7 mistakes you must avoid when starting a business in Cameroon

7, really is a magical number; even the bible confirms it. This article explains the 7 mistakes you must avoid, if you’re starting a small business in Cameroon.

Are you excited about starting your new business? I bet you have this great idea that you’re anxious to turn into a business opportunity for Cameroonians. You’ve fueled your engine and you’re ready to launch…

But not so fast! Before you take off; watch out for these 7 very costly mistakes that could lead your business right into failure; according to business experts.

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Many small business owners make these very avoidable mistakes with their businesses, and end up in regret. Avoiding these same mistakes could ensure you don’t come crashing down in the next few months of doing business.

Let’s get to it…

7 mistakes you must avoid when starting a business in Cameroon

1. Failing to do proper market research

A very first step in every business venture is market research. It involves understanding your competition and your potential customers; their problems and their needs.

In essence, market research helps you find out if the people of your target business location will be happy to consume your product or service.

Will the ‘Bororo’ people of Sabga be happy to pay for your artificial, industry-made milk, when they already have an unlimited supply of fresh milk from their cows? Don’t make the mistake of starting a milk company over there.

Just saying!

starting a business in Cameroon
Failing to perform proper market research is a mistake to be avoided when starting a business in Cameroon

Certain products or services do better in particular locations. Proper market research can help you figure out the best locations suitable for your product or service.

A modern fast-food joint will definitely do well in University areas, the likes of Bambili and Buea; while Pullovers will not sell so well in Maroua (You will know this if you experience the heat over there for just a day).

Successful business owners know their markets, and understand competitors. When you miss proper market research, your business is heading in one direction… uncertainty, and eventually failure!

Going into business without performing proper market research is like going to teach a school class you know nothing about. You’ll definitely deliver a wrong lesson to a wrong audience at the wrong time and in the wrong way.

That’s too many wrongs for a single business, so do your market research right, before you launch any business.

Here’s a complete beginner’s guide to market research from HubSpot.

2. Choosing an overcrowded niche or location

Choosing an overcrowded niche is perhaps the biggest mistake you can make while starting out in business. If the already established brands are doing their business right, there will hardly be a place for you on the market.

You may think you’re special, but to customers, you’re just a new guy!

Instead of joining the competition in a business environment or niche that is already very crowded, why not complement the other businesses currently established? You really should avoid too much competition when starting out in business.

You can offer a product or service which helps other businesses that are already settled, or simply complement whatever it is that they already offer to customers.

Crazy example: if people already sell roast corn on your target street, why not sell groundnuts on the side? Corn is the perfect complement for groundnuts.

Here’s a real example: If a business location is already flooded with restaurants and café-restos, why not start a bakery business to provide bread and other pastries both for the other businesses and to consumers.

mistakes you must avoid when starting a business in Cameroon
Common mistakes to avoid when starting a business in Cameroon

Don’t make the mistake of walking right into the competitors den. Be more creative with your ideas. Be a problem solver; not just another “day care center” amongst dozens of others.

Here’s a story that will inspire you…

In 2006, Microsoft released the Zune, a portable media player that was supposed to be a direct competitor to Apple’s iPod.

Despite millions of dollars in investment, the Zune was discontinued in 2011 due to a lack of differentiation from the iPod and poor market segmentation“. (Story from knox news).

mistakes you must avoid
The Zune mp3 player, a project of Microsoft that failed as a result of competition.

3. Failing to complete all legal commitments at the right time

They say “My people perish because of lack of knowledge.” Knowledge of all the compliance and legal requirements to register a company in Cameroon will save you from a tone of headache in future.

That’s what OpenHub Digital is here for – to guide you through all the steps involved in starting and growing a successful business in Cameroon, especially with the legal hurdles.

Fulfilling all the legal and compliance requirements early enough will save you from lots of distasteful headache and expenses – especially dealing with shameful and corrupt government officials.

What people don’t know is, there is a standard, straightforward procedure to become a legal business in Cameroon. And it’s not as expensive and complicated as society usually paints it. You just have to know what to do, and how to do it.

When your business starts to flourish, legal troubles will creep in if your business is not in order. These legal troubles might not be the major causes of business failure, but they’ll definitely make your life as a business owner in Cameroon a living hell.

So clean up your house and put your business in order at the right time (which is at the start of your business’ journey). Reach out to OpenHub Digital for help with this; they’re here so you can focus more on delivery quality.

4. Failing to use customer retention strategies, from the early days.

Successful businesses are built on loyalty. Getting new customers to your small business is a big task for you, but keeping these customers will take your business to success.

mistakes you must avoid
You must implement customer retention strategies at the start of your business journey

Loyal customers can work miracles for your business, if you have enough of them. You will need to implement customer retention strategies from the very early days of your business, to build that loyal customer base from the ground.

Many small businesses tend to focus on other business elements at the beginning, but forget customer retention. Don’t make this costly mistake. Ensure that your customers are coming back for more, from day one!

Increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by up to 95% (Bain and Company). Don’t make the mistake of playing with customers, please!

At the start of your business, you are probably not going to have too many customers coming in every day. So do your best to keep the few that find your doors.

What are the best customer retention strategies…?

Customer retention starts with a good product or service. It also involves:

  • Offering quality delivery,
  • Providing excellent customer service, – Collecting and acting on feedback, – Growing an online presence,
  • Giving back to customers.

Recommended Read: 10 actionable strategies for customer retention in Cameroon

Hey… If you’re looking for effective ways to get more visibility to your products and gain more customers for your business in Cameroon, you should consider listing your products on Kuza Marketplace.

On the Kuza marketplace, you can advertise your products or services to thousands of Cameroonians for free. The audience is targeted, and suited for small businesses like yours. Check out Kuza.cm now!

5. Failing to collect and act on feedback

Businesses that fail to collect and act on feedback will struggle to grow – a mistake that you should avoid. Collect and act on feedback from customers, partners and employees from day one!

Here’s why…

Of every 26 customers, only one is likely to bring up their complaints to you. The other 25 customers will simply move to your competitor without a word. This means that it is important that you let a customer know they have a voice and that you will listen (Feedback).

91% of people believe that companies should fuel innovation by listening to buyers and customers. – SurveyMonkey Research, 2019

There are several ways to collect feedback for small businesses;

  • Phone calls or text message –asking about the customer’s experience with your business and how to improve.
  • Short and interesting online review forms (one more reason why your business needs an online presence).
  • Pop-ups on your website or mobile apps.
  • Reviews from the Google Play, and Appstore.

Gather and act on feedback, or never grow in business.

Recommended Read: Here’s a beginner guide to customer feedback

6. Spending too much of your investment

Money to a small business is like fuel to a car. When you run out of fuel, your business is done. According to Paul Graham (a successful business coach and investor), money is one of the main reasons why most small businesses or startups fail.

When you’re starting out in business, every Kobo of your investment is precious. You’ve fought tooth and nail with banks, family and friends to raise money to get your business up and running.

And now you have to watch your expenditure like women watch Novelas TV series – with care and attention.

Certain things are just more important than others. A fancy business office just to impress your friends and family – is it really necessary? How about a 65’ inch TV to keep your workers happy, when they should be at work?

Avoid making the costly mistake of spending too much on material you really don’t need. As you start your business, spend only on things that are absolutely necessary.

Reason you must plan your expenditure with a gun to your head, and follow this plan as though it were the road to heaven.

Related reading: 8 business ideas to start in Bamenda with little capital

7. Not using the Internet for marketing and branding

I see many small Cameroonian businesses that do not have a website, social media accounts, or any form of online presence. Huge 21st century mistake!

Do not make the mistake of leaving out the Internet when it comes to marketing. Online marketing is perhaps the most effective and cheapest form of marketing today.

It’s 2021, and Cameroonians are now actively searching for your product or service online. What happens when you’re not there to respond?

A good website, social media, classified ads, or Google ads are huge marketing weapons that you should not fail to harness.

Here are a few tips for effective online marketing and advertising, for small businesses like yours.

I understand that a small building material shop at the Carrefour might not need an online presence for branding or marketing. But your clothing, beauty, food, art, photography, pastry, or many other modern businesses have to be visible online.

Some Cameroonian businesses are waking up to the sound of the Internet, which means there’s competition building up already. Your business cannot be left behind.

Good news is, it’s not so expensive to get your website, and social media accounts running these days. A website will even be cheaper than office space.

You can reach out to agencies like PersonLinks, for your professional websites, Logos, Flyer, Photography and other digital branding weapons.

You could also hire an experienced community manager to help you with social media, or do the talking yourself.

Summing up

Every business owner or entrepreneur makes mistakes. You will make plenty of them as you grow in business, but remember to learn from them; because experience truly is the best teacher.

However, certain mistakes can and should be avoided, especially when you’re starting out in business. You have just discovered 7 mistakes you must avoid when starting a small business in Cameroon. These mistakes are costly, but avoidable mistakes that many small businesses make.

Now you can take the necessary actions to succeed with your business.

Good luck with your endeavor!

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