Profiting from unmet needs PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 12 June 2012 19:12

(I am sharing an article written by Josiah Go, chairman and chief marketing strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. ,the leading training company in marketing, sales, strategy and innovation. The article can be helpful not only for those who will apply or renewing their US visa but it shares business tips too. )

While waiting to enter the US embassy in Manila to renew my visa on a hot May morning, I decided to interview some of the people offering services to visa applicants. Here are my observations and suggestions on how they could improve their earnings:

1. Safekeeping of items

A group of 39 vendors, mostly female and calling themselves, “Movers”, offered an organized way of safekeeping electronic items owned by visa applicants. This service was important as the embassy did not allow electronic objects to be brought inside the premises. The fees were as follows: USB, P100; mobile phone, P200; and laptops, P500. Basically, the higher the perceived value of the item, the more expensive the fee. Not officially accredited by the embassy, the members tried to create trust by dressing up in a uniform light blue T-shirt, and by offering a laminated claim stub with the name, colored photo and mobile number of a member. They also provide a plastic bag where they “sealed” the item. The items were then deposited at a market stall near the pedestrian overpass where the stall owner, who acted as group treasurer, got double the share of the 39 members, who then divided the other half of the revenue equally among them. Total average revenue was about P20,000 per day or P440,000 a month. This meant they were fulfilling the unmet needs of about 10% of applicants, who numbered about 1,600 daily. I observed the market stall owner did not have a large signage that said, “SAFEKEEP YOUR BELONGINGS”, and that vendors could point as where people could claim their items in case they could not locate the person serving them – which was the source of my initial reluctance before I gave them my USB.
(Pep Talk lesson learned: Don’t bring your electronic gadgets if you don’t want to pay storage fee.)

2. Picture Requirements

The Kodak store inside the embassy got an average of 126 customers a day in May 2012 (up from 115 customers in April). Charging P80 per person for the correct ID photo, it raked in about P10,080 a day or about P221,760 a month, catering to about 8% of applicants who brought the wrong photos. The embassy, with its rules against electronic devices, was perfect for photography services. Unprepared customers, even if they brought digital cameras with them, were hard-pressed to find both a suitable background and a computer with printer.

(Pep Talk Learned Lesson: Follow prescribed US Embassy picture size and reuirements.)
3 . Food Stalls

The two food stalls inside the open area, just before the air-conditioned waiting area of the embassy, generated some P7,000 a day or P154,000 a month. One stall sold only Sabrett hotdogs, with the spicy variant at P85 each being most sellable, while the other sold siopao, siomai, and tuna sandwiches. The latter controls only 40% of the sales, proving that focus was still key.

It would have been more effective if they had placed a banner that shouted, “Last place to EAT before WAITING inside”. Most applicants preferred to bypass the open area and head straight for the cool waiting area, the hot weather dampening appetites.

(Pep Talk Learned Lesson: Eat full before going for your interview and save money.)

4. Souvenirs

The souvenir shop inside the air-conditioned waiting area earned an average of P2,000 a day or P44,000 a month, attracting a measly 0.3% of the applicants who bought the t-shirts priced at P400 each. The other items such as umbrellas and pens were not as sellable. Their banner that stated, “Don’t Leave the US Embassy Without A Souvenir Item”, was incorrectly positioned at the exit, where people were already either excited (or sad) to leave the premises. A more effective banner would have been, “Change To An Impressive US Embassy Shirt Before Your Interview”, accompanied by nice visuals and posted at the entrance of the hall, creating awareness to not only among those with shirts wets with sweat from falling in line outside the embassy but also those who wanted to impress their embassy interviewers. The price may also have been more attractive at P398 instead of their P400. Entrepreneurs have to tackle many business issues, ranging from personal motivation, idea generation and screening, team formation, value creation, profit planning, and execution issues and funding requirements. It is important that they understand how they can create capabilities and accelerate their personal and professional growth as soon as possible. One simple redirection in their routines can liberate them from the status quo.

(Pep Talk Learned Lesson: Think twice if you need these “souvenirs”. It does not guarantee you will get your visa if you buy them. Don’t over dress to impress. Be yourself and enjoy the whole interview process.)

(By the way, now in the market is the 2nd edition of the best seller marketing book, Marketing Plan: Building the Profitable Brand in the Philippines written by Josiah Go and Chiquie Escareal-Go. Learn from the success stories of the top 500 top Philippines brands and companies. It is endorsed by the Philippines Marketing Association and Association of Marketing Educators of the Philippines.)


by Dante Corteza