De-mystifying diversifying for business owners

Ensuring that your business continues to grow year on year can be difficult; particularly in the current climate and it’s understandable for businesses to diversify their offering in order to increase profits. It’s great to innovate – here are just a couple of things to bear in mind.

Many businesses use their website as a way to advertise their products or services and sell products online.

If you are selling online then you are likely to be collecting the personal data of your customers. As a business owner your collection and use of that information must comply with your obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 (the Act). Remember you are the business owner and the data controller; you are the one responsible for the data and may be fined up to £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for serious breaches of the Act.

You may want to send customers email marketing or a regular newsletter. So, when customers fill in their details to complete their purchase give them the option of opting-in to receive email communication. This can be done, for example, by asking them to check a tick box. The ICO has recently served a fine of £90,000 to a company for unsolicited marketing activities. This was an extreme case, but it does highlight the importance of following the correct procedures.

Your website will need an appropriate privacy policy to let your customers know what information you are collecting, why you are collecting it, if you are passing it on to a third party, and how they can contact you if they have any questions. This can include information gathered using cookies.

If you are using a third party to take payments on your behalf, have you made sure that they’ll keep your customers’ payment details safe? When you have the conversation with your service provider make sure that they have the appropriate security systems in place to protect your customers’ personal data. Don’t assume that the system will meet your needs or be embarrassed to ask them about their IT security.

It’s also really important to have some terms and conditions. The terms and conditions should, among other things, give information about who you are and how your customer can contact you, your delivery and returns procedures, the limitation of your liability and information about warranties.

You do need to think about protecting your brand. Although you may have registered your business name at Companies House, and got the domain name, you may still be infringing someone else’s trademark. By registering your business name as a trademark you will have the monopoly right to use that word or mark for your business’ products and services. However, if you’re using someone else’s trademark by mistake is can be costly putting it right – not just paying to resolve the legal issues, but also re-branding your business.

By ensuring these procedures and processes are in place you are giving your business the best possible chance of success.

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