Brand & Marketing your Business with Government Assistance

Brand 9

SMEs always associate branding with high costs. I can only agree to certain extent. Branding without proper planning is cost to the company. However, branding with proper planning is an investment with high Return on Investment (ROI).

Let us have a look at the potential investment needed for branding.

  • Time and commitment to set the strategic direction for the brand.
  • Cost to engage brand consulting company to steer your brand towards the right direction and plan your brand campaign cost effectively.
  • Basic marketing materials including brochures, leaflets, profiles and other point of sales materials.
  • Trademark your brand in the respective markets you are marketing to.
  • Concept design of your stores and your advertisements.
  • Cost of advertisement media buy and media relations.
  • Online Marketing and others.

I hope the above will not scare you off from branding your business or products. In our opinion, your time and commitment are much more important than the funds to advertise. A clear brand direction will sure allow you to market your brand cost effectively. Yet, to bring your brand to the next level, some funds need to be allocated. How can we lower our burden on brand investment? One of the answers is to seek government assistance.

What Kind of Government Assistance is Available?

Malaysia is one of the few countries that provide many assistance programmes to assist businesses to start and grow, especially for the SMEs. SMEs always associate government assistance with grants. Grants may help you in the short term but I would say the non-financial assistance is equally or even more important than grants. The branding know-how, market access, networking, media exposure, award recognition are some of the crucial elements to bring your brand to the next level. Below are some examples of the government assistance which your business can benefit from :-

National Mark of Malaysian Brand Certification (National Mark)

Launched in 2010, National Mark’s objective is to nurture and facilitate the growth of Malaysian Brands to be on regional and global stage. It is a recognition of home-grown Malaysian brands whether they relate to products, services or corporate branding. The programme was initiated by SMECORP in collaboration with SIRIM. Up to Oct 2014, there are approximately 100 companies certified under this programme.

The Mark itself carries some weight as it has been heavily promoted locally and abroad. Some of the benefits include privileged media coverage, invitation to brand trainings, assistance on local and international trade. Some recipients received up to RM 500,000 in financial assistance. The funds can be used for advertising and promotions e.g. TVC, radio ads, billboards, marketing in hypermarkets and shopping malls, certification, R&D packaging and machineries. The key eligibility criteria include international standard certifications like ISO and a registered trademark. Please visit www.nationalmark.gov.my for further details.

Go-Ex Programme

The Go-Ex programme is part of the government’s initiatives to guide and enhance the growth of exports of Malaysian SMEs. The programme is targeted at export-ready companies or high potential exporting companies venturing into new products or new markets.

SMEs, whether in retailing or manufacturing, always face uncertainties when exploring export market. Market potential, trends, legal requirements, competition, and the certifications required are just some of the questions to address when considering the export market. Much time will be spent on these and by the time the business is ready, the opportunity may have passed.

Go-Ex Programme by MATRADE is able to assign a market advisor and market linker to address your above concerns. We also understand that the programme offers up to RM 50,000 funds for relevant certifications needed to enter a new market.

Mid Tier Companies Development Programme

MTCs in Malaysia are defined as companies with annual revenues between RM50 million to RM500 million in the manufacturing sector and between RM20 million and RM500 million in other sectors. If your business is in this category, it is best you get into this programme. Why? Because MATRADE will assign international consultancy firm – McKinsey to consult, and provide practical tools and guidance on marketing your brand globally at no cost to you.
The objective of this programme is to accelerate export growth and to strengthen core business functions. This 9-month programme is opened to only 50 companies per year. They will tailor the assistance and support in accordance to your present organizational needs. Branding, expanding to new markets, access to finance, market intelligence, and linkage to technology partners are the type of support that grants can’t help you with but the MTC Development Programme can.

There are other government assistance programmes available but there are simply too many to share it in detail here, e.g. Industry Promotion and Development Grant by MCMC, Business Accelerator Programme and Innocert by SMECORP, Biotech Commercialisation Fund by BiotechCorp and MSC Malaysia Research & Development Grant Scheme (MGS) by MDEC.

Don’t be Fooled by Self-proclaimed Agents

It is important to note that government agencies do not appoint any agents or consultants to assist in the application for their assistance programmes. There are no official or approved agents for any of their programmes. Many “agents” will claim that they can guarantee approval, they know people and they will do everything without spending your time. Not True. Let’s be rational. Most programmes are evaluated and approved by a panel of committees from different departments or agencies. The “agents” can’t guarantee anything. They can’t help you without your involvement. Business direction, present corporate and product development, challenges and opportunities are important information to be submitted. The top management has to be involved. How much does an “agent” know about your business?

If you really need help, hire a consultant who can guide you through the process, strengthen your strategies, provide objective feedback, and produce concise and impactful write-ups to convince the government to provide assistance.

Doing it Right!

Many businesses claim that it is not easy dealing with government officers but have you played your part in understanding their process? Below are some recommendation to do it right:

  • Check the website for basic information and forms. Most programmes have their forms downloadable from the respective agency’s website.
  • Seek face-to-face clarification. Don’t interpret based on your own understanding. Spend time to pay a visit to the agency to seek clarification.
  • Ask fellow recipients. Get insights from others on areas which need special attention.
  • Submit the right documents or write-ups and NOT MORE. Submitting a lot of information and documents doesn’t necessarily make it better. But the officers will definitely need to spend more time to pick out the relevant information to prepare their reports.
  • Please follow up. Constant follow up with officer in charge to ensure you have all the necessary information and documents in place and are ready for approval process.
  • Management must know the content of submission. Do not only leave it to junior staff. Otherwise, interviews might be conducted and management might have zero knowledge then.

In short, branding can be done cost effectively. You do not need millions to brand. All the best in branding in these challenging times.