Entrepreneur, business professional, cluster development expert – Mr. Vedat Kunt is expert in the fields of strategic management, marketing and brand development. We asked him about challenges that businesses face, how they can overcome them and how having a great online presence and sound online marketing strategy can help them succeed.
R.B.: You are an expert in international marketing , you were a lecturer at the Izmir University of Economics where you taught strategic management and international business, you were a board member at INSME and you are also very well known in the cluster world as a cluster development expert. How did you get so interested in or what motivated you to work in the field of economics and business?
V.K.: I am an Industrial Engineer and I worked at executive levels in different industries between 1987-2003. This gave me the chance to have experience in production, marketing, sales, design, branding, exporting, leadership, decision making, procurement, and maybe most important of them all, to make mistakes! Then, deciding about making a change in my life, I became the Director of an EU funded project in Turkey, targeting SME development. This was the era when consulting and training services for SMEs were really shallow in Turkey and we had to develop these services at the beginning and search for new approaches for SME development. After this successful project, there was another turn in my career. I started up my own consulting and training business with my partner. We have been in business since 2007.
I believe, working as an executive for a long time, learning the hard way through „blood, sweat and tears”, brought me to the idea of sharing my experience and knowledge with others who need that.
R.B.: You have held executive positions in numerous companies from different sectors and you are also managing partner at Vego Consulting Ltd. which specializes in helping companies and organizations manage their transformation and achieve sustainable competitive advantages. As a person who has worked with a lot of companies, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing companies today?
V.K.: We work in different sectors, with different sizes, in different countries, and most importantly with different personalities. Each face several problems ranging from financial to technological, operational to innovation, marketing to human resources and more.For me, the biggest challenge in any company roots down to people! Either shareholders and executives or workers but its usually and mainly, people. You can exchange any resource for another one, for example, if you have cash or able to find cash, you can buy technology. But people are the most difficult to exchange, and motivate! There is no push and work button in human beings. It’s a complex mechanism and if you do not understand what motivates people, as individuals and as teams, it is quite difficult to get what you want out of them, unlike a machine, where you simply feed in the power and push a button!
Almost all companies I worked for as a professional or consulted with were either successful or failed simply depending on its people’s capabilities, skills and motivation. Leadership coming through another human being is also very important. This is the reality and critical factor for success!
R.B.: You are also a professional in international business. How do you think the internet changed the way international business is conducted? How does a great online presence (web page, mobile app, etc.) contribute to a company being successful on an international level?
V.K.: There is no way any company can do business, either national or international, without using the smart technologies today. Connectivity is not a luxury anymore, it is a way of life and determines how we live as a person and business. It’s not a question anymore if a business should have a web site, if it should be connected or not, or if it should use smart technologies. Today, we talk about how well a company uses its web site, how efficiently it uses technology either to produce or to market its goods and services.
R.B.: Let’s talk about international marketing. There are a lot of tools now that didn’t exist a few years ago. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google promotion just to name a few. Do you think it’s easier to market now than it was 10 years ago for example? How is marketing different now than it was in the past?
V.K.: Basic concepts of marketing are still valid today as it were a couple of decades ago. For me, the main difference is, few people knew about marketing then, but now, almost everybody in business has an idea about marketing. A good number of people really know what marketing is. Technology is the main force behind the change and it has widely spread to people all around the world. I think it’s easier today compared to some decades ago. Anybody can find information, search easily. People are more multilingual, there is more communication and travel, almost no physical or technological borders. These simple but disruptive changes make it easier for people to learn easily, not only about marketing but about all functions of any business. However, there is a challenging side of it as well. Before, knowledge was in limited hands, now it is widely spread on all sides of the planet. Someone in Siberia, or in Botswana or in Peru can find the same information, learn and become competitive in any field.
Technology affected all sectors. Even the most conventional sectors like apparel sector changed incredibly in the last decade. Not only the products (for example the use of wearable technology) but the supply and marketing side as well. Perceptions of the consumer have also changed. As a combination of all changes at all ends the way in which businesses communicate with consumers/buyers has also changed.
It is a different world now, we live fast, consume different, live longer, want to be healthier, travel frequently, scared from different things, have hobbies, need education, live connected to the world! As a result and with the help of ever changing technology and sophisticated tools, it becomes much more easy for businesses to position themselves and send their messages to their audience in the target markets.
R.B.: Do you think that aside from having a sound marketing strategy, great content also increases the chance of your marketing campaign being successful?
V.K.: Of course! Marketing is an art. But its a systematic work as well. You can not separate marketing from the strategic management of a business. In any business today, the main strategy is positioning the company and its products/services. Without a marketing strategy, there is no sound corporate strategy! All other functions, including supply and production supports marketing! A business has to plan its corporate strategies, and place marketing strategy at the very heart of it!
R.B.: Do you believe in social media marketing? If yes, what do you have to pay attention to when you want to start a social media marketing campaign?
V.K.: Yes, I do. The only thing that is a serious problem about it, is people are too exposed to it. Imagine yourself getting several messages, tweets, photos, etc. every day from different sources as an average person! It is overwhelming, too much, people drown under them! Since people can not stay unconnected, once they are connected all the stuff buries them under.
Personally, I like to get a few e-mails and messages from a selected few products, but too much really disturbs me and my work. That is what we recommend to businesses we consult, but it also depends on the sector as well. For consumer products and services more frequent ones can be used but even here it must be delicately planned and content has to be really innovative. You can not tweet for some sectors, where it doesn’t make any sense and there are others where you can tweet but can not use Instagram maybe. Social media marketing is part of a marketing strategy, and has to be very carefully planned and executed. While it’s low cost and can cover a huge audience it does not mean that a business can send whatever content they want to anyone on the planet! Social Media is an excellent opportunity to touch base with millions of people around the world, and introduce and test new ideas and spread your messages in a few seconds and at a very low cost. If marketing activities are planned and managed well and Social Media channels are used efficiently, then I believe it will be a great advantage to position a business and its products in the market.
R.B.: Branding. What does it take to build a strong brand today? Do powerful visual elements contribute to building a successful brand? How do you increase brand loyalty?
V.K.: It’s all about branding. Whether it’s a consumer oriented product like chocolate, smart phones, sneakers, automobiles, watches, hotel accommodation, etc. or B2B products like a spare part of a car, electrical component of an oven, fabric of a sofa, label of a pet bottle water, etc., people care about brands. People attach themselves to brands since it means something to them! We all have choices in our lives. We use a special watch brand for quality and also for showing off. The same with our cars, the way we dress, what we eat etc. Companies in their procurement processes prefer certain brands due to their quality, sustainability, price, delivery times, etc. and they all mean compliance and reliability.
Communicating the soul and the right message of a brand in a right way to the target market is critical for every business whether they market B2C or B2B products. The slogan, logo, colors, all deliver a message to the target audience. When the product is a well known one to the buyers/consumers/users, this message enhances the reliability and continuity of the product. For example when we see the Apple logo on an iPhone or on a MacBook everyday in our lives, we know the product and we know that it is there and we feel confident. When it is a new product launched that consumers/customers do not have an idea about, the right mesage through the visual persona brings a certain understanding and perception.
Businesses have to design right at the beginning, how people will experience their products/services. Branding is also a part of this experience. The name, the color, the message will evoke certain feelings in everyone. There are several stages in the buying decision for a consumer/customer. Brand visuals play a critical role mainly at the beginning of the buying decision but it is not limited to that. In some products these visuals are part of the whole life cycle of the product. For example if someone decides to buy a t-shirt and if he/she (for some reason) buys a Lacoste, then the little alligator will be with him/her for the whole life of that t-shirt. For a person who likes and prefers Lacoste, that little alligator on the chest will be proudly carried. Otherwise, it will be a little devil that the owner would not like to see at all!
Brands, apart from their quality and price, try to touch base with the feelings of their customers/consumers. If they are successful in grabbing some place to hold on to, then they do their best to stay there as long as they can.
R.B.: Can you share a success story with us?
V.K.: There are more failures then success maybe, but we learn from the failures! At a client, a restaurant chain, where we had a long term consulting assignment for strategic management and marketing, branding was an important part of the whole work. It was quite difficult to convince the owners of the company to change their habits in how they serve the customers, design new dining experiences and change the format of the restaurants to work more efficiently. We achieved some good results in other parts of the work, but this part was not possible due to cultural problems and resistance to change. And they lost. Mainstream competitors did the right things and our client lost time and energy in trying to work without change which was costly, inefficient and didn’t appeal to most customers.
A successful case can be given from a cluster development project. Montenegro Olive oil clusters in the region of Bar and Ulcinj. It was a UNIDO project and I was the International Consultant responsible for Cluster Development and Marketing. Montenegrin Olive Oil is a drop in the ocean, it’s small and not competitive at all. However there are about 10.000, old olive trees in the country and these are a real national treasure. What I saw and planned to do was to make a scientific study and identify the ages of these old trees, certify them, and produce special olive oil from these trees! We were able to do this with great success. 50 pilot trees were identified in 2015 with İstanbul University Faculty of Forestry, 2 trees are more than 2.000 years old, 8 trees are more than 1.000 years old. We prepared and placed wooden info panels next to the trees, designed a website and introduced a bike and walk path through these trees where tourists can happily wander around and also stop to see historical places. The old olive tree produce is specially branded as „Montenegro Old Olive Tree Products” with the geographical coordination as the logo 42 N 19 E. This is a joint brand of the region. Producers and growers are proud of it. All efforts to produce and market are designed and executed in a cooperative way and worked as an excellent trust building among the producers as well.
Montenegro cluster development was not limited to olive oil. An idea struck me one day after observing similar cases in other countries. I came up with the idea of a national umbrella branding for special food products and establish linkages with the tourism sector in order to touch base with as many tourists as possible. „Delicious Montenegro” was my brand, and we established it. Now, existing cluster products like olive oil, wine, and trout are a part of it and in the near future other delicacies like cheese, ham, mushroom, honey and maybe more will also become a part of this national brand. Montenegro as a name is very poetic, and we made use of this advantage, and hope it will become a part Montenegro’s international marketing.
R.B.: Any last advice for our readers on how to develop their business?
V.K.: To be frank, there is no magical touch and no quick fix for any business. But maybe a few tips;
- Love what you are doing
• If possible turn your hobbies into a business
• Care about people who work for you. Unleash creativity, help people learn, get better, and do something on their own, encourage them to try and even make mistakes and learn from them
• Learn from other sectors, understand what they do and how they do it, then look into your business with a different perspective
• Co-operate with your competitors
• Be innovative, if it is not in your blood or if it is too difficult then get some help
• Have a vision, travel the world and have a questioning and learning eye! Discover!
• Have hobbies, life is not only business, and hobbies feed business! Read a lot!
R.B.: Thank you!