Since 1991, when Joyas Manufacturing Limited pioneered the concept of making smaller zinc-alloy cast items as high quality gifts, Hong Kong has become one of the world's leading producers of promotional metal gifts.
These metalware or zinc-alloy cast items have become popular household accessories, adding a novel touch to homes all over the globe and at the same time helping get across corporate promotional images.
In its early days, Joyas' main line of merchandise comprised silver-plated desktop items but the company's product range has now been extended to table top clocks, calculators, photo frames, key chains, personal accessories, household gifts and wine accessories, all of which are available either as individual items or gift sets with special packaging. Also, to meet clients' increasingly sophisticated requests, the company provides extra services such as laser engraving to add a further attractive touch to their products.
Kevin Lau, general manager of Joyas Manufacturing Limited, says that with its long years of experience the company holds a very substantial share of the global market, and its biggest customers are well-known international banks, insurers and retailers in prosperous European countries and the US.
To increase turnover, the company is now exploring sales possibilities in Russia, Dubai and other new markets, where there is a growing demand for metalware gifts. In addition, Mr Lau has earmarked mainland China as likely to become a major market for future business development.
A touch of gold
Mr Lau points out that there are some formidable challenges ahead before new markets can be developed. These are mainly higher production costs because of costlier basic materials, and something he has never encountered before ¡X some high-profile clients wanting to include gold in sophisticated giveaway items to project their upmarket corporate image. Meanwhile, clients on the mainland have different views about promotional items from European and US customers.
"Overseas clients favour contemporary product designs emphasising simplicity and delicacy, but mainland customers consider that complexity adds to the beauty of the design," he says. "Then there are some would-be clients wanting to cut costs by substituting plastic for metal, so we need to 'educate' them about the big difference between the two ¡X one is cheap and nasty, the other elegant and desirable, and therefore serves as an ongoing promotional item for the enterprise concerned."
Not surprisingly, the company's long-standing success has brought a host of rivals trying to undercut their business, specially mainland manufacturers who shower clients with cheaper metalware products, making the market increasingly competitive.
Joyas responds by improving the quality of its products, re-engineering product features and providing fast and reliable service to all customers. "Today there are many competitors selling similar products in the market, so we have to stress to our clients the superior quality of our products and how they are tailor-made to perfectly meet their needs," says Mr Lau.
Joyas' design team comprises both local and overseas talents, all aware of developing trends in the field and ever ready to translate innovative ideas into quality products. Because of this, the company continues to win high-profile awards for its trademark and product designs.
English a must
With the global economy now in full swing, Mr Lau foresees ongoing growth in demand for attractive metalware items, pointing out that as business expands, the company must recruit new talents such as experienced sales and marketing staff whose responsibilities include ensuring the high quality of products, handling feedback from clients and taking part in overseas trade shows to seek out new customers. They will also help collect the latest market information in target countries for future marketing strategies and planning.
The successful recruits will be provided with an impressive remuneration packages including monthly basic salary, commission initiatives and travel allowances when sent overseas.
A prerequisite will be good language skills in English because of Joyas' worldwide client portfolio. "Overseas clients always prefer salespeople to go to their home offices to show them our products. A persuasive salesman can use such opportunities to introduce new product features and emphasise our company's strengths such as quality, reliability and swift customer service," says Mr Lau. "If a client wants a design change, they can also point the way to the appropriate solution. Additionally, during the manufacturing process of the chosen product there will be ongoing communication with clients, yet another reason why good spoken and written English are essential for every member of our sales and marketing staff."
While a university degree is not one of the requirements, any candidate with a qualification in engineering would be at an advantage in discussing with clients the technical aspects of a product. "To differentiate our customer services from our rivals, we must not only meet clients' requests but take the initiative in pointing out why and how our products will best fit their needs," Mr Lau points out. "Also, each product must conform with the rules and regulations of the buyer's country, another important point to which the salesman must pay constant attention to ensure there are no last-minute problems."
Internet skills are also a must because emails are constantly exchanged between client and salesman. Since salesmen go to exhibitions and trade shows in such overseas countries as Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, would-be employees must also be prepared to travel.