Do you know how many global businesses the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated?
In the United Kingdom, more than 800,000 businesses could collapse as a result of lockdown measures.
In the United States, big companies that recently filed for bankruptcy include
- JCPenney, a department store chain with over 800 locations
- Neiman Marcus, a luxury store chain
- J.Crew, a fashion retailer
- Hertz, a car rental company
- Whiting Petroleum, an oil and gas company
In Nigeria, the pandemic shut down schools, airlines, hotels, cinemas, religious centres and highways.
The naira lost 10% of its value and the cost of living spiked.
COVID-19 has depressed the global economy.
There are fewer customers, jobs and business opportunities.
But you can take these steps to improve your financial standing.
We all have bad habits that drain money from our pockets.
It could be drinking bottles of cold beer regularly, smoking packs of cigarettes daily, snacking between meals or betting a few bucks at Bet9ja shops.
I have a habit of eating snacks whenever I’m working on my laptop.
It doesn’t matter if I’m hungry or not, once I’m in front of a laptop, I’m munching a snack.
So last month, I conducted an experiment.
I noted the cost of each doughnut, biscuit and ‘chin chin’ that I bought.
At the end of the month, I calculated that I had spent N8,350 on snacks that I didn’t need.
I could have used that money to buy internet data or fuel for my generator.
Instead, I used it to keep my mouth busy.
No one knows when the economy will improve, so cut down on unnecessary expenses and impulsive buying.
Now is not the time to buy iPhone X or a Louis Vuitton shoe.
Marketing is letting people know about your business.
It is getting your products, services and solutions into the hands of people who need them.
It is also a process of inquiring about your customers’ needs, wants and desires.
If you haven’t bothered to find out what it takes to get people to pay for your goods and services, now is the time to do so.
Even if you work for a company or a government agency, you still need to know the basics of marketing, just in case you decide to start your own business.
The two most important questions in marketing are:
1. Who needs this?
2. Why should they buy from me?
Let’s start with the first question. Who needs that stylish handbag you’re selling?
Who needs that consultancy service you’re offering?
Who needs those delicious cakes you’re baking?
A lot of people start a business first then look for customers later.
That’s why 60% of new businesses fail within 3 years.
It’s like a tailor sewing a cloth first, then measuring her client later.
Before starting a business, you need to know who your ideal customer is.
You need to know her age group, motives for buying, preferences and dislikes.
If you don’t know your ideal customer, you risk offering products and services that nobody wants.
Let’s move on to the second question. Why should people buy from you?
Why should I buy that handbag from your shop, instead of the boutique down the road?
Why should I use your consultancy firm when KPMG has a better track record?
Why should I order a cake from you when my sister bakes?
Remember those useless snacks?
I bought them from provision shops on my street.
There are ten of them in the street and they sell the same snacks.
Same biscuits, same doughnuts, same ‘chin chin’.
When I buy from the first shop, the owner of the second shop frowns at me, obviously unhappy that I didn’t buy from her.
When I buy from the second shop, the owners of the first and third shops frown at me.
Instead of getting annoyed, the shop owners should have asked themselves:
Why should a customer buy from me instead of the next shop?
How do I ensure that customers buy from me most of the time?
Competition is a part of life. But in business, competition can destroy you financially.
You have to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Offer a unique product, customer experience or special price that your competitors can’t imitate.
Stand out from the competition.
Marketing is not easy, but it’s worth studying. You can get free marketing courses from the National Open University of Nigeria.
Go to nou.edu.ng/courses and type ‘marketing’ in the search bar.
You will be shown different topics on marketing. Click on a topic and download the courseware in pdf.
If you want a more intensive study of marketing, enrol in A Professional Africa’s Strategic Marketing Course.
One of our members, Urenna Onyewuchi, founded A Professional Africa to offer world-class online education to entrepreneurs and executives of African origin.
Get Better at Selling
Marketing is about identifying and satisfying your customers’ needs.
Selling, however, is converting your products and services into cash.
It’s about getting paid.
Marketing promotes your product while selling gives you money in exchange for your product.
When I started my web design company, I got an inquiry from the director of a well known psychiatric hospital in Aba.
He wanted to know if I could design a website similar to that of Life Crest Medical Services.
I said I could.
We met and discussed the web design project.
He accepted my proposal and asked me to send an invoice to his office. I sent it.
He never paid.
Later, I realized that my proposal hadn’t communicated two vital components of selling: trust and value.
People buy products and services from companies they trust.
If a customer hasn’t done business with you before, you have to earn her trust.
You have to prove that your business is reliable.
How do you do that?
By showcasing testimonials from satisfied customers.
By offering free samples of your products and services.
By displaying awards and endorsements from relevant organizations in your industry.
By acting like a professional.
A customer may not think twice about purchasing an item priced at N1000.
But she would hesitate before buying a product priced at one million naira.
She would ask herself, ‘Do I really need this?
Am I spending too much on it?
Can I get it at a cheaper price somewhere else?
Will I regret buying it?’
Those unspoken questions are the biggest obstacles in selling your products. And the only way to answer them is to show value.
The higher the price of your product, the more you need to earn your customers’ trust and demonstrate the value of your product.
In my proposal to the hospital director, I should have shown him how a website would increase the hospital’s revenue and attract clients who needed privacy.
I should have shown him how a website would train his staff and educate the public about the dangers of mental illness.
But I focused mostly on the technical details of creating and maintaining a website.
He wasn’t interested in web design, he just wanted to improve his hospital’s services.
I lost the contract because I didn’t demonstrate value.
Customers don’t want to be persuaded to buy your products, they want answers to their situations and concerns.
You have to show how your product would change their lives for the better.
Like marketing, selling is a fascinating subject.
There are countless books about selling.
The book I enjoyed the most was You Inc: The Art of Selling Yourself by Harry and Christine Beckwith.
Here are interesting facts:
- 45% of the global population own smartphones. That’s 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide.
- The average smartphone user checks her phone 58 times a day. And spends up to 3 hours each day on the phone.
The mobile phone is no longer a calling or messaging device.
It is a personal assistant for shopping, travelling, dining, exercising, learning and sharing ideas.
It is an indispensable part of modern life.
If you want to profit in this social distancing era, you have to reach your customers through their smartphones.
By building a home online:
- Register your business in an online directory like Google My Business, so customers can easily locate you.
- Set up a Facebook Page for your business. You may also set up accounts on WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media networks.
- Establish an online store for your products by creating your own website or getting an account with e-commerce companies like Shopify, Flutterwave Store and Ecwid.
- Engage with your customers online. Check their comments, complaints and suggestions. This will help you refine your marketing and selling strategy.
- Learn digital marketing, which is all about reaching customers through electronic channels such as the Internet, smartphones, social media and search engines.
You can get a free, certified digital marketing course from Google.
Tough times require not only tough measures but smart ones also.
With a combination of frugality, marketing, selling and digital technology, D.I.S.S Alumni members who are entrepreneurs and business owners can thrive in a COVID-19 ravaged economy.