UAE's Small Business Market Should Study Customer Lifecycles While the UAE already presents numerous opportunities for SMBs to seize, the arrival of Expo 2020 in Dubai is going to further enhance prospects for the nation's fledgling businesses.

By Vikram Chadha

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As a significant contributor to the nation's economy – 40% in Dubai, and 60% of the overall UAE economy – the small and medium business (SMB) market is a highly dynamic one with unique connectivity needs that must be supported. While the UAE already presents numerous opportunities for SMBs to seize, the arrival of Expo 2020 in Dubai is going to further enhance prospects for the nation's fledgling businesses. This is, of course, a great outlook for the economies of both the UAE as a whole and Dubai as an individual emirate, but it also presents a unique opportunity for companies to provide services tailored to needs of SMBs. In order to develop products that will not only successfully serve them better, but that will provide you with the competitive edge needed to succeed, it is essential to understand them and identify what sets them apart.

Understanding the Market

An important starting point in building unique value propositions is to begin by segmenting the potential customer base by identifying their unique requirements. Each segment will have different value proposition needs, as well as individual financial potential and go-to-market approaches. It's important to combine attitudes and needs with firmographics and behaviours; this is an area in which clarity and focus will enable service-providing companies to be proactive and responsive, thereby giving them an edge over their competition.

With segmentation, effective marketing –which is all about recognition and complete understanding of not only the target market, but the environment of potential customers– is possible. To ensure a successful marketing strategy that will identify new clients and customers, you must look at four points to gain customer insight:

1. Who are the best customers to target?
2. What are the target customers' buying motivations?
3. What are their purchasing or buying criteria?
4. What are their purchasing or buying cycles?

Customer First

The focus in today's rapidly changing world should be on providing the best value to SMBs, by designing targeted propositions. At du, we use a concept called 'Customer First' in order to address the specific needs of the SMB market; this puts the customer at the heart of everything we design, drawing on insight and inputs directly from the customer.

Alongside this, we provide our customers with as much peace of mind as possible, by offering them price transparency and price predictability. This gives them complete control of their spending, eliminating bill shock, allowing for an expected amount to be allocated into budgets for telecom and ICT needs. For an SMB, keeping a tight budget is important, making this an essential plus point for any service provider to offer.

Beyond this, we place a strong emphasis on the importance of building and maintaining ongoing relationships. We do this through the creation of an ecosystem of events, forums, networking and mentoring sessions. Not only do these add value and build a strong rapport, but they provide a superior level of customer experience that we can continuously improving on – our customers are important to us, and we are constantly innovating in order to deliver the best to them.

Key Challenges for SMBs

The SMB sector plays an important role in the UAE's well-diversified economy, comprising 95% of small business and employing 42% of the nation's workforce. As a sector, SMBs contribute 40% to the value of Dubai's economy, and 60% to the UAE's economy. In simple terms, the economy grows if SMBs grow. With the winning of Expo 2020, the UAE government is now even more focused on providing more momentum to this sector by promoting entrepreneurship and SMB development.

There are, however, a unique set of SMB-specific challenges, such as limited budgets, a fragmented market, a wide range of service preferences, and decision-making processes that vary from one company to the other. These are all hurdles that must be overcome, if the sector is to truly benefit from outsider support. A good starting point for success in this instance is to address the uniqueness of the SMB market. It's imperative to give it the importance it deserves, rather than treating it as a larger version of the consumer market, or a smaller version of the large enterprise market.

Amongst other key factors to consider is the fact that SMB owners are very busy– they're raising a new enterprise baby, so to speak, and are committed to seeing their venture grow and succeed. For a third of UAE SMB owners, travel is a necessity for their business to succeed, which is something to definitely consider, as they will likely lean towards products that offer them travel-specific benefits. Time is a premium for them, too; they want convenience, they want quick services, and they want as little hassle as possible in getting them. What SMB owners want, in short, is real engagement, from partners who will support and manage their growth, and who will become part of their success story. Understanding this and catering to it has been a key driver of our successful partnership with SMBs over the years.

du's Growth Mantra

For SMB customers, it's important to full emphasize the benefits of your proposition, so that they can clearly see the reasons why they should adopt your solution, but also so that they can make quick, informed decisions. This is crucial for us, at du, and we ensure that pricing is transparent, and that both products and services are specifically designed to meet the individual needs of customers. We have identified several aspects that are especially important for success. These are:

a) Familiarity and Consistency Consistently delivering on the service parameter that the customer expects is an easy way to attract more business. As SMBs become more familiar and more satisfied with our offerings and services, they often come back to ask for more. It is important for us to be part of this customer journey, from initial purchase to cross-selling, and then to intelligently bundling more services along the growth path of the customer.

b) Word of Mouth The other key aspect we strive to achieve is powerful customer references from our clients. Word of mouth is a powerful medium for growth, and we encourage our client base to provide us with feedback as well as promote our business by voicing their support.

c) Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM) To attract business continuously, we strive to understand our SMB customers and provide them long term benefits through a customer lifecycle management mindset. For example, we provide the customer with a unified bill, identity management, and consistently ensure a good experience. This enables the growth of their business, and of ours. A dedicated qualified retention team is our greatest asset and that is at the core of our success.

d) Adopt digital experiences We clearly see that more and more SMBs understand the importance of going digital, and want business benefits from this sphere. In the coming years, the digital channel will have a significant role to play in the buying experience of customers, adding more services, taking care of their account digitally, providing after sales service and also making their payment online. Our digital initiatives play a big role in fulfilling these ambitions.

Being a big player in the small business market means that you must consider evolving customer lifecycle needs. Businesses today need to be more agile and innovative, both in the design and delivery of services, and finding a reliable partner that supports their vision and business growth is critical. The future looks promising, and we are ringing in change at a rapid pace to empower SMBs with the ability to make the most of tomorrow's opportunities.

Vikram Chadha, du Vice President of SME Marketing, has international executive level experience in general management, marketing P&L, product management, sales strategy and management responsibility, with over 15 years of telecommunication sector involvement in Asia, Africa, America and the Middle East. Given his extensive senior expertise in international telecommunications marketing, sales, business development, product management and customer experience, Chadha brings with him a wealth of marketing experience in the consumer, enterprise and SME segments. He is the go-to market specialist, with strong channel expertise and a portfolio that includes the development of many world first propositions. He has significant experience in handling sales operations for direct, indirect and retail channels across both consumer and enterprise segments, for both the fixed and mobile sectors. Chadha’s impressive people management skills are coupled with the ability to lead from the front. Throughout his career, Vikram has been responsible for the management of large multi-cultural teams in MTN, Globacom, Reliance, and with du in the UAE. With areas of expertise including turning around businesses and the development of markets/businesses from scratch, Vikram has a proven track record of incremental value creation. As a frequent participant and speaker at telecom events, he is seen as a thought leader in the mobile data and pricing for telecom services segments.

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