The following post originally appeared on Jacaranda’s blog. It is reposted here with permission.
At Jacaranda Health, we often say that we’re not great marketers, but our customers are. That may sound like false modesty, but it’s true that that many of our key marketing decisions are made by our target demographic: Eastern Nairobi’s mothers and expectant mothers. Customer feedback informs how we describe ourselves, the wording we use, the pictures we show off, our trademark colors and the design of printed materials. We even settled on our name and our slogan based on customer input.
Our process for gathering feedback is systematic, but we keep it fun and fairly informal. For each decision, we write down two options on two sheets of paper. (Whenever possible, we make sure to give participants something to read or touch.) We hand a woman one of the sheets, and get her thoughts. We hand her the other sheet, and get her thoughts. Then we ask for her preference between the two. The process takes about three minutes per woman, and the result is that we quickly find the most popular option, learn some new things about the community we want to serve, and build a following of customers who enjoy being a part of our work.
Asking a potential customer’s advice is a great way to pique their interest in your business – especially if you’re able to use their input. When designing our logo, members of Jacaranda’s team printed out our name on a bunch of sheets of paper, each in a different color. The mothers who participated in our focus group had strong opinions; they told us that pink didn’t work because it meant breast cancer. Brown and blue were okay, they said, but nothing special. When we showed them a particular shade of purple, they broke out in applause. Decision made – we’ve called it “Jacaranda purple” ever since.
In the same manner, women in our target communities have helped us decide what we should call our chain of clinics locally (Jacaranda Maternity), given input on our logo (the silhouetted pregnant woman should have a ponytail) and suggested how best to structure our pricing so that customers feel that they are getting good value for each visit. Local mothers have voted on literally every single word in our brochures: “Expectant mothers,” not “pregnant mothers;” “highly qualified staff,” not “experienced staff;” “promotion,” not “coupon.” They told us that above all else we should emphasize that we are very friendly. And when we were stuck on what to call our mobile clinic, they politely opined that just calling it a mobile clinic was probably fine.
We have found that women in our target communities really enjoy doing our marketing for us. We get them together in focus groups, ask them questions while they are in our waiting rooms, do one-on-one surveys and just stop into shops and say hello. When we ask our mothers questions, they:
- participate in a fun conversation;
- like learning about us;
- like helping an organization that is going to help their community; and most importantly
- LOVE being listened to and knowing that someone cares about their opinions.
To get the best feedback, we make sure to spend time where our customers spend time. One key location for us is Kariobangi market, a very large outdoor market in the middle of eastern Nairobi, which hosts over 1,000 women working as hairdressers, seamstresses and saleswomen. Our team eats lunch in the market at least weekly to check in with a few mothers and ask for feedback. Many of the women there now know us, and we’ve found that these types of visits are the easiest way we can get feedback from lots of women in a very short time. Any organization looking for an efficient, effective way to gather feedback should ask itself where its customers hang out.
Involving local women in our marketing plans not only helps us understand what messages work for our target demographic; women who have shared their opinions with us are also more likely to become customers. That’s good for our business. Just as important, though, is that getting more women visiting clinics is good for healthy birth outcomes.
We find that using our customers to design our marketing has built up great buzz about Jacaranda and our services. Women ask us daily, “when is your maternity clinic going to be ready?” When our full-service fixed clinic does open its doors, we will have established channels of communication to spread the word.
A great example of how customer feedback has helped us comes from the process of designing our promotional brochure. In addition to a list of prices and services, the brochure features a tear-off coupon offering the bearer a discount of 50 Kenyan Shillings off her first visit. We took a prototype version of the brochure to Kariobangi market for some feedback, and got some surprising advice. Our group of mothers suggested we write “50 KSh discount” instead of “50/- discount,” even though the latter is a more common way of writing a monetary amount in Kenya. The reason? The latter could be misread as a 50% discount, a deep fee cut we can’t really afford to offer. Just a little free input from our customers saved us from a potentially very costly mistake.
Example: Customers decided
- Our local brand name: Jacaranda Maternity
- Our color
- Our logo: expectant mother in a pony tail, no child.
- How we describe our mobile clinic: mobile clinic. Naturally, I suppose.
- How to price our services (ie, how to spread the costs over their visits, not how much)
- The top 6 selling points of Jacaranda (number one is “very friendly”)
- Example: Our mothers decided that the face of our brochure should be a husband and a wife looking at each other after hearing news from one of our nurses. Why? I’m still not really sure, but they love it.