'The customer is right, especially when they're wrong'


It's difficult to predict which columns will strike a chord with readers and which will pass unnoticed.

There are times I think my column will click with audiences but all it gets are crickets. Other times, scribblings that I believe scarcely hold mass appeal take off like the PoS workforce before an afternoon shower.

Last week's piece generated more interest than I could have anticipated. Either it hit all the right notes, or readers were so disgusted with the election campaigning that my column was a soothing salve in a hail of blistering ignorance. Either way, I'll take it.

I wrote about how the crucible of economic stagnation forced me to wrack my brain and come up with ways of reaching out to foreign markets to peddle my media, television and video production skills.

There are likely thousands of others in similar situations in TT; opportunities curtailed, income evaporated, anaemic business and other tales of unremitting woe. I’m sure, though, many are practically bristling with the talent, skills and expertise to build new business models that buck conventions of traditional commerce. I ain't no sage for aspiring entrepreneurs, but there are lessons I can share from my experience.

First, I had to make my peace with doing copious research. Some questions needed answers before I could even lace up my boots to head in a particular direction. Is there a market for my products and services? Where in the world is my market located?

Here's an example of why research is so important. Many folks who signed up for my camera confidence course live in Asian nations and the Middle East. I anticipated demand in these markets so I included an entire module on speaking on camera with foreign accents.

Second, when reaching out to international markets, your products must be on point. At the risk of sounding uncharitable, the global market is not like Trinidad and Tobago where consumers swallow sub-standard nonsense. I purchased several books and online courses to prepare for breaking into unfamiliar territory.

In today's review-dominated culture of fierce competition, easy returns and refunds, it doesn't take more than a few excoriating customer reviews to leave you dead in the water. The customer is always right, especially when they are wrong.

This is a point that cannot be overemphasized: your product or service has to be second to none. The customer service you offer must be above reproach, even bordering on obsequious where you can manage.

Never pass up on an opportunity to make the customer feel like you've gone above and beyond to usher them through that funnel into the sale, and even hold their hand long after they've made their purchase.

Third, you have to market like you're going crazy. This new world offers no sanctuary to those trained in the old-school sales pitch. The days are long gone when you could have told the customer here's the product, this is what it costs, here's where you can buy it, and don't bother me anymore.

Unfortunately, this is what many businesses still get wrong. They believe social media is just another cheap place to advertise. Marketing today is like romance. You must woo potential customers by plying them with added value. Local businesses have been spoilt by Trini willingness to accept a one-night stand and the consequent walk of shame.

Converting browsers into buyers means you have to put in the work to create blogs, videos and freebies people will find useful. You have to show up online every day and engage with your target market. If you think you can get away with merely posting an advertisement and logging off, then you're in for an unpleasant surprise.

It pays to learn about digital marketing in an environment where the customer calls the shots. They are telling you where they are, how they consume content and what sort of content they want to consume. It's a good idea to listen. As an entrepreneur eyeing the global market, there are two mindsets from which to choose.

You can: a) grumble about how much there is to learn and do or; b) thank your lucky stars the Internet makes it possible for you to learn what it takes to completely transform yourself in a country and an economy determined to stay the same. Which one are you?


"‘The customer is right, especially when they’re wrong’"

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