Top100 SMEs tipped on use of IT to study clients

Kenyan entrepreneurs need to understand their customers’ specific needs and use available data and automation to respond to those needs if they are to succeed in today’s highly disruptive digital environment.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) also need to embrace analytics which can measure the impact of their interaction with customers in order to achieve set objectives in the marketplace.

This is because customers are looking for that “magical experience” when making purchases and interactions with them — one-on-one or virtually — need to deliver this feeling if their loyalty is to be secured.

These were some of the tips given to past participants in the annual Top 100 SMEs survey at a breakfast forum organised by the Business Daily and KPMG on Tuesday morning.

The session, themed Leveraging on Digital During Lean Economic Times, sought to empower businesspeople on how to make the most of today’s vibrant and evolving digital marketplace. “Entrepreneurs need to extensively learn their customers and see how their product can help them achieve their targets,” Mark Kaigwa, the founder of tech consultancy Nendo, said at the event where he was one of four panelists.

“The hard sell may not get you very far whether done in person or even on social media platforms. SMEs need to know who they are speaking to even before they invest in technology.”

Ory Okolloh (a director at investment firm Omidyar Network Africa), Charles Murito (Google Kenya’s country manager), and Kanwar Deep Singh (business development lead for Nation Media Group) were the other panelists.

Mr Murito advised SMEs not to market their products and services for marketing’s sake but instead develop a niche market which can be converted into loyal customers.

Ms Okolloh urged companies to empower their youthful employees, arguing that they could serve as ambassadors, especially on social media where speedy response to complaints is key.

Mr Singh listed some measures taken measures by NMG to embrace and grow with disruption, including having a “digital first” policy, using algorithms to improve sales and offering content in digital (e-paper) formats.

Tuesday’s breakfast was organised just a week after the launch of the tenth edition of the annual  Top 100 SMEs survey which showcases the growth of firms that have participated in previous editions.

The criteria for eligibility this year have changed to include only the firms that participated in the first nine editions.

The Top 100 SMEs survey tracks businesses with an annual turnover of between Sh70 million and Sh1 billion, with those exceeding the Sh1 billion mark joining Club 101.

“The middle and lower tier of businesses are the real employers in this economy and keep the country going,” Joe Muganda, NMG’s chief executive, said during the launch of this year’s competition.

Real estate firm Diamond Property Merchants won the 2016 edition of the Top100 SMEs survey. Other recent winners include Mombasa-based pharmaceutical company Pharmaken Ltd in 2015 and real estate firm Optiven in 2014.

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