How to get, grow and keep customers in Zim

Many Zimbabweans are running an enterprise of some sort. Competition is stiff, just a cursory glance up one street will show you different people selling the exact same product, often at the exact same price. The same is true in services.

Going forward it is needful that every business develops a solid base of customers that are loyal to it, a base of return clients that can enable them to continue as a going concern and grow.

In order for any business to grow, they themselves must get, grow and keep customers.

Strangely, many do not think about this angle of investing in customer growth as it is deemed pricey. Here are some practical pointers to consider.

Get a website and social media where you can talk about your company and its’ products. As we have often said, a business that is absent online in this digital age is as good as dead.

Let your story be known by ordinary Zimbabweans, where you came from as a business, the founders and their inclinations, and where you are going. A connection is the most important thing and sustained engagement.

The website need not be fancy, a simple one page site will do wonders in demonstrating your willingness to be accessible to the people who can become your clients and it will speak continuously outside of office hours. In Zimbabwe there are data “bundles” for Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, leverage those platforms to create a following which you can feed information and hopefully convert into customers who bring in sales.

Also important is creating a buzz phrase and make it a hash-tag that goes with all your social media posts, that gives people something to rally around and leaves a lasting impression of your business.

It is practically free to get one and it can be used uniformly across all the social medium platforms. Own that hash-tag and then get happy customers to ride on it and use it.

They may not recall your company name but if they recall the hash-tag they can look you up on any platform and also use it as a subtle and secondary way of endorsing you — it becomes a movement!

As a business, no matter how small you are, offer short-term discounts and longer-term incentives that allow you to collect contact information and reach out to customers throughout the year.

You can never be able to beat the bigger stores if you a for example a small tuckshop competing with retail giants, but you have the flexibility to offer discounts on certain products and perhaps create some kind of loyalty programs that would have customers reach out to you with their phone, email and address details, information they will likely exchange for perhaps a voucher but at the same time grant you access to them.

You can then use this data to share promotions, useful information to become subject experts and special offers linked to the platform. Big businesses tend to want to do huge promotions with notable prizes — houses and cars and in some instances vacations with shopping money.

The average small business may not have deep pockets but can come up with innovative ways to get people in through your doors — quite recently before the election date several beauty houses were offering free removal of nail polish for women who wanted to vote.

Over and above that they offered free redoing of the said nail, and this was a genius move that had completely new customers created as they were impressed by the first free treatment.

Partner with others that have complementary products or services. They say those that want to go fast go it alone but those that want to go further go with others. You could be running a business that does gifts — partner with a delivery company so that both your business benefit from any transactions done.

I recall some years back in preparing for our wedding that the lady who was doing the flowers had a network of specific partners she dealt with whose work complemented hers — the tent guy, a candle-maker and some photographers.

Cross referencing and partnering is a very powerful method of getting, and growing customers, you will tend to keep them because they will have come to you with an already given confidence and yours is to match the expectation.

Partner sometimes with competitors so that when you temporarily are unable to supply a product of offer a service you can ensure your valuable partner still gets value of some sort.

Partner also with big business, you can leverage the big names by offering your goods and services as part of their promotion prizes, thus tapping into their customer base, receiving tacit endorsement and increasing your reach. Stay open to working with others.

Finally, create incentives for customers to return — make yourself memorable to customers through give-aways such as key-holders, stickers, cups, pens, branded candy, small trinkets that a used daily but will imprint your company name in their heads.

Give them to customers that walk in and those that engage with you on virtual platforms as a reward for demonstrating understanding or knowledge of your company product or service offering. Give them away at events such as pop up shops and shows where you can set up stalls and meet people then ask them to tell others for further rewards.

The rewards promotions done by big business are very feasible for small, progressive business too — for example a barber shop could create loyalty cards that are marked with each visit and after a certain number or value, the customers gets a free cut.

Once a customer agrees to complete the initial form you are almost certain you have them on lock-down for the next few months and happy clients usually tell others.

We need to go back to the understanding that customers are indeed king, and in business the competition is to get their money in exchange for delivering an appropriate value.

Only businesses that are invested in the customers will grow and sustain their market positions. Coca- cola, one of the largest and well-known brands in the world, still does much by way of advertising and promotions to get customers grow customers and keep customers. You have no excuse!–ebusinessweeklyc,oz,w

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