I reviewed the first 10 pages of Google and Yahoo and I found the following websites to be our potential competitors:
Note: By directories I mean: providers’ directories: entertainers, food, venues, party supplies, etc.
This is a content website that offers party ideas. They also have a directory of providers.
This website has a shop and offers content about parties.
This website has content and offers advertising.
It is a shop and has content. The ideas contributed by users offer simple, cheap party ideas.
This is a directory of services for kids’ parties. Directory by state and category.
This is a party directory for all types of parties. It does not seem to be an active website
It offers complete directories for all types of parties. It also has some rudimentary interactive tools for budgets and offers ecards and boards.
It offers directories by state. It is a fun site; a mom created it.
This is a local Fairfield county, CT and Westchester county NY directory. These counties are two of the richest counties in the country next to Beverly Hills and Nassau and a couple of others. They offer directories and other kids’ activities. It is one of the best-designed websites and the co-founders look like very smart people. They do not pop-up in search engines with the regular terms. We found them with very different terms, which are usually not used by people searching. I had a hard time finding them. These guys have the juice to become strong competitors, if they can scale the model nationally.
You may visit their advertising page to get an idea of their services.
This is the closest competitor to our plan. It offers directories of services related to the birthday party. Party directories by state.
They charge the providers for the listings and have many packages.
Sample of their charges:
Step One: Pick a Service
BASIC LISTING :
Select 1 category for your listing plus coverage in up to 3 area codes - $49.95/yr.
Select 1 category for your listing plus coverage in 6 area codes - $79.95/yr.
WEB PAGES OPTIONS are:
ONE WEB PAGE link including 2 photos and 1 title/logo plus text - $95.95*
THREE WEB PAGE links including 8 photos, 4 titles/logos/graphics - $275.00*
* One time fee. Customer must supply all text, graphics and photos.
An Express Birthday Planning representative will contact you within 24 hours of
your purchase to arrange transfer of all elements by mail or email.
MUST HAVE BASIC OR ENHANCED LISTING TO ORDER.
Step Three: Create Your Own Web Site & URL
Instead of our Web Pages residing on our server, we will set up your own domain name and upload your files to your own URL. You will have your very own registered domain name that you can use to refer people to on your business card, news letter and stationary. I.E. http://www.YOURNAME.com. A $30 domain registration fee will be applied if it hasn't been already registered. PLEASE NOTE: We can transfer the Web Pages created in STEP TWO to your own virtual domain, or you can create your own from scratch.
"Express Birthday Party Planning" currently offers 3 hosting options: CLICK HERE to view more information about our hosting plans.
Must have a Basic or Enhanced Listing to order.
Starter - $14.95/mth, 10 megs disk space, 1000 megs data transfer, 5 emails
Power - $19.95/mth, 75 megs disk space, 6000 megs data transfer, 40 emails
E-$$$ - $29.95/mth, 125 megs disk space, 9000 megs data transfer, 60 emails
The knot and the wedding-channel
Both are best in class in wedding and related events planning. They have been in business sine late 90s and have deep pockets.
The knot has extended to all types of media including TV and magazines.
The Wedding channel is the largest in number of visitors and users. It is a wonderful website, very well designed, provides a very pleasant user experience, and is easy to navigate. They work with wedding publications to advertise and attract target visitors.
They offer to providers:
Direct marketing (ezines)
To the users they offer free:
Articles and very good interactive tools such as:
1- Planning check lists.
This includes list of activities and times (schedule)
2- Wedding Website
Share your engagement story
Communicate event details and provide maps
Give out-of-town guests travel and lodging information
Display all of your registry information in an etiquette-appropriate way
You also receive:
A choice of designs, including flash animation
A FREE custom web address, good for 2 years
A guest book manager that lets you delete posts
24-hour access for you and your guests
3- Save the date
It's fun and easy to do!
Choose your wording
Select your favorite design
Then, send to everyone you're inviting to the wedding.
4- Guest list manager
Enter guest names once, and we help you:
Total your invitations and RSVPs
Print lists of names for envelope and place card calligraphy
Record table assignments and menu selections
Track gifts and thank-you cards
In order to start your own Scrapbook, you need a FREE WeddingChannel.com membership.
The best way to save all your favorite ideas!
Your Scrapbook makes it easy to organize your favorite photos, add comments to each, and even email them to friends. Plus, your FREE membership gives you unlimited access to all WeddingChannel.com's easy-to-use planning tools.
6- Budget Calculator
To use our Budget Calculator, you need a FREE WeddingChannel.com membership.
Tell us your budget amount and we:
Suggest how much to spend on the gown, flowers, cake and more, based on national averages
Track deposits and balances
Help keep your budget balanced with at-a-glance totals
Reveal insider budget tips to help you save!
They also offer a huge catalog of gowns, party places, etc. That is how they make their money.
They have gift registry services.
They work with some shops that let the clients access the registries (all the articles) from the wedding channel website
Rates for local directories:
Local listings rates:
$75.00 per month ($900.00 per year)
A web page custom-designed for your business (we take care of all the technical details).
A complete description of your services, along with pricing information
A company logo
A Photo Album of your work (up to ten photos)
A map and driving directions to your front door
A pop up window for special offers or coupons (can be updated monthly)
Geo-targeted banner ads - $30.00 per month
Promote your business with banners that appear in entire region of your Premier Listing
Top tier - $62.50 per month
This is not an ideal model, but perhaps some of their ideas can be part of our offering.
This is how their regular listing works:
National Spa Directory
You can choose from Bronze, Silver or Gold Directory Listings. (Platinum Directory Listings are reserved for Red Hot Special advertisers only.) Prices range from $8.25 - $18.25 per month, plus you receive FREE EXTRA SPACE to offer a spa-addicts EXCLUSIVE special of your choice (encouraged but not required). There is a one-time $50 setup fee for each listing.
Bronze. $99 per year. $199 destination spa
Silver. $169 per year. $269 destination spa
Gold. $219 per year. $ 319 destination spa
This section may include:
Send this page to a friend
Listing of party venues and service providers
Database could be searchable by area code or zip code and by category
Registered users can create their own mini-site. This will include the possibility to have a scrapbook
It may have:
Store favorite providers (shortlist)
Store favorite articles
Wish list of gifts
The guest may register as guest to access to access this list or have a cookie session from an email link. Once a gift has been selected, it will be deleted from the gift list.
A provider can select if registered or not.
If not registered, the provider can either select to browse the listings, information on registration fees and benefits and request more information. He or she can also register and pay.
If the potential party provider decides to register, he or she will select a plan.
Silver: listing and booking only
Gold: the above plus one page website to promote services. The providers can make their own website or order our services, plus this provider will appear in a more relevant place on listing than the silver status providers.
Platinum. Gold plus more visibility, perhaps some banners or something similar
Partners: These are big companies such as ToysRUs. We will pursue their partnerships and have special arrangements to offer their services.
If registered the provider can access his own panel control:
Access the booking system
Order more advertising
Offer specials, make changes to his/her services or prices etc.
Look at their sales, invoice, payments, etc..
Rating providers system
Rating site features system
Scheduling system for providers
Send monthly invoices to providers
Charge credit cards for services
Collect information on: how the site is used, most used features, how much money spent, what kinds of services/products ordered, zip code, age of kids, and others.
· Hosts all the local party themed activity providers (E.g. Paint-A-Party)
· Advertisements or lists – Tents, helium tanks, Toys-R-Us, Toys shops.
· Birthday registry
o Real time guest list
· Thank you cards
o Form to enter gifts received from guest
· Catering services – Cakes, food etc.
· Entertainers (e.g. clowns, magician)
· Hall rentals
· We can design and host a website for these services – Portal to create their own website
· Photo gallery of the party
· Services to create goody bags
· Props (e.g. Moonwalk)
· Birthday parties at museum, aquarium
· Create a community by e-zine, articles etc.
· Discussion boards
· Services for service provider (E.g. Scheduling)
· Coupon generation
· E-mail, Snail mail generation
· Revenue from website designs for party hosting companies
· Commission for lead generation
Different party ideas:
· Birthday parties
· Graduation parties
· All farewell parties
· Christmas parties
· Baby shower
Packaging buyers tend to stick with branded products because they’re familiar with them and they know what they are getting. Generally, most successful packaging suppliers follow a strategy based on building brands.
What comes to your mind when you think of Bubble Wrap, Tyvek, and Valeron? These are all well recognized brand names in the packaging industry that are known not for what they are made out of but for what they do. Their suppliers — Sealed Air Corp., DuPont and Valeron Strength Films (formerly Van Leer Flexibles), respectively — could completely change the underlying material of construction, but their users will continue to buy these as long as they perform the functions that the brand is associated with.
Despite this, it continues to amaze me that the number of well recognized brands in the packaging industry is still so small. Our industry has been so focused on product attributes, manufacturing capabilities and materials of construction that we have failed to build brands.
The traditional approach to marketing in our industry has been rather product-centric. The basic assumption has been that if your product is superior to competitive offerings, customers will simply rush to buy it. Secondly, it has been generally believed that the customer is technical-competent enough to disregard the marketing message and evaluate the product strictly on its attributes and performance.
Thirdly, customers have been successful in commoditizing packaging materials so that they can negotiate better prices, and suppliers have fallen into this trap by introducing products that are practically indistinguishable from competitive products (or, in other words, customers do not always like brands because they are reluctant to pay premium pricing).
But why do companies continue to buy branded products despite the availability of cheaper/better alternatives? The answer is relatively simple: because they are guaranteed a definite level of performance on a consistent basis.
Developing brand equity
To develop brand equity, packaging suppliers must consider a number of factors regarding their product(s):
Performance: While the basic concepts of brand equity in the packaging industry are the same as those for consumer products, there are a few subtle differences. While heavy advertising with creative commercials may lead to building a consumer brand, this is not enough in our industry. Remember, the customers of these products are knowledgeable enough to still evaluate a product on its merits. Thus, you have to make sure that your product is as good as other competitive products.
Innovation: Product innovation is extremely critical to buyers of packaging materials. As companies struggle with either increasing shelf-appeal or reducing damage during shipping, they look to their packaging supplier for innovative solutions. Make sure that your product development does not become stagnant. Instead, as customers’ needs change, your product must continue to operate at the cutting edge.
Addressing product problems: There are innumerable examples of how companies can destroy years of brand equity simply by poor handling of product problems. The only time when product problems do not affect brand equity is when management reacts responsibly by immediately addressing the issue. My simple recommendation is to address a product problem immediately rather than denying it or blaming others.
Features and benefits: Suppliers of high-tech products get so enamored with the properties of their products that they fail to fully advertise what the product does for the customer. While charts and tables are needed, make sure that you connect the features with the benefits. Thus, the advertising message has to strongly emphasize how the product will add value to the user.
Co-branding: Consider a co-branding campaign with your key customers. Perhaps a clearly visible logo on a bag of potato chips with the message “Packaged in [name of packaging product].” While a company like Intel can successfully market an extremely high-tech product to an average consumer, packaging companies do not establish a similar connection with the consumers when packaging might very well be the reason they buy the product.
Look at products as brands: The most important approach to building a brand is to completely redefine the way you internally look at your products. If you think of yourself merely as a supplier of products that have certain attributes similar or better than other products in the marketplace, your customers will perceive these in the same manner and will compare them accordingly. If you think of yourself as a seller of brands that make your customers’ brands even stronger, your customers will start setting your products apart from competitive products.
Impact of brand equity on profitability
There is no hard evidence at this time that developing brand equity alone will necessarily result in higher profitability. However, my limited research shows that most successful packaging companies follow a strategy based on building brands. It is increasingly important to do so at this time when emergence of e-marketplaces is based on essentially eliminating product differentiation.
I can clearly visualize a future in which a product will either be a brand or a commodity. The former will demand premium pricing while the latter will be traded on an online exchange like any other commodity. Where do you want your products to be?
As access to pricing information becomes more readily available to packaging material buyers, suppliers will need to rethink some of their strategies and embrace business models that are based on much more than price alone.
The packaging industry remains one of the few privileged industries since customization is still widely popular. Manufacturers of both industrial and consumer goods may have almost indistinguishable products, but they still make their best efforts to use unique packaging.
The obvious advantage to packaging material manufacturers is that, despite the underlying raw materials being essentially commodities, they can still differentiate their products and obtain premium pricing. This differentiation has been the major driver for pricing patterns, and consequently, margins.
The second dimension of pricing is not talked about openly very often. The price that a supplier quotes for its products is also largely dictated by the amount of information that its customer can access about competitive products, number of suppliers, supply situation and pricing levels. Over the next few years, this will likely change dramatically. The business environment will see radical changes and competition will intensify as efficient access to information will be more widely available.
Whether buyers purchase a million pounds or a thousand pounds, they will have almost equal access to information. Pricing will become increasingly transparent in contrast to traditional practice in which price was top-secret. Buyers already find it easier and cheaper to obtain comprehensive information about a supplier, its products, inventory levels and its pricing relative to every one of its competitors. As a result, suppliers will find that the power they derived from information gaps in the past will disappear, to the point that pricing will no longer be their prerogative.
In fact, low price will no longer be a privilege available to large-volume customers but will be a prerequisite for being a player in the broader marketplace. Once the first low-cost supplier publishes its prices, the competitors will have to follow, and prices will stabilize at a point that will be set by the most efficient manufacturer.
The third dimension to margin compression is the emergence of online marketplaces that are based on maximizing purchasing efficiencies through encouraging real-time price-based competition among suppliers and making the purchasing process more efficient by use of information technology. Such marketplaces have only a limited role to play in the packaging industry at this time but will very soon become fairly dominant.
Strategies to meet these challenges
In this new business environment, several new businesses will emerge, and small companies will be able to thrive by serving niches. Manufacturers of consumer goods and other specialized products will continue to work closely with their packaging suppliers to create unique, proprietary package designs.
Improvements in information flow will still drive packaging industry growth, but there will be market share shifts as those companies that embrace business models for the new market realities will emerge as the winners while the laggards will struggle trying to compete on price alone.
In this environment, companies will have to do a lot more than just managing their costs and embracing sophisticated customer relationship management programs. Here are some ways that companies can succeed going forward:
All packaging companies have unique market and technology situations, but the impact of margin compression will be most pronounced on suppliers of such products as corrugated boxes, wood-based packages and basic substrates like films and paper. Now is a good time to rethink your pricing and customer relationship strategies.
If your company is to be the best it can possibly be, a smart approach is to tap into resources outside of your organization. A “community” allows you access to the best and brightest people — whether they work for you or for someone else. In the near future, as companies increasingly focus only on their strengths and outsource everything else, they’ll have mostly partners and very few competitors.
The fact that you are reading this article is clear evidence of your recognition of the power of a community. I am continually amazed by how much can be done with only a little once you build a community.
If you are a member of a community and contribute even occasionally, you probably know very well that more gets done there than in your office. The added advantages are that one doesn’t have to wait 12 months before the next annual meeting, nor is there any limitation on where the participants live and at what time of the day they contribute.
The power of community
Imagine what can happen if a company can exploit the power of a community. One reason why companies fail to come up with world-class approaches is that their current mindset does not allow them to tap into resources outside of their organizations. If a company could build a community of all the right people — regardless of their affiliations — to achieve a specific goal, it will not only be possible to achieve that goal faster but also do it profitably.
I make this recommendation for one simple reason: no company is as good by itself as it is by partnering with others. A community allows you to get the best and the brightest people whether they work for you or for someone else. At the same time, the knowledge that you collect is also shared with other community members and benefits everyone.
Of course, like any other community, members like to be rewarded for their contribution. If businesses build communities, rewards can come through recognition, financial benefits or any other reward that the members desire. I may even recommend developing proprietary technologies through a community approach; in this case membership would have to be restricted to strategic partners, and more formal structure would have to be implemented.
There are a couple of other reasons why I suggest a community approach to doing business today. In the old economy, the word “customer” had a narrow meaning — someone who used your product/service and paid for it. The flow of information and goods was so slow that companies had no choice but to control as many transactions in the value chain as they needed to be able meet their market commitments. This made them categorize other industry participants as either customers, suppliers or competitors.
In the new economy, the distinction between buyers/sellers, manufacturers/consumers, and partners/competitors is disappearing. This is because information flows so fast that it is not only possible to quickly identify potential suppliers and partners but also to look at their inventory levels in real-time and manage production/supply schedules accordingly.
In the near future, I can see that enterprises will be focusing only on what they do best and outsourcing everything else. Thus, a company will have mostly partners and very few competitors.
Building a community
To build a community, a packaging company has to do three things like any other community:
• First, develop a vision for the community. For instance, the foremost goal for a commercial enterprise is to have high revenue and net income, but it could be something different — for instance, to develop a solution to a long-unsolved problem.
• The second step is to bring together the right members to the community. This is needed in order to have the necessary skill base.
• The final step is to facilitate seamless communication among the community members. Since the members may interact mostly virtually and may not know each other very well, the initial roadblocks should not discourage the members.
Packaging companies are better off than companies in many other industries in the sense that once the product is sold, the design and testing professionals on both sides continue to collaborate on a regular basis. On the down side, however, other than these individuals and an occasional courtesy call from the sales representative, there is not a lot of interaction on a corporate basis to address larger issues.
Such relationships with its customers should be exploited by a packaging company since, otherwise, the value of knowledge that is developed regularly within and outside the enterprise is not being fully exploited.
Packaging buyers are becoming increasing comfortable with using the Internet as a tool to find information prior to making a purchasing decision. Companies who provide effective content and interactivity on their site will grab the most eyeballs and, hence, maximize profits.The Internet has fundamentally changed the manner in which we obtain information and the amount of information that can be accessed. Remember the days when someone in your organization was able to obtain your competitor’s price list or data sheets or organization chart? It would go into a file marked ‘confidential competitor information.’ Now, you can get the same information within seconds. In fact, companies are beginning to compete with each other in how much information they provide on their websites. It is no longer surprising to see customer lists, examples of applications, detailed product literature and an employee directory.
The Web is essentially the easiest way for a company to connect with the world and turn visitors into customers by creating a pleasant experience. But the packaging industry has yet to take full advantage of all that the Web has to offer. For example:
I have yet to see all of these features in a single website in the packaging industry. (I would like to know if there are such sites since I have not visited every single one.)
Providing effective content
As the comfort level with the Internet increases, customers are increasingly using it as a tool to find information prior to making a purchasing decision. The analogy that comes to my mind is that of a trade show. I see trade shows as having a three-dimensional role in business: inform, interact and market. Companies go to a trade show to demonstrate their products (inform), have discussions with potential customers (interact) and differentiate themselves from their competitors (market).
This is exactly what needs to be duplicated on the Internet. You should think about providing such powerful content that visitors feel that they can find out practically anything about the product. This will result in a higher comfort level and, as a result, higher sales. An informed customer is more likely to buy. Customers want to learn about existing applications, benefits to current users and how it compares to competitive products.
I believe you should provide a comparative chart so that customers do not need to go to many different sites to develop one on their own. It would be even better if such comparisons were provided by an independent agency to make sure that they create an impression of being unbiased. This will help users make faster and better decisions and develop a sense of trust in you. Remember that customers in the new economy are armed with information, and you cannot mislead them.
Make it interactive
The second feature that you need to include is interactivity. For example, make interactive product data available so that customers can plug in their specific information and see the product performance. If you have product pictures, make sure it is possible to see them from all possible angles by being able to rotate them.
As purchasing and technical managers use the Internet increasingly as a tool to collect information, packaging companies have to start exploiting it is a powerful marketing tool. A website that looks like a brochure gets treated like one — to be seen only when absolutely necessary and just thrown away otherwise.
Packaging products present a great opportunity to be demonstrated on the Internet, and those who exploit this faster than others are more likely to grab a larger share of the eyeballs and, thus, potential profits.
E-commerce is not only about reducing cost and automating transactions; it is also about using it as a channel to exchange better and larger amounts of knowledge with business partners.
If I were to say that competition in the packaging industry has been based all along primarily on knowledge, most of you will agree but only after some thought.
Some of the recent hype about “knowledge management” may give an impression that it is something new. In the packaging industry, we have been doing it all along without necessarily using a very formal name and process.
Even while selling a basic package, a successful salesperson typically talks less about the actual package and more about how it will protect the product, provide aesthetics and reduce cost. This salesperson will also probably bring along a technical professional who can help the customer’s manufacturing group implement all of the above.
This sales team has not only used knowledge to sell the product, it has actually sold knowledge and got paid for it (through stronger customer relationship).
At the other end of the spectrum in the packaging industry are suppliers who sell using a catalog approach — standard products, service, price, terms of contract and limited or no knowledge to share. With the recent trend to provide e-commerce capabilities, packaging companies need to be extremely careful in not becoming catalog type suppliers. This is especially true when products are sold through an e-marketplace.
Participation in an e-marketplace is almost a must for most companies, but it may also result in erosion of product value and eventually commoditization, which is a serious problem if your products are not inherently commodities. Thus, suppliers of value-added packaging materials have to make sure that the bond with their customers that has been built on sharing of knowledge does not weaken as more business is conducted electronically.
Sharing the knowledge
Suppliers of value-added packaging materials typically dedicate considerable resources to working together with their customers designing customized packages. In fact, most companies end up offering these services for free as a means to strengthen customer relationships and boost sales. Apart from helping customers design better packages and, of course, allowing them to use their materials, this relationship also works as a means of sharing knowledge since suppliers pick up intelligence from the marketplace, get exposed to competitive technologies and better understand unmet and emerging needs.
E-commerce presents opportunities for reducing cost of selling and reaching a wider pool of customers. The downside is that companies are so focused on selling that their sites are turning into electronic catalogs. The e-marketplaces are even worse since their value proposition is based on product standardization and thus encouraging price-based competition.
E-commerce is not only about reducing cost and automating transactions; it is also about using it as a channel to exchange better and larger amounts of knowledge with business partners. As companies employ the latest tools for knowledge management within the enterprise, the program has to be designed to include business partners in the loop as well so that this knowledge can be shared with them and used to strengthen virtual bonds.
Recommendations for an e-commerce strategy
An e-marketplace would work fine for those products that are manufactured by more than one supplier and have attained some degree of standardization in the industry. Fortunately, in the packaging industry, there are not too many of them. Customers continue to demand high degree of customization even if it is in printing of the package. Thus, companies have to segment their customers into essentially two groups.
The first group comprises those customers that seek standardized products with minimal technical support. Suppliers should steer these customers to an e-marketplace if they participate in one, or the supplier should have its own e-commerce site for them.
The second group of customers demands customized designs, technical support and even a dedicated team to assist them. Suppliers have to take special care of these customers because these will not only be the supplier’s most profitable customers, but they are more likely to reward the supplier with additional business as they simplify their supply chain and start treating the supplier as a provider of turnkey packaging solutions. The supplier will need to build a private network for them that will provide a virtual space for collaboration on product and service development and gather intelligence on markets, products and technologies not only about the supplier itself but also the whole industry.
The basis of competition in the future will be predominantly knowledge, and as packaging suppliers’ customers increasingly use it as a competitive weapon, suppliers need to do the same.
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