On our journey back from Cape Town during the holidays we stopped over at Bloemfontein, Free State, and spent the Friday evening and night at the Krugerdrift Dam about 35 km outside of the city. When it became dark and the insects started buzzing and chirping and the sound of the night owls wooing, one of our party went with a torchlight to get more firewood to keep the campfire going. The person came across a spiderweb and called all of us to come have a look. We saw how a small spider had spun a web and the entire web was filled with trapped insects. The spiderweb itself had a silvery beauty about it and the spider was happily munching on the small insects that it had been snared in its web in the dark.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to ensnare customers that came passing by but obviously not with such deadly consequences?
Some marketers such as cell phone companies trap their customers by insisting on a 20-month contract that averages about R500 ($50) a month. For the customer to get out of these contracts is exceedingly difficult. A friend of mine said that it took him three times the paperwork to get out of his contract and then the cellphone company demanded that he make an additional two payments. For the cellphone company such high-price contracts are an extremely profitable marketing proposition where the customer loses out heavily.
For a small business a recurring revenue model can possibly attract customers with out leaving a sour taste. For example, a doggy parlour that collects dogs from homes could offer customers a one-year contract with one of the months free, which would act as an attractive discount. This would seem fair to both the small business and its customers. Such a revenue model could be used for all sorts of small businesses such as computer servicing shops, dry cleaners and even play schools and creches.
What happens when your business is situated next to or close by a large business that may even be a franchised operation? How do you then capture customers away from the larger business? I saw an interesting example of this recently when I was at the Pretty Gardens centre in Bloemfontein where a small delicatessen and coffee shop was able to woo customers from the franchised restaurant operation beginning with a capital “W”. This restaurant called Carmelo’s had a highly competitive breakfast special that cost R20 ($2) and was far superior in taste and quality than could be produced by any chain operation. Besides this, Carmelo’s had a burger special with 100% beef patty that tasted home-made and made my daughter remark that it was “divine”. These two loss-leaders not only attract existing and new customers to the small restaurant but they are also provide an opportunity for customers to sample the delicatessen-quality food.
What could you do in your business to come up with specials that will attract and retain customers? Small businesses can’t trap customers in a deadly spiderweb like the giant operators but they can create special offers that attract customers and retain them with a fair deal that is honest, open and transparent. All it takes is knowing your customer demographics, what they want and being generative in your thinking so that you come up with ideas that your customers are going to love.