By Fidelis Kene Powerful 

Clearing and freight forwarding is a service-oriented business. It is done on ground of trust and better performance to deliver goods to importers/consignees. Importer's market success most times rest on performance of his agent.

In Nigeria, many people have ventured into custom broker to make ends meet. When importers goes financially handicapped, it affects the agent, when agent failed to deliver, it affects the importer. 

In this sequel, Importers are more careful when it comes to choosen a customs agent. Most select via recommendations or by what they've witness based on competence. Bad economy also affects importation in Nigeria. 

Affects of Bad economy/recession towards importation in Nigeria 

1. In a recession consumer spending falls, therefore spending on imports decreases.

2. In a recession, interest rates are cut. Therefore exchange rate depreciates making exports cheaper and imports more expensive. This reduction in the exchange rate improves the current account.

General Factors militating against importation in Nigeria 

1. Recession.  

2. Bad road which affects local transportation. 

3. Bribery and corruption 

4. Local production of goods 

5. Government policies 

How to hunt for importers in Nigeria:

Importers either need your service or they don't, if they need it, someone else must have been fullfilling that need for them now. 

Your primary strategy has to be about building trust. Importers will switch to your service only when:- 

1. Their existing customs agent performs so badly that they lose the account

2. The incumbent raises prices to the extent the importer starts looking around. 

3. Death of their former customs agent 

Why not offer a discount or free service where you look through a sample of a prospective customer's invoices and analyze them to see if they are being overcharged on freight, or paying too much duty or tax, or paying high service fee. 

If you can save the importers money, show them how and where. You can do all these by visiting them, ask them for copies of their freight invoice and clearance documents, analyze them off site. Then go back and show them what you would have done better and cheaper face to face. 

Tips to Market a Service-oriented Business 

When you’re selling a product, it might feel like marketing comes easy. You create a campaign around what a product can do for its customers, execute it, and the product sells itself. But when you run a service-based business, selling the service requires a different approach. Instead of marketing product features, you have to market yourself and your team’s ability to get the job done. Marketing a sunny disposition and a history of great customer service is a bit tougher than plastering product specifications on a brochure.

But don’t despair. People are constantly on the hunt for a good service business. No matter the type of service, customers are looking for reputable and reliable providers. All you need is to connect with them, and there are plenty of cost-effective ways to make that possible. Here are seven great techniques to market your service business.

1. Reel In Customers With Incentives

Depending on the size of your community, there could be many other options for services just like yours. So how do you attract new customers? Everyone wants a deal, and special promotions are a great way to satisfy that want. While a successful promotion might cut into your profits, it could also bring new customers through your doors. Just remember to strike a balance between your pricing needs and your customer’s perception of a good deal. Marriage-mail providers such as Valpak allow you to pick households by zip code and send your coupons through the mail, whereas companies like Boostability provide similar online marketing services for brands looking to tap into their local markets.

2. Stay in Touch

It might seem obvious, but you should make efforts to keep in touch with your loyal clientele. While we can’t recommend a “one-size-fits-all” protocol of how often to call, email or place coupons in the mail, ask yourself, “At which point do I become annoyed by businesses that contact me?” The answer should determine how often communications should be sent by your business. Customers like to be remembered, but they don’t want to be annoyed. Good service is worth talking about, and courteous customer service can build a great word-of-mouth following.

3. Make Use of Social Networking

In addition to creating a website for your business, consider creating business pages and profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and any other social networks you find suitable. Once your pages are all set up, make sure you stay on top of them by responding to customer inquiries and posting valuable and relevant updates. This will help you build a following. And even if the immediate recipient of your social media marketing isn’t buying what you’re selling, he or she can still easily share your offer with someone they know.

4. Stock Up on Business Cards

Business cards are still valuable. They can be an extremely fruitful means of marketing for small businesses. You can network with other local businesses and ask if you can leave a stack of cards in their lobbies, or you can simply pass them out to other business owners at networking events. Business cards are handy and can be passed from customer to customer in a way that’s similar to word-of-mouth advertising. As of this article’s publication date, Vistaprint and GotPrint both offer 500 business cards for under $10.

5. Connect With the Community

Be kind to your neighbors, and don’t approach your community with the outdated “competitive advantage” business model. Other established local businesses have their own clientele. So if you treat these businesses with respect, and since they may be only able to handle a certain amount of clientele, they may just refer some clients to your services. A promising way to connect with your community is to be involved in the local Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce. These assemblies can connect you with other businesses that embrace cooperative interaction.

6. Get in the News

Being featured in the news is one of the best ways to garner free advertising for your company. Sometimes, depending on the size of your community, simply putting up a new sign is enough to get you in the news. If not, you may need to do something more newsworthy, such as donating to a charity or holding a community event. If you decide to do this, it’s imperative that you are sincere with your donation and believe in your cause; if not, potential customers will question your motivation and may decide not to do business with you. If you do donate to a charity, pick the right one, and consider teaming up with another local business to coordinate a charitable event. Leveraging the right kind of charities in the right ways can help your business while also helping a cause.

7. Compete Based on Value, Not Price

Competitive markets typically see contenders engaging in price wars. However, savvy service businesses know that lowering rates is a waste, since customers usually opt for the provider that offers the most value for the price. As such, to achieve optimum value, consider a bundling strategy. An example of an industry that relies on bundling is fast food, which incorporates popular items into less-expensive meal combinations while still maintaining profits. In service businesses, since inventory costs are usually not your primary concern, you can bundle additional services and drastically enhance your offer.