Let us remind ourselves how much growth in Africa’s internet sector has accelerated in recent years due to improvements in infrastructure and the arrival of wireless access technology. According to Mushroom Networks, the continent now has more than 175 million Internet users - about 17 per cent of our total population. It is a scene largely dominated by youth and startups. Marketers get start-ups but still struggle to connect with youth.
Currently there are over 58 million Facebook subscribers and more than 15 million tweets originate from Africa. There would be more activity, but average internet speed is 1.6Mbps. The slowest speed is 0.26Mbpsin Zambia, as anyone who has tried to do business there will tell you. Interestingly Nigeria boasts over 50 million internet users, while ‘First World’ South Africa has just fewer than 10 million connections.
African corporates have been slow to get into online marketing, but are accelerating rapidly as mobile money transfer (pioneered in Kenya and the Philippines) enables secure e-commerce. What has held so many businesses back is that practicing on the Web has been seen as a dark art, whose secrets are known to few. I am old enough to remember when analogue media was seen that way, and what a marvelous life media buyers lived then.
But by a bizarre contrast, internet marketing is controllable to the cent. Space or keywords are bought on a spot market, and you only have to pay every time you get a result – known as a 'click thru or better'.
So there really is no reason when any entrepreneur should not use Web marketing as a pillar of his business strategy. Particularly since our new generation of Africa web agencies are as familiar with providing detailed analytics as they are at designing Apps.
The one time marketing that fails both small and big businesses is when it is built on opinion and guesswork. I still meet people who take their spouse’s advice on marketing, God help us. Guesses and opinions are the enemy of good marketing. If you let the numbers tell you the truth, you will make your marketing better. And your sales will end up 5, 10, or even 100 times more than where you started.
Marketing Sherpa reports that 90 per cent of US search marketers use some form of analytics. While this figure is probably optimistic (many advertisers still have no website tracking in place or never look at their reports), the fact remains that serious players (the top one per cent) will be relying on some form of website tracking to improve their returns. You need to do the same if you want to level the playing field.
All the websites i am aware of, in development in Kenya, have tracking installed. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. Tracking tells you where visitors are coming from, what pages they are visiting the most, and how long they stay on each page. It will tell you how quickly they leave, too –but this is the kind of truth a real marketer faces up to. You will actually be able to see how much each page on your site is worth to you. With this information, you can make your site better. You will have the insights you need to improve its design, and create a better user experience.
The end result? You will get a higher return on every dollar or shilling you spend. And thanks to tools like Google Analytics, you can master this measurement process yourself.
Chris Harrison has 30 years experience of marketing and advertising most of them spent in Africa. He leads the African operations of The Brand Inside; an international company that helps organisations deliver their brands and strategies through their people. www.thebrandinside.com
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