How to build buzz for your brand

Posted by oink2 Saturday, December 24, 2011 5 comments
To ensure your product’s success, you need to let the public know what it’s all about. Here’s how to do it.

For a business to succeed, it’s important to have a great product, but equally important is how to make the product known to its target market.

Product launches can help complement a great product by generating public awareness and buzz for it.
According to Majivel Marbibi, media relations director of EON, a public relations company, there are several steps to do a special product launch.

She says: “Once you have conceived and researched an idea for a new product, you need to plan the product launch. To do this, you need to work with funding, marketing, public relations, development and several other channels to get the thing off the ground.”

The first step for the launch, according to Marbibi, is for the entrepreneur to define the company’s sales objectives clearly in its marketing plan. “They need to be realistic about the numbers; they would need to use market research to back up their claims, because the more research they do in the planning stage, the better they can understand the market and demand. They should develop their plan to include the timing of the rollout as well as the actual markets they plan to release the product into,” she says.

The second step is to make sure the product is as good as it can be before planning to launch it. “Decide when the product needs to be available and work with the development team to make sure the product is ready and available for the launch,” Marbibi says. “This would entail using the research data acquired from the market study. Using this, one must map out the distribution networks and other logistical needs. Finally, additional modifications to the product must be made to ensure that one ends up with the best possible product.”

Next, the entrepreneur must ensure there is proper communication and work coordination with all channels in the company to make sure the marketing plan includes all objectives and deadlines.

According to Marbibi, “One must keep in mind the needs of engineers, artists, business, marketing, PR and advertising executives. Print and email new product literature with specifications of the product and the differences between the new and current products out in the market. During this time, one may consider getting the services of a public relations agency to help organize the launch.”

After this, the entrepreneur must finalize the product’s promotional schedule, with advertisements, press releases, free samples, direct mailings and any other tools. “Promotion should begin before the product launches to gain interest—just make sure the product is as great as promised and alert the media of any changes in the launch date,” Marbibi says. “Once the [PR] agency gets their product briefings, they will now conceptualize the theme and gimmick for the event.”

The entrepreneur must monitor the progress of the launch campaign and change its overall plan whenever necessary. However, Marbibi says that for cost reasons, one must try to stick to the plan as much as possible. The PR agency must also start designing press campaigns, make promo materials and event concepts, and coordinate with event suppliers. The agency should also help the entrepreneur prepare to deal with the media via coaching or formulating the communication strategy.

Then the entrepreneur has to ensure that everyone in the company is aware of what they need to do to help launch the product, by communicating with the senior management and staff as necessary. “Plan staff training sessions with any extra information on the uses and specifications of the new product to familiarize them with it and deal with any inquiries,” Marbibi advises. “This process of internal communication trains your customer service team as well as any managerial staff needs to know how to answer consumer questions.”

Finally, the company must schedule meetings and speak with all the involved parties in the launch, like the PR, venue, logistics, and retail outlets to finalize all the details and deal with any concerns.

“The business must pay particular attention to the transportation, retail stores and individual product carriers about the specifications of moving the product from the warehouse, to the 
shelves, to the consumers,” Marbibi says. 


Stop employee pilferage

Posted by oink2 Wednesday, December 14, 2011 2 comments
Since losses and pilferages are inevitable in a retail and wholesale business, entrepreneurs need to have strong and effective deterrents against them. Here are some tips to minimize this annoying problem.

1. Hot sellers are your most vulnerable goods.

Items that are popular with customers are also popular with your staff. At Pilipinas Makro, we have instituted several layers of security measures as a deterrent against pilferage from within.

• Key volume inventory. Identify the items that are (1) most often pilfered, (2) fast-selling, (3) easy-to-pocket, and (4) pricey or expensive. We make it a point to count these items every day, compare the theoretical count or the computer count against the physical count. We put up a separate inventory system for each item, and we deploy roving security people to check on suspicious activities in the store.

2. Start using a perpetual inventory system

This is an ongoing record of the historical movement of each item in and out of the stockroom, plus the current balance on hand. This system can tell you the maximum and minimum limits of your stock at any time and provide you with instant reports.

• Perpetual inventory can be done in any of three ways: manually, by bookkeeping machines, or by data-processing equipment. The third is the fastest and it is capable of doing up-to-the-minute inventory checks. In Makro, we have our own system specifically developed according to our needs and requirements. It tells us such information as the current stock level of the items, the daily mean sales, and the season inventory.

Although a perpetual inventory system is relatively expensive, its usefulness can far outweigh the cost of setting it up and running it. There are local software development companies that can provide you with the necessary perpetual inventory system for your business.

3. Instill a sense of ownership among employees.

This is especially true for regulars, supervisors, and managers. At Makro, we give them shrinkage or pilferage reduction targets that need to be kept low or brought to zero level. Our experience is that if your employees have a sense of ownership, they will track down missing items themselves.

• Computers can only do so much, but coupled with inculcating honesty among staff and instituting the appropriate deterrents, they can work very well in minimizing losses and pilferages. It is therefore highly advisable to do both the manual and the computerized inventory system in a retail and wholesale business.


The difference between marketing and selling

Posted by oink2 Monday, December 12, 2011 1 comments
Many business owners and practitioners mistakenly think of selling and marketing as interchangeable concepts. This is particularly true in the case of small businesses, which often equates marketing with selling deliberately due to organizational and resource limitations.
But even if sales and marketing are intrinsically linked, the fact is that they are two very different business activities.
The difference.

Selling begins when a product or service becomes available for consumption or use. This function covers retailers’ awareness and confidence on the product and cultivating customer advocacy for the maker of the product or service.

Marketing, on the other hand, is much broader in scope and starts long before the selling process takes place. It covers everything about the market, the consumer, and the brand.

Marketing is about creating consumer-relevant brand that satisfy specific market needs. It is about building product and brand awareness, influencing consumer’s purchase considerations, and making them repeat customers.

Marketing and sales are complementary functions, any one of which can’t achieve its goals without the other. And they need two key elements to make them successfully do this: (1) an extensive understanding of their customers and (2) the ability to adapt to the changing needs, attitudes, and behaviors of the market.

To ensure continuing sales success, a marketing strategy needs to achieve four specific goals for a particular product or service: strong consumer focus, meaningful segmentation, clear and compelling brand positioning, and a relevant marketing mix.

A strong consumer focus. 

Nobody buys a product for what it is.Consumers buy a product if they think it benefits them. It is therefore critical for a company to understand the psychology of their target market. A company can do this by doing relevant research on the demographic they want to attract.

Marketers have the tendency to want to develop products that carry superior functional claims. Though this is a good thing, it is not always possible to achieve such demonstrable product superiority such as technical or cost limitations. Moreover, such superiority may not always be sustainable as competitors often try to outperform, if not match, benefits or propositions being offered by competition.

This is why it is important for companies to come up with offerings that more than demonstrate functional superiority, satisfy specific needs or desires of consumers. This can come in various forms—packaging, sizing innovation, distribution, advertising—and dimensions that are functional, sensual and emotional.

Meaningful segmentation.

To really know their target market, marketers need to identify the group of consumers that has the strongest need for or affinity to the brand. Every consumer is, of course, unique. Each has needs that are different from others, so it would be unwise to custom-fit a product or service offering to a single individual. For the same reason, it would be impractical to expect the needs of all consumers to be satisfied by a single product or service offering. Thus, the most cost-effective, practical way to market a product is to target a specific group of customers and consumers with largely similar needs.

This is where market segmentation comes in—identifying and targeting a group of consumers that are in some demonstrable way similar to one another but different from the rest of the market. Determining the most apt group of consumers for its product or service can, of course, be done through an appropriate market segmentation study.

Clear and compelling brand positioning.

Creating an image for your product and clearly positioning it in the minds of the target market—these are musts for establishing a long-term relationship with the consumers. Brand positioning, which sustains the brand image and explains the product’s unique selling proposition (USP), is ultimately what makes the consumers choose a product over its competitors and patronize it over the long term. It is what makes a brand uniquely meaningful to its target markets and what clearly distinguishes it from the other players in the same product category.

Solid marketing mix.

A strong marketing mix that is consistent with the brand positioning is a must for ensuring that a brand will continue to sell. The marketing mix is simply the totality of the activities done by the company that affects the marketing and selling of the brand. Each element of the mix—product, packaging, pricing, distribution, promotions, advertising—has its own characteristics, but each must be carefully considered in its relationship with the other elements and with the overall marketing strategy to ensure that the delivery of the brand promise is maximized.

This marketing mix should be balanced and made consistent with the brand’s desired position and image in the market. To have it any other way would just confuse consumers and weaken the standing of the brand in their minds.


LPG retail: Not just for the big boys

Posted by oink2 Thursday, December 8, 2011 0 comments
Spotting the potential in retailing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is what Nelson Par, head of PR Gaz Franchising Corp., is known for. Par, together with wife Siu Ping, has been supplying equipment to major LPG refilling plants as early as 2001. Seeing how the big fuel retailers were distributing LPG products at their service stations, Par realized that LPG retail could be carried out in a far more efficient manner.  Nelson ParNot long after, the couple decided to invest in LPG products retailed through a convenience store setup, giving birth to the business model of PR Gaz Haus. Consequently, the Pars’ own LPG signature brand adopted the name PR Gaz. In 2004, they streamlined the operations of the business and started offering the PR Gaz franchise program to entrepreneurs.   

“Other companies have tried but failed to pattern their business models after ours, which has been tried and tested. I am confident to say that we are the only LPG distributor and franchisor that will last long in the energy industry as we offer our clients and partners the whole package,” says Par. 

A turnkey franchise renewable every five years, a PR Gaz Hauz outlet costs around P1.2 million. Franchisees will be assisted in the store construction and signage, initial inventory and staff training. A custom-made store management manual, retail software and tricycles for delivery will also be provided. 

To date, the company has served more than 170,000 households in Cavite, Laguna, Pangasinan, Tarlac, La Union, Bulacan, Zambales and Pampanga, and has established 100 stores in the same areas. 

Par reveals that the company aims to open 300 outlets by 2013 and 500 stores by 2015. Such plans for expansion mean greater saturation of the existing regions covered, while penetrating adjacent and outlying areas. Dominating the greater parts of Metro Manila, meanwhile, remains a challenge for the company. 

Par admits, “Metro Manila has a more sophisticated market. It’s not impossible for us to extend our services there, but I’m telling you that it will be difficult. Besides, we have chosen to embark and focus our operations in provincial places for now because expenses in these areas are relatively lower and the risks are fewer.”  

The goal to open this many outlets in the next three to five years may seem daunting, but Par believes that the “necessity” and “constant demand” for energy products will make it all possible to achieve. This is where the importance of branding comes in, he says. Par asserts that product knowledge is just as important as brand recall, and he expects his franchisees to be as devoted towards this vision. 

To maintain the company’s standards, PR Gaz Franchising Corp. sponsors annual franchise conferences that serve as refresher courses, providing franchisees with team-building activities, leadership talks and entrepreneurial seminars. 

The company has granted a total of 34 franchises, more than half of which are managed and owned by overseas Filipino workers. Other franchisees include housewives, retirees and fresh business graduates. Par shares that providing OFWs the opportunity to grow their hard-earned money stems from his personal mission to “give back to the true heroes of the country.”  

Another department that Par continues to develop is his company’s customer service. He says, “The service we give here in PR Gaz is very personal. We take the time and effort to communicate with our customers; we reach out to them, household to household. I am sure that we are the only surviving LPG firm to do that.” 

Part of the company’s customer service procedures are free pre-sales stove cleaning and check-up services, 24-hour help hotline, and product and services updates coursed through telephone calls and text messaging. PR Gaz Franchising Corp. has also recently launched its customer loyalty program in the form of a Suki ni Gazman card.  

“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in managing this company is to be ready to listen to your market no matter what. Providing is never an easy task, especially in the petroleum industry. It’s not enough that we have satisfied buyers because they must be educated consumers as well.”

True to its priorities, PR Gaz as a customer-focused business is well on its way to expanding its network, without having to sacrifice margins and market sales.

www.prgazhaus.comRetelco Drive corner E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Bagong Ilog, Pasig City 1600
(02) 571.7771


Always short of cash?

Posted by oink2 Tuesday, December 6, 2011 1 comments
Have you ever wondered why you sometimes experience cash shortages even if your business is booming? No matter how much money your business generates, perhaps you always feel that you are always short of cash every time your suppliers are knocking on your door.
The cause of the problem may be poor accounts payable management. When managing cash flows, therefore, you should remember that timing your accounts payable payments is as crucial as collecting your accounts receivables.

You can manage your accounts payable by stretching out the payment terms as long as possible without damaging your credit standing to suppliers. There are some business owners who pay their payables too early simply because they have so much cash in the bank, but they don’t know that they lose the opportunity to earn extra interest income on their cash. On the other hand, there are entrepreneurs who pay their suppliers too late and end up being slapped with penalties and charges. It is thus important that you manage your payables to the best interest of both parties.
As a guide, you can determine your days payable outstanding by first computing your payable turnover. For example, assume that your accounts payable at the start of the month was P150,000 and that during the month, you made total merchandise purchases of P250,000. After one month of operation, you found out that the balance of your accounts payable by month’s end was P100,000. To compute for the payable turnover, divide your total purchases of P250,000 by the average accounts payable of P125,000; this will give you a ratio of 2.0x. This ratio simply tells you that you pay for your purchases two times a month. To get the number of days payable outstanding, divide 30 days by the ratio 2.0 to get the average of 15 days.
What this means is that on the average, it takes about 15 days for you to pay your suppliers. With this information on hand, you can now check how many days it takes you to sell your inventory and collect all your receivables.

Ideally, the total number of days of inventory and receivables should not exceed your days payable outstanding; this way, you would receive all cash collections just in time when you are about to pay your suppliers. In this example, let us say you can convert all your inventories into cash in 12 days. This would mean that on the 12th day, you would already have the available cash to pay your suppliers and enjoy three more days before your accounts payable becomes due. You can then take advantage of this by depositing the cash in an interest-bearing bank account.
If business is slowing down and you are finding it difficult to unload your inventory and to collect from your customers, you may consider stretching out your credit terms with suppliers. From the same example, if the number of days to convert your inventory to cash is rising to 18 days from 12 days, you may need to negotiate your credit terms with your suppliers, for instance by having them extended by at least three more days up to 18 days to protect your cash position.
Sometimes, so you will be encouraged to pay early rather than on the due date, suppliers may offer you a trade discount like, say, a 2 percent discount if you pay within 10 days for an account payable due in 30 days yet. In general, trade discounts are good because it allows you to take advantage of it to lower your purchase costs. But there are times when trade discounts are not favorable. How would you know if it is good or not? You can do this by computing the effective interest cost assuming that you are going to borrow the money to pay your account in 30 days. You then should compare this to the prevailing borrowing rate from the bank. The formula for effective interest cost is EAI = (discount / 100 percent - discount) x (365 / payment period – discount period).
Suppose the prevailing borrowing rate is 16 percent per annum and you are offered a 2 percent discount if you pay in 10 days an account that is otherwise payable in 30 days. Using the above formula, we will find that the effective annualized interest cost is 37 percent as compared to only 16 percent, so it is wise to take advantage of the discount. If you have negotiated your credit terms to 60 days, your effective interest cost would be 14.9 percent, lower than the prevailing bank rate of 16 percent. In this case, you can afford not to take the 2 percent discount because it is cheaper to stretch out your payment.

It is perfectly all right for you to control the terms of accounts payable so it is to your advantage. Perhaps, it will be helpful if you can put a monitoring system where you can sort all accounts payable that will soon be due; this way, you will know just how much cash you will need to prepare to pay your suppliers on time.


Buying stations make it easier to get into the coffee business

Posted by oink2 Sunday, December 4, 2011 1 comments
 Now, just about anyone with a parcel of land can become a supplier of coffee beans to supply the country's growing demand. One no longer needs a warehouse full of coffee beans to directly trade with the 'big guys.'

More than 25 years ago, the ordinary Filipino coffee farmer would sell his produce to a middleman or to some unscrupulous coffee trader who bought the coffee beans at extremely low prices. Some coffee farmers stuck it out with coffee while a large percentage opted to shift to other cash crops, which eventually led to a shortage in supply.

Then the Nestle Satellite Buying Stations came into the picture, giving the ordinary coffee farmer the choice to become an entrepreneur in his own way as a direct supplier of green coffee beans.

Green coffee beans is the term used to refer to un-roasted coffee beans.

Today, with about 12 satellite buying stations nationwide, Nestle is able to give local coffee farmers a new opportunity. Strategically placed in areas where there is a high density of coffee farmers, the Nestle buying stations purchase coffee beans based on the prevailing world market price.

“We are an ardent supporter of the Philippine coffee industry, being the largest buyer of green coffee in the country,” said Edith de Leon, head of corporate affairs of Nestle Philippines. “We look forward to contributing further to the growth of the coffee industry by collaborating with the various coffee stakeholders to help the country attain self-sufficiency in terms of coffee supply.”

The Department of Agriculture shows that current coffee production in the country is around 34,000 metric tons, while demand is pegged at 60,000 metric tons annually.

The qualities of the beans that Nestle purchases are of the Philippine Robusta variety, that do not exceed 16 percent triage by weight and more than 12 percent moisture content. Coffee beans should also be packed in bags made of jute or other natural fiber.

With the Nestle buying station purchasing coffee beans at world market price, there is a renewed sense of hope for an ordinary coffee farmer who can sell his coffee beans at the right price.

Currently, Nestle operates 11 buying stations in Tagum, Iloilo, Isabela, Zamboanga, Cotabato, Agusan del Sur, Tuguegarao, Solano, Bacolod, Bohol, Calamba, Alabang, and Cavite. The Nestle Satellite Buying Stations open in each province depending on the time wherein the supply is most abundant.

Nestle is also upgrading its coffee processing facilities in Cagayan de Oro City to further increase the production of coffee for the local market as demand continues to grow two to three percent annually.


Smalltalk can be a key in negotiations

Posted by oink2 Wednesday, November 30, 2011 1 comments

In the Philippines, business matters are always best dealt with on a face-to-face basis in a warm and pleasant atmosphere.

While many Western business people think that time is gold and want to get to the point immediately, the Filipino likes to be indirect, talk about mutual friends and family, exchange pleasantries, and share a joke or two. Only after establishing a cordial atmosphere will people negotiate.

To a Filipino, cultivating a friend, establishing a valuable contact and developing personal rapport are what make business wheels turn. Coming to negotiations armed with a few but great conversation starters can help you get a better for the coming business deal. Only in the Philippines!

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