This is a guest post by Damian Wolf.
Smart business owners have discovered that the best method of survival in today’s market is through customer retention rather than through finding new customers. It costs more to find, impress and encourage a new customer than it is to convince a current customer to use your product or service again, which is why your focus should be placed on customer satisfaction.
How many of your customers are repeat buyers? And how often do you lose customers because of your service methods? If you want to be successful, you need to show your customers how you’re better than your competition. Following these 7 tips will help you improve your customer satisfaction – if you apply them, your customer retention will increase.
1. Get To Know Your Market
To improve customer satisfaction, you have to be more knowledgeable about the target customers you want to serve and the market you want to enter. You already know that you have competitions, so in order to be successful, you need to treat your customers differently and to do that, you need to know them.
What do they value? What are their greatest problems? pains? challenges? what are their aspirations? The more information you have about your customers, the more equipped you are to treat them differently than your competitions do.
2. Give More Details
Customers like to know all the options they have when it comes to working with a company. Often times, customers don’t know everything you have to offer, so when you make a presentation, give them all the information – but, keep it short and simple. Don’t make your sentences longer than they need to be.
Also, don’t stop with just words, show something that proves what you’re saying – the conditions in which you make your product, the materials it’s made of, or just a simple test – if you’re selling perfumes, let your customers smell them.
3. Ask For Feedback
No matter how much information you’ve gathered about your customers, there’s still a whole lot on their mind that they might be withholding. So always ask for their feedback. Or what better way to gather more information than to hear from the horses’ mouth? You see, you have a long way until you reach perfection, so it’s important to always work on your products and the best help you can get is from your customers.
Dedicate your time to ask them what they would do differently or what changes they would like to see in the future. All you need is one email address that you’ll publicly display for complaints and suggestions or create a set of questionnaire that you email to them or ask them to answer online.
4. Respect Customer Privacy
As an entrepreneur, the pressure to make sales is ever present so you often find yourself chasing after customers. Just don’t be too aggressive with your follow-up, you’ll earn their respect if you give them space. Your newsletters should be sent often, but don’t choke them with too much info. If you think that some of your customers would like to receive daily emails, then make a special box on your website where people can check in and leave an address.
5. Treat Your Customers Well
This is the golden rule for everyone who’s into sales. Treat your customer with respect, but don’t be sleazy. It’s not a one-way street – if you make your customers happy they’ll make your bank account happier. It’s also recommended that you offer a refund. That way, your customers will buy products with less thinking because they’ll know that they can get their money back if they’re not satisfied with your product.
Also, there’s not a single person in the world that doesn’t like attention or gifts. Sending just a Thank You card to their e-mail or home address will make your customers fall in love with you. Samples or coupons will also do the trick of keeping your customers loyal. click here, to find more ways to treat your customer well.
6. Respond Promptly
Communication is very important when dealing with customers. If you decide to communicate with your customers using e-mail – which is definitely the fastest way – keep it opened every day for a few hours. Don’t neglect your Inbox, if you leave it to fill up for a week or two, your customers will think that you don’t care about them. And this is obviously not good for business. Here are a few useful tips about keeping your Inbox clean.
7. Make Use of Technology
Every business – whether large or small — is always looking for ways to improve customer satisfaction. You have a nifty way of answering the phone, you throw in freebies every once in a while and you always smile when customers walk through the door. Those are all fine, but have you considered using technology to improve customer satisfaction?
So always do regular updates and improvements for your business software to keep in touch with new trends and opportunities. A good example is Customer Relationship Management [CRM] softwares. They help you manage the whole interaction that a company has with its customer, whether it is sales or service-related.
About the Author:
Damian Wolf has been a writer and an online ethusiast since 2009. He mostly writes about business, finance and self improvement. You can follow him on twitter.
As more and more businesses are leveraging the internet to find, attract, convert and retain profitable customers, it’s now very important for your website to speak the language of your target customers.
Ever been to a website that left you wondering;
“What exactly do they do?”
“What exactly are they trying to say?”
“What exactly do they want me to do?”
“Why should I buy from them?”
Unfortunately, many websites make this kind of impression on visitors; no wonder very few people successfully convert visitors into customers.
The Customer Journey to Online Purchase
According to Google, in a recent study ‘The Customer Journey to Online Purchase’;
Marketing channels (such as email, display ads, paid search ads, social, and direct visits to your website) influence the customer at different points in the path to purchase. These channels are divided into two parts;
• Assisting channels: these channels build awareness, consideration, and intent earlier in the customer journey or “purchase funnel.”
• Decision channels: these channels act as the last point of contact prior to a purchaseGuess what? The direct visit to your website falls under the decision channels. As a matter of fact, your website is the last interaction channel your target customers will have before making the purchase!
Online, Content Rules!
Unlike your offline office, your website is your office online and neither you nor anyone of your staff will be present when your target customers come visiting, so you had better make a great first impression!
One of the ways to make a great first impression and hopefully a lasting one, is your content. Content constitutes the major part of your website. Besides the design architecture of your website, everything else is content; words, pictures, videos and audios.
Content is the way you tell the story about your business and how it can help your target customers. Online, content [words, pictures, videos and audios] all make up your sales force. And the greater part of your content are words, so literally, the words on your website will make or break your sale!
So in the end, it all boils down to one thing; are the words on your website focused on your target customers? Or are you busy talking about yourself and how great your company is or how long it has lived or how many branches it has, just as many others do?
The sole purpose of the content on your website is to help you make your target customers take the action you want him/her to take. It could be clicking on ‘buy now’, subscribing, calling, downloading, registering, etc.
Submit Your Website For CONTENT Review
During the month of October, I’ll be doing a free website content review for the first 10 entrepreneurs who submit their websites for review. To submit your website, use the comment section below this article.
And for you who doesn’t yet have a website, to help you leverage the power of the internet to find, attract, convert and retain profitable customers, we are doing an Independence promo to mark Nigeria’s 53rd anniversary.
Get an unusual web design for just $200 [N32,000]. This offer is only open to the first 10 entrepreneurs who orders from now till 7th of October, 2013. This normally costs $500 [N80,000], so you will be getting a whopping $300 [N42,000] discount!
What do you get?
- Domain name www.YourBrandName.com + email address[es]
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- Effective web content outline to help you craft compelling stories that sell your products/services
- As they say, seeing is believing, you can View our portfolio of unusual designs here.
Why should you BUY from us?
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In addition, the Naijapreneur site was already working a model like I wanted. And Tito was passionate about the cause of my website, and it mattered to me to have someone who believed in what I was doing. That way, it didn’t feel like someone was just helping me to develop a site. It was more like I had a partner that knew where I wanted to go and decided to take the journey with me.
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Since publishing my first e-Commerce post and also sharing the case study of how I made close to a million in sales within 3months, it’s surprisingly become a major highlight of naijapreneur.
I have been contacted by several naijapreneur readers from all corners of the world seeking for necessary guidance on how to go about starting their own e-Commerce business.
I have been contacted by two major media houses in Nigeria, a radio and Newspaper for an exclusive interview.
I have been contacted by a MBA student from the University of Leeds who needed more insights about the e-Commerce trend in Nigeria. And finally, the number of search engine traffic to naijapreneur related to e-Commerce has also increased.
These are just a few of the feedbacks I have gotten, so in this unusual article, I will be answering some frequently asked questions about e-Commerce that can help you get started on the right path.
8 FAQs About Selling Online
The following questions were asked during an interview with a major Newspaper in Nigeria and I have decided to make this available to you. In case there are more questions you need me to answer, I strongly suggest you use the comment section at the end of the post to ask such question or questions and I promise to answer them in a follow-up post.
(1) Who can sell online?
To really answer this question, I think the first question should be; “what can be sold online?” or “what can one sell online?” Either of these questions will help to answer the “who can sell online?” question.
You can sell either a service or a product online.
So if you provide any form of services to either consumers or companies, you are potentially qualified to sell online. And if you are a retailer or trader who buys and sells physical goods, you are also potentially qualified to sell online.
In other words, anyone who’s got anything of value [product/service] to offer can potentially sell online. The keyword here being ‘potentially’ because selling online is much more than having products/services to sell, it requires some basic skills which can only be acquired through training.
Using my business as a case study, I sell both products and services online. I sell my business development and internet marketing consulting services online and I also sell products such as; smart phones, tablets and shoes online through the fastest growing e-Commerce platform in Nigeria, Kaymu. I can do all these because I understand the dynamics of both models and have acquired the relevant skills through training.
(2) What is the start-up cost for selling online?
The startup cost of selling online is quite small compared to selling offline. There are two approaches or models to selling online;
- Creating your own e-Commerce site, or
- Selling through other e-Commerce platforms, for example Kaymu
Your initial startup cost will be greatly influenced by the model you choose and the nature of what you sell online; product or service.
For example, if you choose to sell online through your own e-Commerce platform, the basic startup costs are;
- Website design
- Internet access
- Cost of providing service/product
And if you choose to sell online through other e-Commerce platforms, the basic startup costs are;
- Internet access
- Cost of providing service/product
(3) What are the necessary things needed to sell online?
I think the answers provided above to question 2 and 3 should clearly suffice. However, let me summarize the necessary things needed to sell online;
- Value proposition – this can be a product/service or a combination of both
- e-Commerce platform – this can be your own website or selling through other websites
- Internet access – you can acquire your own internet modem or use a cybercafé
- e-Marketing skills – you can acquire them through training or simply hire an online marketing consultant to do the job
(4) Where can one get it and how much does it cost?
Not to sound biased in anyway, my company provides two out of the four requirements mentioned above through our integrated internet marketing solution for smart businesses called Differentiate Online.
We can help you meet these two necessary things needed to sell online;
- Develop your own e-Commerce platform or advice you on the most suitable alternatives to use
- Provide relevant e-Marketing training or strategic online marketing consulting services
There are no fixed costs for either of these services, because like I have clearly mentioned above, the dynamics of selling online varies depending on the nature of business and the e-commerce model you settle for. The cost can only be estimated after a thorough evaluation of your unique business. So kindly contact us for a free consultation.
(5) How can one learn how to sell online?
To learn how to sell online, there are basically two approaches;
- Trial and error – this involves teaching yourself without the guidance of an expert, coach or mentor. Using this approach takes a lot of time, effort and wasted money.
- Training – this involves acquiring relevant online marketing skills through the teaching of an expert, coach or mentor. Using this approach saves you time, effort and money.
(6) What is the process of selling online?
The process of selling online, again depends on the model and nature of business you are involved in. There’s really no hard and fast rule or one-size-fits-all process to selling online. You have to evaluate the uniqueness of your own business and the peculiarities of your own situation through the guidance of an expert, coach or mentor. Only then, can the most suitable process be developed for you.
Do not be deceived, selling online is all about online marketing and there can be no form of marketing without a defined strategy. The process of selling online can only be defined from your online marketing strategy!
(7) What percentage of profit can I make on one sale online?
As you must have realized from my previous answers above, there are many factors to consider when it comes to selling online and because of these factors, most of which are peculiar to different businesses, the percentage of profit on one sale online is not fixed. It varies.
But having said that, here’s the very interesting part; the percentage of profit you can make from one sale online can be significantly higher than what you would make from the same sale offline. Why? Because online, the cost of providing the product/service is significantly lower than the cost of providing it offline.
So the percentage of profit you can make from one sale online, ultimately lies in your hand!
(8) How do I build my reputation in selling online and how do I market my goods?
Again, this question is dependent on those factors I have already mentioned above. The way you would market a product is not the same way you would market a service. There are certain dynamics that must be considered while developing your online marketing strategy.
Regarding brand reputation building, the most critical factor that will determine how successful your online reputation will be is credibility. Without it, there is no way you will make any sale online. Before anyone will buy from you online, they need to know, like and trust you.
On the internet, sales are not made in an instant; sales are made by following-up on leads and getting them to know, like and trust your brand. This is why you need an effective follow-up system using content marketing.
Content Marketing means creating and sharing VALUABLE free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.
Content marketing is how you build your brand reputation online. It’s the engine that drives your entire online marketing strategy!
Over to you
I was asked these 8 questions by an interviewer, so if there are any other questions you need answers to, kindly use the comment section below to ask me any question at all relating to e-Commerce.
See you in the comments!
The second most read and search engine traffic generated article on naijapreneur.com is about branding. What does this tell you?
Entrepreneurs care about branding and want to learn more about branding. As a matter of fact, the #1 question in their mind would be this; how are brands created?
So in this unusual article, I want to delve into the whole nitty gritty of creating a brand. I will go behind the scenes to lay out both the strategies and the order in which they are to be adopted.
This is certainly one unusual article you don’t ever want to miss out on!
How Are Brands Created?
Brands are created in the mind of the target customer. Brands don’t reside in products or services; they reside in the prospect’s mind. Brands are more than products or services, brands are not tangible things you hold. Brands are the feelings, emotions, perceptions, ideas, values and benefits associated with a particular product or service.
In other words, your brand is how your target customers perceive the products or services you offer. Brands are the intangible things that power the tangible things –products/services!
The Mind Of The Customer, The Battle Ground Of Brands
The greatest brands in the world exist inside the mind of the target customer. Every time you come in contact with a particular product/service, the brand is what’s going on in your mind regarding that particular product or service.
So when you hold a bottle of coke; the liquid content is the product you are consuming, but the brand is the whole feeling, the meaning, and the emotions you’ve attached to drinking coca-cola.
And when you hold an iPad, iPod, or iPhone; the physical hardware is the product you purchased, but the brand is the invisible things that resonate within you as you are using the product.
So if taking coke makes you feel refreshed, then refreshment is one of the elements that make coca-cola a brand in your mind.
And if using an iPhone, iPad or Mac makes you feel special, then exclusivity is one of the elements that make Apple products a brand in your mind.
This means, a brand is only created when a product/service represents something positive or negative in the mind of a customer. In other words, the mind of the customer is the battle ground of brands. It doesn’t matter what your product/service represents; good or bad, you are a brand once you find your way into the customer’s mind.
So if you represent something positive inside the prospect’s mind, then you are one step closer to making the sale. But if you represent something negative inside the prospect’s mind, then you can kiss the sale goodbye. The good part is that you get to decide what you want to be in the customer’s mind. Good or bad, positive or negative; the choice is ultimately yours!
Brand Positioning: How Much Space Do You Occupy In The Customer’s Mind?
To create a powerful brand, you must begin from the prospect’s mind. Your brand is only as powerful as the position you occupy in the customer’s mind.
According to Al Ries and Jack Trout, the pioneers of the positioning concept; to be able to make sense of all the competing products/services constantly being thrown at them, customers have subconsciously created an internal evaluation system that helps them decide which product/service to buy. This internal evaluation system is how brands are created.
You can call yourself whatever name you like, you can give yourself whatever title you want, you can make whatever claims you desire. To the target customers, you are only as good as the position you occupy in their mind, period.
And therein lies the greatest marketing challenge for entrepreneurs; it’s not what you say, it’s not what you claim, it’s ALL about what the prospect believes. The singular most important element that has the power to create brands in the mind of the customer is credibility. And words alone doesn’t build credibility, actions do.
I have always emphasized this; sales is not made in an instant. Why? Because you cannot force your way into the customer’s mind. The journey into the customer’s mind is a gradual one. You are what they feel or think you are; you are not what you say you are. If there’s nothing believable [credible] about you, then you’ve automatically occupied a negative position in their mind.
To create a brand, you need to OWN a positive position in the mind of the target customer. To OWN a positive position in the mind of the target customer means to create products/services that represent something specific. Your credibility lies in being specific; don’t try to be everything to everyone, and don’t try to be plenty things either.
The secret of brand positioning is focus!
Branding: How To CREDIBLY Get Into The Customer’s Mind
The keyword here is credibly, without it, you are just another product/service in the market. It’s the element of credibility that confers on your product/service the positive position it needs to become a brand in the customer’s mind.
So the big question is how do you create credibility for your products/services?
1. Be The First in a New Product/Service Category
In their book, ‘The origin of brands’ Al Ries and his daughter, Laura Ries stated that the best way to credibly create a brand in the mind of the customer is to establish a new category for your products/services.
But what does this mean?
In the mind of the customer, all products/services are grouped into different categories based on their functionality and similarities. For example; anything that has wheels and can be driven is an automobile. So in a customer’s mind; a car, bus, tractor, lorry, and all other forms belong to the automobile category. Meaning, fundamentally, they all have wheels and can be driven.
To create a brand credibly in the mind of the target customers, smart automobile manufacturers started diverging into other sub-categories under the broad automobile category.
Here’s an example;
- Volvo – the first automobile manufacturer to create the ‘safe automobile’ sub-category. So in the customer’s mind, Volvo is a brand because it occupies the ‘safe automobile’ position in comparison to other cars under the broad automobile category. When customers see any automobile made by Volvo, the brand element of safety is what resonates in their mind and that’s how Volvo achieved credibility in the market as the safest automobile money can buy.
- Likewise, in the drink broad category; we have smart companies like Coca-Cola that pioneered the first Cola-drink sub-category and we have Pepsi Cola occupying the second position. We have 7Up that pioneered the first un-cola drink sub-category, closely followed by Mountain Dew. We have Red Bull that pioneered the first energy drink sub-category, closely followed by Power Horse in the second position.
- Also, coming to the computer industry, in the PC broad category; we have smart companies like Dell that pioneered the first custom-made PC sub-category. We have Apple that pioneered the All-in-one PC sub-category with the launch of their Macintosh brand.
I can go on and on with real life examples, but I’m sure you are beginning to get the whole idea of creating a new product/service category. The bottom-line is this; customers only remember the first or second brand in every category, so always strive to be the first or the second with your product/service.
You don’t have to necessarily invent something totally new, but if you can, it’s all better for you. But if you can’t, the main point is to find an angle, a differentiating idea that will position your product/service as the pioneer of a new category.
Take the case of Fedex for example in the Postal delivery category; they simply created a credible brand in the mind of the customer by pioneering the overnight delivery sub-category. To the target customers, Fedex is the brand that represents overnight delivery in comparison to all other postal delivery companies in that category.
They were able to secure a credible position in the mind of the target customers because they came up with something NEW that differentiated them from the rest of the pack.
The conclusion, don’t follow the market, create your own market!
2. Create A Powerful Brand Name
The second strategy for creating a brand credibly is your brand name. Your brand name is more than just a word. While the brand name is not the brand itself, it is a core signal that your target customers directly equate to the brand.
The name provides tangibility to an otherwise intangible concept by allowing your audience to identify and differentiate your brand from others by capturing and communicating your brand’s promise.
I have previously written an unusual article that covers this aspect in details; if you haven’t read it yet, click here to read it.
However, there’s one little fact I didn’t cover there that is worth mentioning; different brand names for different products/ service. Avoid brand name extensions such as using adding your company name to every new product/service name.
For example; imagine Apple creating a new music player and deciding to call it Apple music player rather than iTunes or their tablet and calling it Apple tab rather than iPad.
3. Don’t Launch Your Product/Service With Advertisement
The third strategy for credibly creating a brand in the mind of the customer is NOT launching your product/service with advertising.
Here’s the long and short reason why; no one believes an ad!
In their book, ‘The fall of advertisement and the rise of PR’, Al Ries and his daughter Laura Ries state that the quickest way for your product/service to lose credibility in the market is to launch with advertisement. Advertisement has lost its power to convey credibility. Advertisement is no longer credible.
The only function of advertisement is to maintain a brand that has already been credibly created through PR. In other words, advertisement shouldn’t be your first point of call when launching a new product/service, PR should come first.
Why is it so crucial to follow this order?
The advertisement model according to Seth Godin follows the interruption marketing strategy; whereby companies interrupt customers with ads they didn’t willingly solicit for. And in doing so, customers rather than accepting these ads have begun to resent them. In other words, customers are turning deaf ears to advertisement.
The opposite approach is the permission marketing strategy; whereby companies inform customers through third party media about the existence and benefits of their products/services. And in doing so, customers rather than resent them begin to embrace them because of the format in which the message came. This is what is known as PR –Public Relations or publicity for short.
The objective of PR is to tell stories that inform/empower the target customers about your products/services. People permit PR stories because they want to learn more about your company, product or service unlike advertisement which is perceived as a sales pitch. People permit stories but resent ads.
When you buy a newspaper or magazine, even though 70% of the contents are advertisement, that wouldn’t still make you read the ads. Why? Because you didn’t buy the newspaper or magazine to read ads, you bought it to read news and articles. So you avoid ads because they interrupt your reading and allow articles or news because they carry information you care about.
This singular difference is what makes advertisement such a losing strategy in building a new brand, because people are no longer paying attention to ads. Now imagine if your brand story is featured as one of the articles or news in the paper or magazine? Wouldn’t it receive more attention than if it were an ad?
PR as a brand building strategy works to create credibility for your products/services because of the power of third party endorsement. People are influenced by the stories they read in the media and the word-of-mouth references they get from family and friends. So if your product/service makes the press for something specific and positive, your credibility starts to build in the mind of your target customers.
If you are news worthy, then there must be something special about your product/service that they the customers mustn’t miss out on. Now you have their attention and can continue to build on that with more PR stories in the right media they trust and respect. As long as these media keep giving you press, the credibility they have for these media will start to rob off on your product/service.
Over to you
What’s been your own approach before now to brand creation?
How has reading this unusual article helped to shed more light on brand creation? What key ideas or lessons are you taking away as a result of reading this post?
This is a community, and as a community we learn from our collective experiences and knowledge, so please drop your feedback and reactions in the comments section below. I am looking forward to it and so are many others!
Then in January 2013, I came across Kaymu.com.ng while it was still in its early stage trying to break her way into the Nigerian e-Commerce terrain.
It didn’t take me long to see the market potentials of such a platform where sellers can be connected to over 60 million Nigerians online.
I instantly became a kaymu evangelist. This is partly due to my passion for entrepreneurship development in Nigeria and my successful experience with e-Marketing.
How It Began!
Being an entrepreneurial blogger and coach, I follow up startups both in Nigeria and globally to see how I can help spread the word about their new business venture through unusual interviews with the founders, and that’s how I was introduced to Lukas Zels, the MD of Kaymu.
And as I’ve come to be known for, I asked my typical ‘big picture’ question;
“what’s the bigger purpose for kaymu in Nigeria beyond the obvious –naira and kobo?”
And he replied;
“to empower Nigerians through eCommerce by building the safest and easy to use online marketplace community where genuine buying and selling can take place.”
As it turned out, the meeting ended with me becoming the official brand evangelist [PR consultant] for kaymu. My task was pretty simple; put kaymu to test and share your experience with the world.
My 1st Month Selling Online
I own a boutique business where I sell both male and female clothing and shoes. So I decided to create my own shop online to test run kaymu and listed the shoes on the platform, this was in February. Oh and if you are wondering why I listed only shoes and left out the clothes? Well, shoes are far easier to snap than clothes. Before the month ended, I was able to sell one shoe despite 5 orders, only one buyer followed through to pickup and paid cash –N3000. This wasn’t so bad since Kaymu opened to the public in February.
My 2nd Month Selling Online
Towards the end of February, I decided to expand my shop on kaymu to sell in another promising category other than fashion –phones and tablets. Since I didn’t sell phones and tablets, this was made possible by one of my e-Marketing clients who proposed a partnership. I help sell their phones and tablets online through kaymu and earn commissions on every sale.
So because of this collaboration, in March I sold one Blackberry Z10, an iPad4 and a Tommy Hilfiger shoe for a total of N223,000. Not bad huh?
My 3rd Month Selling Online
April was the best month ever, all of the marketing initiatives where falling into place and people were becoming more confident in the brand due to the number of successful deliveries and safe transactions recorded. So in April, I sold 7 Smart phones and 5 male shoes for a total of N613,547!
February – N3000
March – N223,000
April – N613,547
Total = N839,547
Why It Pays To Sell Online
- Besides the number one obvious fact that you get to reach a whole lot more people through an online shop, the most significant reason for me is the 24hrs 7days a week operational nature of an online shop. There’s practically no closing time online, you can be making sales while you sleep!
- Reducing overhead costs is one other reason why selling online is so super smart. You don’t have to bother about shop space, on the internet there’s unlimited shelf space. The amount of items you can sell is unlimited. As you just saw me explain, I expanded from just selling male shoes to selling smart phones and tablets and it didn’t cost me additional rent!
- And my personal favorite, growing your brand has never been easier. Online you connect with millions of people you would never have been able to sell to offline. And the bonus part, they become your customers as well not just kaymu’s customers because they buy from you directly not from kaymu.
- Safe transactions is another advantage you get by selling on kaymu. Unlike other free classified sites, kaymu is much more than a free classified site. It is an actual e-Shopping mall where you can buy from so many trusted retailers who have physical shops offline. On Kaymu, you are buying from real businesses not just some random individual who has something to dispose.
Over to you
You’ve read my story and as many naijapreneur readers have come to know me for, I hardly share what I haven’t personally applied. My own approach to marketing is simple; “don’t tell people what you will do, show them what you’ve done. Why? Because results sell faster than words!”
If this isn’t sufficient prove that Nigeria is in the early days of a heavy eCommerce boom, then you can choose to ignore this article. But if you are among the few wise ones, you will get in now while many are still contemplating and begin to reap the rewards of selling online. Here’s an invitation, click here to start!
If you need help getting started with e-Commerce, send me an email with the subject “e-Commerce coaching”. I will be putting together a workshop very soon that will help crack the e-Commerce code and only the first 20 people who send me this email will get a 20% discount on the workshop fee!
In a competitive marketplace, up-to-date information can make the difference between keeping pace, getting ahead, or being left behind. Business is a game and only the team with the best players wins. To win, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses as well as that of your competition. Knowledge of thyself alone is no longer sufficient to remain competitive.
“If you are ignorant of both your enemy and yourself, then you are a fool and certain to be defeated in every battle.”
No matter how much you think you know about your business, no matter how much experience you have in your chosen field, without a clear understanding of the competitions in the market, you might as well be driving blind.
Big companies spend thousands of dollars to conduct competitive market analysis, but fortunately for those of you on a tight budget, you can do quite a bit of this yourself, without spending much at all.
This unusual article is about how you can effectively gather information about your competition and how to use that information to beat the competition.
Let’s get started!
What Is Competitive Intelligence?
Competitive Intelligence is the purposeful and coordinated monitoring of your competitor(s), wherever and whoever they may be, within a specific marketplace… Your “competitors” are those firms which you consider rivals in business, and with whom you compete for market share. Competitive Intelligence also has to do with determining what your business rivals WILL DO before they do it. Strategically, to gain foreknowledge of your competitor’s plans and to plan your business strategy to counter their plans.
The goal of a competitor analysis is to develop a profile of the nature of strategy changes each competitor might make, each competitor’s possible response to the range of likely strategic moves other firms could make, and each competitor’s likely reaction to industry changes and environmental shifts that might take place. Competitive intelligence should have a single-minded objective –to develop the strategies and tactics necessary to transfer market share profitably and consistently from specific competitors to your company.
Competitive intelligence is the core of competitive strategy!
Have A Goal In Mind: What Do You Want To Know?
The very first step in carrying out an effective competitive analysis or research on your competition is to have an objective in mind; what exactly do you want to know? It’s already been stated above that the key purpose of competitive intelligence is to give you sufficient knowledge about the activities of your competitions in order to make better strategic decisions and actions that will give you a competitive edge in the market.
It’s totally unwise to start out without any aim in mind or without any specific information to sought for, so here are some of the key things you need to learn about your competition:
Who are the major competitors in the market?
What’s their current share of the market you’ve identified?
Have there been any significant changes in the market share each competitor has had over the past five to ten years [i.e. who’s moving up and who’s moving down]?
Which of your competitors address which segments and which of them are strongest in those segments?
What are your competitors’ strategies for reaching your target market, as well as any segments on which they focus?
Now that you know the types of questions for which you’re seeking answers [and there are many more, but these should get you started], it’s time to actually do the competitive research and to do that, there are two major approaches;
- Researching the competition online
- Researching the competition offline
How To Research Your Competitions Online
Traditionally, finding out about competitor activity might have been a lengthy and costly process. But now, with the help of the internet, you can easily access lots of useful information about your competition. Here are some ways to get started in being your own competitive intelligence gatherer on the Web and it won’t cost anything, but time.
1. Google It:
Well it’s true what they say; there’s hardly anything online that Google doesn’t know about, including information about your competitions. The very first step to take while conducting a research about your competition online is to Google them.
A simple search about your competition or major players in your industry can reveal a lot about their overall corporate strategy, their next product launch, their recent hiring and even customer complaints and reviews. All these are valuable information that can give you an added advantage while making strategic decisions and planning strategic competitive actions.
Besides using the search feature of Google, there are other useful tools from Google that can provide more information about your competitions such as;
- Google Alerts: allows users to set up alerts by keywords and phrases that trigger an e-mail notification and link every time that word or phrase pops up on a site, blog, or news story — depending on how the alert is configured. A business primarily concerned about three top competitors, for example, might set up a Google alert on all three companies and their top executives monitoring every time they get a mention online. Remember to also set up alerts for your own company so you can monitor what’s being said about you, and keep track of your direct and indirect competitors.
- Google Trends: This is a great tool for keeping track of what’s hot and what’s not in your industry. By using this tool, you can keep track of the major trends in your industry and most especially take note of the trendsetters; these are your competitions who are making things happen.
2. Use Industry Specific Sites:
While Google is a good place to start your research about competitions, it might not provide certain insider information. This is when using industry specific sites comes in handy; these are sites that gather relevant information about companies from trusted sources such as Corporate Affairs Commission in Nigeria, Companies House in the UK and in the USA, the local, state or federal government agencies.
In Nigeria, the Corporate Affairs Commission is a good starting point. For UK, visiting industry specific sites such as Duedil where you can access companies house data and search for information on millions of businesses is something to bear in mind. And for the US, visiting the websites of relevant local, state and federal agencies would help.
3. Use Social Media:
Given how companies are increasingly using social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as marketing outlets these days, you might be able to pick up interesting facts about your competition—and maybe even your own company—just by tuning in. Follow all your competitions on twitter, like their Facebook fan pages, connect with their key people on LinkedIn and subscribe to the YouTube channels!
Even if your competition isn’t social media savvy, it’s a good bet that they produce newsletters—either e-mail or print varieties—that you can sign up for to get the latest and greatest news and updates on things like new products or services they are introducing and what events they might be attending.
4. Look At Keywords:
Over 80% of all online transactions begin with a keyword search. To compete, you need to target all the relevant keywords. Keywords are the specific terms or phrases people entered into search engines to get to your website or your competitor’s website. In order to be as visible as your competition on major search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. you need to find out what keywords they are using to rank well on search engines and equally start using them.
One way of doing this is to simply look at the code of their websites. Simply go to the site and click on “View” at the top of the browser, then “Source” or “Page Source” depending on your browser. A page of html code will pop up and the keywords will be buried in the code near the top of the page. If you can’t do this, talk to your web designer and if they can’t also help, then talk to us. Our differentiate online internet marketing services covers all these.
5. Monitor Traffic and Back links:
Traffic are the number of visitors that come to your office online –website. And back links are other websites that have your website or a page of your website on their own website. They are also known as external links. By doing this, they help improve the number of visitors that come to your website from their website.
Monitoring the number of visitors and the sources [back links] from which these visitors come to your competitor’s websites gives you a clue into potential websites that you also need to have your websites or a page of your website on. Since they are sending your competitions traffic, there is also a likelihood that they will also send you traffic if you can get your website listed or mentioned there.
For monitoring traffic, this information is easy to track on such free sites as Alexa.com and Quantcast.com. And for monitoring back links, there are tools in Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools that let you track the domains linking to your site. Both of these tools are free and give you a great deal of information that you can use to maximize your site’s presence on the web. You can also use back link watch, it is equally free.
6. Scan Review Sites:
A review site is a website on which reviews can be posted about people, businesses, products, or services. A customer review is a review or feedback about a product or service made by a customer who has purchased the product or service. These are done using review sites such as; Google places for business, Yelp, Yahoo! Local listings, CitySearch, MerchantCircle, InsiderPages, Angie’s List and many others.
Using these review sites like can help reveal certain information about your competition, especially your local competitions and the complaints or praises from their customers. The good thing about scanning review sites is the first hand customer information they provide about your competitions; their strengths and weaknesses are easily at your disposal and you can then respond accordingly with a superior competitive strategy.
7. Get Professional Help:
All these can be very overwhelming especially for businesses that are not very internet savvy. This is where hiring the services of a professional internet marketing company comes in handy. They can help you strip your competitions naked and provide you with detailed report that will help you stay ahead of the competitions.
Like I mentioned above, we can help you out through our differentiate online internet marketing services for smart businesses. Give us a call today!
How To Research Your Competitions Offline
Here are additional ways to research the competition using other offline sources;
8. Ask Your Customers:
When it comes to identifying sources of information about your competition, don’t skip over the obvious ones—like your customers. Speaking to customers is one of the best [and cheapest] ways of gathering real information on competitors. Whenever you win a new customer, find out who they used before, and why they switched to you [i.e. the reason they were dissatisfied with their previous supplier].
Do the same when you lose a customer; identify what they preferred about your competitor. If you gather enough of these stories you’ll get a very clear idea on what competitors are offering that customers view as preferable. You can then adjust your own offering to beat that of the competitor.
9. Attending Industry Trade Shows And Conferences:
Attending industry trade shows and conferences—as well as joining industry associations—can be a great way to learn about who your competitors are and what they’re offering.
10. Read Industry Journals/Publications:
Also subscribing to and reading relevant industry journals/publications can also reveal useful information about your competitions. The closer and more connected you are to industry updates through these publications will give you sufficient insights about the movers and shakers in your industry. And when you do, you can put them on your competitive research radar!
11. Keep An Eye On Their Staff:
Another strategy is to hire employees from competing firms, especially sales people. No one knows more about the inside of your competition’s business than the employees. Find out all that you can about how they operate, and more importantly, what’s the future like for them?
Where are they taking their business? What markets are they venturing into? How are they leveraging innovation to cut costs and advance productivity? Where is the highest level of dissatisfaction with their products or services?
You can also learn something by studying the kinds of jobs your competitors are looking to fill. For example, if a company is hiring a web programmer, they will include information about exactly what technologies the candidates need to know, which tells you what they use.
Also look at what positions they are hiring; if they’re looking for a patent attorney, they could be working on some big new inventions. If they’re hiring for several HR, they may be preparing to expand overall.
Generally, monitoring the hiring needs of your competitions gives you a clue about the direction the company is heading and a glimpse of what their future would look like in terms of product launch and innovations.
12. Become A Mystery Shopper At Your Competitions:
Mystery shopping or a mystery consumer is a tool used externally by market research companies, watchdog organizations, or internally by companies themselves to measure quality of service, or compliance with regulation, or to gather specific information about products and services. The mystery consumer’s specific identity and purpose is generally not known by the establishment being evaluated.
Mystery shoppers perform specific tasks such as purchasing a product, asking questions, registering complaints or behaving in a certain way, and then provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences. This can also be used to gather information about your competitions by sending people to buy from your competition or make enquiries about their products/services.
Keeping an eye on your competitions is a sound business strategy that will not only help you make better strategic decisions and actions, but will also help you stay ahead of the competition. Start with the steps discussed above and come up with other creative, but legal means of gathering more information about your competitions in business.
What other steps or means have you used to tap into useful information about your competitions in business?
Join the conversation, drop your comments below. Thanks!