I have been supporting small businesses in Kenya in the area of marketing and advertising. I must say this has been an incredible journey and experience which was actually born out of my passion for helping small businesses grow so that they can be profitable and sustainable. The idea came to me when I was in Rwanda for a training event with a leading bank. The day I discovered that this is my purpose for life was very fulfilling and humbling. It was humbling because as you know, many small businesses in Kenya do not have so much cash to waste on unproven or untested marketing strategies. It takes a lot of hard work to win them to your side. I remember the words from a former colleague the day I ventured into this challenge: “If it were easy, anyone could do it”. I knew it was not easy, but I was ready to face the challenge. My work involves building the capacity of small business through training and consultancy in the area of marketing and advertising using digital strategies. Here are my lessons working with small businesses in Kenya.
- What you call your business does not matter to a customer. What matters is the quality of service or product and the value you’re delivering. For those starting, don’t be fixated or stressed by what you will call your business name. Spend more time and energy thinking of the kind of product and service you will sell to your target market. I have seen many businesses with very fancy names but they have nothing worth talking about.
- Before you start selling, spend more time talking to your ideal prospects – your potential customers so that you can fully understand what they really want in terms of product and pricing. There’s a saying by Steve Blank that says, every business idea looks great in the eyes of the owner until it meets the customer.
- When the customer says your product is expensive it’s usually because they can’t see the value. Show your customers the value that they will get by buying from you and they will pay for it. This is what marketing is all about.
- If you want to build something that will last, don’t rush. Good things take time, a lot of sweat and being smart. Rome was never built in a day, says the old adage
- It’s better to try than never try at all. When you fail, you’re not a failure. Learn the lessons and avoid the mistakes next time. Try until you make it. That’s how champions are made.
- Your brand positioning is what differentiates you from your competitors. Look for a reason for people to buy from you. You can differentiate yourself in your market segment through price, quality or service
- There is power in advertising. If you’re not adverting, you are not in business, marketing is what builds a small business into a recognizable brand. For how long has Coke been advertising Coca Cola? Since we were born.
- Word of mouth referral is the most cost-effective method of acquiring new customers. Make your customers happy and they will be your greatest marketing tool. The opposite is true and especially in this era of social media. Negative customer experiences will go viral and destroy your business.
- Great customer experience is only possible when you have a strong employee experience in place. Give your employees attention first and they will take care of your customers.
- The secret that small businesses can use to grow and into big companies is by partnering with recognizable brands. It takes years of hard work to build a small business into a big one and many consumers don’t initially trust small businesses when they start. Establishing a partnership with a recognizable brand builds credibility and trust to your business in the eyes of the consumer.
Treasure and guard the relationships you have with your existing customers because acquiring a new customer is much harder than selling to an existing one.