How to market your business effectively in Africa

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Currently home to no fewer than six of the world’s fastest growing economies, Africa holds exceptional opportunity for business growth.

However, to achieve business success in Africa, you have to look beyond contracts, designer suits and business know-how. There really is an ‘African’ way of doing things, especially where marketing your business is concerned.

Perhaps a better way of explaining this is to say that Africa is not one country. Each African state has its own idiosyncrasies, cultures and customs. It would therefore be incorrect to refer to an African market per se.

To achieve business success within Africa, you would need to understand and accept that what applies elsewhere in the world may not necessarily apply in Africa and that, perhaps contrary to popular belief, there are marketing opportunities in Africa you would not necessarily enjoy elsewhere in the world. Just look at the spread of mobile across the continent for example.

Here are some top tips to achieving marketing success in Africa.

  1. Think local

There is no such thing as approaching business in Africa in ‘uniform fashion’. Each of the continent’s markets boasts vastly different sensibilities, complexities and cultural norms, all of which need to be carefully factored into your business approach.

Instead of trying to infiltrate a specific market with techniques and lingo you think would suit the market, consider getting in touch with a few local marketing companies specialising in your area of business, whether it is technology, travel or IT.

Besides being able to offer you a pitch on what each company can offer in terms of marketing your business, you will be able to, by engaging with different marketing companies, gain a greater understanding of what the different dynamics are that makes your industry tick within the local context.

  1. Track records speak a 1000 words

There is a saying that everyone talks good game, especially in marketing and PR.

However, to ensure that you select the correct marketing partner for your organisation, never be shy to ask about a potential marketing partner’s track record.

You will only really be able to get a feel for a marketing firm’s level of experience and ability to produce results, by asking which companies it’s worked with and especially which case studies and sample work it can share with you.

If you are seeking media relations support, ask the company for samples of clips it has secured in publications. If social media assistance is your need, ask for several handles and case studies that point to results. Any marketing an PR worth their salt would be able to provide you with references you can talk to and examples of previous campaigns and work.

  1. Throw Out the Rule Book

Forget what you know and what you are accustomed to in the world of business marketing. Many enterprises accustomed to a certain way of doing things, find Africa a confusing and frustrating place. In the majority of markets, business areas such as corporate policies and marketing differ significantly from those seen in more developed countries.

For this reason, you will have to consider a marketing company familiar with the “African way” of doing things. A marketing company that will not only blast your message out, but one that will be able to add meaning to the recipients of a message and one that will allow you to achieve results from your marketing strategy.

  1. Build relationships

Many African cultures are built on the concept of community and interpersonal relationships are vital in driving commerce in these markets. With this said it is not always about what you have to offer, regardless of how unique or ground breaking it may be, it is rather about the strength of your relationships.

You are more likely to achieve success by working with a trusted marketing brand that have established relationships and ‘know-how’ in your specific industry, than trying to go about it on your own.

Not only does specialisation allow the firm to understand your offerings and ramp up more quickly, but equally importantly, it means that your account director and marketing team will have relationships with reporters at the publications where you want to be featured.

  1. A ‘results’ orientation

Whether you have unlimited marketing spend or whether you run on a strict, but dedicated budget for your marketing needs, always keep in mind that the ultimate return you and your marketing organisation should aim for is results.

Ensure that your chosen marketing and PR partner in Africa place a high emphasis on results. While results from a marketing campaign in most instances do not happen overnight, your marketing partner should be able to provide you with a result driven timeline and processes on how and when you will be able to start seeing results.

Perhaps to add to this, you will know you have found the perfect marketing partner in Africa when they are more excited about you and your business than you are.