NAIROBI, KENYA: According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2017/2018 report 70 percent of starts-ups on the African continent began in pursuit of an opportunity rather than out of necessity.
For young entrepreneurs starting out, the pressure to become masters of every aspect of the business can be immense. With limited resources and fear of failing, small businesses will often push challenging tasks such as developing and executing a marketing plan to the bottom of the list, it is a frequent dilemma we see at SHK Consulting. Yet, investing the time in a marketing plan is the one thing that helps the business grow in an increasingly competitive market. Focusing on understanding the customer, personalising the customer experience and becoming a reference point are the essentials in today’s digitally driven environment. It is the three-pin axis we frequently ask our clients to commit to in their daily mantra.
What do you really know about your consumer?
It goes without saying that any business plan will spell out a target demographic. But as a business how well do you really know the habits of your customers? Do you know what their social preferences and interests are? At a basic level do you know what they purchase from you and how frequently? How does my business fit into my customer’s day? An inexpensive place to start is by simply talking to your customers, the power of human interaction should never be underestimated.
Once you know them, you will be better placed to reach them. Not only by increasing the repeat business of your existing clients but by using this information to target other new customers more accurately. Panesar Interiors, a 70-year-old bespoke Kenyan furniture brand for instance actively engages with existing clients through personal courtesy calls. Used as a tool to check-in, they are able to ascertain if clients are happy with their furniture, that it fits the purpose it was ordered for and to follow up if any further assistance is required. By taking the time to better understand how an existing product is serving the client they are able to upsell additional pieces that are of relevance to their clients’ lifestyles.
Today’ marketing tools make personalisation easy
Once you know your customer it becomes easy to personalise the communication you share with them. At a basic level, do your email newsletters customise with their name? Are you segmenting product promotions to relevant audiences rather than a one-size-fits all approach? Every small business has a social media presence these days; moreover it is highly likely that you will be using paid adverts for promotion. How effectively are you using these adverts? Do you target viewers based on their interests and locations? Do you schedule adverts to appear around the times you know your customers will be on Facebook? Another example is the newly opened, Nairobi based fitness studio Mom3ntum which uses technology to empower both clients and trainers alike. Through a digital platform, clients have the freedom to opt-in for classes and monitor their timetable for the week. With this data collection system the studio can equally track a client’s progress, better personalise the training offered and send out updates in real time. All-in-all allowing them to offer a much more bespoke service designed around each person. From the simplest functionality to the more complex integration of technology personalisation helps build some of the biggest brand ambassadors for new startups.
It’s a social media overload. How are you standing out?
Every brand is on social media. Big or small, they are all vying for the same attention. As a small business your digital advertising spend will never be able to match that of the big players. In 2018 social media advertising will comprise of 25 percent of the annual marketing budget for mid to large size brands according to the Emarketer report. So what can you do to stand out? Are you creating a community of like-minded viewers on your pages? Are you creating value-added content that is relevant to the lifestyles of your audience? The businesses that thrive are the ones that build a strong platform that keeps people coming back. Locally Kenyan cheese producer Sirimon actively encourages its followers to share their own cheese recipes on its page. From food bloggers to home cooks the brand encourages real-life experiences as a means to build loyalty. Taking this one step further, Sirimon frequently shares recipe cards in retail outlets with these recipes curated by everyday foodies.
Whilst most small businesses will note that time constraints are the biggest factor impeding their ability to implement consistent marketing activities, actively trying to set aside time, involve other employees or budget permitting enlisting the help of a third-party will ultimately pay dividend in itself with stronger business growth.
The author of the article is the Managing Director, SHK Consulting company.