By Victor Angula <<business lessons>>

Every business which produces a product or it provides a service does have someone somewhere waiting patiently to receive this product or service and benefit from it.

There is no business that produces a product or service which no one needs. When a business dies or fails to grow because of lack of customers, it is not because there are no customers; it is because the business has failed to connect with its customers.

In a developing country such as Namibia every product and every service ever produced, it has customers. Even illegal products and destructive services do have customers. Drugs have customers. Prostitutes have clients. Alcohol has customers. Cigarettes have customers.

The problem of any business (especially SME’s) is not because they have no customers. Their problem is that they don’t go out to find their customers. Rather they expect their customers to find them.

But let’s look at the example from Shoecity.

Mr Shoe Repair lives in a small town called Shoecity on the river banks of Shoelaces. Shoecity is a small community, but it receives a lot of visitors and travelers from surrounding villages and nearby towns due to its robust commercial atmosphere.

Mr Repair has a business which repairs worn-out shoes.

But Mr Repair will never make money just repairing his own shoes and those of his kids. Yet that is all he has been doing lately since there are no customers. Rather for his business to make money and grow he needs to find people outside of his home who need his services.

Many people in Shoecity don’t need the services of Mr Shoe Repair. The shops in Shoecity are stocked with good shoes imported from big cities. Everyone likes wearing a good new pair of shoes.

But somewhere somehow there is someone who needs the services of Mr Shoe Repair.

Ms Chokola has two pairs of shoes she wore on her wedding day 20 years ago. These shoes are now old and worn out. But to her they are a treasure which, every time she puts them on her feet, she feels like a queen again. She just needs someone to repair them. Unfortunately she does not know anyone who knows how to repair shoes.

The only way for Mr Shoe Repair to connect with Ms Chokola is only if Mr Repair can go out and look for his potential customer. Mr Repair does not know Ms Chokola and does not know where she lives and where she works. And he does not know that she needs him.

All he knows is that there is someone somewhere somehow who needs his services. He decides to go out on the streets of Shoecity and tell everybody he meets that he is a professional shoe repairman. So he goes to the Shoeshine open market and displays a few pairs of shoes he repaired. Nobody is interested; so he goes from door to door, shop to shop, just talking to people. But at the end of the day no one has shown any interest in his services.

On the third day of his “walkabouts” Mr Shoes wants to give up. But then he makes a stop at the town’s dry cleaner. “Hello madam, my name is Shoes. I repair shoes of any kind. I am…”

“Waaaw,” Ms Chokola gushes. “I am just looking for you! Thank you for coming. Are you a resident of this town? How much do you charge? I will pay… I’ll pay any amount you ask.”

Mr Shoe Repair is shocked. But in the end he goes away having been paid in advance. And he just realises that there are many more people waiting to meet him just like this lady. So he gets new confidence to continue with his marketing.

Three days later he brings the repaired shoes of Ms Chokola. Not only are both of them happy but Mr Shoes is shocked to realise that Ms Chokola has been doing marketing for him so that now he finds three more people who need their shoes to be repaired too.

And from that moment on Mr Repair’s business has been growing so that he has now employed two people.

That is how important marketing is. Marketing is a process of connecting with your customers. And every business has to market if it is ever to be in business.

This is the lesson we can learn from the story of the man in Shoecity.