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How SMEs Can Attract Clients

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Your prospective
customers are talking all day long. They’re showing up on Social Media e.g. Facebook talking about their dreams, their worries and their fears.  Fora are filled with prospective buyers who are looking for someone who will give them a listening ear.
Gone are the days of “Big CEO and Company” going into the marketplace with an announcement that draws millions. Telling the market what they need doesn’t work. The question might really be, did it ever?
Your present and future clients are savvy and they are smart. They won’t fall for the old “Straight Talk Method,” much like a teacher messages, any longer. They aren’t listening and they don’t care. But they do want you to hear.
Will you hear their pain? Feel their needs and pay attention to what wakes them up in the middle of the night? Listen to what your customers are asking for. Listen to what your competitor’s customers are saying too. Lean in. Pay very close attention. Listen to the “chatter” and take copious notes. There’s no reason to go without this information that is steadily flowing. The key to big profits in today’s market is a good “listening ear”.
What do they need? Your clients are very aware of what they need. But when you enter the market place, a bigger issue must be faced. Are you aware of what they need?  This is the real issue when it comes to selling products or services. The reality of being successful in sales is summed up in this principle: People are looking to have their needs met. Period.
You can bring joy, security, and satisfaction to them as you serve them what they want and as they come to know you even better, you can serve them again and again. This is brand loyalty and long-term business in the making. It might sound crazy, but to the successful business owner, it’s Business 101. As a small business consultant, I have done this strategically for some firms in Port Harcourt here faced with customer acquisition problem, I advised them…we did a survey and did some test-marketing of what the target group wants and we worked out modalities in the product specification and needs as desired by the customers and it was successful, so it works for our environment.
What are they complaining about? If you pay attention online through  fora, chat groups, social media and other places people hang out, you’ll quickly learn what they need. It’s right there for anyone to discover. But it takes time to pay attention and, sadly, far too many companies aren’t listening.
Amid all the headlines of dropping profits, increased layoffs and lost investments, Boko Haram insurgence, something has remained the same that only a select few are paying attention to. People are still buying what they love, dreaming about what they want and making it plainly obvious what they don’t like!
Solve a problem with a unique solution and you’ll make a huge profit. If people really love your solution, get great satisfaction and you treat them better than anyone else, you will never lack as a company. And if you pay very careful attention to your client’s growing needs, you could easily create a long-term business. Pretty simple, isn’t it?
Are people disillusioned and unaware? Another great key to long-term profits is in becoming a resource that people can turn to and trust. Revealing hidden information, making difficult things simple and serving as an expert is a great way to grow a company.
It is my belief that we are at a critical time in history when people really do want the right information, they desire change and truly do want to know the truth. This is also a vulnerable time where less than commendable or reliable so-called experts are teaching things they know nothing about.
Institutions fill our heads with notions of “security” and “long-term dreams” when the sad reality is this: if you don’t market a product that is highly in demand, you’ll have an extremely hard time making a profit. Pay very close attention to what people are asking for. What are your customers struggling with? What do they want? What are they seeking? If you can give it to them, with value and excellence, you’re on the verge of huge success.
The market place pays for value. Your value is directly related to how much you can bring to the people you serve. If you help those who are unaware, confused or even disillusioned you could be personally responsible for helping others change their lives. This is one of the most fun ways to build a business. Bring value and change to your customers and they will love you forever.
Give it with excellence and honour. Excellent customer service seems to have left the face of the earth. Business owners are watching their bottom line more than the satisfaction of the customers they serve. This has not helped our economy one bit and needs a serious change. Talk about needing a revival in the market place. Where are the happy service representatives, CEOs who can’t wait to serve and product developers who dream of inventions at all hours of the night!? If you serve people with excellence and honour, you will be remembered forever. Because it’s so rare, you could quite frankly triple your profits if you do it long term. While it might not be easy, it surely isn’t popular and it isn’t something you even hear about much any longer in business school, it is always and has always been right.
Goodwill and honour will pay you much more and it will always leave you with a good night’s sleep. But what defines goodwill? Is it being available to your customers 24/7 through social media for every question or notion they might have? No. Not at all. But it does mean that when you are open, you give with all of your heart and with all that you have. Serve with excellence and honour and you’ll rise to the top!
Nwokocha is a Port Harcourt-based business consultant

 

Smith Nwokocha

Development Finance Officer, CBN, PHC, Madam Augustina Osuya (right) listening to Mrs. Ifeoma Ben-Ushie of NYSC (left) during the 2014 International Entrepreneur Business Summit at Ministry of Justice Conference Hall Port Harcourt, recently, with Mrs. Helen Ampege of NYSC. Pix: Nwiueh Donatus Ken.

Development Finance Officer, CBN, PHC, Madam Augustina Osuya (right) listening to Mrs. Ifeoma Ben-Ushie of NYSC (left) during the 2014 International Entrepreneur Business Summit at Ministry of Justice Conference Hall Port Harcourt, recently, with Mrs. Helen Ampege of NYSC. Pix: Nwiueh Donatus Ken.

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Leveraging E-Payments, Digital Innovation For Trade

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There is no doubt that technology has revolutionised the banking industry, particularly mobile and the Internet, as bank customers continue to embrace electronic payment for financial transactions.
Indeed, individuals and businesses now crave e-payment platforms mainly due to the immense economic benefits they derive from them, which include convenience, affordability, availability and customer retention.
For instance, a recent report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on “Selected Banking Sector Data: Sectoral Breakdown of Credit, ePayment Channels and Staff Strength” for first quarter, shows that a total of 557,083,712 electronic payment transactions valued at N34.02 trillion were recorded in selected banks across the country.
The e-payment channels include: the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Instant Payments (NIP), Automated Teller Machine (ATM), Point of Sale (PoS), electronic cheque truncation, mobile cash, electronic bills pay, web and mobile payment, among others.
Statistics indicate that cash and cheque use are declining as the world is swiftly becoming the age of digital payments, push payments and instant payments.
Analysts say the rise of different e-payment channels continues to have a direct impact on local economies, especially Nigeria.
In 2016, a report by Moody’s Analytics commissioned by Visa Incorporated showed that increased use of electronic payment products, including credit, debit and prepaid cards, added 296 billion dollars to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while raising household consumption of goods and services by an average of 0.18 per cent per year.
The report: “The Impact of Electronic Payments on Economic Growth” was conducted in 70 countries between 2011 and 2015.
The report also showed that e-payments added 640 million dollars to Nigeria’s GDP and an average of 16,880 jobs per year within the review period.
The benefits of e-payment to Nigeria’s economy are unquantifiable as it is evolving into a cashless society, deepening financial inclusion, reducing poverty and contributing to the effectiveness and stability of the financial system.
Director, Payments System Management, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sam Okojere, said the Nigerian Payments System had evolved over the years from primitive barter system to the use of cowries, metals, notes and to the present electronic payments system.
Okojere disclosed that CBN, as the regulator of the payments system, had been implementing various policies and initiatives towards the development of the Nigerian Payments System.
According to him, the strategic objective of the payments system is to migrate Nigeria from cash-based economy to an electronic payments inclined market. Thus, the bank’s strategic priorities have been to achieve a credible, reliable and efficient payments system.
Okojere disclosed this during a recent Joint Seminar for Banking and Telecom Regulators from the Sub-Saharan Africa Locations on Digital Products and Payment Systems in Lagos.
The seminar which had the theme: “Advancing ePayment and digital innovations in Africa – Evolution of Nigeria’s payment systems” was to promote financial inclusion through digital innovations in sub-Saharan Africa.
The seminar was organised to provide key officers of regulatory authorities in African Markets – notably locations with FirstBank subsidiaries; Ghana, Senegal, DRC, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – a platform to get familiar with developments in the Nigerian Payment Systems and Digital Products Industry.
Thereon replicating and adopting the knowledge from the seminar with a view to bolster the finance industry in their respective countries.
Speaking on how other countries can learn from the Nigerian experience, Okojere emphasised the need for strong collaboration, especially in the areas of intelligence gathering and information exchange to fight fraud.
“The Nigeria Electronic Fraud Forum is working on extending its partnership to other African countries.
“Also, periodic exchange of staff to learn on the job is very crucial to the development of competence,” Okojere said.
Notably, he stressed the need to start organising Intra-African Conferences with themes that reflected local challenges.
Specifically, he said the CBN continued to demonstrate its resolve to shape a more trusted and efficient payments landscape in Nigeria through its strong commitment to collaboration and stakeholder engagement.
Speaking on FirstBank’s leading role in promoting digital banking and financial inclusion across the country, Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., said the bank had been a success story as far as digital banking was concerned.
He restated that economic growth and development of host communities was important to the bank, and that assisting Nigeria and the continent at large address poverty was imperative and reason for financial inclusion being at the core of its business strategy.
Adeduntan said First Bank was also committed to financial inclusion and would continue to improve the lives of Nigerians through the provision of innovative financial services.
Also, Mr Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, First Bank, noted that the bank was pursuing sustainable financial inclusion by leveraging its unparalleled experience in serving the low income segments.
“Our agent banking offering with focus on serving financially excluded individuals and small businesses in rural areas is experiencing exponential growth with significant revenue and social impact,” he said.
Ezirim disclosed that First Bank had over 28, 000 agent banking network located in 754 local government areas, processing N240 billion worth of transactions monthly.
“The agent banking asides creating employment has made banking easier and closer to people, and the testimony of the people is that their communities has been turned to city,” he said.
He highlighted the challenges faced by the agents as poor infrastructure, trust, lack of awareness, low income/literacy level and identity management, among others.
Corroborating the First Bank boss, Mr Mike Ogbalu, Chief Executive Officer, Verve International, said Nigeria’s payments system had evolved over the last 20 years with amazing impact on the economy, industries and the lives of Nigerians.
Ogbalu said the August 2005 banking sector recapitalisation redefined competition within the industry and set off a technology ‘arms race,’ which positively impacted the growth of the industry.
Also, Managing Director, Nigeria InterBank Settlement System (NIBSS), Premier Oiwoh, disclosed that Nigeria was one of the few countries in Africa and the world to have deployed an Instant Payment platform solution.
According to Oiwoh, the NIBSS Instant Payment (NIP) is the first and only point-to-point funds transfer service that guarantees instant value to the beneficiary.
He disclosed that the NIP experienced exponential growth value from N3.9 trillion in 2012 to N39.9 trillion as at June 2018.
Oiwoh noted that benefits of improved payment system would facilitate the entry of new players into the financial industry, faster turnaround time with inter-bank transactions, convenient banking and improved innovations from mobile and internet banking.
Others include: next day settlement of merchants for Point of Sale (POS) transactions, availability and uniform functionality of the terminals and uniformed card acceptability across the network.
However, he itemised fear of fraud and security issues, infrastructural challenges and low level of card usage on POS as some of the impediments to Nigeria’s electronic payment system.
Furthermore, Mr Agada Apochi, Managing Director, Unified Payment Services Ltd., urged operators in the payment system to evolve a scheme whereby various African currencies would be acceptable both as transaction, settlement and billing currencies.
“Otherwise, we would continue to depend on the dollars or pounds; because there is no national currency in African today that is allowed as a global currency for settlements or billing,” he said.
He also advised telecoms companies to reduce their roaming rates in Africa to deepen digitalisation, thus allow more businesses utilise their USSD for transactions during trips. He added that present roaming rates of telecoms companies in Africa was prohibitive.
Ishola writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Oluwafunke Ishola

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Addressing Threat Of EIDs In Africa

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Participants at the just-concluded 5th African Conference on Emerging Infection Diseases and Biosecurity, held in Abuja, agreed that African countries must strengthen their National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs).
They said that strengthening the institutes would enable the countries mitigate infectious disease outbreaks caused by climate change and biological weapons.
They noted that the continent had continued to experience increased cases of Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs) like Ebola, Lassa Fever , Yellow Fever, Monkey Pox, Cholera, Bird Flu and Meningitis.
They also noted cases of drug-resistant diseases like Malaria, Tuberculosis and Bacterial pneumonias.
Available statistics indicate that infectious diseases are responsible for about one-quarter of deaths worldwide, causing at least 10 million deaths annually, mainly in the tropical countries.
Experts say that public health plays a leading role in the areas of preparedness and planning to check outbreak of diseases.
In most situations, the public health system would be the first to detect cases and raise  alarm, it would also be at the front line throughout the response.
The Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, echoed the need for African countries to combat emerging infectious diseases, through strong NPHIs.
Ihekweazu, who spoke at the conference with the theme: “Climate Change and Conflict: Implication for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity in Africa,’’ stressed that Africa must mitigate the infectious disease outbreaks caused by climate change and biological weapons.
He stressed the need for a strong surveillance and response system managed by skilled public health experts.
Ihekweazu emphasised that African countries must demonstrate high level of preparedness to check disease outbreaks.
“Early detection through a sensitive surveillance system is required to know when and where the outbreak occurs to limit its spread.
“ Most importantly, a coordinated and rapid investigation is required to describe the outbreak and identify interventions,” Ihekweazu said.
Prof. Morenike Ukpong-Folayan, in her contribution, noted that Africa had continued to witness devastating consequences of infectious disease transmission such as the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ukpong-Folayan, who is of the College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University,  said to understand and respond to infectious disease transmission dynamics, it would require collective efforts and deployment  of technological advances at Africa’s disposal.
She said the transmission patterns were needed for continuous investigation of those complex relationships so that the continent could effectively predict future disease outbreaks.
“The rapid degradation of our environment in the form of deforestation, climate change and accumulation of toxins in water tables and the atmosphere, coupled with rapidly expanding megacities is creating opportunities for EIDs and biosecurity threats in Africa,” she added.
Ukpong-Folayan noted that shrinking natural resources was creating human competition for water and grazing, leading to demographic conflicts.
Akin Abayomi, a professor of Medicine and Health Science said that “ poor management of waste and unchecked use of chemicals have contributed to the rise of infectious diseases.’’
Abayomi who is the principal investigator for Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium, said: “Whatever we do on the surface of the earth is reflected in the water table that ends up carrying pathogens and heavy metals that are harmful to the body.
“The pressure on water is enormous, when we look at the drying up of the Lake Chad, a source of livelihood for 350 million people in four countries – Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, it has increased tension in the region.
“Wherever you have conflicts and insecurity, there is always the opportunity for biosecurity threats.”
Making reference to why Ebola spread rapidly in three countries– Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, he listed the reasons to include: “Lack of human resources, economic and financial resources to cope.
“The inaccessibility of remote locations where the disease was on the rise.
“The inexperience of staff to handle the strange disease and the lack of specialised infrastructure for dangerous pathogens.’’
An environmentalist, Mr Sunday Ishaku,said that infectious disease was a serious global health problem.
Ishaku said that epidemiological figures have shown that the burden of infectious disease was highest in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
He said preparedness was a subset of epidemic management, adding that epidemic preparedness constitutes all the activities that have to be undertaken from the national to the health facility levels to be ready to respond effectively to disease outbreaks.
Ishaku noted: “When all the activities are put together in a plan, then we have an epidemic preparedness and response plan.”
Dr Dotun Bobadoye, the chief operating officer, Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium, said the impact of climate change and conflict in some parts of Africa should not be overlooked because of its huge impact on human beings, animals, crops and the environment.
“We should focus on combine impact of climate change and serious conflict that we are having in different parts of Africa on EIDs and biosecurity.
“Climate change is becoming a big challenge to Africa, especially with an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather event.
“We are experiencing drought in parts of the continent ; in Nigeria, desertification is moving southwards with 350 hectares lost to desertification annually.
“Lake Chad, which used to be a source of water supply to about 30 million people, is drying up and we have lost 90 per cent of its water content within the last three decades. “This is having a serious impact on biosecurity.
“With the loss of such huge water volume, we have rebel groups rising up and killing thousands of people.’’
Bobadoye disclosed that the consortium, through the help of the Canadian Government and the Lagos State Government, had begun the construction of a biological laboratory in Lagos, where sensitive biological materials would be kept from getting into the wrong hands.
“We are collaborating with Lagos State Government to build a biosecurity laboratory, where highly pathogenic biological materials will be kept so that they do not get to the wrong hands.
“ It is sited in Lagos State and donated by the Canadian Government, it will start operation soon,” Bobadoye said.
As suggested by experts, African countries should strengthen their public health institutes in order to beef up their preparedness to check outbreak of diseases.
Abujah writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Racheal Abujah

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Towards Improved Children Protection Services

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According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), abuse or violence in all its forms is a daily reality for many Nigerian children and only a fraction ever receive help.
The National Child Welfare Policy of 1989 defines a child in Nigeria as anybody who is 12 years or below; however, a draft decree put into law now sets the age of the child in Nigeria as 18 years or below.
Violence Against Children (VAC) is defined as constituting all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence, exploitation or for commercial purposes of which result poses harm to a child’s health, survival or development.
It takes different forms, including physical, psychological and sexual; often times, it also takes the shape of disciplinary measures. In recent times, children are even used as human bombs and in any combat or non-combat roles in the conflict in north-east Nigeria.
Studies also show that six out of every 10 children experience some form of violence, one in four girls and 10 per cent of boys have been victims of sexual violence. Often times, the children who reported violence receive little or no form of support. In all of these, the physical, mental, social and even economic burden of VAC is enormous.
Identifying the huge consequences of VAC, world leaders in 2015 made a commitment to end all forms of violence against children by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the same campaign tagged “End Violence Against Children by 2030,’’ on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016.
Following the launch and with increasing incidence of different forms of VAC, including rape, trafficking, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), there have also been various clamours to end VAC in the country, of which requires a holistic approach.
A study by UNICEF, the first of its kind in Nigeria, shows that  about half of Nigerian children reported some form of physical violence by a parent, adult relative, community member or intimate partner prior to attaining the age of 18.
The studies, “A Financial Benchmark for Child Protection, Nigeria Study, Volume 1’’ and “The Economic Burden of Violence Against Children’’ were based on data gathered from 2014 to 2016 and the survey done in 2018.
The study on the Economic burden of VAC, reveals the cumulative loss of earnings as a result of productivity losses across diûerent types of violence against children to be N967 billion ($6.1 billion), accounting for 1.07 per cent  of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This amplifies the urgency to act on reducing or outright stopping of VAC. However, achieving this will involve increasing efforts on Child Protection Services; efforts that will include awareness on prevention strategies, the implications of VAC and the consequent penalties as even cheaper options.
Ms Juliane Koenlg of UNICEF, Abuja, said that the most important thing is still to increase the awareness on the prevalence of violence against children in Nigeria which is high.
“It is a huge problem, especially on its impact on health and economy in Nigeria; the child needs protection. “If we look at child protection services, we are looking at preventive.’’
“It also has consequences on the educational attainment which we have seen in economic growth productivity loss due this consequence.
“Nearly N1 billion is lost due to creativity loss, while N1.4 trillion is lost to VAC.’’
A child rights advocate, Ms Ifeoma Ibe, says governments must be committed to reducing VAC in Nigeria.
According to her, at the economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) First Ladies Forum in October 2017, the 15 member states, of which Nigeria is among, agreed to  adopt a range of measures to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation.
“We must strengthen our national child protection systems to prevent and respond to violence, abuse and exploitation against children.”
Lending her voice, Rachel Harvey, Regional Adviser of Child Protection, UNICEF, had at the launch of the campaign to end VAC by 2030 in 2016, said that the Federal Government must adopt proactive measures against violence through quality services.
According to her, child protection services must be staffed by trained professionals to help children recover from their experiences.
“Also, perpetrators should be held accountable for their actions by strengthening the capacity of the justice sector. Children and the general public must know that violence against children is unacceptable and know where to seek help when they become victims,’’ she said.
Shedding more light on the problem, Harvey said: “The Nigeria Violence Against Children Survey found that adults who have suffered violence as children, are much more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence.
“Failure to end VAC also impacts the country as a whole; it leads to substantial economic losses and constrains development. Ending VAC has been linked to sustainable growth not only by the international community, but through the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to her, it involves religious leaders, NGOs and the media as they have fundamental role in breaking the culture of silence on violence that children suffered.
Aside from the efforts of governments and what the laws stipulate, many stakeholders believe that VAC can be stemmed right from the homes.
This is especially as the National Child Welfare Policy of 1989 specifies that “parents and the society at large, are under an obligation to provide their children with proper education and to protect them from exploitation arising from early marriage, employment and their negative influence that infringe on their rights’’.
A child protection specialist with UNICEF, Mrs Sharon Oladiji, agrees that Nigeria has many laws protecting children in the country, but the laws are not adequately implemented.
She calls for the creation of family courts vested with jurisdiction to hear cases that would help protect the child and prevent trafficking.
“We have good laws, but what we have suffered is implementation; government should also provide the establishment of voluntary homes to take care of children that are suffering,’’ she said.
She tasked parents on their responsibilities of proper upbringing of children in order to reduce the rate of child rights violation in Nigeria.
“If a child is well brought up, issues of molestation and abuse will not occur. “When you raise a child well he goes out to become a good person, when a child has problems in the home he goes out and demonstrates it,’’ she says.
Also, Mrs Eliana Martins, of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, Lagos State branch, believes that parents have critical roles in reducing VAC through the proper upbringing of their children and wards.
“Instilling good morals in the upbringing of children will help to mould a child’s personality for a more responsible adulthood. If you teach your children good values, definitely they will imbibe these values as they grow up and the women, especially have to rise up to this task.
Mr Denis Onoise, a child protection specialist, UNICEF, reiterated the need for “Call to Action’’ by governments and stakeholders to add child protection budget line to national chart of accounts.
He said that based on studies, currently, only 14 per cent of child protection expenditure in Nigeria was devoted to critical prevention services.
According to him, there is also need to formalise an End VAC National Act Plan and establish VAC helpline.
“These will improve the delivery of child protection services across the country,’’ Onoise said.

Ihechu is of the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Vivian Ihechu

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