I periodically receive several Newsletters, mainly related to traditional Marketing issues and also online marketing, search engine positioning, etc.
Yesterday the newsletter of Perry Marshall, a marketing consultant from Chicago, contained a letter from one of his clients returning from a trip to Thailand.
The letter is truly inspiring, it recounted how a person unrelated to the business, with an external vision, advises a small business owner or, better said, a self-employed worker, to apply simple and universal principles.
A fascinating story that I share with you.
This is a story inspired by your chronicle from Kenya. I recently returned from a trip to North East Thailand.
It’s a unique place, the people are nice, the food is amazing, there are so many things to do and it’s incredibly cheap by Western standards; Although people generally do not have the same standard of living as in the West, no one goes hungry. I imagine that it must be quite similar to the city where you told us that your brother lives in China.
Every day when I left the hotel, I was approached by several tuk-tuk drivers – three-wheeled scooters that function as taxis – to offer me their services for the equivalent of about 0.50 to 1 dollar a trip. There are about 1,000 tuk-tuks in Chiang Mai, a relatively small city, so competition is fierce.
Ironically, all drivers operate their microbusiness in much the same way – they all do the same thing, say the same thing, and compete fiercely for a $1 transaction. People all over the world seem to play the same game: they follow the imitators. Within a few days, I made friends with one of the drivers, mainly because he could stammer a few words in English (quite a rare occurrence). There was something different about him but he couldn’t place what it was.
Your article on the encouragement of small businesses in Kenya from a few weeks ago had me thinking.
I asked him a few questions about the progress of his business and it turned out that after expenses, he had between $2 and $4 a day left – and I’m not talking about an 8-hour day. but from 12 to 16 hours a day- which was not a lot of money but enough to get by.
Most of the time was spent waiting for the next client to show up (if that sounds familiar…) I asked him if he would be interested in improving his profitability a bit and received a resounding Yessss! answer. I had no idea what I could do. I decided to help him, not by giving him money but by showing him what he could do to improve his business.
Elementary Principles That Apply To All Businesses
As surprising as it sounds, virtually none of the drivers had a business card, even though many used cell phones. So there was little chance that a satisfied customer would become a repeat customer.
We started by printing cards that “produce responses” clearly stating a few characteristics that would be important to a prospective client: that you speak English, that you are a trustworthy person, how to contact you, and that you were available for hire on an hourly, half-day, full-day, or weekly basis.
It is interesting to note that it had never occurred to him that he could be hired for more than one trip at a time.
We bound a folder for it – “Places My Clients Recommend” – along with good information (content) about each place and blank space for satisfied clients to write their comments (testimonials). I instructed him to give the folder to each new customer who got into the cab.
I had news of him. In the course of a few weeks, his income has increased fivefold and he is excited about the bright future that is opening up. His clients book his services in advance, by the day and by the week and he no longer competes for the $1 fee.
What I find fascinating is that the same principles work, regardless of location, culture, or business. Speaking the customer’s language, acting in their interest, giving them good information and a choice with your offer – simple things that make a big difference.