Social media boosts sales for small businesses

Patrick Wanyoko, a jua kali artisan works on charcoal burners at the weekend. He says that customers are opting to buy modernised charcoal burners because they cook faster than the old versions. He sells them for between Sh400 and Sh2,000 a piece depending on type and quality. JOSEPH KURIA

When Samuel Kiragu thought it was time to give Bowling Green a make-over, he turned to a small company to help him market his establishment online with the aim of hooking more upmarket customers to patronise his bar and restaurant on Limuru Road, Nairobi.

His target was expatriates and the well-to-do clientele.

That is how he came up with the idea of introducing paintball, a game that is popular with the rich. It is played in teams or individually and involves hitting opponents with pellets containing soluble dyes.

But because Bowling Green was not known for paintball, Mr Kiragu had to find away of informing his target clients about it.

He started by changing the name of his establishment from Bowling Green to Jungle Paintball. Then he turned to Ken Kariuki, the executive director of Search Engine Optimisation Consulting Kenya.

Mr Kariuki was the man to do the marketing through social media.

Boasting one year experience in social marketing, he took up the challenge. Eight months later, the Jungle Paintball is overflowing with customers with 5,600 clicks on its website a month. “I have moved from waiting for clients to having a full house,” says Mr Kiragu.

“Some of my clients include British Airways, KPMG and CMC.” However, he also has walk-in clients although most book in advance.

Guaranteeing millions of Internet users, many budding entrepreneurs are turning to e-marketing in search of customers.

Social media marketing is a new way of reaching out to old customers, building business relationships and winning new clients.

The approach has come in handy for home-based small businesses and start-ups whose owners have no office equipment other than a laptop.

Inadequate experience and weak financial muscle to hire marketers among business start-ups has added to the rising popularity of social media marketing.

Business websites and social media including Facebook, Twitter and blogs are some of the channels that young entrepreneurs are embracing in marketing their products. Think of any small enterprise in your neighbourhood and you are likely to find it online.

Experts say that small businesses are likely to find qualified leads in this form of marketing than other types of ventures.

This helps them to improve sales.

According to Mr Kariuki, social media marketing is effective only if it is done the right way. He advises small business owners to seek services of consultants to reap its full benefits.

Social media consultants help entrepreneurs come up with clear marketing plans. Mr Kariuki rates right information, strategy and resources as the most vital tools for social media marketing.

This platform should not serve as an avenue to push for new products but rather a place to give a brief on the company.

“Social media should direct traffic to your website where there is more information on the product. Facebook and Twitter should be used as a mini customer service office,” he says.

One should be able to tell if their prospective clients are on social media.

Most entrepreneurs use social marketing without proper research leading to a failure. According to Mr Kariuki one should be ware of dos and don’ts of the social media marketing strategy.

“When introducing a business use small notices presented clearly,” he says.
Grace Wangu, an entrepreneur also chose the platform to market her perfume and lotion business.

Ms Wangu says she opted for the approach after seeing it work for another business — Bagalicia, which sells bags online.

She, however, says that she was a bit hesitant in going for an online marketing consultant. “At first I thought it was expensive but considering I would make much more I went for it,” says Ms Wangu who plans to launch her website, which the consultant is working on, in February.

Changing consumers habits with many adopting new technologies has boosted online marketing campaigns.

Mr Kariuki says Kenyans do not want to run around any more and are ready to go for services of credible businesses. He defines potential customers as individuals not aged over 50, technology savvy, have access to the Internet, are employed and are of least upper middle class.

Despite the growing popularity of the social media, the platform may not be ideal for all types of businesses, except those that involve fast moving and consumable goods.

James Mwagu, a car seller at a Bazaar on Ngong Road, uses a number of media to advertise but says online sales are low. He credits their sales to traditional media.

“We use a number of media to market our products. I therefore, can’t say that social media has given us clients. I can say that majority are from traditional marketing,” he says.

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