Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Consumers Offline and Online

How you engage with your consumers offline and online determines your business success in any industry. You might find that there are over 50 companies offering the same thing competing for one client's attention - ultimately the unique one wins. It is not as easy as it might sound, people engage with people, not businesses. Yes, people not businesses. We can discuss the uniqueness of your services or products the whole day, however, it eventually boils down to your approach in selling the supposed uniqueness. Often if your products or services fail to solve the problems I encounter in my business, your chances of us transacting are zero. Before you give up, hold on!

Most markets are saturated thus making it difficult for someone lacking innovative ways of engaging people who buy from them to access the bigger portion of the market. Unfortunately, that is our reality now as business people. Why is the current regular customer so difficult to attract? I do not have all the answers but I do know how it feels to spend often limited budgets on various platforms to lure them. It hurts big time.

Those with money or powers lately spend their time engaging with what mirrors their lifestyles not necessarily what they see. If you are serious about growing your sales margins, for starters look at targeting them per region/location. Avoid being all over the place.

Billboard Advert in Giyani

One day while shopping in a Limpopo smalltown Giyani, I came across an outdoor advert which begged for my attention. You can tell that a lot of work went into making the advert resonate with the supposed consumer just by looking at the design only (Sidenote: design alone is not enough). Most outdoor adverts are created to capture the attention of the supposed consumer, that is why you would often see people buying things they don't necessarily need, a behaviour encouraged by adverts in all mediums. Billboards adverts are presumably fading out as discussed in length on various platforms worldwide. Not surprising as currently digital advertising is leading the pack when it comes to getting the brand out there. Besides, digital advertising results are often easier to measure as compared to billboards advertising. This does not mean billboards adverts are not effective. It takes a lot to make it work for you. It is not something you do just because you have resources to do it. Back to the billboard advert in Giyani. So, it was for one of the most nationally used household product, beautifully designed and copywritten. However, lacked valid local marketing elements.

The thing is with adverts, never assume. Where possible, carry out the necessary research to avoid missing the mark. That billboard advert in my view did not resonate with the supposed consumer. And here's why:

1. The said product is mostly purchased by mostly household-running market (by a large margin). This market is made up of XiTsonga and Khelobedu languages. They should have tried copywriting it in any of these two languages or have both were budget permits. English does not always work for this kind of a product in Giyani.

2. Use local, well-known personalities especially from soapies or regional midday radio programmes. Small towns tend to support their own or someone they look up to or admire. (Hint: the styling and delivery from the personality chosen must marry the market's local lifestyle or surroundings).

3. If they researched better, they would have learned about other important elements about their product, like what do they also use it for etc. Some household uses one household product for different things - different from one city to another most of the time.

If you were planning to roll out a campaign or a simple advert in Giyani, make sure you study the local market fully.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

2006-2007: The Lion Emerges

Just a day before 2006, my late sister insisted we had a mini braai/party for when she came home for a visit just to congratulate me on passing my matric and for being the first in the family to do so. She bought me a cake from Shoprite – my first ever cake since I was born. Don’t be shocked, in my house no one was ever bought a cake. It never really occurred to me that it was important. Mom didn’t see cakes important and quite frankly I didn’t either. Maybe if there was someone I knew who was bought a cake on special occasions maybe I would have wanted the same too but there was no one – I mean none. I am referring to those close to me, not the whole village. As small as the celebratory braai/party was, it meant a lot to me. My own moment, it felt good! My late sister was indeed a special person. I miss her all the time.

My mom had her own ideas when I told her what I wanted to do with my life from there on. Honestly, I was convinced she thought there was some sort of craziness in me. Again she wanted to protect me but this time forgetting her little son now had opinions. After numerous failed attempt convincing my mother that I too wanted to leave for Gauteng, she flat refused. I wanted to study in Gauteng so bad only to be told I cannot. I knew my mother was in no position to afford varsity fees, but something in me thought she will make a plan. Now thinking about it, that was some lame ass selfish thought.

I had mentioned to her the financial aid available one can apply to help pay for studies. However, from her facial expression, this idea sickened her to some degree. There was a lady who offered her room in Gauteng so we can stay while sorting out financial aid applications and enrolments issues. This meant one needed few R100 notes to make this a reality. Unfortunately, it did not happen. I think I lacked a better way of explaining things to my mom properly without being defensive and na├»ve. I was angry that she was not willing to let me go – that clouded my explanatory skills that day.

It wasn’t meant to be I guess as few days later I was told to pack my bags as I would be living with my brother until they figure something out. So that is how I ended up in Tembisa. A months or so later, they instructed me to prepare myself for driving school which they will pay for. Some kids would be happy for this amazing opportunity, not me. The thought of getting a driver’s license and expected to find any job needing that really depressed me. I seriously thought my life was over. Anyway, I went with the idea not knowing where it will eventually lead me.

The instructor at the driving school was a very skilled guy when it came to driving. He also knew how to deal with learner drivers. I really enjoyed his company and professional driving advice. One day while waiting for my lesson scheduled after few fellow learner drivers, I decided to walk around. The practice sessions were carried out in Midrand by the way. On this walkabout, I ran into few students. My heart started racing, I literally wanted to cry. Why am I not with them?

I followed them as it was obvious that they were on their way to class. I realized it was fruitless following them later as they ended up at a fast food restaurant. I was so pissed. Feeling down, I walked like I someone just took half of my salary without my permission. As I walked passed this other shop, I saw a college sign clearly marked. Tjees! I was like a kid in a candy shop. I walked hurriedly in that direction until a door before me which I figured was the entrance. Through the closed door, I could see a while tall lady sitting at the reception answering phones. It turned she saw me too. She pressed something on her desk as I heard a noise clearly at the door where I was standing confused. I finally figured how to open the door.

There was a beautiful lady with a bright smile on her face. Her warm reception assured me that I was at the right place. While enquiring about a qualification I was interested in, I told her there was no way I would be able to afford anything there. I followed with reasons. It turned out I was at the right place, at the right time. I was offered a bursary with just one or two terms and conditions. I was so happy! After few talks with my late sister and my mother, they allowed me to enroll.

The college life was challenging as always but being me, I adjusted and kicked some ass. I was not there to play. Towards my last months at the college, I heard disturbing rumors - my then girlfriend was allegedly pregnant. I went into a frenzy, not for long, though. I soon accepted and my son Junior was born. At 19, I was someone’s father. It was scary. Amidst so many challenges, we pulled through. I will forever be grateful to everyone who helped with that scary situation.