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Connecting with the new customer

I have been reading a book authored by Cal Newport called Deep Work. The book has motivated me to embrace change and to challenge myself every time I am faced with a threat that comes from the environment.

By Mellany Msengezi

Newport defined deep work as, “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task leading you to master complicated information and produce great results”. Through practising deep work, the author managed to study computer science without any background in subjects such as mathematics and all those items listed when trying to start a degree programme in the field. He highlights that if you work undistracted, you can actually produce more value. As marketing practitioners, we need to master the art of embracing new complexities that have come with technology in our industry.

We should not be bound in the old and traditional because we are now serving a new type of customer — a customer who wants to be found and engaged within their “own space” and mainly via the digital channels. Radio, billboards, trade shows and many others are still serving their purpose, but truth be told, they are now like noise we have learnt to live with.

Last month I met a colleague who told me that their business is not on social media, as they are sceptical about it. I decided not to argue but I searched their name online and realised that they were indeed not online. This was via customers outlining their complaints to each other on Facebook, and there was no one to address their concerns. Positive compliments were also available, but again, no one was there to thank the customers about it.

I then realised that maybe there are several brand custodians out there who are living in their old traditional life of one-way communication. If you are one of them, don’t despair. Just plan to catch up and join other businesses that have embraced the new methods of connecting and engaging customers in their spaces. It is affordable, faster and allows a two-way engagement. You can contact precisely your target customer. I enjoy how on Facebook, one can profile who should view their proposition, where they stay, their gender and many other demographics. To run an engagement campaign, you do not require costly physical space these days, especially if the youth market is your target. They already enjoy sharing about themselves, sending pictures about their pets, best outfit and anything they like. It’s faster and smarter than calling them to a party or writing an email or putting up a billboard.

I have a few suggestions up my sleeve to help you move from traditional marketing to the new methods of customer engagement.
Get trained

In terms of personal growth, you need to up-skill yourself to understand how to use these new methods by getting trained. If you are passionate about change, you will even train yourself before you enrol in formal programmes. Get trained on basic digital marketing and then if you are hands-on, you can get technical training. Currently, I am reading about media and entertainment. This is because my industry has become what is called TMT (telecommunication, media and technology). I am enjoying myself already and I know exactly the skills I need in the space. We can all transform and become experts in new areas as demonstrated by the author of Deep Work.

Convince your business

You need to be personally convinced to a large extent that your customers have really migrated to mobile and are very social. Your research should find out what mobile gadgets they use, frequency of use and what they are doing online and offline, as well as how they make buying and selling decisions. Once you are convinced through your research, you are likely to design a new strategy altogether, which will resonate with your customers and save you time and money. From there, convince the rest of your company about the need for change and execute.

Be willing to experiment

So much is published about digital marketing but most businesses in Africa are yet to walk through the full path of what developed countries have done. This is not a problem, but an opportunity to experiment and adopt what works in our space and target customers. Experimenting will help you move from traditional methods more comfortably than taking drastic actions, which then disappoint you when you realise failure. For example, I notice that customers now use social media to make decisions of which place to buy, what to buy etc. They carry out a mini-research with friends. If your product allows, this is where you ensure you push customer reviews and comments online so that when someone does research about a service you offer, they find you. Most banks get “private” reviews after serving a customer by the teller. I always wonder what they do with that data! Experiments are so easy and fast when using digital methods. You start and can stop a campaign easily.
Tweaking a campaign for success is very easy and you measure the results more than you could measure the success of using an outdoor billboard.

My personal opinion is that marketing is no longer simple but tech-edge exciting. I truly envy young marketers in that they are coming with the ability to be highly flexible in what hands-on skills they have. Video production, blogging, data analytics, social media, application development and many more ways of getting access to customers in their space is important. It is time for marketers to acknowledge and embrace that new ways of marketing are useful and relevant to the current situation. It is not only that they are cheaper, but that they connect and resonate with customers.

I was in Victoria Falls for the MAZ 2017 Annual Marketers’ Convention. At dinner I sat opposite a loving couple and I could tell they were so connected. The wife then mentioned that when she was about to leave the hotel she couldn’t find her phone.

She went on to say, “I was not going to come if I had not found my phone because I cannot live without it”. What she simply meant was that she cannot be separated from her circles and access to the internet. And she did prove it because during dinner she was swiping and checking “stuff” on her phone. What else do we need as marketers to understand that our customer has moved? We need to move with them and engage them in their social space so that we achieve business performance.

l Mellany is a social entrepreneur and part of www.freewomanentrepreneur.com which helps in educating and motivating women starting or up-scaling their business. She is the General Manager Marketing for Econet Wireless, a company that creates value through telecoms, media and technology and is the leading brand in Zimbabwe. She is a public speaker, mentor, blogger and presents to various audiences across the globe on entrepreneurship, women empowerment, marketing & brand strategy.

Awarded Best Marketer of the Year (1st Runner Up) 2017 by the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. Awarded ‘Iconic Women Creating a Better World for All’ by All Ladies League and Women Economic Forum 2017 for outstanding achievement in marketing innovation, business leadership and empowerment of women.

*This article was contributed on behalf the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe, a leading body of marketing professionals promoting professionalism to the highest standards for the benefit of the industry and the economy at large. For any further information, kindly contact mazmembership@mazim.co.zw or visit the website on www.maz.co.zw.

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