Why Marketers Should Stop Sweeping Rural customers with the same broom
What marketer has not heard of P Kotler, D Aaker, P.M. Chisnall, De Chernatony , K Keller? These and more are the marketing gurus that have shaped our corporate and academic understanding of marketing, creating schools of thoughts that have shaped corporations around the world. Marketing in developing countries has borrowed extensively from these internationally renowned authors and researchers. Marketers across the globe have tended to apply concepts created by international authors, lock, stock and barrel , to market segments that are culturally, socially and economically diverse , often with minimal success.
Unique features of rural markets
• Rural customers value old customs and traditions. Many basic cultural values have not faded.
• The level of literacy is usually lower than in urban areas and this affects traditional marketing and promotional activities.
• There is a general lack of proper communication and infrastructure including facilities such as access to radio, TV, telephones, electricity, roads and storage facilities etc.
• The languages spoken within a country and within different rural regions may vary from district to district.
• The per capita income in rural areas is usually lower that in urban areas . Consumer spending patterns are also different and determined by the frequency of wages.
Adapting the 4 Ps to suit Rural Customers
“Authentic marketing is the art of identifying and understanding customer needs and creating solutions that deliver satisfaction to the customers, profits to the producers and benefits for stakeholders.” P Kotler
• Customise your products to meet the needs of your market segments
• Products should meet the basic needs of rural customers who in most cases are very price conscious and also expect your products to do what they are suppose to do without any frills.
• Create products that are durable and that can withstand outside storage or that do not need refrigeration.
• Reduce package sizes or use sachets so that customers only buy what they need.
• Make your products more affordable by using innovative distribution, packaging and promotion methods.
• Use minimal branding to make your products less costly.
• Use basic packaging that meets the storage standards of customers, but does not cost the company more money.
• Create value for money for rural customers.
“If you are trying to persuade people to do something, it seems to me you should use their language , the language in which they think.” David Ogilvy
Use more innovative marketing methods such as :
• Song and dance
• Plays/ Generator powered TV shows
• Game sponsorships
-Promote your products in the local language that the customers speak.
-Use humour to endear your brand to customers
-Use pictures on your packaging to demonstrate usage of more complex products.
-Create brand advocates for your products, who will promote your products on your behalf.
-Target your promotional messages for the decision makers.
-Take advantage of large gatherings such as school meetings, community meetings to market your products.
-Find influential product advocates such as local community leaders
Distribution can pose a serious challenge for companies that are plying rural markets, therefore:
• Use smaller vans or mobile stores that serve distribution, promotional and demonstration purposes.
• Share transport with other retailers and marketing companies of complimentary products.
• Create market days for your products when customers know that your products will be available.
• Train local agents who will sell your products for you on a commission basis.
Marketers need to analyse their rural markets in order to be competitive and to gain market share in these areas. Many brands mistakenly treat this segment of the market the same way that they treat their urban market segments. Those companies that can understand the buying behaviour and the socio- economic fundamental of rural populations in developing countries will make inroads into these markets.
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