WhatsApp is a very popular messaging app that has revolutionalised the way we communicate. If you get into public transport or attend public gatherings you are bound to see almost everyone hunkered over their phones and the bulk of the time they will be on WhatsApp.
While the app has been mainly used for social communication, it can also be used by small business owners to help them grow and get closer to their customers.
WhatsApp is a great tool for business because in many countries in Africa mobile network providers have what are called WhatsApp bundles. These bundles allow subscribers to have access only to WhatsApp. This is usually all the access that these subscribers have to the internet for the bulk of the time because data is relatively expensive.
For example, the chart below shows internet usage by platform in Zimbabwe in 2018. The study, done by the Zimbabwe Advertising Research Foundation (ZARF), shows that WhatsApp is used by almost 100% of all internet users.
If you are a small business and you rely mostly on your website and ads on other social media channels then you will not connect with these potential customers who only have access to WhatsApp. Given that the number of people who use WhatsApp bundles is very high, the result is that you will miss out on a lot of potential business.
WhatsApp also makes it easy and cheap for customers to contact you. Sending a WhatsApp message is much cheaper than calling an organisation so if you can have quick responses on WhatsApp you will make it cheap for your customers.
Now if you are on WhatsApp, you will greatly increase your chances of connecting to this pool of customers. In this article, I will share with you some ways that you can use WhatsApp and reap the benefits in your business.
Have a WhatsApp Business Account
WhatsApp released the business version of the app in late 2017 and business owners can take advantage of this. WhatsApp business app a bit different from the normal version of the app in that it allows business owners to put in some details that identify their business.
These details include a map of your location, your services, operation hours email address, website etc.
This information is very important for customers and it will also give your business a professional look. You can also schedule quick replies to your customers when you are away. So you need to have a business account as the base of all your WhatsApp marketing activities.
Unfortunately, WhatsApp business is only available for Android. The iOS version is not available yet. (UPDATE: As of April 2019, WhatsApp Business for iOS is now available)
You can download the WhatsApp business from Android from the Google Play Store here.
2. Connect Your WhatsApp Business Number to your Facebook Business Page
Your business should have a Facebook page and you should use the business number on this page to make it easy for customers to call you and send you messages even on WhatsApp. A great feature that Facebook has rolled out recently is to allow businesses to create ads and link them to WhatsApp.
This feature has the capacity to increase the effectiveness of your advertising campaigns on Facebook since customers will be more likely to connect with you via WhatsApp anticipating real-time replies.
The ads can lead to increased traffic on the WhatsApp line and you can use WhatsApp web to allow your support staff to deal with the enquiries.
3. Use your WhatsApp Status to Showcase products or demo a new product/service
WhatsApp Status allows you to share text, photos, videos and animated GIFs that disappear after 24 hours. In order to send and receive status updates to and from your contacts, both you and your contacts must have each other’s phone numbers saved in your address books.
When you are using your business account this will mean that all your customers with whom you have interacted with before will likely see your status updates.
You can also even use these status updates with your personal WhatsApp to promote your business to your contacts. I have used this technique with my personal line and I was amazed to discover that some people I hadn’t talked to in months still had my number and saw my statuses.
Another way to use the WhatsApp status is when you have a noteworthy event at your business. For example, if you have a restaurant and you are hosting a party you can take video clips and upload them to your status so that other customers who did not attend can see what’s happening and then they will be more likely to attend the next one.
You can do the same if you have a celebrity visiting your business. If you have a business like a salon you can take before and after pictures of a client and post them on your status to showcase your expertise.
The good thing about updating your status is that its free!
4. Join a number of WhatsApp business groups
There are many business groups on WhatsApp that you can use to market your goods and services. If you offer specialised goods/services, you may also have to look for specialised groups where your products are likely to get better reception.
You have to post your adverts on a regular basis and vary their format between text, images and videos.
You also need to ensure that your advert has enough details to make it easy for the potential customer to gauge if they are interested in the product. There should also be clear contact details so that they can ask further questions if they have any.
This also makes it easy for anyone to forward the advert to their friends.
Its good practice to respond to the questions and queries timeously so that your customers don’t get frustrated.
One disadvantage of joining many groups is that you will have a lot of messages from others posting their adverts in the groups. You can always clear your chats on a regular basis. You need to be focused on the benefits you will be accruing from the business groups.
5. Create a group to collaborate with your customers
Where applicable, you can create a group with your current customers (with their consent, of course). You can then use this group to keep in touch with them and alert them of new offers or goods they may be interested in. For example, if you are having a special you may send a message in the group and your customers will quickly see it.
In a way, the group will be like a form of email marketing although this will be much better. It can also foster brand loyalty as the customers feel closer to your business.
However, you should take special care to ensure that the messages in the group are business related so that you will not irritate some customers. You may even have to map out the hours when the group will be active.
6. Use WhatsApp for customer support
If you sell products or services that require after sales support then using a WhatsApp account will be convenient for your customers. With quicker responses on WhatsApp, you will make it faster for customers to get resolutions than to send support tickets via email.
Another advantage is that these customers will save your contact and then they will see your status updates in the future which may lead them to make another sale!
7. Create a group to collaborate with your staff
Communicating with your team can be super easy in a WhatsApp group than via sending emails or calling. Everyone can easily stay up to date using the group.
Some words of caution here: don’t use the group to communicate with your team outside working hours. Keep everything professional so that your fellow workers won’t be tempted to leave the group.
Your customers already on WhatsApp and connecting with them there will greatly improve their customer experience. However, you need to remember that the key to using WhatsApp effectively is to avoid abusing the relationships you build with your audience. Measure your interactions so each message you send has value. Don’t make every conversation about making a sale. Remember other users have the power to delete your message with a single click and block you.
Have you been using WhatsApp to grow your business? What ways have you been using it? If not would you consider using it at this point? Do you think your business can benefit from using WhatsApp?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
If you have other questions related to digital marketing and online entrepreneurship you can use my Ask Me Anything page.
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