by Lizl Naude, founder of Lilly Loompa
Do you remember the first time you fell in-love? Do you remember the excitement and the thrill of the “chase”? It could be compared to a pursuit and it usually begins when a person shows interest in another and is incredibly attracted to him/her. A thrilling period then starts, when traditionally the man starts showing his intentions for a romantic relationship by flirting, bringing gifts or verbally expressing his intentions to the woman. Depending on their compatibility or her level of attraction, she will respond eagerly, or she might play hard-to-get. Depending on his level of interest, he will keep romancing her, and if he does and says the right things, he might persuade her to take him seriously and commence a romantic relationship.
I came to this realization about two months ago when I finally signed up a new client, after two years of romancing! Talk about perseverance and patience! This made me think about my relationship with my current clients, and my prospective ones. The process of acquiring them, is fairly similar.
I have realized in order to be of interest to my clients, I had to have a great offering. Let’s take this particular client as an example. Two years ago, my business had literally started. I was literally a rookie and maybe it showed. I tried my best to keep her updated by sending regular emails, and visiting every few months or so. In the meantime, I only ever had contact with her Shop Manager, and not the actual buyer. The other day, whilst doing sales visits, I did an unplanned stop at this particular shop again, and to my amazement, the buyer was in store. We did a quick introduction and I proceeded to demonstrate my products and literally in 5 minutes she placed an order and the deal was done!
I couldn’t believe that it had happened so quickly, but after some thought I realized it was a process that happened over a span of 24 months or more! I tried to analyze it and that’s when I came to the conclusion that it reminded me of a romance or courtship.
Here are some tips I learned along the way.
Tip 1 – Build credibility
The first introduction was quite a long time ago. At the time my product and business were very new to the industry. Meaning, the client didn’t know or might not have trusted me enough yet. I needed time to build credibility and brand loyalty.
Tip 2 - Relationship building
Being in business should never only be about profit and making money…it should always be about relationship-building. Try and find out if the potential client has any needs that you may assist with, even if they don’t place an order. But make sure it comes from a genuine place of wanting to help.
Tip 3. Is this the right market/client?
Assess whether this shop/client is the right space for your product. Go and visit the space and see the kind of offering that is available. South Africa is spoiled for choice and literally every other month a new store pops up. Concept stores are all the hype now and many of them are curated spaces. You wouldn’t want to waste your precious time chasing a client/shop where your product would not fit in.
Tip 4. Send over flowers
Actually, rather send your products beautifully packaged to the owner/buyer of the store. Hand-deliver them if possible. Make a few phone calls and identify the key people you want to convince and get their addresses for delivery. Also send a hand-written note to make it more personalized.
Tip 5. Find out what he/she likes
Without coming across as a stalker, find out from the shop assistants what the store owner likes or not. Also, what the process is for introducing your product to him/her. Listen for clues here and there. Visit the store or their Instagram page to find out their likes, colours and favourite kind of products. These are all hints you can use to feed them relevant information about your products. Use these as anchor points when making contact with them.
Tip 6 - Keep regular contact
Research shows it can take up to 13 customer touch points before a new client orders from you. This is a long list, but it is possible to reach them quicker and make it count. Study the strategy you used to secure previous clients and apply some of the same tactics. Regular email marketing can be quite effective. Also keep your social media up to date and TAG them! This way they will notice you!
Tip 7 - Make your brand attractive to them
Similarly, like you keep yourself groomed for yourself and your partner, your business and brand also has to look attractive. You have to have a professional corporate identity and brand colours. Your social media pages need to be up to date and attractive. Your price lists and catalogues have to up to date, as well as your website.
Tip 8 - First impressions last
They definitely do. Be sure to make it count and last. Be quick to respond to their requests and make them feel important without overdoing it. Be professional and friendly, without being too personal and do not overstep boundaries. Be quick to deliver when you get your orders and be sure to keep contact even after. Find out if they need more information or if you can assist with anything.
Do not be put off if clients do not immediately respond to your email or requests. People are busy in general, and all of us deal with life in between. Pursue them and keep the balance of keeping them updated about your business without being overbearing. Keep the faith…eventually they will come!
Lizl Naude is the founder of Lilly Loompa in South Africa, a company that creates beautiful and usable products made with recycled material. Lilly Loompa's “Rubbish Range” is the result of Lizl's craving to deliver pieces that are completely "green". Lizl is a self-taught designer and initially started designing and making furniture because she couldn’t afford to buy new pieces to furnish her home. She started to scout and source for budget material and quickly realised that most people discard of very usable materials. The company manufactures a variety of products, from storage holders, lamps, to dinner table accessories, among others. All materials are carefully sourced from waste and sustainably reimagined as beautiful, yet purposeful products. Eco-friendly, handcrafted and 100% South African, each Lilly Loompa piece, once trash, is now a meaningful piece of treasure.
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