Monday, February 17, 2003

Getting new customers costlier than maintaining regulars

NOTE. This article was first published in The Manila Times - Business Section, and also at the following web address:

The best products and services are those that your customers will
continue to purchase again and again. Or will go back to you for
additional purchases such as parts, service, add-ons, new models and
reorders. It could be a car, a house and lot, a bowl of lugaw, a pair of
pants, an umbrella, spare parts, accessories, repair service, a hammer,
gasoline, a capacitor, laundry service and many others. More sales
equals more profit. Experts also say that it is costlier to get new
customers than to maintain your suki's.

To continue our Journey on Entrepreneurship, we would devote this column
still on the issue of choosing the right product and services that will
answer the real needs of your customers and that they are willing to

An umbrella is not like any other umbrella. One umbrella may have 16
spines while others will have only six or eight. It may have floral
design or striped or checkered or plain. It could be black, white or
multi-colored. It may be small, medium, large or extra large. It may be
cane-type or three- or two-folds. Its material may be silver-lined,
silk, nylon or paper. It might have a plastic, metal or wooden tip and
handle. It might be automatic or manually opened and closed. It may even
come with a whistle. Some are disposable after some usage; others last
longer and are repairable. All have the risk of being misplaced or lost.
Yes, there are a thousand and one types of umbrellas. And you can't
manufacture and sell all types lest you want your inventory and
warehousing costs to balloon.

So, how do you choose the right models of umbrella that would sell?
Actually, this is not your sole decision. It is your customers who will
eventually make this decision for you with your prodding. Therefore, it
is a must for you to know immediately who your intended customers are:

* Who are your likely customers?
* Where do they live?
* What do they spend their money on?
* Where and how do they shop?
* What is their lifestyle, way of life, standard of living?
* What business or career are they in? What is their level and status of
employment or business?
* What is their age, gender, income, education background, marital
status, etc?

After gathering this initial information about your customers, ask
yourself: What products and services do they need and can afford to buy?
What will entice them to buy a certain product, your product? In a
previous column, I said that your customers would buy your product on
the basis of emotion, price and logic.

Some reasons, mostly emotional, ­people will buy certain products and
services are:

* To be comfortable - comforter, square-toed shoes, thick mattress, foot
spa, aerobic pillow, electric fan, air conditioner, silver-lined
* To save time - microwave oven, computers, personal digital assistant
(PDA), typing services, laundry service.
* To make money/profit - stockholdings, condo units, anything that can
repacked and resold.
* To have prestige - membership in sports clubs, signature clothes,
shoes, watch and others, laptop or handheld computer, travel, credit
card, "prestigious" school; "golf" umbrella.
* To be healthy - multivitamins, ­organic foods, support stockings,
­no-MSG foods, tread mill, membership in a gym, services of medical
professionals, chi-gong lessons, HEALTH NEWS, umbrella.
* To avoid effort - vacuum cleaner, washing machine, electric can
opener, Internet or ATM banking, carwash ­service, automatic umbrella.
* To be entertained - VCD player, diskman, camera, karaoke machine,
co-mics, movies, toys, concert, stage play.
* To be popular - golf lessons, latest model car, song and dance
lessons, credit card, silk umbrella.
* To satisfy a craving - chocolate, ice cream, cigarette, chewing gum.
* To be in style - dresses in vogue, accessories, new footwear, cell
phone, PDA, folding umbrella.
* To be attractive - cosmetics, clothing, hair do's, hair dye,
liposuction, eyebag removal, nose lift, face lift, corset, teeth braces,
multi-colored umbrella.
* To escape physical pain - medicine, wheel chair, surgery and other
medical services, hilot, acupuncture, orthopedic shoes; silver-lined
* To save money - insulation, capacitor, diesel-fueled car, ukay-ukay,
reusable containers; heavy-duty umbrella.
* To protect family and possessions - insurance, smoke detector, burglar
alarm, dog
* To be safe - karate lessons, tear gas in small canisters, car,
* To acquire knowledge/continuing education - magazines, books, travel
and tour, graduate and post-graduate courses, seminars, PDA and
computer, Internet, educational toys and tapes, The Manila Times.
* To nourish the soul - rosary, mass card, religious books and
magazines, concert, meditation sessions.
* To be mobile - transportation, cellphone, wheelchair, bicycle,
motorcycle, skating shoes, Internet.
* To aid/advance career - pen, organizer, personal computer, PDA, laptop
computer, Internet.

Please note that some pro-ducts and services fulfill more than one
customer need. In choosing your products and services, you may want to
offer specialized products that would answer a very specific need, e.g.
wheel chair, sunblock. Or choose a pro-duct that could satisfy several
needs, therefore, several types of customers and budgets, e.g. regular
ballpen, sedan car.

Whatever you decide on, don't manufacture or buy a lot for your initial
offering. Test the market first. We shall discuss this next Monday plus
the choice of location for your product/business.

We shall try to answer the concern of Ms. Chat Macapanton: "Thanks for
the free classes on entrepreneurship. My learning buddy is planning to
put up a small coffee shop near Quezon City Hall ... his sister has a
big place housing a restaurant. Do you think this is a good idea?"

Also that of Ms. Malou Mendoza: "Your column interests me coz of my
preparation for retirement ... maybe sooner or later. I want to be an
entrepreneur like you. I am also planning to set up a store maybe in the
public market or if I have the resources, to buy a small lot and begin
organic gardening/farming. I am sure I will learn much from you. I might
get ideas for other ventures. I'll be one of your regular students."

Mr. Wilson Bumanlag wants some help, too: "Good day. A lot of people
like your article on entrepreneurship. I am one of your avid fans when
it comes to negosyo. I just only want to know if you have some seminars
for those who want to become entrepreneurs. Currently I'm working in a
MNC, but I am already tired of working and I want to put up my own
business that is why I'm asking if you have some workshop or seminar for
those who want to start their own business. Hoping for your response
soonest. Thanks."

Please participate in this our Journey on Entrepreneurship and share
your ideas with Chat, Malou and Wilson. You may send them e-mail or

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms and Paradoxes Corp. and
­invites you to email her at moje@

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