THE BRITISH LIBRARY

In through the outfield blog

18 posts from January 2011

31 January 2011

What is the Business & IP Centre doing with social media?

WebinFeb logoWe are just one day away from our Web in Feb month of Social Media activities, where you can;

* Navigate the world of social media and make it work for you
* Get your site noticed by Google
* Write a blog, record a podcast, set up a website
* Avoid the legal pitfalls of doing business online
* Translate the jargon and gain the confidence to use the web effectively.

Frances Taylor who manages our Social Media activities here in the Business & IP Centre has kindly agreed to be interviewed about what we have been up to.

What is the Business & IP Centre doing with social media?
We have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter as well as more niche social network sites like UnLtdWorld (for social enterprises) and Smarta (for entrepreneurs).

Over the last few years we have also had fun experimenting with video, podcasts, webcasts and wikis, to find new ways of helping our customers find business information and advice.  This week we’re looking into Quora, a new Q&A social network.

We have a full list of the sites we have a presence on.

How do you decide which social media channels to use?
Our target audience for the Business & IP Centre includes entrepreneurs and small businesses; we researched which social media channels they use and focused on these.  Entrepreneurs are increasingly using social media to network, promote their products and engage with their customers. To gain the most impact, we also focused on the bigger, more popular social networking sites, due to their potential reach.

To be honest, it has also been a case of experimenting and seeing what works. All the social media sites have proved useful to us in different ways:

-    Facebook has helped us to spread the word about our events programme and provides a group space for entrepreneurs to network. One of our proudest social media moments was when we advertised an event via Facebook and it filled within three hours.

-    LinkedIn is a place for quality business discussions and networking with other professionals.

-    YouTube has helped us to raise awareness of our ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs’ events and take advantage of all the Library’s high-profile speakers, from Stelios to Lord Sugar.

-    Twitter has become one of the most important sites to the Centre.  As well as helping us to spread the word about our services, it helps us to stay in touch with our partners, case studies and customers and find out about all the latest issues. It’s the place to go for small business news.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your social media activity?
Social media is notoriously difficult to evaluate, however these are the things we aim to measure:

-    Number of followers/ people engaged with our brand
-    Number of quality conversations/ interactions
-    Qualitative examples of how we have engaged with customers via social media
-    Referrals to our website
-    Number of people that use our service as a result of social media sites
-    Time and resource spent to implement.

It’s important to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of your social media activity, particularly since it can be quite time consuming.

Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs looking to use social media for their business?
Definitely. I’d recommend the following:
-    Think carefully about who your target audience is, and then work out what social media sites they use, and what for.
-    You don’t have to be everywhere – it’s better to have a strong presence on one social network than to spread yourself too thinly.
-    A lot of social media sites revolve around sharing content and information.  Think about what content and expertise you have that you can share with others, from tips to video content and ‘behind the scenes’ photos.
-    Social media is all about interacting with others. Make sure that you spend time listening and engaging with everyone online, rather than just promoting yourself.
-    You can stay informed of the latest trends in social media and digital marketing through sites like Mashable and econsultancy.

How elevated is your pitch?

Kimberly_DavisDuring the Apprentice Kim and her Marketing Masters Series, one of the things that stood out from an excellent day was the importance of an effective elevator pitch. The ability to summarize your business in 15 seconds is not easy, so important.

This is something I have mentioned several times before, including How good is your Escalator Pitch?

Kim asked the audience for examples of their elevator pitches, and although some were ok, they all paled into insignificance compared to her own pitch for her business Sarsaparilla Ltd. I didn’t manage to catch it word for word, but it went something like this;

Hello my name is is Kimberly Davis and I am the founder of Sarsaparilla a marketing consulting and training agency which can detox your marketing by protecting companies from Flash, Fluff, and Fakers. It specialises in helping you increase profits, maximise return on investment, and measure results.

It’s close to perfect, as it is concise, clear, explains the benefits, and leaves you wanting to know more.

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to explain everything they do, but then leave the potential customer to work out how they would benefit from the product or service.

Fortunately there are plenty of sources on the web to help write your own perfect pitch.

5-rules-for-writing-an-exceptional-elevator-pitch from the Small Fuel Marketing blog.

1. Explain your business in two lines
You have only a moment to explain what you do, but it can be hard to pare down an explanation to the details. Try starting with only a minimal explanation of just two lines. Focus on writing down what is unique about your business. You don’t need a perfectly formatted document; this draft is to get you to eliminate unnecessary words.

While you should mention what you do, how your business helps is actually more important than your particular methods. A professional speaker, for instance, wouldn’t just say that he gets up on a stage and talks. Instead, his pitch might include an explanation of the fact that he motivates employees to focus on quality — or whatever his speaking is supposed to achieve.

2. Add some excitement
If you aren’t excited about what you do, there’s no reason anyone else should get excited either. There was some sort of passion that lead you to get involved with your business; let it show through. In some cases, your reasons may be your elevator pitch.

Do you see a particular need for your services? Focus on that need, and a passionate pitch might just write itself. Results are another easy way to get excited about your business. Think about the numbers you celebrate — the milestones for your business.

3. Test your pitch
Find a few people that will listen to your pitch and give you feedback. Ask them what terms they didn’t recognize, where it was boring and where it was exciting.

Your listeners’ questions about your pitch are especially important. You don’t necessarily want to answer every question about your business in your pitch — getting prospective customers to ask a few questions is a great way to hook them — but if a test subject has no idea what you do after listening to your pitch, it’s back to the drawing board. It may take a couple of tries to come up with a pitch if your business isn’t particularly common.

4. Adapt to the situation
You don’t give your elevator pitch in a vacuum. It’s always part of a conversation. Your conversational partner probably has some specific needs that your company can help with — and he or she may have already described them as part of the conversation.

If you’ve already heard those specific needs, respond to them. Tell your listener exactly what you can do to help him; being specific is what can take an elevator pitch from the “I’ll be in touch” level to the “I’m calling you first when I get back to the office” level.

5. Be open to change
I actually learned this trick during a high school science fair: I was giving a pitch about my project to a judge and he asked a couple of questions that seemed pretty important. I started incorporating his questions, along with the answers, in my pitch. I’m pretty sure that it was that small change to my pitch that landed me a prize.

Your elevator pitch is not carved in stone. If you come across a better explanation of what you do, you ought to include it in your pitch. It’s even worthwhile to test out multiple versions of your elevator pitch and make changes based on the result. And if your business changes, it’s important to make sure that your elevator pitch reflects those changes.

15 Second Pitch uses a simple wizard to help you generate your 300 word pitch. It also has access to 14,000 sample pitches, so you can learn from others like this;
My name is Corey Lennox and I am a musician specializing in writing mindblowing songs. I write rock music to crystallize some of life’s most amazing moments and experiences. I’m a Berklee College of Music graduate who puts emotion first in his music. Check out what I’ve been creating- all my music is available for free. If you like what you hear, I encourage you to join my mailing list, or even just say hello!

Apprentice Kim and her Marketing Masters Series

Kimberly_DavisLast week I was fortunate enough to attend the first of Kimberly Davis‘ (a contestant on the 2009 series of the Apprentice), Marketing Masters Series.

The day on Marketing Foundations was an excellent overview of how to market and promote your business, and ended with an inspiring talk from author and motivational speaker, Brad (Get Off Your Arse) Burton.

Here are my notes from the day:

Marketing Masters Series – Marketing Foundations – Tuesday 18 January 2011, London

Definition
-    The external perception of your company
-    Anything and everything your company does

Difference between sales and marketing
-    Marketing is long-term and has a slow build
-    Sales is short-term is about converting interest into sales
-    The Ying and Yang of business – requires different personality types

The Marketing Umbrella

1. Research
-    Necessary, even for a local business
-    Understand your customers
-    Understand your competitors – strengths, weakness, prices
-    Work out your USP – what is going to make you truly unique – ‘we provide excellent customer service’ won’t cut it.

2. Branding – the promise you make to your customers
-    Think of one word that represents your business. E.g. Volvo = safety, Rolls Royce = luxury
-    The devil is in the detail. Example of the five days of training Kimberly was required to take before her first day in a Pier 1 store in New York.
-    Create a brand book for your business

3. Writing and editing
-    KISS – keep it simple stupid
-    If your product is good, it will speak for itself – it won’t need to be hyped up
-    Use the reverse pyramid approach to writing – the most important words first – the most important points at the top

4. Develop the perfect elevator pitch
-    Not a list of what you can do
-    or an advert
-    You need to catch the interest of your ‘victim’.
-    E.g. My name is xxx and my company is xxx and we do xxx for xxx
-    Leave them intrigued and wanting to know more

5. PR vs Advertising
-    PR is what other people say about you
-    Advertising is what you say about you
-    If you do use advertising, make sure it includes a call to action. E.g discount coupon.
-    Remember the two second attention span of your audience
-    Keep to the moto – less is more
-    Word of mouth advertising is the best you can get. Examples of the Body Shop, Starbucks and Molton Brown – they don’t use adverts

6. Mailshots
-    Flyers are only any use for local businesses
-    Use them with incentives such as coupons

7. Print and production
-    Quality is important, as it reflects your quality. Example of ENO poster for Carmen

8. Merchandising
-    Makes money for you while you sleep – don’t use ‘chockeys’

9.  Events and promotions
-    Make sure you brand is maintained. E.G Ben & Jerry’s Sundae on the Common event

10. Sponsorship and Partners
-    Are there partners who fit well with your business?

11. Online Marketing
-    Purpose – to lead your customers to call you for more information
-    Build your database by giving something for free
-    Three tiers of website design (it is unlikely one person can do all):
o    Design
o    Construction
o    E-commerce
-    Seach Engine Optimisation (SEO)
o    Links
o    Articles
o    Key words
o    Blogs

12. Video and Multimedia
-    Mobile applications (Aps)
-    Presentations
-    POP (Point of Purchase)
-    Promotional videos (easy to record using modern technology) – use it show experience of person, product, service
-    DVD’s
-    Media

13. Social Media – How can social media help my business? (lots of people signed up, but only half on a daily basis)
Use for:
Research – Sales – Database (new contacts) – Customer Service – PR – Events and Promotion – VIP contacts – Networking – Referrals – Recruitment

14. Customer Service
-    examples of good and bad service

15. Create a Marketing Plan
-    ‘if you fail to plan, you can plan to fail’ – unknown
-    Architects, sailors etc

16. Create a System that helps your business – e.g. Event booking, emailing
-    Don’t make people wait
-    Automated system
-    Work smarter, not harder

17. Put together your dream team
-    Don’t try and do everything yourself
-    Surround yourself by experts you can trust

18. Get professional advice from someone who has done it
-    Smarta
-    British Library Business & IP Centre
-    Business Links

19. Network
-    test your elevator pitch
-    80 percent of business comes from networking
-    Pay forward relationships

20. Measure, measure, measure
-    It’s vital to know what’s working and what’s not
-    Use different promotional codes to track success
-    Surveys – e.g. Survey Monkey

Example of a very expensive mistake
-    Don’t cut marketing spend as it is a false economy
-    Don’t try and do everything yourself
-    You need to invest in your business – are you investing in holidays?
-    If you don’t have the time to do it right, then you must have the time to do it over again
-    Compare the cost of doing to the cost of not doing
-    You must be willing to make a financial commitment to your business

27 January 2011

The growing grey market in the UK

Last night I attended a packed Insider Trends’ talk at the Business & IP Centre. Last time the topic was How to become a cutting-edge retailer, but this time Cate Trotter the founder and Head of Trends was talking about the rise and neglecting of the over 50′s market.

As a newly minted 50+ myself (well last September anyway), I was doubly interested in what Kate had to say, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that by 2020 the over 50′s will form the majority of Britain’s population. So that makes me part of the only growth market in the UK.

Once again Kate provided an excellent talk, and left the audience pumped full of relevant statistics and marketing angles.

Here are my notes from the evening:

Untapped markets: The grey pound – Monday 24 January

Profile Marketing Opportunities

-    The population in the UK is getting older, already more +60s than -16s
-    People are living longer
-    Family sizes are shrinking
-    Number of 90 year olds expected to double in 25 years
-    78% of income retained post retirement, but loss in commuting and mortgage costs increase available money
-    +65’s spending £100 billion a year Recession
-    Older customers are better prepared for economic decline than younger
-    Many are working part-time to bring in an income Segmentation
-    Important part of understanding your customers
-    Need to add more age categories. 50-65 and 65+ are not enough
-    Need to be aware of not pigeon-hole by age – much more diverse than the younger categories, due to widely varying life experiences

-    So use lifestyle segmentation instead

  • Live Wires – active and working, many interests, technology aware, spend on holidays
  • Happy and fulfilled – active, but more traditional, financially well off, lots of holidays, spend on quality traditional brands
  • Super troopers – often have lost a spouse, don’t like advertising and new technology
  • Living day to day – spends rather than saves, more interested in material wealth than time, tend to choose premium brands
  • Unfulfilled dreamers – hard working, dreams of un-achieved ambitions,
  • Rat race junkies – could retire, but not yet, into technology, more than one marriage

-    Need to be aware of sets of baby-boomers coming through

  • Flower-children are now approaching their mid 60s
  • So interested in green such as Prius cars and green funerals
  • Believe that old age starts at 72, not 65
  • More old travellers going further afield and more adventurous
  • The SKIers – Spending Kids Inheritance

Adapting your business
-    Attitudes, physical (eyesight) and cognitive (memory) impairments
-    Over 50’s buy 80% of top of the range cars (BBC news report)
-    But many have enough mainstream products (washing machine, microwave, TV). However, they might upgrade at point of retirement with help of lump sum
-    From products to services – or service related products (e.g. sport) less equipment for the home
-    Travel

  • Generally continues until late 70’s and early 80’s
  • GrandTravellers – grandparents and their grandchildren on holiday together – something relatively new and growing
  • Travel gripes – single supplements, insurance costs, active sports insurance

-    Clothes

  • Comfortable and cool clothes lacking in the market place
  • A younger style, but to fit an older shape
  • Children’s toys and clothes as presents

-    The Home

  • Home improvement rather than new products
  • B&Q
  • Employing independent traders + reputable traders marketed towards an older customer
  • Ergonomic tools (SandBug from B&Q)
  • Packaging older people can open – %80 are not – Primelife President
  • Smaller packs and designs – one person teapots (Debenhams small wok a bestseller)

-    Home health care

  • Philips Defibrillator – talks you through
  • Retrofit-friendly homes you can grow old in – e.g. doors wide enough for a wheelchair, room for safety handles – Joseph Rowntree Foundation – www.lifetimehomes.co.uk

-    Fitness

  • Pensioners are fastest growing group of gym members
  • Scope for specialist centres
  • Zumba – very popular with older dancers

Design

-    Product and service design, also websites and fixtures and fittings
-    A lack of interest in older consumers from mainstream companies
-    Specialist

  • Simplicity computers – replaces Microsoft Windows with 6 buttons – option to pay by cheque in the post
  • Tesco online shopping has an access setting
  • Photostroller – purpose built controller to access Flickr content
  • PostEgram – a Facebook app for printing out content
  • Presto – an Internet printer with a remote control system for the sender – customer doesn’t need a computer
  • Kaiser’s in Austria – e.g. easy to reach stock, reduced glare lighting, slip-proof flooring, pleasant places to sit, reading glasses to borrow, all employers over 50 – sales 50% above forecast
  • Odeon Senior Screen – with different snacks – coffee and cake instead of fiz and popcorn
  • Danger of alienating older customers who still feel young – if they can reject it, they often do – don’t want to be associated with ‘that group of people’ – they expect products and service to cost more

-    Inclusive

  • Kindle – allows you change size of text and have text to speech
  • Nintedo Wii is becoming more popular in care homes – active game playing
  • ClearRX by Target in the US – simplifies medication for entire families
  • Ferrari Enzo – with wider doors and lower floor o    Harley-Davidson – trikes for the older market – still cool design
  • Mobilistrictor – a suit to age the wearer by 40 years – useful to test our store design etc
    - used by Ford when developing the Focus – e.g. boot has no lip, dash doesn’t reflect light – became Ford’s best selling car
    - used by Derby City General Hospital building design
    - General Motors used older engineers – key card and push button start
mobilistrictor_Richard_Hammond

Richard Hammond trying out the Mobilistrictor

  • Legibility of writing
    - Larger fonts
    - Bolder colours
    - Clearer typfaces eg Tireseais typeface
    - Use of icons and symbols
  • Interface design – e.g. Apple iPhone and iPad, Facebook (103 year old woman who uses an iPad to interact)
    - Additional advantage of extended appeal to disabled, parents of young children, those heavily laden – e.g. small trolley in supermarket
    - Involve audience in your designs

Marketing

-    Only 1 in 5 sticks to brands they now – happy to try new products and service, but as late adopters
-    Only 1 in 3 own a mobile phone
-    Less influenced by mass media as advertising does not reflect their interests, have become cynical, but not being wired, are more open to national and local marketing
-    More time to shop around – and more time to think if they really need it, so more critical, and more time to write reviews. Can become experts in new products
-    More time to tell their friends about products and services – word of mouth becomes even more important
-    Need to use younger (not too young) faces in images – or take out faces – e.g iPad just shows hands, so appeals to all ages
-    Retail and experiential – e.g. Harley Davidson stores – older are less likely to buy online
-    Only 1 in 4 over 65’s have used the internet, but this is growing very fast
-    Over 50’s represent 25% of online population, but those that are spend longer online
-    Silversurfersday – increase confidence
-    Raceonline2012 led by Martha Lane Fox from LastMinute.com – can buy a £99 computer, with a cheap wireless dongle from 3
-    Better designed websites – e.g. Jitterbug from Samsung aimed at older customers, who can call to order as well as online
-    Email marketing more effective with older customers – e.g. eldergym newsletter
-    Free magazines – e.g. Staysure magazine for the over 50’s – based on airline magazine model
-    Segmented approaches – e.g. Ninento DS using Girls Aloud and Julie Walters in different ads for the same product
-    Car adverts tailored to age group. E.g. the young are interested in loans, the older are not
-    Appealing to the adult child
-    Look for older people in marketing agencies, if you can find them.
-    Be aware of emotional issues associated to buying older products such as walking sticks or elasticized trousers

Conclusion
-    They represent the only growing market in the UK
-    They have time and money to spend
-    There is currently very little competition
-    Be aware that they are difficult to profile – very varied with more variety in the future

Approach requires
-    empathy
-    must not be patronising

25 January 2011

Book review of "Don't file a patent !"

John D. Smith, the author of Don't file a patent !, has asked me to review his book.

It is based on his reaction to having his patent application for hurricane window protectors rejected on three occasions, costing him a considerable sum. Much of the book covers the behaviour of the US Patent and Trade Mark Office. I do have sympathy, as often, I suspect, it costs more to patent a new product than the benefits of keeping out any competition. You also have to "police" the patent yourself -- find out about infringers -- and fight what could be a very costly court action.

Smith suggests that rather than patenting it is better to not do so, and to arrange with manufacturers to make it for you (rather than try to license it out to companies), and keep 100% of the profits. It also means you have 100% of the risk. He lists some famous products that have sold well but does not mention the many more that do not sell, or badly, due to for example poor marketing, a tiny market, a high price or an inability to compete with many products selling in the same market. It can cost £40,000 to tool up assembly lines to make a new product -- who pays for that ? Only 3% of published patent specifications, it has been suggested, ever make money.

The only use of patent attorneys, he suggests, is employing them for about $500 (about £314) to do a search to see if the product infringes existing patents. I would have thought that the US network of Patent and Trademark Depository libraries could have been mentioned, as they will do a search as well, and will help those who try searching for themselves. We'd do a search for about £150, by the way.

The most valuable part of the book consists of the many marketing suggestions. Mr Smith is clearly an inspired marketing man. For example he suggests mailing out the product in a clear plastic envelope so that people can see it on its way to the customer (only works for some kinds of products, though), and many gimmicks to attract attention to a product are mentioned.

The effective use of trade marks, and domain names incorporating them, is emphasized and I agree that they are often the most powerful tool available to sell a product.

The book is based on American practices and therefore is not always suitable for the European reader. It can be obtained through the Don't file a patent ! website.

24 January 2011

Chris Barnardo and "Dadcando"

A few days ago I was asked if I would mind meeting Chris Barnardo, one of the inventors of the Kymera Magic Wand, which I posted about back in August.

The product is a wand that you use instead of a remote to control, for example, televisions, music centres or lights. It has sold in over 70 countries. I don't normally meet successful inventors -- I am more used to talking to those who ask why they haven't been successful, or who are starting out -- and naturally agreed.

Chris is clearly passionate about everything he does. It has been said that the mark of a great entrepreneur is someone who really cares about delivering a fantastic service, or providing a superb product (and does so, of course). He designed all the artwork for the instructions and the box for the wand, as he has a background in design. He wanted a consistently "magical" feel, and the wand itself looks like a prop for a fantasy film, rather than a piece of electronic equipment. So there I was in the cafeteria, wielding the wand one way or the other. Up to 13 commands can be learnt by the wand.

Chris also gave me a copy of his book Dadcando. This is a beautifully illustrated, and laid out, guide to building things -- including the same wand and wand box as in his product, though without the electronics. A lot of junk can be lovingly made into attractive objects such as submarines if you follow the careful instructions.

The book came out of his experiences as a single dad, wanting to be close to his children. In his introduction Chris says that "dadcando revolves around an adventure into the creative mind of the child and the child in the heart of every dad".

You need to be good with your hands (unlike me) to make the most of the book, and with some time to spare, but for the right Dad (or Mum ?) the book is a delight.

21 January 2011

Comedy at The British Library – What’s So Funny Live

It's Friday and so time to lighten up a bit.

Actually it was on Monday evening that I was lucky enough to attend What's So Funny Live, an evening of comedy as part of our Evolving English exhibition.

Five comics took over our rather serious Conference Centre with the challenge of making their audience laugh.

Each of them succeeded in their own way, with Ida Barr being particularly - or perhaps peculiarly, unique.

Doc Brown the rapper and performance poet-turned comedian (who prefers not to be known as the baby brother of author Zadie Smith), was the host for the evening, and contributed some excellent laid back humour. In particular his story about listening to his 'brothers' outraged tales of police harassment as they go about their illegal activities.

Susan Murray focussed on regional accents with some self deprecating jokes about the unimpressive nature of her West Midlands accent.

Old timer Arthur Smith followed with sketches about how everyone will eventually become a BBC Radio 4 listener - however hard they try to resist (certainly true for me). He also persuaded the audience to sing along to “I am the Mayor of Balham / oh yes I fucking am / I am the Mayor of Balham / I fucking fucking am”. Taking much delight in polluting the otherwise pristine air of  the British Library with foul language. However, he finished on a joke that was so clean it would be suitable for children and involved balloons and letting people down.

Next came Ida Barr, the creation of Chris Green. She is an 'artificial-hip-hopping' former Music Hall star, doddering around the stage but peppering her talk with the street language of 'innit' and 'aks'. Odd, but also hilarious.

 

Finally came Richard Herring, famous (or perhaps infamous) for his 2009 show Hitler Moustache, in which he attempted to reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy... by growing one on his upper lip. He was enormously relaxed and confident with the audience, and has a great deal of excellent material to call on. He successfully unnerved us as well as making us laugh at ourselves and him. He has a great sketch about the potato of the sky...

 

It's Friday and so time to lighten up a bit.

Actually it was on Monday evening that I was lucky enough to attend What's So Funny Live, an evening of comedy as part of our Evolving English exhibition.

Five comics took over our rather serious Conference Centre with the challenge of making their audience laugh.

Each of them succeeded in their own way, with Ida Barr being particularly - or perhaps peculiarly, unique.

Doc Brown the rapper and performance poet-turned comedian (who prefers not to be known as the baby brother of author Zadie Smith), was the host for the evening, and contributed some excellent laid back humour. In particular his story about listening to his 'brothers' outraged tales of police harassment as they go about their illegal activities.

Susan Murray focussed on regional accents with some self deprecating jokes about the unimpressive nature of her West Midlands accent.

Old timer Arthur Smith followed with sketches about how everyone will eventually become a BBC Radio 4 listener - however hard they try to resist (certainly true for me). He also persuaded the audience to sing along to “I am the Mayor of Balham / oh yes I fucking am / I am the Mayor of Balham / I fucking fucking am”. Taking much delight in polluting the otherwise pristine air of  the British Library with foul language. However, he finished on a joke that was so clean it would be suitable for children and involved balloons and letting people down.

Next came Ida Barr, the creation of Chris Green. She is an 'artificial-hip-hopping' former Music Hall star, doddering around the stage but peppering her talk with the street language of 'innit' and 'aks'. Odd, but also hilarious.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPXNU2LZBHA&feature=player_embedded#!]

Finally came Richard Herring, famous (or perhaps infamous) for his 2009 show Hitler Moustache, in which he attempted to reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy... by growing one on his upper lip. He was enormously relaxed and confident with the audience, and has a great deal of excellent material to call on. He successfully unnerved us as well as making us laugh at ourselves and him. He has a great sketch about the potato of the sky...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Iu7dfHhaHA]

Invest Northern Ireland and innovation in Ulster

A few days ago I went to Belfast at the invitation of Invest Northern Ireland. I gave presentations on searching free Web databases in patents, designs and trade marks. As always it was stimulating, and I specially valued the opportunity to talk to delegates at the breaks about their problems and concerns.

Invest Northern Ireland is heavily involved in promoting innovation in Ulster. Last year they carried out 147 patent searches and 80 trade mark searches on behalf of clients. Much of what they do is provided for free, while other help is subsidised. This help included assistance with patent attorneys and designing trade mark logos.

There are two particularly relevant pages for contacting them for help. The Protecting intellectual property page is angled towards advice, while another page is where applications for help are made.

I was able to make a short walk nearby, admiring the grandeur of Belfast's City Hall, and I noticed on an adjacent street, Donegall Square East, a plaque to Harry Ferguson. He is probably the best known inventor to have been born in Northern Ireland. He invented the "Ferguson system" tractor, which involves hydraulic power lift linkage for coupling implements to tractors. It means that tractors can't topple backwards when encountering a boulder in their way. The plaque is on the Ulster Bank, formerly the location of his showroom.

Giving his address as 83 May Street, Belfast, Harry Ferguson applied in 1925 for the concept in British patent 253566. The main drawing is shown below.

Harry Ferguson patent drawing 
His name lived on for many years in the famous Massey Ferguson company, based in Canada, but Massey Ferguson is now only a brand name used by the new owners, AGCO.