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For Cupmasters A Cup Is More Than Just A Simple Product

How do you take a generic product and differentiate it? For Anne-Marie le Roux and Cupmasters it is about a ‘total package of benefits’.

Monique Verduyn

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Anne-Marie-le-Roux

Vital Stats

You don’t need the ‘Next Big Thing’. Success often lies in providing an established product in a new and clever way.

Think Differently

How do you distinguish one commodity from another? Whether it’s bottled water or a new car, commoditisation is everywhere. Unless you’re a smart entrepreneur that is.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Enko Education Investments Matches Money With Passion

Anne-Marie le Roux, founder of Cupmasters, doesn’t believe in commoditisation, and she has proven that everything can be differentiable. Even a disposable cup.

When Le Roux left a career in town planning to take care of her first child, she discovered – much to her irritation – that the cups she bought for the baby leaked all over everything. There had to be lots of other mothers out there who were equally annoyed.

She researched available options and came up with an improved design that was watertight. Next, she found a manufacturer and soon she was supplying cups for the baby market.

One thing led to another and soon buyers in the food and beverage industry started calling her to enquire if she supplied disposable cups too.

“The brand name and contact details were printed on the bottom of my product and the enquiries came in as a result of word of mouth,” Le Roux recalls.

“Because I have never been able to say ‘no’, I immediately said ’yes’ and then I had to make it happen. It doesn’t matter what business you are in, your attitude has to be right.”

It’s the way that you do it

Cupmasters-stockLe Roux’s approach and imagination naturally led to product differentiation, because of the way she operates. She trades in disposable cups, but what she ‘sells’ is unique execution.

The product itself may be generic, but her offering is different. And that difference does not lie in marketing – when she started the business, she had a listing in the Yellow Pages; today she has an active website that attracts a lot of business, but there’s no expensive advertising.

“It’s about efficiency, responsiveness and communication,” she says. “We also give clients exactly what they want. We don’t go to them and show them our product range. Instead, we ask them what they are looking for, including printing and packaging, which is a big differentiator.

“Unlike many other suppliers, we can package cups according to client specifications, we can print almost anything they want on the cups, and we can provide both large and small quantities, not just big bulk orders. That means that it’s easy for clients to place an order for a once-off special event. The relationship we have with our outsourced manufacturer enables us to scale up or down as needed.”

Her attitude has served the business well in one other important way: When she first started supplying cups to coffee shops like the Brazilian in the 1990s, she had no idea they would one day form part of the massive Famous Brands group.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: How Munaaz Catering Equipment Puts Customer Experience First

Providing exceptional service to a couple of small stores led to her becoming a supplier to one of the biggest companies in the food and beverage sector. She even succeeded in meeting the exacting standards of Woolworths, another major client.

“How we offer the product is what gets us the customers, and how we deliver it is what keeps them coming back,” she says.

Success through differentiation

In a January 1980 Harvard Business Review article titled ‘Marketing Success Through Differentiation – of Anything’, Theodore Levitt wrote: “Customers attach value to a product in proportion to its perceived ability to help solve their problems or meet their needs. All else is derivative. As a specialist in industrial marketing has expressed it, the ‘product’… is the total package of benefits the customer receives when he or she buys.”

If ever there was a business that could prove the enduring value of this 35-year old idea, Cupmasters is one. As Levitt explains in his article, the product is only a small portion of the value the customer experiences from a purchase.

“What is equally important is the way the product is delivered, the fact that we can respond immediately if demand peaks during a heat wave in summer when thousands of people are ordering ice-cold drinks, or in a cold snap in winter when takeaway coffee and hot chocolate sales spike,” says Le Roux.

“Or if the customer is thinking of an innovative new design, and we come up with the solution.”

What Le Roux is referring to is that a disposable cup packaged in a bundle of added value is not a commodity at all. It is, as Levitt affirms, a measurably differentiated product.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: How Spur Overhauled Its Supply Chain

“Customers never just buy the ‘generic’ product like steel, or wheat, or sub-assemblies, or investment banking, or aspirin, or engineering consultancy, or golf balls, or industrial maintenance, or newsprint, or cosmetics, or even 99% pure isopropyl alcohol.

“They buy something that transcends these designations – and what that ‘something’ is helps determine from whom they’ll buy, what they’ll pay, and whether, in the view of the seller, they’re ‘loyal’ or ‘fickle’.”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

Lessons Learnt

(Podcast) ‘Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern: ‘I’m Addicted To The Hustle’

How this week’s ‘How Success Happens’ guest overcame personal struggles and built an empire.

Dan Bova

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andrew-zimmern

I didn’t know what to expect when we scheduled an interview over breakfast with today’s guest Andrew Zimmern. As you may know, the chef, writer, restaurateur and TV personality made a name for himself traveling the world and eating some, well, bizarre foods on his hit travel/food show, Bizarre Foods.

Turns out our breakfast was pretty normal – we didn’t dig into a fresh plate of scrambled brains or anything – but the conversation was anything but typical.

Over the past couple of years, Zimmern has built a true empire around his name with books, TV shows, restaurants (including his new Twin Cities joint Lucky Cricket), and a production company, but as he very candidly told me, the road to success has not been easy. He has gone through a lot of personal pain on his journey, and he says it is a daily endeavour to keep himself moving on the right track.

As Zimmern explained, over the course of his life, he’s had problems with substance abuse, depression – even homelessness – and he was very open about sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way about coping and finding redemption. We also spoke about his dear friend, Anthony Bourdain, and about the struggles of feeling overwhelmed that most of us face.

Related: Gareth Cliff Shares His Tips For Starting Your Very Own Podcast

But don’t get me wrong, he’s really funny, too! There’s nothing “normal” about Andrew Zimmern. Hope you’ll enjoy our conversation, thanks for listening.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How BrightRock Is Disrupting The Insurance Industry With These 2 Pivotal Strategies

Developments in technology, and clear communication are positioning BrightRock to disrupt their industry and transform the consumer experience.

Monique Verduyn

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brightrock

Vital Stats

  • Players: Sean Hanlon, Leopold Malan, Schalk Malan, Suzanne Stevens
  • Company: BrightRock
  • Est: 2011
  • Visit: www.brightrock.co.za

BrightRock was started around a dining room table in 2011 by four people with years of industry experience and — importantly — a diverse set of complementary skills.  They wanted to make changes to an industry with an age-old methodology by allowing customers to co-create a solution that precisely meets their individual needs, and adjusts as those needs change. Today, BrightRock is the fastest-growing insurer in the intermediated individual life risk market. It also provides underwriting management services to funeral parlour businesses and, more recently, has entered the group risk insurance market, offering its needs-matched approach to employees.

The founders of BrightRock, established in 2011, knew the life insurance industry all too well, and they found its methodology wanting. “Traditional life insurance lumps all the individual’s needs into one policy,” says CEO Schalk Malan.

“It’s a methodology that has been around for centuries. We started afresh and looked at how we could design life insurance based on individual requirements. Our cover is designed to exactly match each specific financial need. Because there is no waste, it’s more cost efficient and sustainable. And if circumstances change and our customer needs more cover, it’s easy to get it because needs-matched design enables the policy to change in line with changing needs.”

1. Embracing digital technology to provide needs-matched insurance

Suzanne Stevens, marketing executive director at BrightRock, points out that this type of innovation achieves efficiency (cost savings) and effectiveness (higher returns). “By harnessing digital technology, we have made our operations more efficient, and aggressively lowered costs by up to 30% for our customers. Every rand they spend with us works harder for them. That’s the benefit of a solution designed around the customer.”

BrightRock’s founders took a similar approach. ‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Related: How BrightRock Is Rocking The (Industry) Boat In Only 5 Years Since Launch

Unlike clunky legacy systems, BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

2. Effective communication is critical

These disruptors have set themselves above the rest through one surprisingly simple tactic —  effective communication. They agree that it simply doesn’t matter how world-changing your product or service is if you don’t communicate it to the right audience at the right time. New companies that fail to communicate their remarkable new development will quickly be pushed aside by other disruptors. Without a clear communication strategy that reaches the audience in the industry you’re trying to disrupt, you’ll set yourself up for failure. A key question to ask when you are developing your communication strategy is simply whether people understand what you do.

“Because the premise for our product was fundamentally different from anything on the market, communication and clear messaging were critical to convincing our clients to put their trust in us,” says Schalk.

“It was especially important to educate insurance advisors so they would understand what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how it was better than the other options available. That was key to disrupting the individual life market.”

Currently, BrightRock employs 380 staff, has experienced 40% year-on-year growth, and has an annualised premium income of more than R1,3 billion. The company has recently entered the group risk environment with a similar offering that addresses many of the same shortcomings of traditional group risk products. “The inefficiencies of the structuring of group products has meant that, to remain competitive, insurers have cut the benefits offered to employees, undermining their sense of financial security. Change is needed, and we believe our needs-matched philosophy positions us to change the group risk market too.”

‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Unlike clunky legacy systems, the BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

Related: BrightRock’s 5 Entrepreneurial Tips For Start-ups

This iterative, modular approach typically begins with defining the strategy and programme plan upfront, delivering a core capability fast so it can provide benefits immediately, and then continuously improving with regular, incremental capability improvements to achieve the objectives of the strategy. It’s an approach that fosters closer collaboration between stakeholders, improved transparency, earlier delivery, greater allowance for change and more focus on the business outcomes.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

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Lessons Learnt

The 9 Obsessions You Need To Have To Become A Self-Made Millionaire

Here’s how to stay focused on your millionaire goals.

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elon-musk

The ones who succeed weren’t handed a golden ticket; it wasn’t chance that helped them cultivate their fortune. To reach millionaire status, you must be driven to reach your dreams. You must be obsessed in order to be successful.

These are the nine obsessions that give every self-made millionaire an edge in creating success and wealth.

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