How to find and keep customers
that processors can properly understand their customers’ needs, their competitors, and how
the market actually operates.
Worked example: Calculating market size
A processor interviews 16 hotel and restaurant owners in the town. The number who said they
would buy cooking oil at the stated price = 10 (or 62.5% of total).
And the amount they would buy = 11 litres to 25 litres (average 14 litres) per owner per
The total number of hotels and restaurants in the town and surrounding areas (from the
telephone directory) = 148
The total potential demand for oil per month:
= (Total No owners) x (% who said they would buy oil) x (average amount they would buy)
= 148 x 0.625 (or 62.5%) x 14
= 1295 litres per month.
To find customers and keep them coming back, a processor should promote the business in as
many ways as possible, and not as a one-off activity but on an ongoing basis. Initially, most
small-scale processors look for customers themselves, but as the business develops they may
also employ sales staff to do this. Processors should first decide who are the target customers
and buyers for their food(s), and these are the people who should be made aware of the
products. Where buyers are retail or food service outlets, processors should visit the owners or
managers to explain the benefits of products compared to competing brands; and also explain
the service that can be provided, as well as any special deals or offers.
If the target buyers are institutions or other food businesses, it is necessary to know which
individuals are responsible for both deciding the specific purchase requirements and for
actually buying the products, as these might be different people. Focusing on the right person
is critical: the most cost effective way is to contact the company and ask for the name of the
person who is responsible for buying foods (e.g. the Purchasing Manager). Then arrange a
face-to-face meeting to discuss how they make decisions when they want to buy a product,
their buying procedures, and any specific requirements that they have (e.g. minimum order
size or delivery requirements). The meeting should also be used to promote products using
free samples and printed product information, so that the buyers remember the product when
they next wish to place an order.
Buyers may hear about products in different ways and from different sources, and the more
often they come across the name of a processor or a particular product, the more likely they
are to consider what it has to offer. Processors should therefore promote their business and
products in a number of ways:
Get business cards printed. This is the least expensive form of advertising and cards
are essential for any processor. A card should have the business name, logo, the
person’s position in the business and contact information. The design should be
attractive and not over-complicated. Processors should leave cards with all customers
in their target market and potential customers they meet at business or other events.
Look in daily and weekly newspapers for contact information about potential
customers (e.g. people in relevant local businesses who have been promoted or
honoured in some way, a new supermarket manager who has just been appointed, or
people who have opened new businesses that might buy your foods). Processors
should send these people personal letters that describe the benefits of their products
and the service offered, along with a request for a meeting.
Research business-to-business contacts and new business registrations in public
libraries, national trade directories and trade publications. New businesses are a good
prospect because they may not yet have suppliers for the products that they need.
Customers often prefer to buy products from people they know and trust. Join local
business groups, manufacturers’ associations or the chamber of commerce; attend
trade fairs, conferences and seminars that bring potential business customers together