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Harnessing the neighbourhood

Harnessing the neighbourhood

I live in a very small but lively multicultural neighbourhood. It is middle to upper middle income. I estimate that it has probably in the vicinity of 4,000 inhabitants. There is a wide mix of cultures that is dominated by a large number of Hereros, Owambos and Angolans.

It behaves like a community. In other words, people are not ringfenced by their walls and security. They get to know one another.

In the second half of last year, as it became apparent that a significant number of Angolans were leaving, I thought about how local businesses would be impacted, and began to tally them.

There are two supermarkets, and another large one on the periphery of the neighbourhood. There are two bottle stores, one of which is at the supermarket on the periphery. There are two hair salons, a Chinese store, a post office, two laundries and a dog parlour. Educational facilities consist of a crèche, a high school and a small adult education centre. Health enterprise consists of a doctor and a chemist. There is another doctor, chemist, physiotherapist and gym at the supermarket complex on the periphery. There is also a service station with a 24-hour shop. I do not have a clear indication of home offices but I estimate there must be a good handful, if not more.

Transport consists of NABTA taxis, a bus stop, and a couple of households that run long-distance busses and taxis. Hospitality consists of two bed and breakfasts, short-term room rental, two bars and two restaurants. All but one of the major banks is present.

Informal enterprise consists of three different vegetable sellers, a shebeen, two to three braais, several hawkers selling everything from hats and handbags to mops and brooms. There are several ladies who sell airtime and sweets.

The departure of the Angolans reduced the returns to many of these enterprises, as well as their ability to employ people.

What struck me as I worked out the list of enterprises is the high concentration of economic activity in the neighbourhood. I know that most people work in town, but have observed that many people choose to do their shopping as close to home as possible. How does your neighbourhood stack up?

A neighbourhood is potentially an excellent location for start-ups as well as for marketers, but there are several conditions.

Firstly, the neighbourhood has to have a high degree of economic activity. May neighbourhoods disperse their commercial activities to allocated areas and rely on enterprise in other areas. Secondly, the start-up has to have relevance to the neighbourhood. Starting a competitor enterprise may reduce the profitability of the existing enterprise as well as the potential of the new enterprise. If there is a risk, the new enterprise should focus on a strong differential, particularly in terms of its customers.

Thirdly, marketing has to be based on socialisation. An entrepreneur who has strong social ties to members of the neighbourhood will find it far easier to acquire new customers.

Finally, and most importantly, the marketing has to consider the characteristics of the neighbourhood, and not walk in on the basis of high-handed brand superiority. In other words, if possible get a marketer or brand ambassador who is familiar with the neighbourhood, and ensure that he or she becomes a familiar face with regular visits.

Marketing within the neighbourhood can be a low-cost exercise. The first and most likely opportunity is pinboards in shops, which can cost as little as a print-out and a visit to the shop every now and then.

The second opportunity is signage. Real estate agents use it, and so can small enterprises. The signage is durable, but it also requires maintenance. If there are displays on lamp posts, consider those as well.

The third opportunity is social media, which can be established on a neighbourhood basis. Perhaps this can also be linked to neighbourhood watches.

There are plenty of opportunities to profit in neighbourhoods, and finding the opportunities is easy.

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