Why is it so difficult to turn Haitians into customers?
We all know the old saying: “Haitians do not like to support Haitian businesses”. It is not really true but I keep hearing it over and over.
Unless you were born in Haiti, it could be very difficult to understand the Haitian customer despite the fact that some have lived in the US for over 40 years. Like they say, you can remove the Haitian from Haiti but you cannot remove Haiti from the Haitian. At first one will wonder what is so different about the Haitian customers; its upbringing.
The world knows Haiti as being very poor. However, most Haitians know the beauty and wealth of our country, our people. My American friends do not understand how people can live on less than minimum wage in Haiti. The answer could require a few blog posts but to keep it simple I will say Haitians live collectively. They also buy collectively or in clans. In America, in business school, we talk about the customer. This is not the right concept when targeting Haitians.
I have many examples but I will share the following: when I first started selling “sos pwa” (Haitian style bean puree that only takes 20 minutes to cook) online to my Haitian customer, I could not understand why my first few customer would buy the product and send it to multiple addresses. I had the privilege to speak to one of my customers. He told me he sent the beans to his sisters in Florida and Spring Valley. Then, he added, if they like it, then we’ll buy more. I never heard from them again. A purchase needs to be approved by the clan.
If you have taken a business class or been in business, then you can understand how difficult it is to turn a prospect into a customer. In the case of the Haitian customer, you now have 3 (or more) prospects to convince to get a sale.
First some smart people out there would say, this is the way it is in business, you have the early adopters who get the product and go to show it around. Then, others come along. It is a bit more complicated in our Haitian communities. Unlike many other communities, we had a pseudo class system in Haiti that creates fundamental separation in the way we think. It is very difficult for a simple message to be understood the same way.
As such, when a Haitian customer venture out there to buy something new, they could face heavy criticism or rejection. As a result, we see a pattern where products that thrive for most of the Haitian community are products they were already familiar with in Haiti; often the same brand.
I believe to be successful with the Haitian customer, you need connect with them, so they can share your products with the clan, then they can enjoy it.
I saw so many businesses fail to understand how to target the Haitian customer. It is not the Haitian customer at fault but our own lack of marketing aptitude. The truth is once a business understands the needs of the clan, they get multiple sales at once.