Businesses May Benefit From Marketing Books

For 10 years, Su Ing and her family have sold rice cookers, gas ranges and small stoves from a cramped storefront on Street 130, near Phnom Penh’s Central Mar­ket.

Su Ing, 18, who helps her mother operate the Hawaii Selling Gas Cookers and Gas business before and after school, says her family has built a steady clientele over the last decade.

But like many small business owners in Phnom Penh, they are looking to expand their crowded storefront and, of course, to make more money.

“We earn enough to live on,” Su Ing said. “We would like to earn more.”

But when asked how they could expand their business, how they could attract more customers and whether they should advertise, Su Ing smiled shyly. “I don’t know,” she said.

The Mekong Project Develop­ment Facility has a suggestion.

The group has developed work­­books to help the hundreds of small- and medium-sized business owners in Cambodia who are not adept at promoting their products, says Don Boring, program officer at the development facility. The first set of workbooks was distributed Tuesday.

“The business owners in Cam­bodia know production, they know how to support themselves and their families, but they don‘t know how to market their goods or significantly increase their profits,” Boring said. “These books are geared for them.”

The six business workbooks cover various areas of running a business and are part of a regional program started by the MPDF. They already began a similar business lesson program in Vietnam, but wanted to expand the program to Cambodia, Bor­ing said. Other partners in the Cambodian project include Open Learning Agency, Silaka and Regent College.

The books, titled “Learn How to Sell and Manage Business,” are available in limited numbers at Phnom Penh bookshops, markets, kiosks and supermarkets, and more copies will be available in six months. A total of 6,000 copies of the books will be published. Each will cost 8,000 riel ($2.10).

“In only the first week on the shelf, 150 books have sold out,” said Neil McLaren, director of Regent College. “We hope that 1,000 copies will be sold out in a week.”

The six workbooks cover marketing, finance, human resources and operations and production. Draw­ing from real life examples, the workbooks teach Cambodian entrepreneurs, step by step, how to sell their product, looking at everything from product positioning to cold-canvassing potential customers.

Chhin Kem, a 24-year-old business and management student said he will buy the books even though they are expensive. “They are good for Cambodian business development. I want to be a business man so I will buy them.”

The development facility conducted several surveys and studies on the business climate in Cambodia before releasing the workbooks, which looked specifically at the problems most entrepreneurs faced. Besides the lack of marketing skills, the studies found that most Cambodians had difficulty raising money to start a business.

“Larger businesses are definitely at an advantage because they have the capital necessary to expand,” Boring said. “Many of the smaller entrepreneurs are adept at working in Phnom Penh—they can anticipate problems they face because they live here, and therefore they are at an advantage. But they still have trouble finding the money to keep and maintain a business.”

While the workbooks address some of these larger problems, they also examine day-to-day dilemmas such as how to estimate the needs of customers. In one example, the MPDF uses an average cake seller who brings her cakes to the market for sale. The book shows the reader how to test the marketplace to discover whether or not people would want to buy the cakes, and if that particular market would be a good place to sell the pastries or if it is already saturated with cakes.

“We were very careful to use Cambodian examples,” Boring said.

Sor Sontheary, assistant marketing manager at the Australian Center for Education said he thinks people will pay for the workbooks because it is the first marketing book written in Khmer.

“It is difficult to find a marketing book for Cambodians that this could be compared to,” he said.

Su Ing, who was shown a copy of the workbook, leafed through it quickly. She did not say whether or not it could help her family’s business, but said it looked nice.

“We have never advertised because we have many regular customers,” Su Ing said. “But we never knew how to advertise. Maybe we could learn how to attract new customers.”

(Addi­tional reporting by Phann Ana, Jaime Jacques and Ana Nov)

 

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