klausimas: I manufacture high quality corn custard on small scale. As a strong Christian, I can’t cut corners from false declaration of the quantity in my packs. Others are doing so, and pushing me out of business. What should I do to remain in business? – Worried Manufacturer
This is to encourage you not to give up on sticking to business ethics and Christian tenets. The Bible has it in Proverbs 11:1 that, “The Lord hates cheating, but He delights in honesty”. Cheating is also abhorred in Hosea 12:8, Amos 8:5, Micah 6:10, and elsewhere in this holy book, as Proverbs 11:3 touches on dishonesty. The hints expressed here, if adopted, will enable you withstand pressure from others (your dishonest competitors), who may be seeing cheating as the best survival strategy for Nigerian business.
I perceive you are outnumbered, in case you’re nursing the urge to challenge these competitors, by ‘nudging’ regulatory authorities like the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC). Many wonder how far SON has been able to curb the excesses of manufacturers in recent time. Try to refrain from being confrontational.
Now it seems the trend to deplete the quantity of cornflakes, detergent, and recently macaroni (a form of pasta) and other grocery items, without any indication of quantity change, one expects CPC to take a stand towards curbing this form of ‘consumer bashing’. Instead, there still persists the business of not distinguishing between net weight and gross weight on any of these products. For custard, either in the 500grams yellow outer plastic container or the bigger two kilogram version, it has become a norm hence I understand your position very well.
I commend you for sticking to being ethical, and holding firmly to Christian virtues, while urging you note the options below in order to call the bluff of these competitors and still remain in business without “cutting corners”. A survival strategy is open to you in line with the saying that, “If the cats are the only barbers in town, rats will grow dreadlocks”.
First option: – You may take to remaining a manufacturer of corn custard, and seize to retain your brand name but instead adopt that of a major distributor. This means your product seizes to remain a “Manufacturer’s brand” but becomes a “Distributor’s brand” (or private label). The rationale here depicts your still remaining in the manufacturing business, but your product becomes absorbed into that of a distributor (with capacity to even own retail outlets), as it affords you a means of utilizing the resources of the other party to enhance your company’s profitability. Su šiuo, all forms of marketing rests with this distributor, while your custard product now bears the brand name of this same distributor.
As I perceive how much you must have toiled to get to this stage, suggesting the adoption of any ‘passing on’ of your well cultivated brand identity may sound out of tune. So, consider this next alternative.
Second option: – What about adopting Product Differentiation? Playing up on what the product offers through promoting it as different from your competitors’ – Retention of the exact quantity (as stated on the pack), while the quality remains unchanged. This concept portends having a product that offers meaningful distinction from those of your competitors. Here, more quantity in your pack is the ‘catch’.
For your perceived size, I suggest an adoption of a programme having a mini-campaign where likely affordable tools as stated below can be applied. Endeavour to be well prepared for a likely depletion of inventory once the programme starts, as it will likely stimulate demand. With this approach your competitors may not have firm basis to be antagonistic, as you will be stating the obvious (about your product) and not making any references to them.
Your plan should comprise of these components:
Brand idea [Goal or what your brand stands for – The issue of good quality and being truthful about quantity, as every pack contains exactly the weight displayed].
Research [As an already existing operator, you should have up-to-date information about the market, based on current research. Without this, you may likely grope in the dark].
Budget [You should know the cost of embarking on the programme before commencement]. You may get in touch with me, if confused.
Target market [Adopt a ‘pull strategy’ here, as this should comprise of the consumer or end-user of your product].
Competition [This is made up of those you stated were trying to edge you out of the market. You should be aware of their capacities in the market, to be able to decipher where to develop an edge over them].
Consumer needs [You’ve been in the market and must be familiar with what your consumers favourably require about your product – Value for money, in terms of having the appropriate quantity as stated on your pack].
Strategy [Your unique selling proposition or USP stands out – That element which makes your product distinct from the competitors’, positively, and forms a major advantage for promotion (Quantity). Compose a campaign theme, and an accompanying slogan. The communication channel should comprise of the mini-campaign, involving press relations, and sales promotion (you can engage the services of a small activation outfit). Endeavour to produce and use below-the-line materials such as posters, fliers, branded vests and caps. Use market centres (where retailers of your product abound) as venues of sales promotion; also streets of major towns or cities (depending on where you operate) will suffice].
I see this second option as suitable vent for you. As space here does not allow for a complete breakdown on details of what the mini-campaign should entail, you could contact me on appropriate strategy; composition of campaign theme and slogan; concept formulation and copies for promotion materials; hints on production input; and campaign’s evaluation. God will enable you imbibe the suggestions made here, as your competitors will marvel at what’s still keeping you in business.
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