Thursday 23 November 2017

'Do I need to have my product made in Ireland to succeed?'

QIs having an Irish origin for your product critical as part of driving sales?

AIt is a vital factor . . . but only if you choose to harness it to be so. Provenance is telling the story of who made a product and where it came from and some producers and suppliers are excellent at communicating these messages, while others completely miss an opportunity.

All of the more recent Bord Bia consumer research is indicating that customers are now more receptive than ever to buying "local" and Irish products. We also read that customers are heavily driven by value, so sometimes there is a conflict.

Certainly, being Irish produced but more expensive than an imported competitor, with exactly the same quality levels, is probably an unsafe place to be. Consumer response can also vary by category. Customers seem to be quite passionate about where their beef comes from – you will more often than not see restaurants promoting the farmer where they sourced their beef. However, the opposite is the case with chicken and it is rare that customers ask from where their chicken has been sourced.

Estimates suggest that over 90pc of chickens sold in the food service sector are imported. As a producer, you must work extremely hard at telling the story and using your Irishness as a unique selling point. That is not an excuse for your product to be dearer than an imported product (assuming the quality is the same) and is more of an added bonus for a customer who wants to make an informed choice. The great news is customers are now interested in this topic so it is up to you to harness good branding and labelling to ensure that the story gets told in a meaningful way.

Saying your product is Irish and saying "This product was produced by Paddy Murphy at 9AM today" are two different things entirely. Opportunity exists for you to outsmart your imported competitor product by being the marketing king for your category.

QI lost all of my money on property over the last five years; however I am determined to get back on my feet and intend to start a business again. Have you any thoughts on business areas which you would view as opportunities?

AThis is a question I get asked a lot and if I knew the definitive answer, then I and a lot of other people would be earning from the answer. Instead of answering the question directly and pinpointing a particular category, I am going to answer by suggesting a process by which you might identify this category yourself.

There are lots of resources out there for you to call upon and there are lots of agencies whose primary role is to support business entrepreneurs.

My first piece of advice would be to meet with those key agencies to discuss where they have pinpointed opportunities in categories or at least the ones that are showing growth signs at the moment. Start with your local Enterprise Board and also talk with the person in Enterprise Ireland responsible for the category on which you are focusing. Remember Enterprise Ireland have a global team so you will get first-hand experience right around the world, which will be very helpful.

Next you should narrow the search down to a particular category and conduct extensive online desk research into the players in this category, the trends within it and what is making the news currently. This will help you to narrow down the focus to key opportunity products/ideas.

Next comes the hard work conducting a full feasibility study based on all the facts that you have gathered and the objective of this exercise is to prove to yourself that the market really does exist. You will need to draw on lots of available consumer research as well as all the other facts.

To identify a winning business idea, you need to be rigorous in your research, systematic in your interrogation of each idea and harness the expertise of others in your decision making process. I meet far too many people who have backed the wrong idea only to find they have to start from scratch at a later point. One of the key pieces of advice these people give me is that if they were starting all over again, they would pay more attention to the research and feasibility phase.

Irish Independent

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