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Don’t be left behind the internet generation

Business, more than any other occupation, is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight. — Henry R Luce.

Opinion by Phillip Chichoni

In last week’s article on adopting fresh strategies in changing times, I pointed out how the internet has become a great equaliser between small and big business, in terms of reaching customers.

Not to be left behind, it was interesting to read in the media that the Pope had taken to Twitter in order to woo the global internet generation to church.

Speaking at a media briefing on the progress made by the government in information technology this year, Minister of Information Communication Technology, Nelson Chamisa, revealed some interesting facts.

One fact of great interest to SMEs is that Zimbabwe now has a 20% internet penetration rate. Of what importance is that?

It means one in five people has access to the internet. If they want to find information, they will search for it online.

With the prevalence of internet-enabled smartphones and broadband costs that are increasingly going down, the vast majority of people, especially those in urban areas, will come to rely more and more on the internet as their source of information.

A report by a global research form showed that in 1997, there were two internet users per 100 inhabitants in the world, all of them in the developed world.

Ten years later, usage had increased to 60 per 100 in the developed world and 20 per 100 in the developing world. Last year, usage in the developed world had risen to 75 per 100 in the developed world and 25 per 100 in the developing world. One can see that although we are still a long way from catching up with the developed world, we are quickly getting there.

A few days ago, I was discussing with a client about the issue of buying a certain software package. He asked me how much the package costs. Sitting there in his car, I just searched on Google and found two vendors of the software in Harare. I clicked on their websites and sent my enquiry through their enquiry forms.

A few minutes later, two quotations arrived into my email inbox and our problem was solved. All was done through a not-so-expensive smartphone and cost less than 50 cents.

A few years ago, this required finding a newspaper and flicking through the pages; hopefully if a supplier had placed an advertisement in that paper on that day, we would have found him.

The other option would have been to find a business directory, look for names and make some calls. Alternatively, we would have travelled to various suppliers we knew to ask for prices, make comparisons and then go for the best one.

All this would cost a lot of time and fuel.
How are your customers finding you? Or are you being surprised why you are getting so few new customers?

You need an Internet marketing strategy
If you want to survive and grow your business in this dynamic world, you simply cannot afford NOT to have an internet marketing strategy.
A decade ago, if someone spoke about internet marketing, many people would become sceptical. there were so many get-rich-quick schemes being peddled on the internet.

Some lost money from them while many others simply stopped trusting anything seen on the internet.

However, as we have seen in the mass uptake of social media, such as blogs, social networks and microblogs (these include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, company sites etc), even the most hardened executive are stopping to think and determine how they can use this disruptive media to get more customers, sell more products and grow their businesses.

An effective internet marketing strategy will encompass things like your website design, how to make it attractive to potential customers, how to get visitors to actually buy and how to interact more with customers and get insights into their thoughts, buying trends and habits.

If you missed my eBook; Accelerate Your Growth in 2013: Create an effective marketing action plan to drive sales last week, you can download it on my website. And don’t miss the next one entitled, How to develop an Internet marketing strategy to grow your business”, which will be out on December 12. If you are not on my mailing list, you can join at my website or you can send me an email.

Please feel free to send me your feedback. Best wishes in growing your business.

Phillip Chichoni is a strategic business planning consultant who works with entrepreneurs and growing businesses. You may contact him by email on chichonip@smebusinesslink.com, or visit http://smebusinesslink.com

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