Business Growth: When looking to non-customers really makes sense!


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Growth most times comes from any place but your comfort zones. You will be surprised so many people want to buy from your store, follow you on social media, patronise your business, listen to your songs, watch your program or use that your service. The ‘surprise’ aspect is that they have not quite woken up to doing that because certain things – consciously or subconsciously – are holding them back.

Perhaps, it is hard to know, because you have been conditioned so long to believe in that focus-on-‘the-bird-in-hand’ thing; like keeping or being satisfied with what you currently have so you don’t lose it.

Well, that rarely is a strategy for business survival in this ‘disruption’ era. The truth about business in this present age is, ‘you are either growing or dying’. There won’t be a strong middle position for a long time to come. This is why preservation is not a wise strategy in business management. That’s why, also, in your pursuit of growth you need to consider non-customers – those who are currently not buying from you or your competitors. 

For instance, take manufacturers in the automobile industry. Recently they have been trading up or down to attract more buyers for their brands. Rolls-Royce will now manufacture SUV, following decisions made sometimes ago by Bentley and Lamborghini. The idea is to break out of the old cliché that luxury cars are meant for older high net-worth individuals. By diverting into manufacturing SUVs, Bentley, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, and soon Ferrari, aim to attract younger people to buy their brands. These younger people hold the future of luxury car brands. Why? They are growing in means and population, while the aging population disappears.

How do you take advantage of non-customers larger pool? The first attempt is to look at:

  1. What product is serving as substitute to your product – Consider the marketing logic deployed by Unilever when it began selling its ‘Close-Up’ toothpaste in sachet to attract consumers who had previously been using chewing stick. Chewing stick costs as much as those small sachet of toothpaste but the sachet is easier, quicker to use and preserves the breath. Unilever unlocked a huge market of new customers who wouldn’t have been able to afford the tube-packed ‘Close Up’.
  2. What product is serving as alternative to your product – For every sale you make, you take a customer away from an alternative. Cinema and Live Football match are alternatives. Rap and Afrobeat are alternatives. Alternatives have a function of serving the same purpose but using different forms. Cinema and Live Football are outdoors and entertainment. One customer can’t do both at the same time. The NFL in the US have been working to incorporate more features observed in alternatives such as live concerts into live football games; that is why you have live performances of Beyonce at the ‘Super-Bowl’ to attract both concert goers and football fans to NFL matches. A young Nigerian artiste, Wizkid, did the same when he adopted some Afrobeat flavour to endear older fans to his music.

Looking to the noncustomers is like saying ‘I don’t want to swim at the shore anymore; I want to explore the entire sea as far as possible’. Why? The noncustomer market can be as large as 75% or 95% of whatever shares you currently have. Since in today’s business, as earlier said, you are either shrinking or growing, it seems like a wise idea to have a Marco Polo mentality. It means you must learn to explore farther. To explore farther the market, you need to ask and get answers to a few questions which will serve as the bases for your consumer mapping:

  1. Is there a perception constraint to why some are not buying? Fear, myth and misconception are real barriers to the consumption of some products. Almost all businesses had these problems at the onset. Take for instance, TV reality shows like Project Fame. For a long time a lot of people thought it was for younger viewers until the producers began to feature older artistes like Sir. Shina Peters to perform on the show. This move bridged the audience gap by attracting older viewers to the show.
  2. Is there a price barrier? The folks who substituted chewing stick for ‘Close Up’ sachet and toothbrush had a price problem. They apparently couldn’t afford the price for the tubeinitially. The package in sachet was therefore a clever marketing move for Unilever.
  3. Is there an information barrier? Sometimes the major benefits of a product may not be properly communicated or not communicated at all. Brian Tracy, a sales guru, made mention of a time when Smirnoff Vodka was trying very hard to penetrate the American market without success. What proved even a tougher challenge was that Vodka is seen as a Russian product – quite a bad reality at a time when America and Russia were at loggerheads. Until the marketer of Smirnoff Vodka began promoting how you drink Vodka and not have anyone perceive it in your breath, unlike other alcoholics, sales never peaked.
  4. Are there features that could be added to attract noncustomers and still keep present customers? The case of the NFL Super Bowl is an example. Having Beyonce perform as part of activities for the game attracted concert goers and did no offence to real football diehards neither were concert addicts offended by the frenzy of a football match since the hums and horns of a real live concert is no difference to what they experience during the NFL games.  

Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka writes with simplicity and insight. He aims to enrich the Nigerian small business landscape. Through Hustle24 he connects entrepreneurs with information about new policies, enterprise solutions and opportunities that will aid their 'hustle'. He has written extensively for CobraReview, a product review portal, and served as a lead project manager for MarketingMix where he consulted as PR consultant for MTN Project Fame and Business Next Titan etc.


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