Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Article - Learn how to build a tech-based biz from this marketing guy

From content sharing of inquirer.net and MoneySense

Learn how to build a tech-based biz from this marketing guy

By Arthur Policarpio
Last updated 09:38am (Mla time) 09/03/2007

(As told to Lynda C. Corpuz)

I wanted to go straight into business. That was really my intention. But I first needed to gain experience in a corporate setting. So I joined a multinational firm to learn working in a context of a successful company, hoping I could apply it in my own firm.

After I finished my Philosophy and Business Management degrees from De La Salle University, I worked for three years for Procter & Gamble managing two of its well-known laundry brands and launched their by-products.

There, I learned the importance of marketing (the firm basically invented modern-day marketing), launching campaigns, and creating brands. I also learned the value of operational excellence. The firm is a well-oiled machine, staffed by the best people – the firm recruits only the best – cum-, magna-, and summa cum laudes. There, I was working with the best and the company took good care of us.

After three years of work, I felt I was at a point of no return. If I stayed with them, I was to be promoted. If I got promoted, the benefits would be rewarding and satisfying. With the comforts of a high-paying job, I would not be able to go into the entrepreneurial setting.

Starting a business
The opportunity came in December 2003 when my best friend Jeremy Obial and I brainstormed about possible business ventures. We zeroed in on the vast opportunity in mobile marketing—an untapped medium at that time. I have a marketing background and Jeremy has a technology background. So we put up Global Wireless Connections (GWC), a Filipino mobile marketing company.

The business was really born out of casual conversations. We did not have a detailed business plan. We just knew millions of Filipinos own mobile phones but no company explored the potentials of the cell phone as marketing tool.

We started out small. Initially, there were just three of us. We eventually got a financial planner, allowing us to invest millions for the infrastructure that will help us connect with the telecom operators. Our first office was in Shaw Boulevard along polluted EDSA, where rats ran around, and sometimes, vendors came to the office to sell anything from food to paintings.

It took a lot of effort to convince companies and advertisers to try mobile marketing. There was no available data that time to backup the effectiveness of our new medium, so we relied on friends and old contacts who we had good relationships with for our first clients.

Without a doubt starting your own business is more difficult than working in a big company. In my previous job, we had all the money in the world. I was handling popular laundry brands and our budget was substantial – I signed cost estimates and invoices that ran in the millions. That was the biggest adjustment – from a setting where we had all the financial resources to a start-up company where we have to make every peso count.

Here, I had to learn a lot of disciplines. Yes, I was exposed to other disciplines like finance and management, but indirectly. When I started GWC, I had to learn finance, operations, HR, and other processes.

But all these paid off when we got our first big break in 2004. It was a text raffle campaign for a men’s body spray of a multinational, which is considered a competitor of my previous company. A friend informed us about the text-based campaign the firm was planning.

Reaping fruits
Almost all of the text-campaigns of that firm’s brands – from deodorants, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, facial care, to cite a few – was and are still handled by GWC. We also did campaigns for an insurance firm, sports wears, fast foods, baby products, energy drink, mobile firms, liquors, etc. Many of our clients are repeat clients. Some of our present campaigns, like the Gatorade Get Into the NBA Promo is now on its third year, proof that the campaign works and generates significant impact on sales of the brand.

We also did international campaigns, one for a money transferring company, which encourages Filipinos and those in Germany and other parts of Europe to send money to the Philippines. There are plans to do similar campaign in other countries.

Although there were previous attempts at mobile marketing, we can proudly say we implemented the most successful mobile marketing campaigns in the country, particularly in terms of sales generation. We are also proud to say that we are the market leader in mobile marketing. The University of Asia and the Pacific recently shared with us results of a three-year study they conducted that shows we had a market share of approximately 46% in 2004, close to 56% in 2005, and close to 50% in 2006. Our closest competitor’s market share was around 10% in 2006.

Now, we are very positive and excited about GWC. I feel mobile marketing is the next big thing in marketing. Almost half of the population owns a cell phone. Advertisers spend around P130 billion on advertising but only a small fraction of it is spent on mobile advertising despite the fact there are 40 million mobile users in the Philippines.

And the biggest tool to convince advertisers is case studies and research. If we can show them there are campaigns that work, and there is data to back them up, and we have the expertise to help them, I think they will be convinced. Text raffle is just one of the popular executions right now. The bigger idea is to come up with a database of consumers’ profiles to be able to communicate with them on a one-to-one basis, something that cannot be done with traditional media.

TV, radio, and print are backed by decades of research – mobile marketing is a new medium, just almost five-years-old. We are in the process of building researches and campaigns to show the strengths of mobile marketing. We are researching in two prongs. One, we are partnering with universities, exploring with research agencies, and asking them to study our successful campaigns. Second, we formed the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines last November, which aims to sponsor more researches in the field.

Applying lessons
Creating a performance-based environment is one thing I got from my previous job. If you do not perform, you are out. It is very gratifying since from a three-man operation, we now have close to 40 people. We do not treat them as employees. We tell them they are part of the business – if the business is good, they have a corresponding share of the profit. Everyone has a share of the company’s success.

Selecting the right people is also another lesson. We are a very young company by design, with employees averaging 26 years old. We wanted to get people who are young, creative, and ambitious.

Creating superior brands and products is another important lesson. The common pitfall of IT-based businesses is they only focus on the technology aspect and fails to recognize the importance of marketing. I guess that is one of our competitive advantages – we know how to sell and market technology.

And all these make my shift from corporate world to entrepreneurship truly rewarding.

From the May-June 2007 issue of MoneySense, the country’s first and only personal finance magazine. Visit www.moneysense.com.ph for more.

(Questions? Send email to personal_finance@inquirer.net)
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