Monday 24 June 2019

Feargal Quinn: 'You need right package to sell customers your brand's story'

Problem Solver

On message: Your branding doesn’t have to look mainstream, but it does have to work very hard to communicate what is different about your product and the message you are trying to communicate. (Stock image)
On message: Your branding doesn’t have to look mainstream, but it does have to work very hard to communicate what is different about your product and the message you are trying to communicate. (Stock image)

Small Business Advice with Feargal Quinn

QI recently had a bad experience with a buyer for my food product. Up to now my product has been selling well at farmer's markets and in one or two local speciality shops. I met a buyer from a group that has 10 shops and he refused to list my product, as he said the branding and packaging was not good enough. I don't understand why it would be good enough for local markets, but not good enough for this chain.

AWithout seeing the branding I can only make some assumptions. What you describe is entirely possible and there may be a simple explanation behind it. Typically, when you sell your product at a local farmer's market or in a local shop you may well be known in the area and customers don't need a big explanation as to what the product is about. Moreover, at a farmer's market you are there yourself to communicate your story.

The further you move away from your own area and when you put your product out into third-party retail shops where you are not present, your branding and packaging play an increasingly important role.

If these have not been professionally designed to communicate your message and your story, then what the buyer could be saying to you is that the product simply will not sell in that environment. The customer will not understand the great story that you have to tell and it will simply sit on the shelf.

Very often I meet producers who have fantastic premium products, which need to be sold at a premium price because of the ingredients that are used, and yet they have very poor branding and communication on the packaging. That formula does not work.

Once you put your product out into a wider retail environment, it will be surrounded by dozens of other products which makes it harder for it to stand out, and customers only have seconds to form an opinion. Your branding doesn't have to look mainstream, but it does have to work very hard to communicate what is different about your product and the message you are trying to communicate.

It sounds to me like the buyer has given you some good advice, and it sounds like something I might say to you myself as a way of helping you to succeed in the more mainstream markets.

Do feel free to send me on the branding and I can give you more specific comments.

Q I run a business which involves three separate areas. From a book-keeping point of view all three are merged together and it is all a bit of a muddle. The business is losing money and I can't find where the problem is.

A The solution you need lies within the question you have asked. While I can understand how the three business units might have been mixed together when the business was small and starting off, it makes no sense to have all of the figures mixed up together now that you are at an advanced stage of trading.

The potential issue is that when the problem arises, you can't pinpoint which part, or parts, of the business are causing the problem. This is the very position you now find yourself in and it is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

With immediate effect get your bookkeeper and accountant to separate out the individual business units so that you have clear management accounts at the end of each month's trading.

There are now some great bookkeeping software packages which will make this so easy for you. I have no doubt it will require some changes to the way the business is currently administered, but any hard work and stress will be worth it as you will have fingertip control of your business from here on in.

Once you have separated out the numbers for each of the business units the problems will become apparent and depending on what the figures show you, you can then start taking action to rectify the situation.

You could be dealing with wage costs which are too high in some parts of the business, you could be dealing with margins which are too low, or indeed you could be dealing with theft or some other surrounding factors.

Whatever the reason, separating out the figures into three separate business units with extreme urgency has to be your top priority for now.

Send your small business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

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