Lately, I met a powerful business guru. His business had been completely shattered by the “Anglophone crisis.” When the crisis began, it initiated an economic recession in Cameroon’s duo English-speaking regions. He felt the death touch. Then he went bankrupt. Until he met a digital strategist who helped him find a path out of the plague by supporting him to use a digital strategy to make his business portable and discover high paying clients across the world.
Earlier this month, the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Crafts (CCIMA) published the economic status quo of this part of the country. The difficult socio-political situation in the Northwest and Southwest caused the loss of more than 41% of the income of companies in these regions.
This survey involved 385 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which revealed a 41.80% decrease in the turnover of businesses in these regions. It also identified that the most affected are precisely, very small enterprises (VSEs).
The economy was losing billions to the “Anglophone crisis.” As the crisis blew past the Northwest and Southwest regions of the country, businesses went dark.
This Buea-based entrepreneur felt the pangs of the economic stalemate. He started a business to supply computers and stationaries to organizations. However, he lost it all to the recession – a feat he prefers being anonymous. He left University with the hopes of one day creating a business and he did. Within 6 months, he was already making a high turnover.
He had clients but like Oliver Twist, he needed even more.
When it comes to spreading news of your products or services to your target audience, the analog world has very little to offer. Worst still, in the event of an economic recession. The internet provides an endless source of opportunities.
He realized it was time to begin selling internationally. He had to take his products online. Yet, financial constraints were an integral part of the business.
Before he could raise more money to expand the business, an economic recession set in. Economic activities slowed down, then many businesses shut down eventually. He was hopeful things would get better. They only got worst.
First, “ghost towns” prevented him from visiting his shop in Malingo. He could not make any sales on such days. Three days were taken ripped off his usual six working days every week. Sure, he was losing more clients. His income was dropping as he made fewer sales. He could not move his products to customers who requested them.
At last, he lost his business to the recession, especially after the government decided to shut down the internet in these regions. Communication with his customers went dead.
Eventually, he lost more than half of his customers. Things were becoming rough for him and he had siblings to take care of. But all his investments had been lost. One thing he had learned was that you never give up. But now seemed like the perfect time to call it quit. For one thing, nothing seemed to be working anymore. It was like the world had paused.
He had no choice but to close down.
Other businesses were beginning to pick up gradually. Then, he felt an ounce of hope. He knew once he figured out how those businesses were picking up; his business will be back on its feet.
After carrying out some research, he discovered the secret to reviving his business was buried in creating a strong digital strategy. But how was he to go about it? He had no clue as to where to begin.
It was but logical that he seeks help from Makonjo Media – a growth marketing and technology company in Buea that has spent its last 3 years, building strong digital strategies for businesses.
As it turns out, his efforts weren’t in vain. The mentorship he received from this company, virtually gave his business a new facelift. Though he had to start all over again, it wasn’t all that difficult. He had a strong digital strategy in place for his business. He was now thriving more than ever, reaching more clients, beating his competitors and realizing more revenue.
According to HubSpot, a digital strategy is the series of actions that are going to help you achieve your goals using online marketing. The term ‘strategy’ might seem intimidating, but building an effective digital strategy doesn’t have to be difficult.
It’s literally, any plan for maximizing your business’ benefits by using technology-focused initiatives. Most of these plans involve taking your business online and reaching a wider audience.
Businesses should consider looking at the international marketplace to increase sales for both products and services. The international marketplace is definitely their best way out of this recession. Online market stores like Jumia, Konga, Kaymu, Hi-tech cm, Alibaba, Upwork, eBay, Amazon, etc, are options these businesses can choose from.
Many businesses in Africa have continued to thrive because they had a strong digital strategy to work on. They looked at the international marketplace to sell their products and services.
The Nigerian multinational conglomerate, Dangote Group has been making high turnovers by selling its vast products on Jumia. Kenya’s fashion brand, Vivo Activewear also sells its fashion collection of clothes on its online store. The telecoms giant, MTN has all its products and services on major e-commerce platforms across Africa. They have all thrived online because of a strong digital strategy they created for their brands.
However, this entrepreneur wasn’t ever going to breathe new life into his dead business unless he understood what it takes to thrive online. It wasn’t just about going online. Taking his business online could be easy. However, thriving online, against his competitors was what mattered the most. It’s about building a strong digital strategy.
The following steps really helped him in his doom days to create an effective digital strategy that enabled him to set up a successful online business and thrive online.
1. Market Research
Everything starts with research. Marketing research can give your business a picture of the kind of new products and services that may bring you profit. Since you’re probably just starting up, you know the kind of business you want to venture into.
Failure to do market research before you begin a business venture is like driving a car from Buea to Yaoundé without a map or street signs. You have to know which direction to travel and how fast to go. A good market research plan indicates where and who your customers are.
2. Select a target market and do a persona
Once you have determined your business; the products and who your customers are, you must identify your target market. The target market is the actual customer group or audience. Those you will attempt to sell your products and services to.
Although it’s impossible to capture every customer within your target market, gearing your services towards the identified market, will make sales much easier. However, creating a persona of your target market will equally help you understand your customers better. Personas are just fictional characters that encompass the various needs, goals and behavior patterns among your real potential customers.
3. Check out logos and website designs of your competitors
Because you’re just new to the business world, you want to be the best. At least, that’s what your competitors are trying to do. One good place to start is to check the logos and website designs of your competitors and see how you can create something better. It’s about creating a “Purple Cow.” Creating something unique for your brand.
Perhaps, you already have a logo and website. It still doesn’t change a thing. Your competitor’s logo and website are probably better than yours. What you can do is to redesign your logo, branding elements and website to look as good as your competitors’ (or even better), else your customers will buy from them, not you.
4. Review your social media design and content strategy
Social media and content strategy are really powerful when it comes to creating a strong digital marketing strategy. Reviewing your brand’s social media design and content strategy can really be of great help to your business. If your social media design is not good, no one cares to look at it.
If you’re not creating quality content that’s worth sharing or hooking your customers, none of them gets your message.
5. Demonstrate your authority online
Write an e-book on a topic about your business to demonstrate your authority. Collect emails and names of people in exchange for giving them your free e-book. These people could be your customers. Educate and market to them.
6. Contribute expert content on other blogs
Contributing articles on business blogs in your niche, is one great way to demonstrate your authority. By continuously appearing on such blogs with quality content in your niche, tells your potential customers one thing you know what you’re talking about. You are someone we can trust.
7. Market to your old customers
Your old customers are probably still around. Many of them may have abandoned your business the moment you went bankrupt. But you can still sell complementary services from your friends to your old customers and people in your email lists and get a commission.
8. Keep educating new leads with emails
New leads will definitely come your way. The best you can do is educate these leads, keep them glued to your business and eventually convert them into customers. You can offer some of your services as discounts in your emails. People will buy.
Identify what’s working, improve on them and remove what’s not working.
“Take a risk and keep testing, because what works today won’t work tomorrow, but what worked yesterday may work again.” Amrita Sahasrabudhe
Building these strategies are not as complicated as it sounds. However, there is always need to call in the services of an expert if you really need to revive a dead business. Contact marketing technology companies like Makonjo Media or Blog Vista to help set up such a strategy for your business. Makonjo Media offers a free strategy session for people suffering from the recession and you can book here: makonjo.com/corp/strategy-session/.
Because of the economic recession brought about by the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, this Buea-based entrepreneur and other businesses went into full-scale economic hardship. Building strong digital strategies was no doubt, the best choice they could ever make to get their businesses up and running. But until they built a strategy that worked for them, their businesses would never have seen the light of day again.