April 1, 2016

Beautiful Bento Boxes

Bento: A single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional ‘bento’ holds rice, fish or meat, with pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container.

“A delicious, homemade lunch is even more enriching when it comes with an education.”

Maiko Takahashi’s educational and nutritious bento boxes may have been inspired by her 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter, but I think she’s on to something big here… don’t you?

You’ve got an awesome proprietary product that is original and awe-inspiring. You’ve grabbed the hearts and attention of thousands. Is it just a fad? Can this spark a global trend? The post aims to give you some ‘food’ for thought on capitalizing on your moment in the limelight.

1. Become a brand

There’s really two parts to ‘becoming a brand’ as it were.

First, you’ve got to negotiate the maze that is ‘getting a business license’, and let’s take a minute to talk about that. Most countries around the word, and certainly in the Middle East, seem to make it as difficult as humanly possible to get licensed as a business. But why?

Control supply? Create jobs through commercial lawyers, brokers and assistance offices? Collect fees? Weed out the bad ideas? Ensure health and safety? Take your pick.

My view is that it’s crazy that a company requires a commercial office space when realistically, most great ideas are born on the back of a napkin. What’s more is that these ideas are not created by lawyers, businesspeople or marketeers. They’re created by doers.

Nevertheless, once you’ve got your business license (because.. er.. well.. you have to..), move on to the second part of ‘becoming a brand’… embrace digital!

Having a web presence is more important than having a store front. Why? Well… if for no other reason, it’s just expected! Consider that a store-front in a busy commercial destination is likely to get you a few hundred pairs of eyes each day, very few of which have any intention of making a purchase, whereas a successfully executed web presence can get you thousands of eager customers, not restricted by physical space.

What’s more is that eCommerce CMS systems and web platforms are abundant… and cheap! How cheap? Monthly rent of a busy commercial space anywhere in the Middle East today can run you around $5,000 dollars per month. An eCommerce-ready web presence, custom-designed and custom-built will cost you no more than $5,000 and that’s it!

2. Get the word out

Whether you opt for the archaic method of handing out leaflets, billboards, TV adverts or whatever, there is one question that I’d like you to think about. Who? Who are you getting the word out to? Who are you speaking to? Humans! Customers! In other words… social beings! In that case, why not go social?

There’s a whole other discussion of ‘which social media platform’ is right for your business, but let’s distill the chatter to simplify matters. If you’ve got a physical product… go with a medium that allows you to show it. Instagram? Pinterest? If you’ve got an educational product… go with a medium that allows you to communicate. Twitter? Blogs and blogger outreach? If you’ve got a service-based product… go with a medium that allows you to articulate the benefits to a community. Facebook?

What if your product isn’t in any one specific category… go with all of them! There are endless social media management platforms available at your disposal that minimize your effort and maximize your reach and impact… pick one!

3. Negotiate a contract

In Maiko Takahashi’s case, why not secure a partnership deal with an established retailer or supermarket chain? That way, you can leverage their customer base and all you have to worry about is doing what you do best… making beautiful bento boxes!

If you’ve got an adaptable product, secure a deal that gets you to focus on your product, creating variations of it and leave the tedious task of ‘selling’ to those that specialize in selling!

I know this is probably the worst possible example I could give you to illustrate my point, but… have you ever seen Breaking Bad? If you haven’t… put your screen down and go watch it! If you have… do you recall how Mr. White negotiated a deal to supply (er… how shall I put this tactfully?) product to a bigger, more established distributor? Focus on making your product and hand it over to another cog in the system to sell it on your behalf. Win, win! Is it starting to make sense now?

4. Go it alone?

If you decide that all you want eaten up is your bento and not your margins, then you could always go it alone. Set up your own distribution chain… an eCommere platform, social media, online campaigns, outreach, etc. This does mean that you’ll have to likely work with an agency that knows its stuff! Just remember, if you don’t want to go MAD, you only get what you give. Most agencies are only as good as their clients. So, know what you want and be clear on what you’re trying to achieve.

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