Big business is great at picking up new customers: Tech allows SMEs to be just as good at it
Technology / 27 September 2019, 6:00pm / Supplied Content
CAPE TOWN – When it comes to picking up new customers, big businesses have a wealth of tools and tricks at their disposal.
Without similar budgets and resources, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have traditionally found the going a little tougher.
But, thanks to advancements in technology, SMEs can now go toe-to-toe with their bigger counterparts. Importantly, they can do so without breaking the bank or sacrificing time for the day-to-day running of the business.
That’s according to Greg Chen, CEO of Mobiz, a company that specialises in data free, mobile customer communication solutions.
“In our experience, large enterprises have less trouble acquiring new customers,” says Chen. “With the right marketing budget and tactics, they can get large numbers of people to try out their products and services.”
What they usually struggle with is getting them to stay, with nearly a third of customers happy to buy from a new company if it offers the same product at a better price, even if that might mean a drop in quality.
That’s why big companies place such a premium on customer loyalty.
By contrast, SMEs often have loyal customers. But, without the brand recognition of big companies, they struggle to acquire the new customers they need for growth.
“SMEs typically have small, loyal customer bases that have grown off the back of recommendations from friends and family,” says Chen. “But they can’t rely on that customer base for sustained growth.”
As Chen notes, however, advances in technology have made it easier for smaller business players to adopt the tactics used by large enterprises.
“With a little bit of digital know-how, SMEs can achieve serious customer growth,” says Chen. “The important thing is knowing which tools and platforms are most efficient.”
In South Africa, that almost inevitably means mobile.
While smartphone penetration now sits at over 80%, just 38% of South Africans are active on social media. And, at any given time, more than 50% of South Africans do not have airtime. That means that traditional digital marketing tools that rely on internet connectivity will never allow SMEs to reach the broadest possible segment of new customers.
“Additionally,” says Chen, “many of these platforms require time and dedication that SMEs simply don’t have.”
According to the Mobiz CEO, SMEs should therefore concentrate on tools and platforms that are primarily mobile-based and which can be easily automated.
Chen provides an example of what that might look like.
“Let’s say there’s a spa with an outlet in a mall with lots of foot traffic,” says Chen. “The spa could put up a flier which invites customers to scan a QR code or SMS a shortcode in exchange for a discount voucher. Doing so takes them to a webpage (ideally through a platform which reverse bills the data, allowing the message to reach even those without airtime), where they fill in their details to gain access to the voucher.”
“Not only does this provide customers with an incentive to try out the company,” Chen adds, “it also allows them build up the kind of customer databases that bigger companies thrive on.”
In the example above, the spa would have acquired a database with customer names, genders, and even the treatment they’ve decided to use their voucher on. This, in turn, allows them to communicate with their growing pool of customers in a way that’s automated and POPI compliant.
“At a set point, such as their birthday,” says Chen, “the customer could get a special offer for the kind of treatment they typically opt for.”
The net result is marketing that encourages loyalty and allows SME owners to concentrate on growing their business.
“SMEs have to overcome many things, especially when it comes to competing with bigger players in the market,” concludes Chen. “Marketing and customer acquisition needn’t be one of them.”