Having The Right Product Is Essential To Market Success In Nigeria

Product design image

No amount of marketing can sell a product no one wants

In my second year in the university, my Marketing instructor threw this question to the class — ”Assume you are the marketing manager for a particular product. You have done everything— segmentation, targeting, positioning, promotion, in short everything yet, your product is not selling. What do you do?”
The class gave varied and seemingly smart answers that were wrong nonetheless.

So what is the correct answer? Simple — Look at your product. A bad product cannot sell. Without a good product, no marketing, no matter how brilliant, will work. As Bill Bernbach says “The magic is in the product,” not in the marketer’s genius. Or as he put it another way, “marketing doesn’t create a product advantage. It can only convey it … No matter how skillful you are, you can’t invent a product advantage that doesn’t exist.

Businesses make real money only on repeat sales. While good marketing can make a prospect hopeful enough to try a product, it can’t make that customer delighted enough to buy it again. Only you and your product can do that.
What this means is that it’s your mission to come up with a product/service so inherently superior that, as soon as it’s effectively explained, demonstrated, or sampled, your prospects have no conclusion to draw except “I want it!”
Create “Wow!” products like this, add great customer service, and something magical happens. Your customers become your auxiliary sales force – a large, unpaid, ever-growing army of raving fans who extol your product to others, causing your market and profits to grow far more effectively than any marketing guru can.

This is where real marketing magic is born – in the product itself.

Making The Best Use Of Your Time Online

Making the best use of your time online

Have you been feeling overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of information you have to read every day (online). Well, you are not alone. As far back as April 2008, Betsy Schiffman wrote in Wired magazine:
“now that the first burst of enthusiasm for social networking has died, people are now realizing that web 2.0 is actually a huge time sink. Facebook, twitter, flickr and plaxo may have helped foster community and communication, but they ‘ve also added immensely to the flow of often—interruptive messages that their users receive, leading to information overload and possibly a nasty internet addiction”

And even if before now you have not seriously considered scaling back on the amount of time you spend on the net, you should for the following reasons:
There are too many information on the net and you just can’t have the time to read them all.
The brain has limited capacity. Try to read for twelve hours nonstop. At a certain point, the law of diminishing returns sets in and your rate of assimilation starts going down. After a while, you just realize your assimilation is zero.
More informed is not necessarily synonymous with better informed.

On a personal level, I realised a couple of years ago that I was spending too much time feeding on everything on the internet & like a thirsty man in the desert who suddenly found an oasis, I was gorging myself to stupor. I read all kinds of blogs, participated in social media (general and niche), subscribed to newsletters too numerous to count and, just before I know it, I was devoting more than five hours a day to devouring information.

But after a while, I came to the realization that I had to adopt a proactive approach to my internet activities if I was to remain productive and maintain my sanity. The following are some of the tips that helped me.

Determine what is important
This is about knowing the difference between need to know and like to know
Need to know: These are the information that are vital to our functioning effectively in our professional, social and economic lives. As an internet marketing practitioner, for instance, I need to be abreast of any change in ranking factors on search engines; new business application on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn; and …..Likewise, a medical doctor obviously need to be up to date on advancements in his area of expertise.
Like to know: two of my favorite websites used to be Forbes magazine and Guinness records websites. The information I get from these sites are nice to know but add little or nothing to my professional and personal development—they are a kind of like to know. Like to know information and activities include things like checking status updates on Facebook; checking the hottest video on YouTube; reading the latest celebrity gossip…..
The point is that you should identify those sources that provide you with need to know information and the ones that provide you like to know. You determine the selection criteria but, be absolutely honest with yourself.
My suggestion is that you should eliminate or at least significantly reduce (to less than ten percent) the time you spent on like to know activities. This leaves us with the need to know.

Because all your need to know activities are not created equal and also because of time constraint, you should scale them base on your perception of their relative value. For example, after a personal audit, I decided to read only 6 blogs a day out of the about fifty I used to read before. My daily blog list now looks like this:
1. SEOmoz for internet marketing
2. Branding Strategy Insider for offline marketing
3. Copyblogger for internet copywriting
4. BNET for general business information
5. Jeremiah Owyang for social media marketing
6. Seth Godin for motivation
7. I also devote 3 hours every Saturday to numerous other blogs

Allot time to different activities
You should allocate specific time to your online activities. If you stay in a city with heavy traffic like Lagos (like me) for example, you‘ll probably spend hours in traffic every day. You can make good use of this time by using the time spent commuting to work for your need to know. The time spent commuting back can be spent on less demanding activities like social media.
This makes sense. Most people assimilate better in the morning. Thus, by visiting blogs and other quality information sources in the morning, you get optimum result from your reading.

Things you should avoid
Configure Twitter not to interrupt you at work
Don’t check email too often. Only check emails at predetermined schedules
Stay off instant messaging or at least disable sound alert in your instant messaging during office hour

Marketing Myopia – The Number One Corporate Strategy/Business Failure Factor In Nigeria

Whiteboard website layout

First, a bit of background. The concept of marketing myopia was first postulated by Theodore Levitt of Harvard in his landmark 1960 HBR article titled Marketing Myopia. In the article, Levitt asked the now-famous question, “What business are you really in?” According to Levitt, failure to answer this question correctly always leads to business failure. And he gave the example of the American railroad:

“The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because that need was filled by others (cars, trucks, aeroplanes, and even telephones) but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves. They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry incorrectly was that they were railroad oriented instead of transportation oriented; they were product-oriented instead of customer-oriented”

That is the main thrust of Levitt’s argument: businesses will do better in the end if they concentrate on meeting customers’ needs rather than on selling products.

All industries are dynamic. The truth is, every industry was once a growth industry and the ones that are currently riding a wave of growth enthusiasm are likely already in the shadow of growth decline or will soon be.

Let us look at the practical implication of this paradigm shift in selected Nigeria industries:


On the surface, MTN, Etisalat, Airtel, Globacom are all in the telephone business. But in reality, nothing could be more erroneous than this. If these companies are to properly answer the question “what business are we in?”, they will agree that they are in the business of enabling communication between people.

The success of any of these companies depends on realizing this. Five years ago, SMS used to cost 15 Naira. Today, the average cost of SMS is 4 Naira. But the real issue is not even in the declining revenue accruing to telecoms companies from SMS, the real issue is that in the next couple of years, SMS revenue will be zero! The reason for this is not farfetched, why should I pay for SMS when I can send the same message (and actually a lot more with multimedia) via Whatsapp, Snapchat, Facebook chat etc.

Even the traditional cash cow for these companies, voice, is not insulated. Skype and Whatsapp calls are free. In fact, I now make more calls on Skype and Whatsapp than on the traditional phone. While it is true that I am not currently a representation of an average Nigerian, it will not be naive to project that as smartphones and data become cheaper, more people will embrace internet calls; with the implication that average spend by the subscriber will keep falling.


A classic example of a company that fails to properly define its business is Nigeria Postal Service, NIPOST. NIPOST apparently thinks it’s in the letter distribution business. Wrong. (Of course, the problems of NIPOST are a legion: package disappearance, undertrained and unmotivated employees, analogue operation etc). The single most significant factor responsible for NIPOST’s withering is its failure to correctly define its business.

Were NIPOST management more strategic, they would have understood that they are in the logistics business. This simple paradigm shift would have changed the story of NIPOST.

Okay, what do I mean?

While it is true that the advent of email and texting have eroded the volume of the physical letter, the overlooked fact is that the same internet has dramatically increased the number of package deliveries, ala Jumia, Konga, Rytedeals, and co. The extensive postal infrastructure NIPOST has all over Nigeria gives it a huge competitive advantage in package delivery. Thus putting cost and geographic spread into consideration, it would have made a lot more business sense for these e-commerce companies to work with NIPOST (every other thing being equal of course).

***This post was first published a couple of years ago. With the content still very relevant and poignant today in Nigeria, we decided to bring it up again.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Exploring Business & Investment Opportunities In Nigeria

Analytics graph

Nigeria is a fertile ground for businesses but ironically, it is one of the least exploited markets for investment by foreign investors. This is probably due largely to its penchant for attracting negative reports in the international media. I will admit most of these reports are accurate to some extent. But the reports do not tell the full gist about the country. They generally fail to mention the huge business opportunities in Nigeria. In the last ten years, there has been a series of transformation in the Nigeria economy that has made it especially attractive to foreign investors. The country’s economy is more open (relatively), bigger, diversified and generally business-friendly. Also, for no fathomable reason to me, Nigerians generally prefer to do business with foreigners than with fellow countrymen.

That Nigeria is an attractive investment haven for a foreigner is unquestionable. There is no greater proof of this than the hundreds (maybe thousands) of Chinese and Indian businesses that have sprung up in Nigeria in the last few years. Almost all of which have been recording superlative successes. Nigeria is probably one of the best places for a foreign company/individual to set up in.
However, exploiting business opportunities in Nigeria as a foreigner has its own peculiar requirements. Failure to take cognizance of these will negatively impact your activities in Nigeria. Here we go:

Researching the Nigerian market
Internet: you should start your research on the Internet to have a general feel of the country. You will probably find very few relevant information and even this will not be up to date. The reason for this is not far fetched—Nigeria is yet to evolve to WEB 2.0. Most Nigerian sites especially the government ones (where they exist) are static with rare update of information. The following are some of the few sites with useful and reliable information:
Lagos State Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Nigerian Export Promotion Council
World Bank
Central Bank of Nigeria
Top newspapers like, Punch, Thisday, Guardian etc.
You can Google them but please, don’t base your decision solely on information gathered from the net. Researching the Nigerian market also requires offline activities
Your embassy in Nigeria: Contact the commercial section of your embassy in Nigeria. Any information you get from them will be reliable
Work with us: This might seem like self-promotion. However, it is included because while I cannot speak about others with certainty, I am absolutely sure of the competence and integrity of my company. Researching the Nigerian market will be easier with our help.

Attractive sectors
– The best sector for a foreign investment in Nigeria is service. (1) It is the biggest sector (relatively) (2) it is easy to enter (3) it requires little capital (4) it is the most attractive in view of the poor infrastructural base of the country
Specific sectors that are particularly juicy include:
– Web-related fields. It is still largely underdeveloped with enormous growth prospect
– Mobile telecommunication
– Construction
– Retailing of high-value items
– Education.
– All kinds of consulting
This list is in no way exhaustive.

Peculiar characteristics of the Nigerian Market
Cash-based: transactions in Nigeria are still largely cash-based
The concentration of business: business activities are concentrated in three main cities of Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Abuja. With Lagos accounting for over 40% of all business activities
Young population: the population is so young that more than 40% are under the age of fourteen
Poor social infrastructure: especially power supply
Poor security in some parts of the country. However, the main commercial city of Lagos and Abuja, the federal capital territory are absolutely safe.
Well educated workforce: on second thought, maybe not so well educated because of the outdated school curriculum. But you can count on their loyalty, hard work and adaptability.
Money speaks: I probably shouldn’t put this but because I wish to be truthful, it is included. In Nigeria, money answereth all things. This simply means with money, almost anything can be obtained
Extreme religiosity: Nigerians are a very religious lot (godly?).
Heterogeneity: Nigeria is a heterogeneous society with more than 250 distinct ethnic groups and languages. The south is liberal while most of the north is conservative

Insulating yourself from risks of doing business in Nigeria
Research properly before you venture into any business in Nigeria. If you are thinking of manufacturing, then you have to do a more thorough research.
If a business proposition looks too mouth-watering, beware! It’s probably a scheme by Nigerian boisterous scam artists to defraud you.
Before making financial dealing (that involves up to two thousand US dollars) with anyone in Nigeria, verify the authenticity of the party. You can contact Economic and Financial Crimes Commision, EFCC for assistance. Please endeavor to state that your purpose is precautionary.
It is advisable to set up in Lagos and/or Abuja, at least initially.

For further help, you can contact our company.


How Nigeria Traditional Media Houses can Adapt Better to the Changing Digital Landscape

Global digital landscape

One of my favorite things to read on how Media Houses are evolving is the New York Times: 2020 Report. It is a very vital read for anyone working in the Media today.
The report generated huge interest and comments online. With Joshua Benton, editor of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard, calling it “one of the most remarkable documents I’ve seen” in his years running the Lab. It is a must-read for every business development and marketing personnel.

The document made me reflect on the digital strategies (or lack of it) of Nigeria media houses and, I am unhappy to say, the prognosis is not good for them. In other words, all Nigeria media houses are on a destructive trajectory. That is if they do not change course.

Darwinism And The Inevitable Death Of Nigeria Traditional Media Houses
Darwinism focuses on the evolution of species as caused by natural selection. It’s the idea that nature favors individuals of species that have certain traits which give them an advantage and helps them live better and longer in their environment/habitat. The other, less fortunate individuals have a harder time competing for resources and are therefore more likely to die off. In short, it’s the “survival of the fittest”.

Darwinism makes us understand that it’s not necessarily the strongest or the first to arrive who are most likely to survive; it’s the most adaptable who win in the end.

The same is true in business. In an era of Digital Darwinism, no business is too big to fail or too small to succeed. And in the media business, the existential threat is “adaptability to the digital age”

Below is an excerpt from an article I wrote on a similar theme four years ago Titled The Solution To The Dwindling Newspaper Circulation In Nigeria:
“……Such powerhouse newspapers as The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune are also facing the same challenge of plummeting circulation figures. The difference is just that they are confronting the issue holistically rather than self-deceive themselves that all is well.”

What brought this social state? Mainly, the internet. Yes, the internet. Most of the newly empowered middle class have access to the internet and seriously, why should I buy a newspaper for information when the same is available on my blackberry free of charge? Moreover, the internet gives me access to different sources for the same information—all for free.

When I finished NYSC in 2005, my main source of information on job vacancies was Tuesday Guardian newspaper. And it wasn’t only me. All my freshly minted B.sc. friends consulted Tuesday guardian for employment opportunities. Fast forward five years to 2010 and what do you see? Nairaland, Naijahotjobs, NBF social website, Careers Nigeria, kerewa.com etc. These are free job listing websites where a job seeker will not only find vacancies but also tips on writing a CV, interview tips etc

If anything, the situation is graver (than it was four years ago) for Nigeria media houses:

• More of the traditional media audience has moved (and moving) online. With the proliferation of smartphones and the relatively wider reach and affordability of broadband internet access, more people (especially the young) are shifting their media consumption online
• The emergence of new and agile web-only media outfits. Three of the top five local media sites in Nigeria (Nairaland, Linda Ikeji, and Naij.com) are new digital-only outfits according to Alexa
• An exploding population of digital native

How Nigeria Media Outlets Are Currently Adapting
It is obvious that Nigeria traditional media houses are aware of some of these challenges and are taking actions to adapt to the reality:
1. They have built websites and are publishing digital versions of their content online.
2. Some more sophisticated ones have even gone ahead to build apps and toolbars which they actively promote

Unfortunately, they are tackling the issue in a wrong way and if they continue this way, their extinction will be inevitable. This is because the approach they have taken is at best cosmetic.

Strategic Approach To Digitalizing Of Nigeria Traditional Media
The first and most vital task before Nigeria traditional media houses is to evolve a digital strategy. That is the truly hard work. It starts by asking the bigger questions about your present and your future: What should you become; How must you change to achieve this goal of transformation.

For a newspaper like The Guardian, for example, The big question will be: How can The Guardian become more digital while still maintaining a print presence and, what has to change? That means aggressively questioning many of your print-based traditions and their demands on your time, and determining which can be abandoned to free up resources for digital work.

Without a strategic framework, digital success will be impossible. Actualizing this will be very difficult because it is almost certain that the only way to guarantee a long-term success is to have a paradigm shift in strategy to “digital first”. And this will have a whole lot of implications from hiring to resource allocation.

Some Salient Tips
After designing a well thought out strategy, below are some of the tactics Nigeria traditional media houses can employ to get to their publishing nirvana. Borrowing from the leaked Times Document, I will divide my recommendations into two broad parts: Audience Development and Newsroom Strengthening. The first is a core part of the newsroom team (journalists), while the other is a more broad effort that includes imperatives for business units and the newsroom alike.

Audience Development
1. Use big data to personalize – Data is king. Know as much about your audience as possible. This will aid personalization. For a start, you can start asking readers whether they would be willing to be contacted by reporters or if they are willing to share some basic information about their interest, alma mater and industry so you can send them content about those topics

On a more advanced level, you could create a section of the homepage that uses reader patterns to customize a list of content that readers missed but would most likely want to see. This means that though all readers would see the same top news stories, the other articles you show them would be customized to reflect what they haven’t seen (and would likely want to see based on the footprint they left earlier)

2. Content discovery and distribution are key– This is one area all Nigeria media houses fail woefully. In the digital age, it is not enough to have quality content, your content must be discoverable by its intended audience. This is a broad area that I cannot possibly cover in this post. But my suggestion will be that you must master two key areas (1) content promotion via social media and (2) SEO. Technical SEO hack like structured data/schema, sitemap, canonicalization etc can have a profound impact on your website discoverability

3. Motivate content engagement: There are so many ways to do this. All that is needed is creativity. For example, Linda Ikeji executed one of the most effective audience development campaigns I have seen out of Nigeria last December when she gave out one hundred thousand Naira each to ten of the most consistent commenter. The result on her blog is phenomenal

Newsroom Strengthening
1. You need new talents: You needs a broader array of digital talent, not just reporters and editors, but “technologists, user experience designers, product managers, data analysts, digital content strategists, and content creators–all working under people who have coherent goals

3. Leverage your biggest asset – content: In the digital space, content is king. The NYT document puts this best when it states “You have a huge advantage. You have a tremendous amount of high-quality content that you have a perpetual license to.”
While the focus of the newsroom may be on current events and stories, sometimes it’s important to provide context to what’s happening. And evergreen content can help do just that. So, resurfacing archival content will be great

3. Experiment more with the way you present content: You just must be willing to experiment more in terms of how you present your content: “We must push back against our perfectionist impulses. Though our journalism always needs to be polished, our other efforts can have some rough edges as we look for new ways to reach our readers”

Why This Age Of Innovation Is The Best Time To Be Alive

Light bulb

We are living in a world of unprecedented changes. With this change come our natural tendencies to be apprehensive about our place in this fast-evolving world. Whether you are in Tokyo or Helsinki, California or Abuja, the worries might be different in details but I believe they are identical in essence.
While we in the developing world are pre-occupied with meeting basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing, westerners are worried about their ability to maintain their high standard of living.
I believe such worries are misplaced. In all of history, this is probably the best time to live. There are more opportunities for any average creative and hardworking person now than at any other time in history.

Saku Tuominen, the founder of the Idealist Group, puts it succinctly when he said “The world is more connected than ever before and production costs, especially on the digital side, are falling dramatically. With a good idea, great implementation and the right timing, practically anybody can challenge anyone these days. Never in the history of mankind have there been so many opportunities…..”
The same sentiment was echoed by Zoltan Acs, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Public Policy at George Mason University, hear him: “The world is at a sort of ‘ground zero’ in its struggle to create hundreds of innovative products — and in the process millions of jobs — to deal with an ever-growing population and the demands of emerging economies such as Brazil and China. This struggle has captured the aspirations of thousands of entrepreneurs around the world. Despite the impact of the economic downturn, entrepreneurs are enjoying a renaissance. A global entrepreneurial revolution is spreading like wildfire.”
Almost all traditional barriers to business are being phased out with the advent of information technology. I am a Nigerian based in Nigeria, but I deal with people from all over the world even from the comfort of my Lagos office. All I need is a computer and internet.
A close friend of mine lost his job last September because of downsizing in his company. The same guy has just got another job with a South African company without physically meeting anybody from the company. And it is unlikely that he needs to—he works and gets paid virtually.

Better Security
Yes, the world is safer now. There was a far greater risk of nuclear conflagration twenty, thirty, forty years ago than now. If a balance of terror was the deterrent of the cold war era, mutual economic dependence and interconnectivity are doing the same now. The truth is, it is in the interest of everybody to have peace—even the “axis of evil”
Okay, what about the irrational and obviously insane terrorists you may ask. Well, the fact is that Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups are weaker now than they were ten years ago and the noose is closing in even tighter on them. Another important truth is that world is better prepared than ever before to handle terrorism

Democracy Everywhere
There is a gale sweeping the whole world, from Tunisia to Egypt, from Russia to China, people are now demanding more for freedom and the entrenchment of democratic principles. There even appear to be a glimmer of hope in my perennially self-destroying Africa
All these do not mean there are no challenges in the current order of things; there are but, they are challenges that can easily be overcome. The first step towards this is having a positive attitude.


**This post was first published in January 2011.

Why Most Nigerian E-Businesses Fail

E-business in Nigeria

There has been an upsurge in the number of Nigerian e-businesses. It seems Nigerians are gradually waking up to the enormous businesses opportunities available on the internet.
Ordinarily, I should be happy about this development considering that I have always been advocating for Nigerians to exploit the huge business opportunities available on the internet. But, I am not. The reason for my unhappiness is not far-fetched; virtually all the freshly minted Nigerian e-businesses are doomed to failure.
In fact, feelers I get from even the established Nigerian e-businesses are not encouraging; they are virtually all operating at a loss.
So the question is: what should be done to stop the ever-swelling number of Nigerian e-commerce failures. I think the starting point to answering this question is to gain an understanding of why these online ventures fail as accurate diagnoses they say is the first step to effective treatment.

Poor Research
It is one thing to have a fancy business idea; it is another to have a viable business idea. How do you know which is which? Simple, your research. And the internet contains thousands of free resources to help you conduct viability assessment for your e-business. For example, you can use Google Trend to gain insight into what Nigerians are doing online. The point here is that you can and must do a thorough feasibility study before you commit your money to an e-commerce venture.

Wrong Business Model
This a major contributor to the high casualty rate of Nigerian e-businesses. Almost at regular intervals, I get inquiries from Nigerian internet entrepreneurs seeking help from our company on how we can help them increase their ad sense revenue. My answer to them is usually ‘sorry, we cannot help you”. This is because contrary to what snake oil internet consultants may say, it is virtually impossible to make real money from ad revenue. With the notable exception of high traffic Nigerian sites like Nairaland, Linda Ikeji, Punch Online etc, few Nigerian sites probably make N50, 000 a month from Ads.
Simply because this is the way it works: the more quality content you have on your site, the more visitors Google send to your site, the more visitors you have, the higher your prospect of making money from ads. So, if you don’t have the resources, (material, intellectual, time, persistence) to churn out regular great content, forget about making money from Ads.

The biggest casualties of Nigeria e-commerce failures come from the online retail stores. The odds are stacked against their success. A few of the obstacles include:

Poor logistical infrastructure
Online retail thrives on seamless logistics support. This, unfortunately, is hard to come by in Nigeria. Private courier services are usually too expensive while no serious business will depend on government-owned ones. And building distribution and other supply chain infrastructure from grounds up is an expensive undertaking. This costs naturally adds to the cost of goods sold on these Nigerian online stores. The result is either non-competitive prices (compared to the brick and mortal goods) or low-profit markup margin.

Security and Trust Concerns
Very few Nigerians would be willing to make a purchase online, especially from a Nigerian e-commerce site. Nearly every Nigerian knows one person or the other that have lost money to ATM fraud. And ATM being the closest that most Nigerians have come close to e-commerce naturally means Nigerians would be skeptical about making transactions online.
There is also the question of dependability and trustworthiness of our fellow countrymen. The truth is people feel more secured making purchase from a foreign-owned site than from a Nigerian one. This generally can be attributed to the perceived (and unfortunately sometimes justified) belief that Nigerians are unscrupulous.
And then there is the question of the security of these Nigerian e-commerce sites. From phishing to identity theft, these fears are real.

Poor Marketing
No business can thrive without effective marketing. The degree of marketing ineptitude displayed by Nigerian online businesses is appalling. How many of these sites hope to survive without doing any kind of marketing is preposterous to me. They all seem to think all it takes to succeed online is some flashy website (which is not even visible to search engines)
In building an internet business, you do not only build a website but also promote your site, and make sure it’s seen by everyone who is browsing the internet. You also need to make sure that whenever someone searches for something relevant to your website, they will find you instead of your competitor.
There are many ways to promote an online business, Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click, Article Marketing, and Affiliate building are just a few of the available options.

The obvious solution will be for Nigerian e-commerce ventures to start addressing the gaps itemized above


Marketing Lessons From A Bus Ride

Marketing lessons

Educated people just love to think they are wiser than the less educated folks—which is a shame. I sure used to think the same way.
Take marketing for example. There are some key marketing concepts drilled into every marketing professional. Things like the Four Ps, Segmentation, Targeting etc. There are tomes of books written on these subjects.
Well, last week I encountered a brilliant marketer. Guess where? You guessed right, in a bus. Marketing Lessons From A Bus Ride

For the first time in fifteen years, I found myself inside a Lagos Molue (those rickety commuter buses). We had barely left the bus-stop when a well-dressed man (by molue standard) stood up, held up a bible and started singing popular Christian songs. A few minutes later, he started praying for the passengers. The whole bus became quiet, and the only sound was the man’s shrill voice and the booming chorus of amen by the passengers.
Thus, gaining the rapt attention of the passenger this way, the man commenced his real business. In a mixture of barely literate English and pidgin, he started by denouncing the avarice and insensitivity of our government in general. He then zeroed-in (with righteous indignation) on the health sector. He lamented how the cost of healthcare has gone beyond the reach of the common man………….finally, he brought out a sachet of some Chinese herbal medicine which he claimed could prevent all kinds of diseases. He extolled the virtues and efficacy of Chinese traditional medicine in general and his product in particular……..
The result? Over 50 percent of the passengers in that bus bought something from the man!

What is the marketing lesson?

Target effectively: One of the main causes of marketing failure is the failure to identify the right target for our offering. The first thing the man in the Molue did right was to understand that only the people in the lower echelon of the society will patronize his kind of product. Had he marketed the same product to a more sophisticated audience, he would have been a resounding failure.
Spend time to target the right prospect. Prospects that need your product; can afford your product; and most importantly, prospects that will see you and your offering as credible.
Appeal to emotion: identifying rightly that Nigerians (especially the poor ones) are a religious lot, our man started his pitch with a religious “service”. The result is that he gained the undivided attention of his audience. He built the emotional connection further by using we-against-them tactics (they being the government and we being he and his audience).
Establish an emotional connection with your prospect before you try to sell him.
Media: you must identify the best medium to communicate with your target. Who enters Molue? The struggling masses of course.

The Solution To The Dwindling Newspaper Circulation In Nigeria

Newspaper circulation

This post on Newspaper Circulation was first published in 2010, and we decided to bring it back because, its still as useful today as it was 8 years ago

When a study conducted revealed that the combined daily circulation of all Nigeria newspapers was less than 300000, the publishers disagreed and protested the figure vehemently. That is understandable if one considers that circulation figure is a major factor an advertiser considers in media planning.

But be that as it may, denying a thing does not make it false. The truth is that all the newspapers in Nigeria today have a combined circulation figure that is far less than that of Daily Times of Nigeria in 1980 (when the population of Nigeria was about half of what it is today).

The question then should be, why? This is very important as a wrong diagnosis will invariably lead to an inappropriate treatment. All the commentators I have heard on the matter seem to agree that two factors are responsible for the dwindling circulation figures of newspapers — the sad state of our economy and the ever decreasing quality of our education. I beg to disagree.

While the first might be true to some extent, the second is completely off the mark. The last ten years have witnessed a reemergence of the middle class in Nigeria. These are mostly educated folks in the banking, telecoms, and entertainment etc sectors. And truth be told, the population of secondary and tertiary schools graduates has more than tripled in the last thirty years.

Newspaper in Nigeria

So what do I think is responsible? I believe it’s social. And it is global in scope. Such powerhouse newspapers as The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune are also facing the same challenge of plummeting circulation figures. The difference is just that they are confronting the issue holistically rather than deceive themselves that all is well.

What brought this social state? Mainly, the Internet. Yes, the Internet. Most of the newly empowered middle class have access to the Internet and seriously, why should I buy a newspaper for information when the same is available on my mobile phone free of charge? Moreover, the Internet gives me access to different sources for the same information — all for free.

When I finished NYSC in 2005, my main source of information on job vacancies was Tuesday Guardian newspaper. And it wasn’t only me. All my freshly minted B.sc. friends consulted Tuesday guardian for employment opportunities. Fast forward five years to 2010 and what do you see? Nairaland, naijahotjobs, NBF social website, Careers Nigeria, kerewa.com etc. These are the free job listing websites where a job seeker will not only find vacancies but also tips on writing a CV, interview tips etc.

What all these mean is that the traditional business model (of generating revenue solely from paper sale and advert placement) adopted by most newspapers are dated.

Hear Google:

“The large profit margins newspapers enjoyed in the past were built on an artificial scarcity: Limited choice for advertisers as well as readers. With the Internet, that scarcity has been taken away and replaced by abundance. No [dreaming] will be able to restore newspapers’ revenues to what they were before the emergence of online [content]. It is not a question of analog dollars versus digital dimes, but rather a realistic assessment of how to make money in a world of abundant competitors and consumer choice.”

To succeed in contemporary Nigeria, a newspaper house must:

  1.  Review its editorial and news judgment policies. Content is king and the earlier a newspaper realizes this, the better. Readers should be provided with relevant and quality information. The culture of inundating readers with only political stories must be re-examined. There should be less of Zoning, PDP, AC, Jonathan this, IBB that. Of course, that’s just my view. To be sure, a newspaper should use focus group interview to gain valuable insight into what the public want. That is a sure-fire recipe for success. To paraphrase Peter Drucker: “Find out what people want and need, and give it to them – and your business will succeed”.
  2. Get marketing savvy. Let’s hear from Peter Drucker again: “because the purpose of business is to create a customer (in our case subscribers, advertisers etc), the business enterprise has two and only two basic functions—marketing and innovation”. In fact, I will recommend that every newspaper house have a business building task force comprising of members from editorial, marketing, distribution, production departments. This task force should be headed by a professional business development executive (preferably from outside the organization). Incompetent marketing is the single biggest reason Nigerian newspapers are struggling to survive. For example, when Guardian newspaper (?) increased its cover price from N100 to N150 two years ago, all the other papers followed suit. And they all gave the same reason—increased production cost.

Were I a newspaper publisher then, I would not have followed suit. I would have:

  • Retained N100 cover price. Pricing is an important marketing element. Pricing my paper at N100 will automatically make my paper accessible to more people.
  • Reduced the average number of pages in my paper by as much as 50%. This will more than makeup for my low cover price.
  • Positioned my paper as a time and value conscious paper that gives readers all the relevant and important news in a straight-to-the-point-way.
  • Leveraged my (brand) asset. The greatest asset newspapers have is their recognition (supposedly) as a reliable source of information. This is an asset that can be leveraged for financial gain (ethically).

This is where Business Day newspaper comes to mind. As the name indicates, Business Day is a Lagos based business daily. It has lower circulation figure than most other major Nigerian newspapers but, it is in better shape financially than most.


The reason is not farfetched. There is no week the paper does not carry a special report on one segment of the Nigerian economy or the other. Because the paper has the reputation as a credible source of information about the Nigerian business environment, companies pay to be featured in special reports about their industry.

There are so many other ways a newspaper can leverage its brand equity, all that is needed is creative thinking.
Cut costs. There’s no doubt that growth will not come from fancy offices and car services and wardrobe allowances. So cut the hell out of your costs. Outsource nonessential functions. Move to Ibafo (yes like Punch Newspaper), at least this will save you from the excruciating taxation in Lagos state.

Embrace the internet – that’s where the future lies.

Drop idealistic posturing and face reality. This will obviously not go down with my journalist friends but it is the truth. Forget the fourth estate of the realm; forget conscience of the nation; forget societal watchdog, a newspaper is a business venture whose ultimate success will be determined by financial metrics.

I will conclude with these words from Jeff Jarvis “we now operate in an economy of abundance, not scarcity. So trying to convince readers to pay premium prices for content when content is anybody’s game is a fool’s paradise. But I do think you can sell merchandise to the people formerly known as readers as long as you take on the skills of the merchandise. And that ain’t editors”.

A Strategic Approach to Digital Marketing in Nigeria

Strategic digital marketing

In a previous post, I promised to discuss in details how to go about setting up a professional digital marketing campaign for your brand, from strategy formulation to performance evaluation. This blog post is geared towards doing just that. Even though the title says digital marketing in Nigeria, I believe this approach will work in any market.

It All Starts With A Strategy

Of late, I have been having series of meetings with prospective clients and one of the first questions I ask at the discovery stage is: “what internet marketing strategy do you have in place”? The commonest answers are “we advertise on Facebook”, “we have employed somebody to manage our Twitter and Facebook account”, “We have banner ads on XYZ sites”…….Little wonder virtually all of these companies are reporting little or no ROI from their online marketing activities.
There are several internet marketing channels that you can utilize to market your business online but, selecting the right one(s) “depends”. Depends on what? That question can only be tackled on the strategic level. But first, let us define what a strategy is:

What, Mr. Man, Is Strategy?
A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. Strategy helps you answer the question, “What are we trying to accomplish?” As can be inferred from this definition, you can see that you cannot say you have a strategy if you do not have a clear objective.
A strategy is different from “tactics” which help you answer the question, “How are we going to accomplish our goal?”.  A commentator on Jeremiah Owyang blog puts this most succinctly when he said:
“One helpful trick to check if you have a strategy (usually timeless) or tactic (tools/technology dependent in your hand is changing the tools and see if it still applies. For example, a timeless strategy is – “Connect with customers while in our store and increase sales.” If you this is 1901, you’d post large posters and have employees running around and talking with customers. If it is 1987, you’d have electronic boards with specials, if it is 2012 you’d have an HTML5 page or an app that helps you connect to customers and in 2015 you’d fully support Google glasses. The strategy never changed, the tactics did”.
So, without a clear strategy, your online marketing effort is doomed to failure.

Digital Marketing Channels
After choosing your strategy, the next step is to review the range of channels available to you for
realizing the strategic objectives. For Digital marketing, the available channels include:
Pay Per Click Advertising
This involves bidding for placement on search engines. It is keyword based; meaning your ad appears when relevant searches are made. E.g. Google Adwords and Bing Ads
Display Advertising
This involves placement of ads (banners, video etc) on third party websites
Email Marketing
This is the process of collecting email addresses from people and marketing to them via email messages
Search Engine Optimization
This is the process of earning in the free/organic results of major search engines like Google, Bing, Baidu, Yandex, etc
Social Media Marketing
This is the process of leveraging social media platforms (like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc) to market to your target audience.
Affiliate Marketing
This involves incentivizing other sites to promote your products in exchange for a share of the revenue they drive.
The list above is by no means exhaustive.

Digital Marketing Channels Compared

To also help you in putting the digital marketing channels in proper perspectives and have a framework for understanding the cost and benefit advantages of each channel, we will employ a POE media model ( which is a slight modification of the POEM model)
The POE model classifies all digital marketing channels into three distinct subgroups: Paid Media, Owned Media and Earned MediaDigital Marketing Channels

Your Company Goal: What are the top objectives of your company’s online marketing effort?
Brand Awareness: Your objective is to achieve greater brand visibility and increase the likelihood that consumers recognize the existence and availability of your company’s product or service.
Boost Sales: You objective is to make more sale. Period.
Market Education: Your product or service is new (or has new features) and potential customers are yet to realize that the problem they need to solve.

Available Resources: This could be material or human
Budget: How much do you have to spend on your digital marketing activities?
Human and Intellectual: What personnel with what range and level of competence do you have available? This includes Development personnel, Creative personnel, Writers etc
Lastly, there are two other primary variables that can be added to the selection process that falls under the realm of strategic market analysis. Namely an understanding of your customers and the competitors.
If your company has (or develops) a strong understanding of customer needs and behavior, then it will be better able to target those customers to achieve the company goals.