Understanding B2C Customers

Everything from marketing to building great products and customer loyalty come down to understanding your customers. That’s what Werner Swart, Felix Kimaru, and Philip Walton all learned when selling their products to consumers. Their B2C (business to consumer) businesses succeeded by following several key principles:

##Understanding Who Your Client Is

“The imortant thing is to really see who your client is. Is it the farmer, coop, or government who’s gonna buy it? Once you know that you think how to reach him”
-Werner Swart, Founder of Drylo Bag, Africa Prize shortlist

Werner founded his business on this question: who is my client? That may sound obvious, but he had to decide whether his client was going to be farmers, cooperatives, or governments. Once he answered this question he had to decide how to reach that particular type of client and sell them on his product.

“Once you know that you must ask how you reach him, how does he know about my product, what is the advantage my product brings to him?”
-Werner Swart, Founder of Drylo Bag, Africa Prize shortlist

Ultimately, Werner determined that he actually had two different clients for his business: farmers and governments. The reason was that some areas had wealthy farmers who could buy his product directly while other farmers were poorer and could only buy it through local government run programs.

So Werner developed two different marketing and customer acquisition strategies based on these two different types of customers. Understanding who these customers were allowed him to successfully target and sell to each of them.

##Speaking Their Language

“the only way we’ve managed to work with the counties is speaking their language, understanding their needs.”
-Felix Kimaru, Co-founder of Totohealth, Africa Prize shortlist

But selling to customers is about more than just knowing who they are. Felix Kimaru found that he really needed to speak their language. Not literally, but in the sense that his pitch to potential customers needed to focus on their unique needs.

“This is a very innovative product, it raises eyebrows, counties don’t want ot hear about innovations, they want to know it has been tested and works, so we don’t speak to them about innovation… We speak to them about their problems and how we will solve them. For example, Kenya did not achieve their Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), we went to them about how they can achieve them”
-Felix Kimaru, Co-founder of Totohealth, Africa Prize shortlist

When trying to sell his product to counties in Kenya, Felix realized that talking about innovation didn’t work. Instead, he focused on explaining how his product could help counties achieve their MDGs. Speaking in the language of development goals instead of the language of innovation helped Felix connect with his customers and sell his product.

“Think about the end user, what problems are they facing, speak about that.”
-Felix Kimaru, Co-founder of Totohealth, Africa Prize shortlist

##Getting Out of The Office

“A lot of the learning has been a continual process of getting surprised like oh I wouldn’t have thought of it from that perspective and putting ourselves in the shoes of our users.”
-Philip Walton, Co-founder of BRCK

But how do you connect with your customers? One way to do this is to spend time with them in their own environments. This is what Philip and his company BRCK did. They lived in Nairobi but were selling mostly to rural villages. So the lessons they learned testing their product in Nairobi didn’t apply.

“The more we moved out the more we learned about how users would interact wituh the system.”
-Philip Walton, Co-founder of BRCK

By spending time with their customers in their own villages, Philip and his team learned about how users interacted with their product and what caused it to fail. This allowed them to improve the product and turn it into a success.

Ultimately, all three of these examples come down to a process: understand who your customer is and then learn everything you can about them. For these three African entrepreneurs, that was the path to success.