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digital marketing africa for beginner

Digital Marketing 101 for African tech startus

The African continent consists of 53 countries. This means that finding new customers and brand advocates can be a time-consuming and expensive process. With technology, however, you have the choice to market to an array of buyer personas from around the world who may be interested in your ventures.

Africa is a continent full of opportunities. It is a continent on the cusp of a technological revolution. Technology is happening in Africa. And there is a digital market available to any business. The market is ripe for new technology and making life easier through technology.

There are so many marginalized communities, in terms of products and services, that you need to get the word out now. Not to mention, every new tech startup needs a realistic marketing strategy to help set them apart from the competition. Yet, successful marketing is one of the most challenging aspects of starting a new business.

Here are savvy marketing techniques for start-ups:

Focus on one country and spread the word locally

In many ways, countries in Africa still exist in isolation. This is why it’s critical to customize your approach according to each countries individual profile and culture.

For example, Nigeria and Angola are home to an abundance of oil and gas making them ideal locations for construction and industrial goods. Kenya and Ghana have a growing middle class, making them ripe for companies based around consumer goods.

In addition, many countries in Africa still are still fairly inefficient when it comes to regulation and approvals for businesses. In this regard, it goes without saying that you need a local connection or local acquisition to help you navigate complex business environments in different countries across the continent.

Countries in Africa are developing at different rates. It is critical to choose your markets wisely and to understand all socio-political liabilities.

If you want to target bigger markets, here are the largest cities in Africa based on population:

  • Lagos, Nigeria 21 million
  • Cairo, Egypt 20.4 million
  • Kinshasa, DR Congo 13.3 million
  • Luanda, Angola 6.5 million 
  • Abidjan, Ivory Coast 4.7 million
  • Johannesburg, South Africa 4.4 million

According to the Economist, the country with the top GDP growth in 2013 was South Sudan at 35%.

If you're looking for more Western-style comforts, amenities and an improved business climate, the most livable cities in Africa include:

  • Cape Town, South Africa (Good infrastructure, one of the best startup environments in emerging markets according to SeedStars Index)
  • Accra, Ghana (World-class shopping, culinary scene etc.)
  • Nairobi, Kenya (Home to GE, China's CCTV and the Rockefeller Foundation in Africa)
  • Gaborone, Botswana (Strong economy, one of the world's largest diamond producers, growing tourism industry)
Africa social business

Customer Service is the Matriarch

In Africa, you want to engage your customers as well as listen to them. This is essential for building brand loyalty. In fact, you should go above and beyond to make your customers feel as if they are part of your organization. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Identify customers who can use their influence to reach larger markets
  • Partner with organizations that can bring more exposure to your business such as local talent and sporting groups
  • Offer something valuable in return for partnerships and brand advocacy--it should be something your customers and partners want.

The customer experience should be paramount to everything else. If you create an astonishing service or product, people will use it and talk about it. Next, you want to:

  • Listen to customer actions and customer feedback
  • Continue learning to improve your products and services within the African market.
  • Study the buyer persona template so that you can get to know buyers.

Internet and Infrastructure

According to Internet World Stats around 28% of Africa's population has access to the Internet. Compare that to 88% of North America and 77% of Europeans.

28 %
Access to Internet in Africa
88 %
Access to Internet in North America
77 %
Access to Internet in Europe

Yet, Internet World Stats also shows phenomenal growth rates in Africa's Internet usage between 2000-2017 at 7,557.2% growth. But just because Africa’s internet usage stats are low doesn’t mean they have to be lacking.

#Internet usage in #Africa from 2000 - 2017 grew  an incredible 7,552% #InternetWorldStats

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Since 2009, Africa has made dramatic upgrades to its broadband infrastructure. Part of this movement was due to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which brought 3 million soccer fans to Johannesburg. In fact, Africa is the world's fastest growing continent.

Still, there’s much opportunity in infrastructure as Africa spends around 4% of its GDP in this area. Compare that to China spending 11% of its GDP on infrastructure. Prepare to do more than you used to.

Things you may have taken for granted such as water and power, may not be as dependable in many regions in Africa. You should be prepared to have generators, if needed. Still, your efforts can help to continue to break down barriers for business entry. Nonetheless, Africa's economy is expected to be worth $3 trillion by 2025.

#Africa's economy is expected to be worth $3 trillion by 2025. #Africanentrepreneurs

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Reach out to local bloggers and media personalities

Reach out to local bloggers, affiliate marketers and media personalities even on a limited budget. If you need to spread the word quickly, then it helps to offer a test drive of your products and services to local media and prominent bloggers. These people have access and a following in your target market. They also probably have a good idea of who your competitors are. Here's what you need to do:

  • Pitch your startup story - share your background, mission, products and services
  • Tell them what you do and what problems your company solves
  • Send them free products and/or a significant discount in exchange for a review.
  • If available write a guest post for them
  • Ask them if they would be interested in an affiliate marketing partnership where they would receive a commission every time someone clicks on a link to your product and purchases it.
Digital Marketing Africa tech

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Create a video

Video is one of the most effective forms of marketing. With advances in phone camera technology, it's not as expensive as you think.

With a good smartphone, you can produce your own informational video. The objective is to humanize your online profile. As stated earlier, Africa is comprised of around 53 countries. Video can help to extend your reach. Here is what your video needs to do:

  • Answer specific customer questions
  • Provide a checklist and highlight your product's features
  • Showcase real life examples of your product or service, relevant to your market

A video example from South African fintech startup Yoco

Leave good reviews for local businesses

If you want to make a good name for your tech startup, then another inexpensive method is through leaving positive reviews in online portals. Make sure your company name is listed in your review.

This is a win-win situation where you help out local businesses. In return, they will appreciate your good deeds. In addition, prospects will see your business name pop up continuously.

Offer prizes in local contests and get involved

Every community has events such as art, sporting, talent contents and more. One way to gain prominence in your community is by offering and/or sponsoring prizes in local contents.

The prizes don't have to be large for people to recognize you’re becoming a valuable pillar of their community. Other ways to get involved in your local community include:

Making sure you understand the real needs of your local communities will help to open doors.

Use social media

One of the most obvious tactics for inexpensive marketing is social media. Yet, you must be sure your posts are targeted to your local market. You're not trying to win over the world, just a focused target market within the industry or country you are operating.

So, think of posts where you can combine your product/service with the issues that are relevant to your local community. Plus, you want to get active on some of Africa's most widely used social media sites.

How can your posts convey that your product/service solves issues that are critical to your local community? You also want to engage with the right customer. This is why it is imperative to have a template of your buyer persona. Moreover, you should be posting on all of your social networks consistently. And, before you post anything, make sure it is either helpful or interesting.

Make social good contributions

You can help make your community even better by sponsoring projects such as planting trees or cleaning up debris. You might offer a day of free health screenings or even a lecture/seminar on home gardening. You might find you'll get free advertising when local media shows up to report on your actions.

Hold contests

Everyone loves winning something for free. You can build brand loyalty and a following through holding contents with some of your products and services as prizes. To set up a contest you must:

  • Define the rules
  • Decide how long the contest will run
  • Figure out what prizes to hand out
  • Market your contest on social media and through local media channels/blogs

When it comes to savvy digital marketing strategies for tech startups in Africa, it’s important to focus on creativity more than money. And, putting the customer first is the best form of marketing of all.

About the Author Ryan Stewart

Ryan Stewart is a digital marketing consultant with over 8 years of experience working to help Fortune 500 brands grow their online presence. He currently resides in Miami, where he owns boutique creative agency WEBRIS. You can find Ryan on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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