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Digital Marketing: 10 lessons African entrepreneurs can learn from fintech startup Yoco

Digital marketing done right can be a tremendous leverage in scaling your company across Africa and beyond. Doing digital marketing right, however, requires skill, persistence and creativity. That's why in this post we look at a company that is getting many things right with digital marketing: South African fintech startup Yoco.

Fintech is growing in importance across the world and Africa is no different. It has the potential to change the lives of many people while creating financial inclusion for the nearly 2 billion unbanked people globally. Fintech is clearly here to stay and it's role in shaping business and society will only grow larger in the near future.

Yoco is revolutionizing fintech and the payment industry in South Africa. They have been described as "market maker", because they grow the size of the card payment acceptance market. Over 70% of merchants it currently serves have never accepted card payments before.

The Yoco founders Katlego Maphai, Carl Wazen, Bradley Wattrus and Lungisa Matshoba have built a formidable company and fast growing team that now has between 15+ employees (according to their website) and 75 employees (according to Linkedin) including former Seedstars Africa Regional Manager Marcello Shermer. In addition, they are currently hiring for several different positions including marketing, product and business development.

Yoco headcount Linkedin April 2017

According to crunchbase Yoco has raised $7m in 3 rounds from 10 different investors including Africa Angels Network, CRE Venture Capital, Quona Capital and Velocity Capital Private Equity. This money enables the company to enhance its product offering and lay the foundation for international expansion. And it enables them to invest in marketing their product across multiple different channels.

Clearly, Yoco is doing a few things right given their success so far. We took a look at their digital marketing strategy to see how they are using digital channels to grow their business. They are using a number of different channels including Google Adwords, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin and Instagram.

It takes lots of skill and resources to execute so many channels well.  It is beyond the scope of this post to analyze their entire digital marketing strategy, but a few key lessons stand out. Your business may not be as well funded as Yoco, but you can still apply a lesson or two from Yoco in growing your business and attracting new customers.

Digital Marketing lesson 1: Make use of video

The importance of video marketing is growing dramatically. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), South Africa has one of the fastest growing online video consumption rates in the world with 42%

Growth of online video consumption

South Africa registered as the second highest year-on-year growth in video consumption on smartphones globally with 42%

Any company that is serious about wanting to scale across Africa and beyond can't afford to neglect video marketing. That is why Yoco have produced numerous videos serving different purposes.

On their homepage, for example, the fintech company welcomes visitors with an explainer video that introduces visitors to what Yoco is all about. This answers any questions a visitor may have about what Yoco does. This is very important. 55% of visitors will leave a website within 15 seconds, which means your website needs to make the value proposition clear immediately. 

Yoco explainer video

Yoco use an explainer video on their homepage to explain their business to visitors - like any good 21st business should

That is where an explainer video can come in handy. If you make the video fun and entertaining your website visitor and potential customer will stick around and learn more about your business.

In the case of Yoco, they partnered with Made agency, which is a creative agency for the post-advertising era and conveniently located next door to Yoco in Loop street Cape Town, South Africa.Take a look at this funny and informative Behind the Scenes video of the making of their explainer video.

Beyond that, Yoco have produced videos to serve different purposes. In the videos below, they combine powerful customer testimonials with how the product works while highlighting its benefits. Having customers recommend your product on video is powerful, because it can give you external validation.

​The video below adopts a story format and is longer than the one above, but it combines telling an interesting story with educating viewers about Yoco and how it works. Since the use of the product is woven into the story in such a clever way, it almost does not feel like marketing. Epic!

Actionable Take-away

Ask yourself how videos can help scale your business. If you are running on a tight budget and can't afford an agency like Yoco can, approach film students at universities to help you shoot and edit videos. Alternatively, good video editors can be found on places like upwork.

Once you have your video don't just upload your video to your website and leave it there. Promote it across your digital channels and spread the word. Just like Yoco do.

Yoco twitter

Digital Marketing lesson 2: Leverage YouTube

Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine after google? Take a look.

YouTube infographic

Given that visual content is becoming increasingly important it is not surprising that Yoco leverage YouTube to build brand awareness and educate their customers about their product. By 2017, video content will represent 74% of all internet traffic. Additionally, 4x as many consumers would prefer to watch video about a product than read about it.

Finally, YouTube is also a good channel to distribute the many videos Yoco produce mentioned in digital marketing lesson 1. Having your own YouTube channel allows your brand to manage your videos while building up an audience on YouTube through subscribers. 

Yoco Youtube channel

Currently, they have 30+ videos on YouTube that have generated between a few handful views up to almost 25'000 views (at the time of writing) for their 11 second explainer video "Introducing Yoco". In total they have 3 videos that generated 20'000+ views all of which are below 1 minute long. Furthermore, they have another 4 videos that generated 1'000+ views, one of which is almost 4 minutes long.

Short explainer videos that explain what the business is all about and how it works seems to be the videos that generate the most views and brand awareness.

Actionable Take-away

If you do not have a YouTube channel yet get started with creating videos and creating your own YouTube channel. It is a great way to take advantage of the growing importance of video content while building your brand and attracting new customers.

Digital Marketing lesson 3: Make use of Google Adwords

At 97.13% Google completely dominates the Search Engine Market Share in Africa. Search Engine Marketing can be one of the most powerful digital marketing options out there, because it allows you to target users who are actively looking for what your business has to offer. This is done through bidding on keywords like "money transfer" or "card machine".

Google Market share Africa

Pay-per-click marketing comes with a number of different advantages:

  • PPC is one of the fastest ways to drive instant traffic to your website
  • PPC can be timed according to your campaign needs
  • You can target the audience you want through sophisticated targeting options
  • The buyer intent is much clearer compared to social media ads as people are actively searching for what you can offer compared to browsing through newsfeeds which is more passive

Given the above information, would you be surprised to find that Yoco actively makes use of Google Adwords to scale their company across the continent? Well, you should not be. 

Below you can see an estimation from similarweb regarding the top keywords that Yoco are bidding on in 2017 in Google Adwords. While similarweb is not necessarily 100% accurate it shows you that Yoco seem to be clearly targeting brand-related keywords which is very important. Additionally, it seems that Yoco are driving more traffic (29%) via paid ads than via organic ads (20%).

Yoco keywords

Top keywords that Yoco are bidding on in 2017 according to similarweb

Below you can see an example of a Yoco an on Google Adwords. The use clever copy to get people click on their ads.

Yoco google search marketing africa

For example, they immediately highlight that there is no monthly rental fees which reduces the risk for clients and could arouse their interest.

Furthermore, Yoco also make use of Google my business. This allows you not only to take up more real estate on the results page, but also display important business information like your telephone number and opening hours. This is important information for customers so you should make it easy for them to find it on the internet.

If you understand the power of Pay-per-click marketing and the many different options that come with it, it can really give your business a significant boost and accelerate the growth of your business dramatically.

Actionable Take-away

If your business can afford it, apply Pay-per-click advertising as it can be a powerful strategy to build more brand awareness while driving leads. At the same time you need to be aware that you can easily waste a lot of money very fast if you do not know how to do PPC marketing. 

If you do not have the skillset in-house it is highly recommended that you outsource this task to an agency or freelancer. As mentioned above, upwork can be a good place to source skilled freelancers.

  • As an alternative to Adwords, you can also try Bing Search Ads. It tends to be cheaper, although its reach obviously can't rival Google.

Digital Marketing lesson 4: Monitor and respond to customer reviews

Make no mistake. Reviews are a doubled edged sword. They can make or break your business. It takes up to 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. On top of that remember that news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience.

This means you gotta bring your A-game and respond to negative reviews as fast as possible. Every day. Check out how Yoco respond to negative customer feedback.

Yoco customer review

When there is a negative review of your business do not ignore it and hope it will go away. If anything will go away, it is your customer.

See how Yoco acknowledge the negative review and apologize for the bad experience. They emphasize with the client which is important, whether the client is right or not. The fact that Yoco are sending their Head of support for a meeting to resolve the issue with the client is a nice touch and shows that the company cares.

It seems that Yoco are monitoring their customer reviews across different platforms which is very important. Even though it takes them about 6 weeks to respond to the complaint on the Google Play Store they offer to find a solution and share their contact details.

Yoco google store review

Leaving a comment like this unanswered can give other users a bad impression and indicate that you do not care about customer concerns. Above all, it may make customers stay away from your business entirely.

It seems that Yoco's response time on facebook is much quicker. More importantly, it just underscores the point that you need to monitor feedbacks across different marketing channels and show presence.

yoco facebook review

The main point is that you need to monitor your online reviews as they play a major role in shaping other people's perception. If you are seen to be a company that actively responds to online reviews, even negative ones, you stand to build a better brand reputation compared to a company that does not care.

Imagine if potential new customers read complaints about your business and they remain unanswered, what kind of impression will they walk away with? 

So take the time to monitor your online customers reviews and deal with them in a professional manner to boost your business.

Actionable Take-away

Customer reviews can be powerful - both in a positive and negative way. As such it is imperative that you monitor your reviews across all your digital marketing channels, even if it is time-consuming.

Digital Marketing lesson 5: Use the power of Twitter

Twitter is a growing force in Africa. According to HowAfricatweets the number of tweets increased 34-fold from 2012 - 2015 to 1.6 billion tweets in 2015 with South Africa being the third most active country on the continent behind only Egypt and Nigeria.

In South Africa, Twitter has seen a growth of its user base from 6.6 m to 7.4 m in 2016. While Twitter is still behind Facebook and Youtube, it can be a powerful tool for engaging with your followers directly.

Twitter can be an especially powerful tool for customer relationship, customer relationship management and customer service. At the same time, through Twitter you can monitor what people are saying about your business on twitter.

Given that Yoco are a payment company they are well positioned with having the 2nd most followed Twitter account in South Africa for that industry according to social bakers. It seems that they are getting a few things right.

Yoco twitter profile

When using Twitter, it is very important to create a compelling brand profile that quickly describes what your company is all about. Yoco make it clear that their business makes it easy to accept cards to grow your business and that their target audience is entrepreneurial businesses in South Africa.

Yoco Twitter

A great way to build strong customer relationships is by providing a ton of value to your customers and prospects. And a great way to do that is through Twitter chats. Yoco use this in a clever way by hosting Twitter chats through collaborating with strategic partners like Tax Tim and Xero who have a similar target audience to Yoco.

By hosting a Twitter chat on the topic of small and medium enterprise financing their mutual followers can directly engage with brands and ask questions. This raises engagement and gives brands a subtle way to market their solutions to customer's pain points without being too "salesy".

Yoco Twitter chat June 2017

Yoco hosted a Twitter chat that is relevant to their target audience - SMEfinance

Another advantage is that Yoco are potentially accessing a new and relevant audience through partnering with Tax Tim and Xero, as they have their own audience and customers that are not yet aware of Yoco.

Even though they do not seem to tweet on a daily basis, Yoco do make an effort to tweet about things that add value to their audience and are relevant to their business without the only intention being to generate more revenue or promote their brand. After all,  only 20% of your tweets should be promotional vs 80% that should aim at engaging your followers and truly add value in line with their interests.

Yoco tweet recommended books

Non-self promotional tweets that add value to your target audience should form 80% of your tweets

There are, of course, many more ways in which Twitter can be used to grow your business. Given that it is a growing force in force in Africa and if it fits with your target audience it is definitely worth exploring how Twitter can assist in scaling your business to new heights.

Actionable Take-away

Twitter is powerful. You can use it to monitor conversations about your brand, to build powerful customer relationships and to generate new business. It offers many different possibilities to do so like promoted tweet, chats and directly engaging with your followers.

  • Use the power of Twitter to grow your business

Digital Marketing lesson 6: Have a section on media coverage

One of the most effective ways to raise brand awareness and get new customers is to get covered by media. It has several benefits. Most of the time being covered in the media is free which means your brand awareness is being built without you needing to waste precious resources.

Furthermore, it can add credibility to your company (if the media coverage is mostly positive that is) and persuade potential customers that your business is a credible business and not a fly by night business. It functions as a form of social proof which is a key pillar in the psychology of persuasion according to the author of "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" Dr. Robert Cialdini. As such, receiving positive media coverage is really important to building your brand.

Yoco has earned valuable local media coverage over time through receiving investments, winning competitions and more. Instead of just letting that go to waste and limit its impact to a short time span after publication they collect all media features and display it on their website chronologically.

Yoco media coverage

A small selection of Yoco's media coverage on their website

Another bonus of being featured in the media is that you can gain additional traffic. Usually, when the media mentions your company's name they usually hyperlink this back to your website.

This will give people who are reading an article about your company the opportunity to directly click on your website and see what the company is all about. This will give you a great opportunity to acquire new customers and further build your brand.

Finally, by acquiring links from media outlets it also helps your website to rank better in Google. The higher the domain authority of a particular site that is linking to you, the better for your ranking in Google. As such, always make sure that when somebody mentions your company that they link back to your website to gain those extra benefits.

Yoco media section homepage

A section of Yoco's media coverage on the homepage

Actionable Take-away

Should your business be covered by the media it could be really worthwhile to build a site where you list all media coverage your business has received. It should be a small investment in return for the credibility it lends you and potential new customers you could get out of it.

  • Use Google Alert to monitor the web for new content featuring your company and to add to your media section.
  • You can also use Google Webmaster Tools to download a csv file of sites that link back to your website

Digital Marketing lesson 7: Make use of Flash sales

Flash sales are on old gimmick that has been in use in like forever, because they can be incredibly effective if done right. They can boost profits, help clear outdated inventory as well as generate a large amount of new customers and raising awareness of your brand as a whole.

Growing your customer base and increasing your brand awareness are important in building a profitable and scalable business. Acquiring customers through discounted offers may not be appealing at first sight, because it reduces profit margins.

However, once you have a clients contact data and permission to market to them you can use that build a solid relationship with clients and in so doing extend their life-time value. In this way, you can recoup the money you "lost" through flash sales and make even more back.

Yoco deploy the Flash sale in a clever way. They draw attention to it by promoting it with a big banner across their website and by offering a significantly reduced price compared to regular prices. Also, there is a sense of urgency as it is clearly indicated that quantity is limited and the flash sale only runs while stocks last.

Yoco credit card machine Flash sale june 2017

Yoco advertising their flash sale on their homepage

Creating a sense of urgency through scarcity marketing can be really powerful if done right. By indicating that the flash sale only lasts while stocks last and that quantity is limited Yoco introduce a powerful sense of urgency. By not showing how much stock is left, interested customers have to act fast or otherwise face the possibility of missing out.

Often when faced with a decision people think too long, search for better alternatives or are distracted by something else entirely. Flash sales help to focus the attention of potential customers and invites them to act fast. Yoco are using this marketing tactic in a clever way.

Actionable Take-away

Flash sales can boost your business and convince potential customers who are sitting on the fence to give it a try. As such, Flash sales can be incredibly effective when done right. Use it as a tactic to grow your business by growing your customer base and brand awareness.

Digital Marketing lesson 8: Relax - there is always something to optimize

An important lesson about digital marketing is that so many different elements across the numerous marketing channels are constantly changing. Be it Google's ranking factors, Facebook advertising policies or user expectations.

Don't get your knickers in a twist because of it. If you want to keep sane you have to accept that it's virtually impossible to keep up with all the continuous changes across the different marketing channels. 

Even the best companies struggle. Especially now that the speed of change in business and life is increasing.

At the same time, you need to know that there is always something that you can optimize about your digital marketing. It will never be "perfect". Even if you can afford a fancy agency to do your digital marketing it will not be perfect. It's a fact of life.

Actionable Take-away

Although you should always be looking to optimize your digital marketing strategy, because there is always things that can be done better, don't forget to relax. Digital marketing is an incredibly fast paced environment and things are always changing. No need to get your knickers in a twist.

Digital Marketing lesson 9: Need for Speed 2.017

Need for Speed anyone? It's a legendary action racing video game about the race to be the fastest driver.

What does that have to do with Digital Marketing you ask? In 2017 a lot. And speed is only growing in importance in a digital world that expects instant gratification.

Or do you know anyone that loves waiting for more than an instant for a page to load?

Hardly.

You see speed is now part of the user experience. According to Google, 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. Moreover, a study by Neil Patel suggests that site speed correlates with higher rankings in the Google search results.

You can imagine that both factors affect the bottom line which is why it is important to pay attention to and optimize loading speed.

These are some of the factors affecting site speed:

  • Image size
  • Caching
  • Cache validating
  • Server response time
  • Server response codes
  • Server location
  • DNS lookups
  • Code minification
  • Redirects
  • WordPress Plugins (if you happen to have a WordPress site)

As a result of the importance of the speed, the Yoco website was put through the "Need for Speed" test.

These are the results according to GTmetrix using a Firefox Desktop browser with the test server being based in Canada. Granted Yoco's target audience is more likely to be in South Africa and as such this result might be less relevant.

Yoco Website speed score GTmetrix

Yoco's Website speed score according to GTmetrix

However, given that according to GTmetrix the average fully loaded time is 8.7 s compared to Yoco's 24 s suggests that there is some room to improve loading speed. Also, the average number of request is 86 s compared to Yoco 144 s.

Even though no indication of loading time is given, mighty Google also suggests that Yoco's loading speed has room for improvement - both on desktop and mobile.

Yoco Google Page Speed insights June 2017

The mighty Google is not happy with Mobile page speed

It seems Google is though please. Still not entirely happy with Yoco's Website loading speed.

Yoco Google Pagespeed website June 2017

Google is a little happier with the Website loading speed

Given that mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic optimizing loading speed for mobile traffic should certainly be a focus for any business with a poor Mobile loading page score.

Considering Yoco's expansion plans on the back of its venture capital funding and the fact that the next billion new internet users are expected to come online on mobile it would not hurt to focus on improving Mobile loading speed.

Actionable Take-away

In a digital world, your business needs to make loading speed of both website and mobile a priority. Otherwise, it will hurt your bottom line as it negatively impacts your site's ranking factor as well as your site's user experience.

Digital Marketing lesson 10: Optimize Digital Marketing by leveraging Email

Given Yoco's strong digital presence across multiple marketing channels it is, frankly speaking, surprising that they do not seem to leverage the most profitable marketing channel there is - Email.

The power of Email marketing

4400 %

According to Campaign Monitor you can get a ROI of up to $44 for every $1 spent on Email marketing

Email is a powerful tool for scaling your business. Make use of it! 

If they do have an Email newsletter, they are hiding the signup form somewhere very secretive where we could not find it. Too bad. In our view this is a missed opportunity to build high-quality relationship with subscribers and grow the business.

After all, according to the Content Marketing Institute Email subscribers sit atop the subscribers hierarchy, before any kind of Social Media follower.

Subscription Hierarchy Content Marketing Institute

According to the Content Marketing Institute Email subscribers are the most valuable!

Email marketing gives you exciting options as a business owner like marketing automation, the possibility to welcome new subscribers via onboarding, educate customers, promoting new features and products or simply share news. It's difficult to do this via other digital marketing channels in such an effective way.

In our view, Email should be the crown jewel of your digital marketing strategy and so do some of Africa's leading companies such as Jumia and Andela by leveraging the power of Email.

Perhaps the Yoco marketing team have a good reason for not leveraging Email marketing and we would be interested to know why. But in our view, Email is key to any digital marketing strategy despite the numerous claims that Email is dead.

Actionable Take-away

If you want to build a scalable tech business use Email marketing. Not only are Email subscribers the most valuable, it is also very affordable and most providers nowadays offer marketing automation capabilities.  And research shows time and again, that Email is the most profitable online marketing channel.

  • Our Email marketing software of choice is GetResponse.
  • For business with sophisticated CRM, automation and email marketing needs Infusionsoft is a good choice.

Conclusion

If you want to build a tech company that scales across Africa and beyond you need a strong digital marketing strategy to do so. While the kind of digital strategy you adopt for your business will depend on a variety of factors including budget, capabilities, target audience and others there is a good chance your company can learn 1 or 2 lessons from Yoco and apply it to your business.

Let us know in the comment section below, which Digital Marketing lesson(s)​ from Yoco you will be applying in growing your business and why.

About the Author Rise Africa Rise

Rise Africa Rise is your online guide to social entrepreneurship, technology and social innovation in Africa. Our aim is to provide you with valuable information, content and opportunities to support you in achieving positive social impact with your venture.

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