Jewellry and shoes on display at J’s Accessories in Kampala. Entrepreneurs should provide opportunities for clients to engage and interact about their needs in form of feedback. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI


Know what your customers want

What you need to know:

Entrepreneurs ought to have regular conversations with their clients regarding their commodities. That helps to get feedback on what the client likes or does not.

By Joan Salmon
Businesses and clients are inseparable entities that enjoy a symbiotic relationship. Even when that is so, business owners must be intentional to ensure would-be clients are drawn to them.
Mr Walter Wafula, the general manager at Brainchild BCW, a communication and advertising agency, says businesses must be intentional to know their customers and their needs. 

“It is now more imperative for businesses to analyse and leverage customer data, social media insights, as well as research among their customers, to know what they need, like and don’t or how customers perceive their services,” he says.

Ms Charity Kamusiime-Asiimwe, the head of marketing at Ecobank, says that will help business owners to determine when, how, and where they should market their products or services. Here are some basic tips:

Mr Wafula says entrepreneurs ought to have regular conversations with their clients regarding their commodities. That helps to get feedback on what the client likes or does not about a certain product.

Create communication channels
It could be a phone number (a customer care helpline), an email, and a social media handle.
“These avenues should be functional and responded to promptly. Otherwise, they fail their purpose,” Mr Wafula says.
It is also important to provide opportunities for clients to engage and interact about their needs. 
“This could be a customer helpdesk, a company representative visiting clients, or a suggestion box. Nonetheless, it helps that the information presented by the clients is acted on lest they lose the moral to give feedback,” he says.

For the budding entrepreneur, client feedback may not be easy to attain. However, Sidonia Kyomugasho of Sid Table Affairs advises that one starts with a small locus to taste the efficacy of the products or services. 
“In my case, my family were the first tasters of my food and my husband always gave me honest feedback on what I should keep and what needed polishing. That helped me prepare for the market better,” she says.

Go to your clients
When starting, entrepreneurs can also look for their customers. That is what Amos Wekesa, the proprietor of Great Lakes Safaris did in his tour guide heydays. To boost the car-hiring arm of the business, he went to wedding meetings as couples were prime clients.  

Analysis of sales information
A business owner can do this in a basic manner by monitoring the activity or dormancy of customers from the time of making the sale- the first transaction and repeat transactions. 
Ms Kamusiime-Asiimwe says this in two scenarios. For example, a customer could choose to buy or partake of your competitors’ products or services. 

“When they alternate your solutions with competition, there is a reason and behaviour that needs review. The drive is to correct what pushes them to your competitor,” she says.
The other scenario is one sells general baby items but a buyer only buys a bed and goes elsewhere for other baby items inasmuch as they are also available in this shop. 

“Different demographics, tastes, and preferences influence buyer decision-making. Know the prevailing factors to inform your selling, products/services, and communication. It is thus crucial to analyse your client’s need and behaviour so you can offer a solution that cross-sales the business’ several offerings,” she says. 
Even when one buys a long-term item, such as a bed, Ms Kamusiime-Asiimwe says customer satisfaction drives referrals. 

“Their experience and the product quality will either give a good review hence giving you recommendations or bad reviews, which pushes clients away. Therefore, a business owner should always thrive to sell satisfaction to their clients,” she says.

Primary research 
Ms Kamusiime-Asiimwe says a business owner can go to the source (customers and prospective customers) for information for their research. 
“Primary research can be through interviews (telephone or face-to-face), digital surveys, online polls, questionnaires, focus groups, webinars, and online mystery,” she says. This research is often costly and takes longer to do but gives conclusive answers to an identified problem.

Secondary research
It is information gathered, compiled, organised, and published by others such as government agencies, trade associations, and private companies. It involves customers’ perceptions of various brands, and trends, among others. 
“Most small businesses with small budgets use this research to gain insight on new trends, new preferences and tastes, and the macro factors that impact customer purchasing power and customer behaviour,” Ms Kamusiime-Asiimwe says.
While some may wonder how a small business such as a second-hand clothes vendor benefits from industry publications, she says there is a lot to glean from these. For instance, the impact of the new tax regimes on prices and imports, the impact of prepaid power consumption on lighting in the shop, and how the spending power vs. the rise of the standard of living informs one’s positioning strategies. 

Digital tools
In a digitally powered world, Mr Wafula says it pays to take advantage of the power of technology. This includes customer relationship management and Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled platforms such as Salesforce, Google Ads, and Google Analytics to get insights about customers and their needs. 
“For as low as $1 (app Shs3,750) a day, a small business owner can access Google Ads (advertising) services to market their products and services. 

That small investment can help the business reach more than 100 people in a day and increase the business’ sales conversation rate. The beauty is even when the you do not have the $1 in cash or advance, you can enjoy the platform’s marketing benefits. You do, however, have to pay for the service at the end of the month or 30 days period after utilising the service,” he says.