Marketing and promoting your company and products

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Use the right promotion

Marketing and promoting your company overseas is a key step in the export process. Prospective customers need to understand the services or products you provide, how these fit into the market, and how to contact you.

The product or service, its name, packaging, presentation and overall delivery and service are critical to how the product or service is received in the market. It all comes down to branding, which is the integrated package of elements that promote your product or company.

Your market entry plan should include finding out about other brands. It helps you learn about potential competitors, products and services already established in your target market. You will gain market information critical to your promotion plan by analysing the promotions of other products and services.

Some of the traditional promotional options are outlined below.

Marketing tools

Getting your marketing tools right is crucially important. Here’s a list of things to remember about them:

Business cards should be high quality and professionally designed; easy to read; in the appropriate language; consistent throughout your firm; distinctive and informative; and up-to-date and complete, including area codes, country, telephone and fax numbers, postal code, e-mail and web site addresses.

Brochures should be creative and appealing; informative and easy to read, highlighting your uniqueness; professionally designed and printed; and visually pleasing.

Packaging

Carefully designed and attractive packaging will enhance your product. In some cases it will be a significant form of promotion alongside other promotional activities required by your market. Your packaging should ideally be designed to incorporate colours, graphics and labelling that are culturally appropriate and appealing to your target market.

In-market promotion

In-market promotions allow potential customers to see a product in use, and even try it out for themselves. Such promotions may draw on point-of-sale material, sampling or tasting, competitions or other activities linked by some action or advertising.

Seek the advice of your agent or distributor on appropriate and effective promotional tools.

Advertising

When developing your marketing plan you need to understand the sort of promotion most likely to work for your product or service.

Widespread or general advertising can be very expensive, but you may still need to undertake some form of magazine or newspaper advertising in some markets. Due to the cost of this form of advertising, you should consider alternative ways of obtaining publicity for your products or services. One method is to obtain free editorial coverage in industry magazines. Specialist trade publications often have a section profiling new and unusual products. If your product has an innovative aspect or a novel angle, you should approach the editorial staff of these publications to see if you can gain some free coverage.

Appointing a public relations or other media partner in your market is another option though very expensive. You should make sure your prospective partners have good media contacts, and, if advertising is key to your promotion strategy, they should also have a media strategy. This is particularly important for apparel companies, but is relevant to most sectors. Ask to see a portfolio of coverage or campaigns the agency has achieved for other clients.

Trade magazines

Editorial content about your product or service in professional or specialist trade magazines can support technical or specialist products or services in some markets.

Lists of trade and other magazines are often available from the internet, or the BrandKE’s Centre for Business Information may be able to assist. Some trade magazines from major English language markets are available in Kenya for casual buying. Other specialist and foreign language magazines are available on subscription.

Marketing on the internet

Your web site should include information which markets your products and services, and provides contacts for your company.

Effective web sites have fresh and timely material, and are kept up-to-date and accurate. Different sections of your site can be tailored to appeal to different target audiences, including translating material into different languages. An attractive, easy-to-navigate site is essential. You could also consider an interactive feature to enhance the appeal of your site such as registering for an email newsletter.

Your web site should integrate with all your other marketing material. Communications specialists, designers and web developers can help you create an effective and successful site. And remember, you need to ensure people know your web site address, so include it on your business cards as well as all your promotional material, e.g. brochures, product packaging, or trade show stands.

Include your full Kenya physical address details as well as the postal address. This will give overseas buyers confidence in your business’s physical presence.

Your web site address will look more professional if it is a domain name specific to your company, rather than a generic service provider domain name. For example, use www.emdkenya.org rather than www.teknosell.co.ke/emdkenya. Your email address should also use a specific domain name, rather than Hotmail or an internet service provider.

Two other options for promotion are:

  • direct selling using mail order or on-line shopping malls which integrate promotion and sales generation; and
  • participation in infomercials and shopping channels.

Deploy the right marketing approach

Government departments, state structures and non-governmental organizations

The marketing approach to organizations such as these must be rather different. They are unlikely to be affected by mass media advertising: they certainly will not be touched by direct mail shots. In order to break into these special markets senior personnel from the exporting organization must play the leading role. The exporter’s overseas agency should be able to pinpoint the right individual within the target organization who is responsible for purchasing, and then the approach should be made by the actual exporter himself, rather than his agency in the export territory.

When these types of organizations are involved, it may be wise for the exporter, sensing that the market for his products is, or could be, substantial, to invite the chief buyer to visit the Kenyan organization and see for himself its efficiency and capabilities.

Industrial end-users

Industrial end-users have to be approached on the basis of a rifleshot clearly aimed at each individual end-user, none of which will be qualitatively or quantitatively identical. It will be vitally important that all possible information is gathered concerning the end-user before any approach is made. That approach should then be by courteous letter from a senior person in the exporter’s company requesting an interview and setting out the nature of the goods for which the market is being sought.

Industrial end-users are normally more interested in quality, reliability and long product life spans than in price.

Wholesalers

By their nature, wholesalers are usually bulk purchasers not only of a particular product but of a wide range, although that range may well be within a broad sector of supply such as fast moving consumer goods, quality clothing and fashion goods, class conscious high-priced footwear, etc.

Such organizations are constantly on the lookout for new sources of supply and frequently will respond to mailshots or to advertising on the internet. Their purchasing officials are usually well travelled and may respond favourably to the suggestion that they call within Kenya en route to other places in order to meet the exporter and have opportunity to study his products.

The initial approach should of course always be accompanied by skilfully produced brochures. Where appropriate, indicative price lists should also be submitted and the possibility of discounts for quantity purchasing could be provisionally mentioned.

Retailers

Retailers, by definition and with the exception of the major chain stores, tend to specialise in ranges of products such as infants’ and children’s wear, delicatessen foods, electrical goods, leather goods, domestic hardware, etc. A competent agent in the export territory should be perfectly capable of pinpointing the most likely targets and getting to grips with them. That agent will require to be provided with all suitable information with regard to the products to be supplied and can usually assess the price ranges with which the exporter must compete.

Participate in trade fairs

We recommend you carefully research any trade fairs before committing to exhibiting in them. You should be clear about who visits, who else exhibits, how representative it is of the market, and how it is rated by other participants.

It is also useful to discuss potential attendance at shows with your contacts in the market and with BrandKE.

Some international fairs have immense importance as industry or sector gatherings. They are important for identifying trends, and for major launches or order confirmations.

Companies also go to fairs to look for ideas, for distributors or to support their distributors. Published lists of trade fairs around the world can be accessed through government and industry agencies as well as promoters. It is also useful to talk through the options and the appropriateness of participation with your BrandKE sector champion or market contacts.

A good starting point for lists of trade fairs and events is the events calendar on the BrandKE’s website at www.BrandKEkenya.org.
You could also visit the M&A Expo Database for international trade fairs - www.expodatabase.com.

Making the decision

The following factors are useful to consider before committing to an event:

  • Your company’s objectives for the market/region and your objectives from participating in the trade event e.g. generate sales, gather leads.
  • The event visitors, e.g. trade, consumer or both and your target audience at the event – new clients, strategic partners, agents, existing clients, etc. You might have several audiences, in which case you should devise a strategy for targeting each.
  • Success of the event in previous years – visitor numbers and breakdown, how well the event was run and promoted, and the reputation of the fair. Does it have the coverage you require (national/international)? Is it the premier fair for your product/sector in the region?
  • Talk to BrandKE to see if they intend to have a Kenya stand at the event or if they can put you in contact with other Kenyan companies intending to exhibit at the fair.
  • Whether there is sufficient time to prepare for the event and which key decision maker(s) is/are able to attend for the duration of the event.
  • Your company’s ability to meet any increased sales’ demand following the event.
  • Any accompanying activities you might wish to hold, e.g. seminar, on-stand hospitality, media event, product demonstrations.
  • The estimated budget: Space rental; Stand design, materials, constructions, lighting, furnishing, audio visual; Signage; Freight – stand, product samples, literature, duties; On-site services – power, water, phone, fax; Promotion – advertising, direct mail, invitations, brochures, PR; Give-aways; Entertainment; Personnel – travel, accommodation, expenses, medical cover including inoculations; Translation/interpreters; Accompanying activities; Follow-up activities; Contingency, e.g. 10 percent.

Before you go

Once you have made the decision to participate in an event, the following components will require consideration and/or action.

  • Advice Kenya’s commercial attaché in the market of your intention to exhibit in case you require their assistance during the fair. They may also be aware of other interested Kenyan companies which could lead you to a joint stand.
  • Develop a critical path to guide your preparations, submit your application for stand space and pay your stand deposit.
  • Select and brief a stand designer. The ‘look’ of the stand should reflect your key communications’ message and should be carried over into all your promotional and support material, e.g. advertising, invitations, brochures. This will help maximise the impact you make and help you stand out from your competitors.
  • Notify key market contacts and industry players of your presence and seek meetings at your stand. Promote your stand to contacts; give them a reason for visiting you, e.g. new product launch, an ‘event’ i.e. cocktail party, networking, exposure to media.
  • Develop and implement pre-show advertising and publicity, e.g. direct mail, catalogue advertisements, invitations, press releases, media briefings. Get a media contact list from the organisers, find out how you can target them through official promotional material, e.g. trade event newsletter, website, and through the media centre.
  • Organise promotional literature and any necessary translation, e.g. business cards, product brochures, company brochures, price lists, media releases, and advertising. Check that the translation of any words or phrases from English (a) make grammatical/contextural sense and (b) will not cause offence.
  • Arrange freight shipment, e.g. stand, equipment, product samples; travel and accommodation; and insurance for travel, company liability, equipment, etc.
  • Organise giveaways, e.g. branded carry bags to hold promotional material, lapel pins, tee-shirts. (Note. Branded carry bags are a great way to use visitors to promote your stand all over the event).
  • Create a system to record visitor details and enquiries. (See sample form in Appendix D)

On site

Maximise the opportunity

  • Set up the stand. Allow sufficient time – it always takes longer than you think.
  • Take photographs for publicity in Kenya and to incorporate into your post-event communications.
  • Hold a pre-event briefing for on-stand staff, to cover such things as: Your objectives; Target audience; Key messages; How to deal with non-prospects; Hours/roster; Toilets/restaurants; Logistical information – where to find support material, how to book the meeting room/translator, timing for demonstrations; Responsibilities - media liaison, ‘working’ the show; Policy on giveaways and distributing promotional material and brochures – you may want to have a few items on display and hold back the balance for clients and good prospects, otherwise event ‘groupies’ who have no intention of buying your products will take all your support material – on the first day!
  • Work the event, identifying prospective buyers/partners from visitors and exhibitors.
  • Coordinate daily stand cleaning, replenish supplies, and hold daily team meetings.

Post event follow-up and evaluation

Make it work for you, even after the stand comes down.

  • Hold post-event debrief to assess and action follow-up requirements.
  • Pay outstanding invoices.
  • Measure success and performance against objectives and investment.
  • Undertake ongoing follow up and relationship building with interested contacts.

Exhibiting as part of a group

When attending overseas trade events, we encourage exporters to exhibit as part of a group of Kenyan companies. Not many Kenyan companies have the same clout as the large multinational corporate. But if you present yourself overseas as part of a group of companies, the impact can be similar - a Kenya pavilion or stand at a trade fair can be an impressive site. BrandKE helps manage group initiatives on a project basis. This includes Kenya’s participation at overseas trade fairs or other major international events under a National Pavilion.

Respond to sales enquiries

Unsolicited enquiries

You should be cautious when responding to unsolicited enquiries. It is not necessary to respond to every unsolicited enquiry, as they can often be very speculative queries from people who are not committed buyers. First-time exporters can make the mistake of responding in detail, which can be very time-consuming, and provide little or no results.

Be selective about which enquiries you respond to, and concentrate on those ones from your main target markets. Validate any enquiries carefully, by confirming the importer’s ability to pay before sending any goods. You may want to use an agent to check the potential importer’s financial credentials, such as how long the importer has been operating.

Validated enquiries

The real export process starts with receiving an enquiry and a request for a quotation or pro-forma invoice. After receiving an enquiry, the exporter must then identify the potential importer and their needs, conduct a feasibility study and determine the best method of payment. Some essential requirements to be kept in mind when preparing to reply to an enquiry include:

Speed: A quick response to an enquiry will indicate to the importer that you are keen and efficient. The importer may well have sent enquiries to other potential suppliers and speed is essential if you want to stay in the running. It is important that you go back to the enquirer within 24 hours of receiving it. If you do not have all the information available at the time of receiving the enquiry, reply to the importer saying, “I am working on the best price for you and will get back to you as soon as possible”.

Clarity: The quotation must be clear and contain the relevant details requested by the customer. Query any aspect of the customer’s requirements that are not clearly stated in the enquiry.

Quality: Besides containing information about the price and terms of delivery etc., the price quotation is a sales document. It should be professionally presented, backed up, where relevant, with an appropriate set of brochures, specification sheets and a covering letter.

A good quotation and/or response should:

  • include both the seller’s and the buyer’s references; include dates of receipt of the enquiry and response; and copy the customer’s name and address exactly as it appeared on all previous correspondence;
  • address the quotation to the person who initiated the enquiry, include a heading which identifies the contents of the response, and refer to previous correspondences received such as e-mails and or faxes;
  • express thanks for the enquiry received; stress the benefits of your products, without over exaggerating them; and refer to any well-known purchasers;
  • clearly state the packaging materials to be used and the number of packages, state the weights and dimensions of the shipment, refer to any conditions of sale that you wish to incorporate, specify minimum quantities, state the payment terms clearly, and clearly identify the period of validity of the quotation;
  • be signed and clearly state your name and position within the company; and
  • attach any advertising material, such as brochures, specification sheets, or any other materials that may interest the buyer.

Follow-up

New exporters often think their major task has been accomplished when they have identified willing customers and completed the first contract. In fact this is just the beginning.

The most critical aspects of follow-up are keeping in contact with the market and being ready to adapt. You need to anticipate the way the market and orders are likely to grow, what else is changing and what might go wrong and how you will put it right.

You need to be aware of new opportunities and new markets, and look at the longer-term implications of how markets are growing, and what new products are going to be required.

Part of dealing with the future will be recognising successful formula that can be transferred from one market to a new one. But you will also need new ideas and new strategies. This means you also need to review, and update or generate new plans for future exporting activity.

While planning for the future, you also need to maintain regular contacts and relationships with current distributors and customers and others in your markets. This can be done through phone calls, fax, email, and personal visits. You may be able to reduce the cost of international phone calls by using internet telephony services such as Skype, although make sure that your computer system has adequate security and firewalls in place if using these products.

Perhaps your agent or distributor should be brought to Kenya to learn more about your product or service. You will also need to review agent and distributor performance. You can only do this honestly and effectively when you maintain regular personal contact with them.

As the exporting side of the business grows, you will need to make changes in your business structure. Decisions on how to change will depend on your company’s size, structure and the amount of exporting you do, among other factors.

You may need to expand your production capacity, outsource production of some elements of the product, or look at some element of the ‘beyond exporting’ strategies. These include contract manufacturing, licensing or joint venturing. Professional advisors can assist you with advice on options as your exporting business evolves.

You need ongoing commitment and continued enthusiasm. You will in all probability have setbacks - even major ones that may mean withdrawing from a particular market.

As in any business venture the most important people to your company are your customers. It should be company policy to keep them happy wherever they are. Prove yourself as a reliable company and this may be more effective in building up your export business than anything else.

About BrandKE

The Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (BRANDKE) is a new State Corporation established under the State Corporations Act Cap 446 through Legal Notice No.110 of August 9th, 2019
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