How To Start A Business Of Providing Digital Marketing Services In Africa

Let‘s face it: One of the favorite means of advertising in Africa is still via radio or large billboards, especially in the cities. And we mean large! While a few corporates in Africa are engaging in digital marketing strategies, the majority still focuses on somewhat outdated marketing strategies using traditional media and road shows. And yes, of course, there are still the SMEs that need to be taken on by you.

Before the internet became the huge phenomenon it is today, advertising was largely dominated by traditional channels: television, radio and print (newspapers and magazines). Today, the story is very different…at least outside of Africa!

According to the 2013 IAB Internet Advertising Revenue report36, internet advertising is fast closing in on TV advertising to become the preferred advertising channel. In 2013, over $117bn was spent worldwide on internet advertising, and estimates show that this figure will increase to nearly $200bn by 2018. Before the end of this decade, it is expected that internet advertising will become the largest and most preferred channel for advertisers.

Businesses, whether big or small, spend a considerable budget on advertising every year. They are constantly looking for effective solutions that will increase the returns on their advertising spend. Online advertising presents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to work with local businesses to promote and grow the sales of products and services on the internet.

Now, what makes this opportunity so amazing for you is that most African companies have simply not woken up to that, despite the fast growing online presence of African consumers. This is the right time to get your digital marketing company off the ground!
There are quite a number of ways to increase the visibility of any business, person, brand, product or service on the internet. Here are some of the strong emerging trends that help to increase the traffic to a company‘s website and attract more customers as a result.

a) Social media marketing – This is the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. At the end of 2012, Africa had over 50 million Facebook users. Last year alone, a report entitled How Africa Tweets‘ revealed that more than 11.5 million tweets originated from Africa, with people discussing a wide range of issues and topics.

Social media has become a huge marketing and advertising tool for people who know how to use it. It has the power to generate enough buzz to propel a product to tremendous success or severely damage the image and reputation of a company if it‘s not harnessed properly.
More businesses are now turning to social media experts‘ to promote their products and services and manage their image on social media. What does it take to become a social media expert? Just learn. Sites like Marketing Land and Media Bistro are excellent online resources to get you started!

b) Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – When people are looking for information, or need to find a product or service that solves their problems or satisfies their needs, one of the first places they look is a search engine. This is the simple reason why Google has become the most popular and successful internet-based company.

To rank high and be one of the first things people see in search engine results, many businesses are now investing
in paid search advertising to increase their chances of visibility to potential customers. SEM is increasingly becoming a way for both small and big businesses to gain website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines.

There are other interesting marketing channels, such as online video and mobile advertising, that also hold great promise now and in the future.

c) Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – SEO is the process of getting traffic to a website from the free, organic, editorial or natural search results on search engines. Unlike paid online advertising, SEO allows a website to enjoy free traffic that leads to a steady stream of visitors who could end up becoming customers.

Becoming proficient in SEO requires skill and experience which is not very difficult to acquire through dedicated learning. Some great resources that will help to give you a good grounding in SEO are: The Moz Beginners‘ Guide to SEO and Search Engine Land.

Business Concept What you have to realize is that this is a market that only leading companies and those exposed to online efficiency in Africa (for example because they sell products online) will understand at this time. But Africa is catching up fast with technology.

Right now we are witnessing a mobile revolution, which will soon be followed by an internet revolution across the continent. So with that in mind, your concept could be to go for the big fishes in the market, Pan-African or international corporations for example, because frankly they already have the necessary awareness regarding online marketing at this point, however don‘t use it much.

But try to engage with SMEs as well; you need to be ready when that wave takes off. Offer a combination of services such as digital marketing, digital strategy, and social and mobile marketing services.

Niche Ideas

 ICT sector
 Financial corporations
 Fashion companies
 Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs)
 Motor industries
 Mobile phone marketing (remember, Africa has the fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world, and this is the best way right now for companies to reach the African consumer directly).

Top Countries & Policy Guidance

This works best in the most competitive and popular markets, among them Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Botswana.

Action & Tips

 Companies in Africa are moving on from TV, radio, and billboard adverts, and you need to find out what challenges they face in your particular country or region in reaching out to their customers and prospects. You need to create strategies that allow these companies to become globally competitive within an African setting.

 Be aware that your business requires online presence (electricity!), and internet access (broadband cables). You will face logistical challenges such as lack of reliable access to electricity and may want to consider taking care of that with solar solutions or a generator, which you should add to your startup costs if you can afford it. If not, don‘t worry; get started anyway!

Success Stories

Abasiama Idaresit – Wild Fusion (Kenya)

Abasiama Idaresit graduated with an MBA at Manchester Business School and moved back to Nigeria in 2010 to start his own business. Today, he is the Founder and CEO of Wild Fusion, a digital marketing company, which he started in 2010 with a gift of $250 from his mother. He was not successful straight away; it took him eight months to make the first deal. But only three years later, Wild Fusion has rocketed to success and has served major companies like Visa, Vodafone, Samsung and Unilever, and several large Pan-African corporations. Abasiama‟s Wild Fusion was recently valued at $6 million (revenues).

Joel Tetteh Akumiah – Zalaa (Ghana)

A new marketing platform was launched in October 2014. Zaala is a very innovative idea, with as the first free giveaway website in the sub-Saharan region. It was inspired by Joel Tetteh Akumiah, CEO of Customer Interest Company Limited. Joel Tetteh was determined to revolutionize the marketing drive in the country, and he just liked the idea of giving things away for free. He incorporated that into his business. Companies who want to advertise their products and services have a great way now to reach masses of people at one time. Through, users get to see the adverts of Ghanaian companies on the platform and get to try their products, too. Several Ghanaian companies are already participating.

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