigns.

Want to learn how more about how to be successful online? Register now for our upcoming webinar taking place on 28 April. Learn from Google all you need to know to reach more customers online. It’s free and you can take part from anywhere in the world.


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13 April 2016

Writer in Residence update: tips from the first workshops

Melissa Addey Headshot

Spring is springing and the first two workshops of my residency have flowered: after two months of more solitary work (researching, writing, developing ideas and planning workshop structures) I was suddenly in the company of two great groups!

Books Mean Business

This was the first workshop which was booked out really quickly and I’ve already had requests to repeat it. The idea behind this workshop was that many businesses can benefit from creating their own books: whether to engage more fully with their customers, to establish themselves as experts in a particular field or to pursue new avenues. We had two great speakers with us on the day - Tessa Stuart and Jacq Burns.

Tessa Stuart wrote a book for food entrepreneurs and immediately found herself much in demand as a speaker. Her second book built on the success of the first, when she got approached by Unilever to do consultation work. Jacq Burns’s book was about how to write a bestseller and her tips on this subject were eagerly noted by the attendees, not least the importance of a winning title. We considered traditional publishing but had to acknowledge that for the entrepreneurially-minded and with digital and print-on-demand publishing now so accessible, traditional publishing could be a long journey without a guaranteed end result.

Here are some tips if you’re thinking about a book for your own business:

  • Develop ideas for a book through brainstorming so you get lots of ideas and can choose the best
  • Make sure you really have something to say so that you will produce quality content
  • Always use a professional designer for your cover and ensure your interior formatting also looks smart
  • Choose a good title that is both clear and enticing
  • The content from this workshop will be available within The Storytelling Entrepreneur, a book out later this year, so keep a look out for it!

Merchandise for Writers

The second workshop introduced our writer attendees to an entrepreneurial way of thinking: I suggested that even writers not yet at the heady heights of JK Rowling could consider how creating their own merchandise might bring in additional income, increase their visibility as an author and draw their readers further into their worlds, whether in fiction or non-fiction.

We looked at how to develop products on your own or in collaboration/through affiliation, how to ensure your merchandise both supported and enhanced your brand and enjoyed ourselves enormously with some examples of dreadful merchandise and the great ideas our teams came up with when presented with imaginary books for which to dream up some products.

Again, we were lucky to have two brilliant author speakers with us – Jonathan Green who talked about how his successful Kickstarter campaign rewards easily became merchandise ideas, with a colouring book even outselling the original book and Shaun Levin, whose Writing Maps (illustrated writing prompts) began from his own writing style and are now available in more than twenty formats, on sale in many outlets and earning him bespoke commissions both at home and internationally.

Here are some tips if you’re thinking of developing your own author merchandise:

  • Brainstorm a lot of ideas so you can pick the best
  • Prototype so you can check for quality and overall effect
  • Consider affiliate product collaborations or time-limited collaborations with a small business so that you can dip your toe in the water
  • Remember that merchandise exists to draw the reader further into your world
  • Think beyond products – what about experience days?
  • Look at Zazzle, Spoonflower and Vistaprint to begin with and consider looking at Etsy to find collaborators
  • There will be a book, Merchandise for Authors out on this topic later in the year so keep a look out on this blog for news of its publication

What’s next?

These workshops are a fascinating way to bring to life the ideas I have been developing during this residency so far, as well as sharing tips with people whom I hope will use them to develop their own wonderful books and products. I look forward to the next two workshops we have planned: Creating Your Sacred Bundle on the 6th June (a magical way to communicate your business’ true values) and When Copyright Expires – Inspiration from the Archives on the 20th June. More on both of those coming soon keep an eye on the Business & IP Centre website and Twitter: I hope to see you there.


Melissa Addey, Writer in Residence at the British Library, Business & IP Centre