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Created on 21 July 2013 Written by Eric Rutabana
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Marketing tends to be seen by many business owners as a soft function, one of the first spending areas to be cut when times are tough. On the contrary, it is not only one of the most vital functions of a business, but, counter intuitively, the slower the business growth, the more your investment in your marketing effort needs to be.
By Eric Rutabana

Here some ideas to help focus your marketing effort:

1. Cut the waste, but don’t over-prune
You can be pretty certain that the Pareto principle applies to marketing efforts that are left to sprawl. In other words, 80% of your successes come from only 20% of your marketing efforts. You therefore have lots of opportunity to cut activities that yield no results if you have not been pruning your marketing activities. Be careful, however, because the results of your interventions in the marketing side of your business are not always immediately apparent.

2. Mine your existing customers
It is a well-established fact that winning over a new client generally costs six or seven times more than winning repeat business from an existing customer. Although some component of your marketing plan should always be aimed at gaining new customers, a strategy to sell more to your existing customers will almost always yield more results. Each time you make a sale to customers, make the experience pleasant and memorable for them to tell their friends and family about it.

3. Team up with a complementary business
Make a deal with a complementary business – an auto-electrician if you have a mechanical workshop, for example, or a card shop if you run a florist, to do joint marketing. You undertake to market the other business every time you deal with one of your clients, while they do the same for you.

4. Don’t compete on price
It is amazing how start-up business owners will often say they will out-compete existing, well established businesses by offering products at low prices. Most owner-managed businesses are too small to compete on price. Competition based on price is an unsustainable and deadly move for SME’s.

5. Repeat but de-clutter your message
It is very difficult to measure, but some studies show that it takes about seven contacts to convince a customer to buy. This obviously differs from industry to industry, but whatever the average, the principle is that it will nearly always take more than one pitch to convince customers. Therefore, don’t do one pamphlet, and then drop the idea because the results were poor. Rather plan a series of them and evaluate it after the entire campaign. Cut the message down to the bare essentials.

6. Get a web presence
If your business already has a substantial internet presence, skip to the next point. If you are not online yet, consider it. Even if you are happy with your customer numbers at present, you are limiting your potential as the world becomes increasingly wired.

7. Develop Seasonal and Special Promotions
Most customers and clients, tend to purchase in cyclical or seasonal patterns. It is advisable to work out a seasonal promotional calendar that is appropriate to your business. Always try to come up with unique and interesting ideas to cut through the general promotional clutter in both the trade and retail environments.

8. Emphasize consistent quality
Whatever your investment in marketing, the basis of your whole effort lies in the quality of your product or service. An important part of your marketing strategy is to choose the right level of quality for the type of customer that you want to target, and stick to it. Consistently staying on your chosen level of quality and communicating with the relevant target market is what is important.

The writer is the Chief Investment Officer of Business Partners International Rwanda SME Fund, a risk Finance Company for formal SME’s
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Created on 29 January 2013 Written by Simon Corden
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Any entrepreneur will tell you how hard it is to get started...

...gather the capital, find customers and good suppliers, manage cashflow, keep going, cope with the set backs and failures to establish a thriving business. If the challenges and barriers to any new business aren’t enough to put people off or kill their business in months, consider some of the additional hurdles women can face.

Vision 2020 states that women make up 53% of the population of Rwanda and participate in subsistence agriculture more than men. They usually feed and provide care for the children and ensure their fundamental education. But until recently, girls were the minority in secondary schools, women had little access to the opportunities available to men and they were poorly represented in decision-making positions.

When people think about women entrepreneurs in Rwanda (the likes of which TSM has reported many times) the focus is often on young, twenty-year-old CEOs, running ‘dotcoms’ or pushing up against the international brands. And there’s nothing wrong with that! TSM will always want to celebrate great achievements.

In this article, TSM interviewed a successful businesswoman who represents thousands of women that are the ‘face’ of Rwanda and its ‘engine room’ too.

In 2007, Josephine set up a small business importing clothing material from DR Congo and Uganda, and a few ready-made clothes to resell in Rwanda. She describes life back then as ‘Very poor and filled with stress’. But since then, she’s grown her business slowly, every year. She’s not a multi-national (yet) but is now in a position that, “I’ve much less stress, business is good, and I can afford to buy what I need for my family. I live in a bigger house with some land.”

It’s not as easy as it may sound. Working 10 hours per day, every day, she still has a young family to look after. Her small stall, just 1.2m x 3m displays her stock. Amazingly vibrant fabric material decorates the walls up to 3m high. Mostly fine cotton with some examples of her own clothes designs on show, she’s obviously proud and exudes charisma. There’s a special characteristic that sets Josephine Niyigena apart from her 50 or so competitors on Kimironko market – the great attention and high interest she shows her customers. It’s called Customer Care.

Far from the usual ‘Karibu!’ chant, which sounds almost like a threat to some ears or the grab of the elbow and a desperate plea to examine a stallholders offerings, or an irritating insistence that gets to the point of total rejection from a would-be customer, Josephine has a much more relaxed approach. Unlikely to chase you around the market, just the opposite she’s a natural and should be training her counterparts across the region, at least Rwanda.


She finds it hard to explain her secret, struggling for words she explains, “Well, er, I welcome customers ask what they want and offer them a seat and we chat.” Josephine speaks many languages very well. And apart from demonstrating how easily she can communicate, she shows a cultural awareness that establishes instant rapport and trust. Not many people leave her stall, mostly on recommendation, without buying something.


It's called Customer Care...







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