Thursday, December 16, 2010

3 Ways To Build Brand Loyalty - Lessons From a Makola Woman

I want to share 3 business lessons that I've learned from Auntie Rosemund, a fabric seller in Makola Market.

1. It Pays To Be Nice
We needed to buy fabric for AfroChic. Adwoa (my business partner) suggested we ask Woodin to sell to us at the wholesale price since we were buying lots of fabric. As it turned out, Woodin only sells at the wholesale price if you're buying at least 100 pieces of fabric. (A piece = 4 yards or 6 yards). That was about double what we wanted to buy. 

So the Woodin shop in Osu referred us to two Woodin dealers in Makola. Both of them had left business cards at Woodin so they furnished us with business cards. Adwoa brought me the business cards and I set about trying to contact these women. I called the first number. The woman on the other end of the phone sounded almost abusive in demanding how many pieces I wanted to buy. I tried to set an appointment to go see her.She told me that they're there so when I'm ready I can come. She was almost shouting at me. Okay...

I called the second number.That number was for TROSEMUND ENT. The response was more friendly. warmer. The person at the other end asked when I wanted to come. I suggested a day, and she told me to call her when I get to Rawlings Park in Makola so that she'd send someone to come get me.

That's when the first unfriendly woman got eliminated from the list. It wasn't conscious. I didn't decide to not go to her shop,but when the day came to go fabric shopping, it was to TROSEMUND that I went. Who could blame me? I'm  human. I prefer to deal with people I like...not those who will bark at me.

TROSEMUND kept their promise and sent someone to walk me from Rawlings Park to their shop. After buying, Auntie Rosemund got someone to carry the fabric to the car for me. I was happy. I left their shop and would have forgotten all about them until my next purchase.

2. Follow Up With A Thank You Call
After about 3 weeks, I got a call from Auntie Rosemund! She had saved my number the first time I called. And was calling not to ask me when I would come and buy from her again...she called to find out how MY business was going. Wow! In a whole year of buying lots of fabric from lots of Makola women, this was the only time someone had followed up with us. I was impressed. It made me feel like an important customer.

Now I'm sure Auntie Rosemund does not call every single person who enters her shop. But  having spent over a 1000 cedis at her shop, she realized I was a customer worth keeping and she made me feel important.As she should. It took very little for her to do that but that small act set her apart from all the other fabric sellers. I was blown away. 

And the next time I'm going fabric shopping, guess who will be  at the top of my mind?

3. Give And You Shall Receive

When I got to her shop, I was hungry. So I told her I would be back. I wanted to find something to eat. I asked where I might find food. What did Auntie Rosemund do? She bought me lunch. Free. 
After I had eaten, I shopped. This time I didn't need to buy as many pieces of fabric as the first time. Yet I found myself trying to buy as much from her as possible. I even bought a few pieces of fabric for personal use. 

And now I can't wait for January when I'll again be buying lots of fabric for AfroChic. I can't wait to reward her for treating me like an important customer.

See, Ghanaians often complain about customer service because we think of how people made us feel or wasted our time or whatever. How about seeing it from her perspective. Because she was nice on the phone, because she followed up with me after my first visit, because she bought me lunch...think about how much more business I'm going to send her. 

Think about me putting her name on this blog and holding her up as the go to person for fabric in Makola. Her number is 024-443-8788. 

Auntie Rosemund set herself apart from the other fabric sellers in a business where the offerings are pretty much the same. The fabrics you'll find in one shop aren't that different from what's in the other shops. The prices are also about the same among the wholesale dealers. From the outside looking it, it would seem obvious that in such a business where there isn't much product or price  differentiation, you need to give your customers a reason to choose you. The reason can be your relationship with them. Relationships can make the difference between successful shops and those that struggle. 

Here's my advice for you.

If relationship-building is key for your business like in fabric-retail at Makola, then learn 3 tips from Auntie Rosemund. Number one, be friendly. Number two, follow up, and Three attend to your customers needs even if it means buying lunch for them. It seems obvious...yet remember that in a whole year of buying fabric, only Auntie Rosemund did it. 

It seems obvious. But are you nice to your customers? Do you call back the ones who give you big business to thank them? Have you ever done something nice for them as a way to build relationship? It seems obvious but I know I haven't done these things consistently. Last Saturday at AfroChic, we launched our Festive collection. There were customers who bought 10 clothes at once. Even if I can't call everyone who bought to thank them, I should call these big buyers. All the tips seem obvious, but if I hadn't written this blog post today, I wouldn't have acted on them.

I wish you the best with your I go to make some phone calls. I should take my own advice:)

Monday, December 06, 2010

10 Ghanaian Gift Ideas For This Christmas...For Those Who Usually Give Goats.

Christmas is nearly here. If you’re like me, you’re going to wait till the last minute to get gifts. By then you won’t have the time to think of, and get thoughtful gifts. So you’ll end up giving a goat. Seriously. A goat?! For Christmas? Hehe. That might have worked for our parents' generation but I wouldn't know what to do with a goat if you gave me one this Christmas. Where to kill it? Where to smoke it? Space for a whole goat in my little fridge? Okay enough goat talk. Many of you really liked the gift ideas I gave you last year, so this year, I’ve come up with a new list of Ghanaian things that I think would make kickass gifts. You don’t have to get these, but whatever you get, please

DON’T BE BORING. This Christmas, I’m banning boring. Here we go:

1.    Give Music
Give M.anifest music. Or Efya’s new album. Or Becca. Or Amakye Dede. Here’s why I think a CD would actually make a great gift. You know us. We’re not buying CDs. Most of us only hear the most popular singles from the radio or youtube but you don’t fall in love with an artist by listening to a lone song. You have to experience the album. You have to play it over and over. And Methinks these three musicians actually make music you can fall in love with. I would love to get a pack of three CDS. One from Becca, One from Efya and one from M.anifest. Throw in the best of Amakye Dede and I'm yours.

2.    Give Art
I’m actually kind of pissed with Nanoff because I sent him my painting to be framed 2 whole months ago and he asked me to come for them in a week, and can you believe it? 2 whole months and he’s only just finished. I haven’t even picked it up. I’ve had to go to his gallery at least 6 times chasing after my painting so I don’t know why I’m recommending him. Well, he’s good. I like his paintings because they have details that make them stand out as Ghanaian art…not just African art. Recently, he’s created artworks with newspaper headlines from Ghanaian newspapers. I thought that was special. And his frames are to die for. If only he’d get them made on time…I also really like his sculptures. My favorite is the Pianist. It’s going for $800. I want!

You should also consider Korkor Kugblenu. I was dissatisfied with the painting in my living room because it was merely beautiful but it wasn’t me. It didn’t speak to me. It was just hanging there not inspiring me. So I pulled it down and Korkor made me a painting of a woman with an afro. All in reds. She delivered on time and on budget:)  Will post a photo soon.

3.    Give Books

Here, I’m going to cheat and ask for your help in suggesting interesting books that have been written by Ghanaian authors in the past year. Any ideas? 

4.    Give Something From

Because it’s live and people abroad can shop for their relatives in Ghana. Check it out.

5.    Give Jewelry
After the post on waistbeads, I’ve gone and gotten 4 strings from Nadel. I’ll post her number soon. But she’s at the first left turn off the Kanda Highway if you’re heading towards Kanda from Gold House.  They cost 20 cedis a pop so 80 GHC total, which is on the pricey side BUT gosh, they pop! And to be fair, they were made with pearls and beads. I think the glass and beads strings are cheaper. I keep looking for reasons to take off my clothes so people can see and admire. Ah, some things you can’t be pepei about them o. Plan to wear them for a long time so you’ll get your money’s worth.

There’s also Nelly’s Duaba Serwaah. I bought 2 gorgeous sets sometime last year for 40 GHC each. I don’t know if her prices have gone up or not. But check out her stuff here:!/pages/DUABA-SERWA/186312377635
I also discovered a beads shop at East- Legon just this past weekend.The shop is called BEADS. And their number is 024-397-9508. Ask for Jackie. You can find them on the same street at the A&C mall but closer to the end that has the American International School. Their regular waistbeads cost 12 cedis and the ones made with pearls cost 20 cedis just like at Nadels.

6.    Give Dramatic Photography

Emmanuel Bobbie is your guy. Me and my two girls went to the A-lounge and were impressed by some blown up photo he’d taken. A love. By all means.  You can even consider nudes. Ask Emmanuel. He might do them. Then have them framed. Hang it in your boudoir. I just wanted to use the word boudoir. Makes me feel sexy already. lol.

7.    Give Sisterlocs
Because I want to start it and the only thing standing between me and it is the price. I hear it’s around $500. Ya, that’s killer. I mean that kind of money can buy a kindle! Lol. Why would I spend it on hair? Lol. But if someone gave me a gift of sisterlocs…got me started on this journey, I would always remember that.

And natural hair is in right now…so if your woman is into that, suggest that you’d pay for her to get started, and watch her reaction.

8.    Give A Magazine Subscription
I haven’t bought Canoe in a year.Is Nkwaye better? Is the magazine doing okay? But if someone paid for a year’s subscription for me, I’d be happy. Hey, you’ve got to support local work.

9.    Give a vacation
Everyone’s heard of Little Acre in Aburi and the Axim beaches. And Akosombo hotels. Not all of us have been there. Infact Ms. Cleland here hasn’t been to any of them. So many of us would be thrilled if you gave you paid for a vacation this Christmas. Just do it. Give us a chance to enjoy your money small wai na money yE swine.

10.    Give a Bronya Atar

Allow.  Dis be genuine tin:) Remember when we were kids, it was at Christmas that we got new clothes. We even had a special name for it. The bronya atar. This Christmas, surprise your friends with a bronya atar from any of these Ghanaian clothing brands: Manise, Maksi, Christie Brown, Lola Bello and of course, my very own AfroChic. Preview AfroChic's Festive 2010 Collection.

You must also note that it’s not just about buying a gift, it also matters how you give it. Ghanaians we don't try when it comes to style koraa. But sometimes the how is even more important than the what. If you can deliver it in style, you must! 

Here’s an example:
If you buy AfroChic as a gift for your friends and loved ones, for a small fee, we will gift-wrap and specially deliver them to the recipients’ home or office. Imagine…AfroChic showing up to your friend’s office with a big gift box. Everyone’s going to be looking on, curious about whose gift it is. Imagine her face, when she unwraps the box to find a lovely dress and to discover it’s from you! Ah, what’s not to love? Don’t be boring.
Find AfroChic at a special 2-day event this weekend:

11th Dec, 2010   / Cafe Des Amis (next to Afrikiko) /10 am - 6 pm
12th Dec, 2010 /Marvels Mini Golf Course (Dzorwulu)/ 12 pm - 6 pm
After this weekend, you can either shop the collection online: or visit the shop at 20 Lower Hill, Univ. of Ghana, Legon.  

Have a fabulous Christmas. And remember, we’re banning boring. So give remarkable gifts. And do it in style.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Abi You Wan Sell? Google Trader Launches in Ghana

Yesterday, something quite spectacular happened at Makola market in Accra. And the taxi rank at Circle. And Oxford Street in Osu, and Akuafo Hall  in Legon, and Accra Mall. If you weren't there to see it for yourself, then listen up. I'm going to tell you all about what it was like at Makola.
The time was just a little past 8 am. Ghanaians were milling about as usual. Every third person was carrying something on their heads. Something like boxes, and basins. Empty basins. Full basins. Flat basins. Deep, and deeply scarred basins. Between the line of GTP stores which sit across from Rawlings park  and adjacent shops selling everything from imported suitcases to umbrellas, a coconut seller was preparing a coconut for a waiting buyer.

Music started blaring. It was Wanlov the Kuborlor's "Come home plus me".  We were all enjoying it small small, when the music changed. And with it came men and women from all corners dressed in Google t-shirts. Some wore red, others wore yellow. yet others wore green and even blue.  I even spotted someone I knew. Akwele from Ashale-Botwe, now all grown up and dressed in her green google tee and matching green head-band tieing her afro, white shorts, some sneakers. Hoop earrings, tiny bead bracelets and anklets. Nice.
Photo credit: Rodney Quarcoo Visuals
It's called a flash mob. It was moment there was just Makola as usual. The next moment, all these brightly colored people were pouring out of its corners. Then they started dancing. A fully choreographed deal o.  I'd never seen anything quite like it. It was disruptive. Entertaining. And cooooool! The makola traders must have thought so too, because in less than a minute, hundreds had gathered in a file along the street to watch. Some even run towards the action, forgetting for a few minutes the business of the day. 

Photo credit: Rodney Quarcoo Visuals

Abi you wan buy
Abi you wan sell
Google Trader something something something.

That was the song. A special song composed for the launch  by Horsley Samuel Horsfall. Nigerian dude o. Who ever heard of a Nigerian guy with a Fanti sounding name like that. Samuel Horse-what? Ya. Time to google him. But Gosh...we know Nigerian music is hot in Gh. but why couldn't google get some Ghanaian musician Sarkodie or Wanlov or M.anifest to make a song? I'm not feeling that.

Photo credit: Rodney Quarcoo Visuals
Anyway, so as this spectacular dance died down, one kayayo seller asked me what was going on. How does one explain google trader in simple terms? 

My attempt sounded like this...

Google foɔ enya new product bi. Sɛ wo pɛ sɛ wo tɔn biribi tese wo mpaboa a, wo betumi a text number bi, na w'akyerɛ bebia wo wɔ, ne shoe korɔ a woreton. Na google foɔ no de bɛto ɔmo website no so. Nti obi nso hwehwɛ shoe a, na wafrɛ wo.

Google now has a new product. If you want to sell anything, you can text a short code and indicate what kind of shoe, where you are, price and if someone's looking for a shoe, they'll call you.
She nodded vigorously.

Hey, I'd tried.  Maybe I should also have told her she could buy as well. But hopefully she would learn that on radio, or some other means. So I gave the kayayo woman the crude explanation but  exactly is google trader? Well, it's a product, with free classifieds listings similar to Craigslist and Gumtree that Google launched yesterday in Ghana. As at the launch, it already had 8 thousand listings.

You can search the listings online or on your phone.
Here's what you do if you want to sell something.
First, you have to register. You can do that online or on your phone. If you're using your phone, you  text "register" to 6007.
Next, you text "sell" to the same number, followed by a description of your item
e.g. Pen, Accra, 10 cedis.

If you're accessing trader online, then it's also possible to search categories like jobs, clothes, etc.Will Google Trader work for Ghana? Well, that remains to be seen. For now, it looks promising.  As an entrepreneur, the main takeaway from try. Try a lot of things. I mean even Google never knows which of its products is going to hit in which market so they try lots of things, and of course if you try enough times, eventually something will work out, and work out big. 

Whether trader will be that hit for Google in Ghana remains to be seen. I know I'm going to be registering soon. If  I ever try selling some AfroChic on trader, I'll give you an update on how it went. But you need not wait for my account. You can check out  Google Trader for yourself.