And while the law of competition may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department. — Andrew Carnegie
By Phillip Chichoni
A young lady approached me sometime back, seeking for my thoughts on a business idea she had presented to a financier.
She had just returned from overseas and had discovered that there were very few eBook readers available in Zimbabwe. If you found them, they were pretty expensive. In the US, they are as common and as popular as smartphones. Students love them. To professionals, they are a necessity. There was definitely an opportunity in the Zimbabwean market.
There was however one question that she had been asked by the investor that she felt she had not thought about seriously. The question was: “How will you get customers?”
To many new entrepreneurs, this question is the last thing they would think about. But it usually makes a difference between success and failure.
I have seen people import various goods into the country and then struggle to sell them. Others have brilliant services they can offer, but they fail to find enough customers to make a viable business.
With no customers, you have no business. And you don’t want those bad customers who want to pay as little as possible and then bug you a lot for freebies afterwards.
Here are five ways to help you land good customers who will propel your business forward:
Know and get known by useful people
unless you are selling low-value commodities, you will need to get word out about your business and your products. You cannot sit in your office all day and hope customers will find their way to you.
One effective way to get known, especially if you are new in business, is networking. Find out groups that cater for people in your target market and join. Attend their networking events regularly and actively make contacts.
The average person knows about 250 people. When you communicate enthusiastically about your offering to your contacts, they will likely tell their own contacts. The more people you know, the larger will be your audience of potential customers.
Understand customer needs
sometimes new entrepreneurs start a business with a product or service they think customers will like.
Successful entrepreneurs strive to supply products that customers really need. This requires you to find out and understand what customers need before starting to supply.
Carry out market research; talk to potential customers and ask questions. This way you reduce the risk of wasting your time and resources supplying products that your targeted customers don’t really need, or cannot afford.
Show genuine interest in people
you must remember that people buy people and not companies or products. American motivational writer and speaker, Harvey Mackay, built a very successful business, supplying a very humble product.
When he founded The Mackay Envelope Company, Harvey knew that one secret to success was to befriend lots of useful people. He would discretely find out as much information about the owners and other senior people at companies that he wanted to sell envelopes to.
Knowing these people’s interests, he would find ways to approach them, start conversations based on their interests, invite them for drinks or meals, and even go and watch their favourite sport with them. Chaffed, these people would end up asking what his business was. And the next thing, they would tell their staff that when the company needed new envelope supplies, they should buy from the Harvey Mackay Envelope Company.
Deliver more value
clients pay for value. If you build a business model that creates significantly more customer value than competitors or substitutes, you will get more customers, even if you charge higher prices.
Customer value is something that a customer is more than willing to pay for. From my experience, good customers appreciate real value and are willing to pay more for it. When customers don’t buy as much as you would love, it’s probably because they are not seeing the value of your offering.
Sometimes you might need to learn to communicate that value more clearly. Always remember that value, like quality, is a customer perception and not necessarily what you believe to be valuable.
If you want to learn more ways to get more customers, read my eBook High Impact Low Cost Marketing Strategies for SMES, which you can download at my website http://smebusinesslink.com. If have trouble downloading it, send me an email and I will forward it to you.
In our difficult economy, people are spending their hard-earned money on necessities rather than on luxuries.
It is easier to sell an aspirin to someone with a headache than to sell a cologne to someone who is struggling to get a meal.
Look at how clever entrepreneurs made a killing, selling products like generators and gas stoves as the electricity supply problem worsened in Zimbabwe.
There are always problems affecting people and businesses; these present an opportunity for you to provide a solution and get paid well for it.
- Phillip Chichoni is a business planning and financial management consultant who works with entrepreneurs and growing businesses. You may contact him by email on firstname.lastname@example.org