Communication tactics to attract, retain customers

Ms Cerinah Tugume, the founder of Serene Beauty, works on a customer at her bridal salon in Kampala. Good communication attracts the right customers and financiers to your business. PHOTO | ERONIE KAMUKAMA

Serene Beauty is 12 years old this August. Founded by Cerinah Tugume, the make-up, bridal business was a side business to her 9am to 5pm job.

Bridal styling and make up was a job she did once in a while for friends and family.
That all changed when she started communicating and displaying her works on social media.

Customer growth was exponential. She started getting many clients. It was overwhelming. She could not work on all of them.

Informally interviewing some of her clients, Tugume found out that 95 per cent of them got to know Serene Beauty from social media.

But between juggling her professional job and failing to post her works on social media, she saw a reduction in demand.

It was at that point that she knew the role of social media communication to her business.

“It gives you the ability to build your reputation and that of the company. Building your reputation is important to help build a brand that can stand the test of time,” she says.

Communication also helps a company influence what stakeholders think about it.

“If you put your work out there, talk about it and promote it, people have different tastes and preferences. Someone might not prefer your style and naturally criticise it.
You need to know what you are doing such that you are able to sort through useful and useless feedback,” she urges businesses during a webinar organised by Ms Primrose Kiberu, founder and chief executive officer Prim&King corporate communication and advisory.

Covid-19 pressed the fast forward button on technology disruption which was already underway, albeit slow.

According to Ms Tugume, the lockdown created an opportunity for businesses to consolidate and clarify their message to customers.

“You need to clarify who your public is and why are you trying to talk them. How will they grow your business? You need to also know where you find your target audience and what media they consume,” she says.

Fear of being known
But many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) fear communication.

It is no secret that SMEs are notorious for not keeping proper records and attempting to evade taxes from all corners. This feeds into their worry that communication might open them up to scrutiny.

“If you are not compliant in the next one year as an SME, you are going to die. Many businesses have the mentality that they have been doing this every day, nothing will change. But now, the National ID is becoming that one thing that has a lot of information. Resilience is the most important thing and adaptability goes hand in hand with compliance. How you communicate with your customers, landlord and taxman is important,” Mr Tony Otoa, the executive director, Stanbic Business Incubator, explains.

Mr Charles Nsamba, communications and public relations manager at Capital Markets Authority (CMA) believes communication is key to attract the right customers and financiers who are always on the lookout for information about companies.

“SMEs need to think about communication in terms of enterprise governance. You start a business such that it can grow. You communicate your financials to attract the right customers and financiers,” he implores.

Media platform
Mr Nsamba says a business should choose the media communication channel based on who they want to talk to, balanced with the cost of communication.

It is important to determine the percentage of the business budget that will go towards communication which will help determine the media channel.

Social media, he say,s presents an opportunity for SMEs to communicate at a cheaper cost which is one of the tenets of managing expenses.

It is also critical for communication to impact the bottom line of the business. Essentially, how is it adding onto the business and its growth?

Marketing your business
For communication to impact your bottom line, you ought to use it as a marketing tool.

Today, there is a lot of competition amongst businesses married to busy customers.

They do not have time to go shopping physically for multiple hours but at the same time know their rights and what they want.It is important to use any tool at your disposal to attract potential customers.

Ms Sumin Namaganda, Airtel’s public relations manager, says there are three components that need to be taken into account.

The power of networking, partnerships and telling your business story.

“If you tell your business story, the media can pick it for you and those are ultimately sales for you. When a potential partner reads a story, they will be interested in knowing more about your business and maybe invest more into it,” she opines.

Ms Namaganda also advises businesses to join networks to market and sell themselves.

“As a business, you need to belong. Join Rotary, join something that will help you push your business,” she recommends.

It is also important to know the language of those you are communicating with.
Take for instance, youth. Try as much to understand their lingo to penetrate the market.

Crisis management
Even with its perks, communication can stir a fire that can put out a business.
It is important to have a crisis management strategy, Ms Kiberu says.

Companies especially those in the services industry, will trend once in a while on different social media platforms with frustrated customers decrying poor service.

Success tips
Engage your customers
Have a social media team to engage customers and ensure the issue is resolved. Always engage a customer on the sidelines, which could include direct messages but never on the page.

For difficult customers, a digital communicator could escalate the issue to customer care to get the matter resolved.