Networks

In 1981 a young American marketer called Trey Ryder published an article in Marketing News, the journal of the American Marketing Association, outlining a new approach to marketing called education-based marketing (“EBM”).  In conventional or sales-based marketing (“SBM”) the marketing message focuses on the qualities of the supplier’s product regardless of whether the targeted customer needs such product or not.  In EBM information is imparted to prospective consumers to enable them to decide for themselves whether they need the product at all and, if they do, to evaluate the products on offer.   In contrast to SBM a relationship is built up with customers over time in which the supplier establishes itself as an authority and gains their trust.  As the Bloomberg Business Week columnist, Christine Comaford, notes in her article “Education-Based Marketing Sells” EBM can be very effective.  She gave the example of a telephone equipment company which increased its enquiries 10-fold and its sales 3 times by adopting EBM.

If it is to be used successfully EBM demands considerable time and patience.   A supplier must get to know his or her market thoroughly.   Similarly the market must get to know the supplier and what he or she has to offer. In the days before public access and the extension of rights of audience, clerks used to gather market intelligence and promote their barristers in the pubs around the Temple.   In a market where solicitors and barristers have to compete for work from members of the public, a different strategy is required.   Most chambers, particularly the factory sets, have resorted to advertising themselves as “the leading set of chambers” in a particular field or region.   They reinforce that message with glossy brochures and websites that make liberal use of Flash animation.   Even where such claims are often justified they are taken with more than a pinch of salt.

We in NIPC believe that there is a vast and largely untapped market for intellectual property advice to small businesses.   We obviously cannot hope to get to know and make ourselves known to the whole small business market so we have focussed on those in West Yorkshire.   We have learned what small businesses in our area need and have developed services that meet those needs.   We have published information on our website, in our newsletters, at seminars and through networking that enables small businesses to decide for themselves whether they need our services.  Through such efforts we have gained nearly all the public access and a large slice of the professional access work from small businesses around West Yorkshire.

Although in some respects solicitors and patent and trade market attorneys are competitors they are also our partners.   Despite public access the Bar remains a referral profession and we are bound by our Code of Conduct to refer work to other professionals whenever that is in the interests of a client.   Often the client asks us to recommend a solicitor, patent or trade mark attorney or other professional.   As we see more of their work than most we are in a good position to make such recommendations.   For a time we made those recommendations informally but we have now put it on a formal basis by establishing a network of solicitors, patent and trade mark attorneys, marketers, product designers and consultants and other experts known as “IP Yorkshire”.   Members of the network help man our intellectual property clinics, attend our inventors’ clubs, speak at our training events and, most importantly, refer their own clients to us for advice and advocacy.

As and when we can recruit and train barristers from other regions in our method, we intend to establish similar networks elsewhere.    We also believe that the model will work on an industry or interest group basis.   We therefore intend to establish similar networks among the industries we follow such as fashion and information technology and also among interest groups such as business angels and inventors.   We set out our aspirations in greater detail on our “Vision” page.

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