How to find and keep customers
(termed ‘networking’). Similarly, join community, religious or sporting groups to locate
potential buyers who are members. By becoming an active participant in business and
community groups, processors can become known in the group and meet the type of
people that they want as customers.
Ensure that everyone in a business or community network spreads positive information
about your company or product by word of mouth. This type of promotion can be an
important source of customers, and is more effective and lasting than media
advertising because it is earned rather than purchased.
Contact the organisers of sporting, cultural or trade events and offer free samples of
products or a competition prize during the event in exchange for product or business
promotion. Follow up potential customers after events to find out their level of interest
in products, and also any of their business associates who may be interested in buying
For advertisements in publications, use a number of small adverts that run over a long
time, rather than a single large advert: the repetition builds recognition of the
company or product name among potential customers. Register under multiple
category headings in business directories or telephone ‘Yellow Pages’ (e.g. under both
‘food processors’ and ‘fruit juice suppliers’).
Ask for referrals by existing customers to their business colleagues who may have a
need for the same products. Additionally, find processors who sell different products
in the same market and ask them to refer their customers, with a reciprocal
arrangement, thereby providing customers for both businesses.
Devise a system for collecting, compiling and continuously updating lists of
customers’ details and potential buyers (or ‘leads’). This can be done using card
indexes or a computer spreadsheet programme. If computerised lists are used for
direct mailing, frequent updating reduces the numbers of letters that are not
For processors that have a computer, join one of the free Internet-based business-to-
business networks (e.g. www.linkedin.com) or subscribe to a national business network
If there is more money to invest, consider buying membership lists from chambers of
commerce or trade associations, or information on subscribers to trade publications -
each may provide a large number of new leads.
Sales staff who contact individual buyers may go out to meet the buyers at their offices or
shops, or they may work at the processing site selling products by telephone (‘tele-sales’) or for
those with computers, using e-mail or the Internet. Tele-and Internet-sales have increased in
economically advanced countries owing to improvements to communications and the lower
costs compared to sales representatives visiting buyers. These methods are likely to increase in
less economically developed countries as computer use and mobile phone networks become
more widespread. The main advantages of sales representatives who visit buyers are that they
can provide information about new services or product developments; they can deal with any
problems; find new customers; and collect information about any changes to competitors’
behaviour or other market conditions. However, to be effective sales staff must be properly
trained, motivated and supervised. It is sometimes possible to avoid the high costs of
employing sales staff by using salespeople from another business that is not in competition
but knows the target customers, or hiring salespeople from a specialised agency, but neither
method is commonly used by small-scale processors.
Keeping customers - customer care
Many food processors fail to realise how important it is to develop a good relationship with
buyers and to look after them: there is no point spending money trying to get new customers if
the existing ones are dissatisfied. The basic concept behind customer care is the recognition
that buyers are the most important people in a business. It can only survive if they are
satisfied with the product and the service, and come back for repeat purchases. To achieve
this, processors must develop attitudes, ways of thinking, and actions that reflect the
importance of their customers.