How Facebook and Google marketing suits SMEs anxious about results

October 31st, 2011

image courtesy: www.mycarpentry.com

John Wanamaker (1838-1922), an American businessman, wouldn’t have known his now famous statement, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half;” would profoundly change traditional advertising after the Internet’s arrival.

But even before the Internet gave TV, radio, print and billboard advertising a panic attack, traditional advertising once enjoyed a ‘bling’ era that birthed and celebrated its ‘owners’ like David Ogilvy, James Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett. Brands, especially fast moving consumer goods, believed they had to advertise, and spend heavily at it, if they wanted to gain traction. Prices soared as everyone from agencies to media houses to the government salivated for a meaty piece of the dish. Advertising effectiveness wasn’t judged on return on investment, but by awards ceremonies such as the Cannes Festival of Advertising . If you weren’t a Fortune 500 company with a deep wallet, you couldn’t afford to promote your brand/s, especially on TV during sporting events such as the Super Bowl.

The Internet attacks Adland’s comfort zone

Then cracks began appearing. Billboards were labeled a source of pollution, leading to Sao Paulo banning billboards in 2007. Pay-TV remote controls came with ad skipping options. Fast food advertising was blamed for rising obesity cases in ‘first-world’ children. Then Google happened! The company was formed in 1998, giving advertisers eyeballs, options such as customized budgeting and best of all, analyses that enable you to calculate the return of investment.

One feature that characterises advertising in Kenya and hinders SMEs from exposure, is the high cost of traditional advertising. Observe the billboards as you drive, the TV ads in-between the news, the radio ads, the full-page advertisements on the major newspapers: almost all the brands are either multi-nationals, NGOs or the government.

The Kenyan government has implemented policies that have enabled the easy adoption of ecommerce by both businesses and consumers: from zero rating of computers to lobbying Internet service providers to reduce Internet access fees after the arrival of underneath cables such as Eassy that have improved speeds (though ISPs contend they have to first recoup their investments in these undersea cables before they reduce prices) to establishing the Kenya ICT Board in 2007 whose roles include ‘positioning and promoting Kenya as an ICT destination.’

Facebook and Google inducements

Google recently launched Kenya Business Online, an initiative to fast-track SMEs’ establishment of a web presence. You already know about the search engine’s vital statistics, so we won’t bore you by repeating them. However, we will outline its Google Analytics feature and how it helps you track the effectiveness of your ad spend on its Adwords platform. You can track: sales and conversions (number of people who buy your product or service from your website), email campaigns and banner ads, and trace transactions to keywords and campaigns, among other numerous benefits.  Visit www.google.com/analytics for more information. To sweeten the KBO offer further, Google is offering you a free Kshs5,120 Adwords voucher.

Facebook, Google’s advertising  competitor, already allows brands to create free pages. It too plans to offer free advertising worth $50 (approximately Kshs5,000 at the current exchange rates) from January 2012, but it’s unclear whether SMEs outside America will enjoy this benefit.  It’s unfair to Kenyan SMEs because slightly over one million Kenyans are active ‘Facebookers’. Facebook also allows you to measure your advertising effectiveness courtesy of its Ad Manager feature.

Google and Facebook founders owe Mr. Wanamaker a drink, don’t you think?

Can technology keep healthcare challenges out of the ICU?

October 27th, 2011

picture compliments of www.africaknows.com

Yesterday’s post outlined how SMEs can utilise technology to solve the challenges African farmers face. Today’s blog will explore technology’s effect on health. First, we praise Kentons Limited, a pharmaceutical, surgical and veterinary products supplier for embracing Internet marketing by not only building a website, but for also opening Twitter and Facebook accounts. It took seventh position in the 2011 Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies awards.  And another thing: Kentons is a Kisumu-based SME with a web and social media presence. So all Nairobi, Mombasa and Nakuru-based SME owners have no excuse for being MIA from the Web!

The Web’s greatest contribution to the health/pharmaceutical/veterinary industries has been the easy availability of information about diseases, drugs, livestock, research, etc. As long as you have Internet access, you no longer have to ask around about a particular health issue, just type in the keyword/s on a search engine and the answers are displayed on the search engine results page. The Web has also enabled people, especially victims of terminal illnesses like cancer, to form communities where they support one another. The Africa Cancer Foundation, launched in July 2011, is one local example. The foundation is also present in the social media space having opened Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Kenyan hospitals have also established a web presence that has lent a dosage of warmth into what are otherwise regarded as cold places. Kenyatta National Hospital, East Africa’s biggest referral hospital, has a website and multiple Facebook pages, an inconsistency that damages the brand’s personality. I won’t even comment about the website’s layout. However, Nairobi Hospital has done well to own both its website and Facebook page by regularly updating content on both platforms.

For city residents, traffic congestion, demanding workplace assignments, the rising cost of living, parenting, and poor eating habits, etc endanger our health. Proof of Kenyans’ poor health status can be shown by the 2011 United Nations Population Fund report that indicates Kenyans’ average life expectancy is 58 years, up from 55 years last year. Naturally, we start getting worried about factors such as weight and blood sugar levels.  The Web offers some relief from visiting the doctor. Just visit a site such as the Mayo Clinic and get calculate your body mass index (BMI) using the application tool. In America, mobile phones will soon become ultra-sound machines when a device is attached to them, potentially benefitting pregnant women who experience pain and are far away from the nearest hospital. Technology ‘s help is also being sought to enable patients’ medical records become easily accessible online. Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, is in this field already, though the issue of privacy may hinder patients from uploading their records online because of the likelihood of using these data to discriminate against people for jobs, for example.

How can technology fight the fake drug menace in Kenya? The World Health Organisation reports that in 2005, approximately 30% of the drugs in the Kenyan drug market were fake, and worth approximately $130 million (Kshs 13 billion) annually. Recently, Orange, a mobile-phone service provider and M- pedigree, an anti-counterfeit drug NGO, launched a free SMS service early this month to fight counterfeit drugs in Kenya and Cameroon. To know whether a drug is real or fake, Orange Kenya consumers have to SMS the serial number on the medicine tablet to 1393, and then await feedback. The rest of the mobile networks operating in Kenya should urgently also extend this benefit to their subscribers.

How else can technology assist Africa solve its healthcare challenges? We welcome your suggestions below. Thank you.

How Kenyan SMEs can use technology to transform agriculture

October 26th, 2011

The CENA website, built by Pamoja Media, is an example of technology assisting African farmers adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Our first post on the 2011 Kenya Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies Awards recognized the role these awards play in celebrating SMEs’ contribution to our economy and encouraging them to stay the course despite the numerous challenges they encounter daily.

Nyeri county-based Mukurweini Wakulima Dairy Farmers’ Society was the highest placed agricultural SME at fifth position. From a modest 31 litres of milk collected in 1990, Wakulima Dairy currently handles between 34,000 and 39,000 litres of milk daily, employs 157 workers, has diversified into manufacturing animal feeds, and owns assets worth Kshs150 million.

For a sector that employs two-thirds of Kenya’s labour force, contributes 26% of Kenya’s GDP valued at Kshs342 billion annually, and received Kshs33 billion in this year’s  government budget, you would expect agriculture to lead other sectors in using technology to enhance production. However, technology has been viewed as a threat instead of an enabler especially when it threatens jobs as witnessed in October 2010 when tea growing companies’ attempts to introduce automatic tea picking machines were met with a strike by tea workers who said one machine renders 60 workers jobless.

Despite such resistance, a handful of innovators, mostly young Kenyan individuals and companies, are brave enough to create technology-driven solutions to problems faced by many small-scale farmers such as market information for their produce, peer-to-peer information sharing and advice and weather patterns, particularly now that extension officers have become rare.

Ukulima.net, developed by Pamoja Media mid this year, aims to be THE social network for farmers to interact and share information and ‘war stories’ with one another either over the Internet or mobile phone. Icow, a mobile phone application, assists dairy farmers to track their cows’ gestation cycle, sends them tips on best dairy practices, among other benefits. These examples prove solving farmers’ problems via technology is one area SMEs can explore and build a business model from by, for example, carrying advertising alongside free mobile applications downloaded by farmers.

The weather has gone insane

Despite Africa producing the least carbon emissions, it unfairly experiences the biggest effect of these emissions: climate change. Floods devastated Mozambique in 2000, displaced approximately 500,000 Mozambicans, destroyed infrastructure, killed 700 Mozambicans, among other effects. They were Mozambique’s worst floods in 50 years.

How can African farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change? Technology can help. www.cenafrica.net acts as an information repository for farmers to access and get the knowledge to mitigate the effects of climate change on their farms and livestock (though it’s necessary for the creation of a mobisite because most rural farmers lack access to computers and Internet connectivity). SMEs can also use the information as an innovation platform where they can introduce new products and services for farmers.

The challenges affecting African farmers are many and may seem intractable, but technology can play a big role in addressing a substantial number of them, which should convert many African countries from the current degrading food aid beggars to self-sufficiency.

Does adoption of technology equal to food sufficiency in Africa? Give us your views below.

The morning after the SMEs awards night

October 26th, 2011

image courtesy of www.africaknows.com

The annual Kenya Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies Awards were held in Nairobi on October 7, 2011. Jungle Macs, a Thika-based SME, won this year’s awards for adding value to cashew nuts, macadamia nuts and peanuts and then exporting them to the US, Europe and Asia. The SME awards began in 2008 and they have become a permanent tab on the local business calendar.

The benefits of these awards include:

  • a platform for SMEs to prove that they play a fundamental role in the Kenyan economy by reducing unemployment that currently stands at 35%,
  • in innovating new products and services because they are not stuck in bureaucratic wasteland
  • in tax revenues for the government which has to budget for an extra 1 million people annually,
  • in encouraging the youth to rid themselves of the white-collar employment mindset and consider entrepreneurship as a satisfying and rewarding journey and,
  • in proving to banks that SMEs are worthy of receiving credit facilities and other banking privileges usually reserved for big corporates.

Despite this worthy recognition, Kenyan SMEs still experience challenges that slow down their march to becoming multinationals. Electricity supply is hydro electric, so when droughts reduce water levels in the 14 dams, Kenya Power introduces rationing and SMEs’ production is affected because they can’t afford expensive generators.

Government procurement tenders usually lock them out due to such rigid regulations such as high bid bonds, prior experience, tax compliance certificates and so on, though the recent decision to relax procurement rules for local furniture making SMEs to make it easier for them to bid for government tenders is commendable. For example, they are now exempt from presenting tax compliance certificates and bank statements for the last three years.

Higher education policy still favours university education in allocating resources, which has been worsened by the conversion of many polytechnics such as the Kenya Polytechnic into university constituent colleges. Most SMEs require technical skills that polytechnics excel in training, skills which can’t be delivered by the theory diet served by universities.

It will take an encyclopaedia to outline all the challenges Kenyan SMEs face. However, it’s gratifying to see that they are making do with what they have, thriving despite the odds and being acknowledged for their tenacity.

The next Pamoja Media blog will examine how the agricultural sector is using technology to help farmers earn more money from their produce and to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Share your views regarding the awards in our comment section.

Tools 101 for SME online reputation management

October 24th, 2011

image courtesy www.africaknows.com

The Web is such a ‘wide area network’ of information that it can confuse an SME where to begin in formulating and implementing an online reputation management strategy.

Fortunately, there are reputation management systems you can follow for this regular task. To begin with, you will need to build a list of keywords based on: your company (name, products/services, top personnel and public campaigns or initiatives); your industry (news, seminars, patents); and your competitors (names, new product/service launches, key managers, online updates,).

Search options

After you have done this, you can choose from a selection of search options for these keywords which you can feed into the search tools (more on these later): broad, direct, inclusive and exclusive matches.

How do you ensure your search yields the needed results? See the examples below;

  1. Marafiki Construction is an example of a broad match that asks the tool to find any of or all words in mentions.
  2. “Marafiki Construction” is an example of a direct match that asks the tool to find the phrase in mentions if it’s complete and in that order.
  3. Marafiki+Construction is an example of an inclusive match that asks the tool to find mentions of Marafiki AND Construction, though not necessarily in that order.
  4. Marafiki-Construction is an example of an exclusive match that asks the tool to find only the first word in a mention, but not when the second word is in the same mention.

Why these many options? The tool/s will deliver data with more depth and better quality than if you just used one search option.

Tools

The leading search engines have a variety of free tools you can use to conduct searches. Google has Google Alerts and Yahoo has Flickr. Other websites you can search for your selected keywords are www.technorati.com and www.delicious.com.

You have an option of receiving results either via email or RSS (really simple syndication).

Search targets

Blogs, photos, videos, Twitter, Facebook, forums, etc are all fair game because most conversations about brands nowadays take place in the social media zone. With these systems in place, your SME should be ready to apply these search engine reputation management tactics.

What are some of the tactics you as an SME are using to manage your reputation online? Share with us in the comment section.

How to improve the ranking of your website listing in search engines

October 23rd, 2011

image courtesy: www.africaknows.com

Nowadays, getting higher rankings for your website in search engines is difficult enough, and the task isn’t assisted by prevailing perception that Google, the web’s dominant search engine; favours established brands’ results over SMEs when it brings up organic search results.

You probably think that the only way to compete with the big boys in the search premier league is to splash money on a flashy website or advertise your business all over the web and pray they will attract many clicks that will result in better rankings. Well, those measures may work, but just in the short term.

The best (and it’s inexpensive, too) method to improve the ranking of your website listing in search engines is by creating relevant content, consistently, for your customers. How do you do this? Posting ‘how-to’ articles is a great magnet for eyeballs and link sharing. For example, advising farmers in Kenya’s North Rift how to profitably grow maize in the next planting season is guaranteed to attract visitors to your site. And if these articles are helpful enough, your visitors will share your site’s link with others on their social media accounts such as Facebook, and this is jet fuel for improving rankings.

Personal experiences

Second, use simple language in your content. Visualise your visitors as your friends. You don’t use big words on them, do you? People will also connect with you if you also add personal experiences in your content, experiences that prove that you have lived the subject matter. You might recount how you once made a loss planting maize one planting season for example, and how you made a profit the next.

Statistics


image courtesy www.yellow-net.com


Third, include statistics, images and sub headlines in your written content. Statistics from reputable sites such as government institutions show your readers that you have taken time to do research to back up your claims. Images and sub headlines alleviate the eyes’ tendency to reject blocks of text, thereby increasing the longevity of your visitors’ stay to your site.

Sports

Fourth, diversify your content into podcasts and videos. Content is like sports. Some of your visitors will engage better with videos than text. Don’t forget to include the same keywords you use in text in podcasts and videos.

We hope you now realise the importance of content in optimising your website for search engines’ organic results. Pamoja Media will be honoured to assist you in your quest to increase your site’s visibility. Contact us now.

Compliments to Pamoja Media courtesy of these clients

October 20th, 2011

Today being Mashujaa Day, Pamoja Media East Africa is pleased to honour some of her ‘mashujaa’ who have recently assisted the company’s abilities and reputation gain traction.

The first PMEA shujaa is Comark Maloba, the Chief Technology Officer, who represented the company in Mozambique between 10th October 2011 and 14th October 2011 at the 10th African Crop Science Society Conference. “I had gone to Mozambique to train our client Ruforum on a platform we had built (Strengthening Capacity for Agricultural Research for Innovation (SCAIN)) that would act as an online communication platform for their stakeholders whereby they could hold discussion fora on different subjects of interest,’’ he says.

The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (Ruforum), comprises 29 Eastern, Central and Southern African universities formed in 2004 to contribute to both the well being of the region’s small-scale farmers and the countries’ economic development.

Comark also trained the participants how to use the document repository. “As they are mainly a research oriented organisation, document uploading and sharing will be a core part of the platform,” he says.

After the sessions Comark had this to say about the Mozambican market, “Online marketing in Mozambique is very viable. Though I saw very few cyber cafes, I found some of the Telecom providers (Vodafone and mCel) with billboards pushing the idea of access to social networks and  communication platforms like email and the like,” he says. Comark adds that Facebook is a big attraction in Maputo, not forgetting that Portuguese is Mozambique’s official language.

The next shujaas are Arthur Kahurani (graphic designer) and Moses Mutuku (programmer), who developed the African Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP) website (above) that earned PMEA compliments written in Dutch from the client!

The objective of the ABPP is to contribute to the development of biogas as a sustainable energy source in six African countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal and Burkina Faso. The initiative’s ambition is to build 70,000 biogas plants by 2013.

The website development comprised two tasks: “First, we had to develop a logo for them,” says Arthur. Their next task was to come up with concepts for the homepage and the internal pages. “With some modifications we were able to get to a design that was satisfactory for both the client and us,” they say. One lesson the team learned from doing the site was that the client considered a site ready only when it was accompanied by content. “Without content, the site just looks the same as the design concepts that were approved,” says Moses, with Arthur nodding in agreement.

However, the designers are pleased with something else beyond the site’s completion. “As one explores the positive impact the biogas program and the platform would have on farmers in Africa, the entire PMEA team feels privileged to play a part in the whole project made simple for the end user.”

What your email marketing messages should have before you hit ‘send’

October 18th, 2011

First, your subject copy should accurately describe the content. An inaccurate description such as ‘survey’ or a blank subject line will earn your email a delete action or a permanent spot in the spam folder. Furthermore, words like ‘win,’ and ‘free’ are now instant magnets for filters, so avoid including them in your subject lines. Ensure you start with the appropriate salutation such as ‘Dear Ms,’ use standard grammar and exclamation marks unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Second, stick to your core message. Your email is competing with other distractions particularly social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. If your email is about ‘how to eat healthy despite the falling shilling,’ don’t digress to the topic of today’s start of KCSE examinations.

Third, paste the most important part of your email on the body instead of forcing your readers to download the file and open it on another window or software. You can then list the rest of the files as attachments.

Fourth, allow your readers options such as opting out of receiving further emails, forwarding it to friends and replying. This gesture will prove that you are ‘democratic’.

Fifth, proofread your emails before hitting the ‘send’ button. Ideally, you should let someone else edit the content if you write it. Often, our eyes can’t spot our own mistakes.

Finally, track the results of your emails for metrics such as open rate, database growth, number of emails forwarded and delivery and bounce rates, Facebook shares and Twitter links and tweets/retweets.

Email marketing is hard enough without adding the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not you are meeting your objectives.

Please call our sales team on +254732353355 or visit http://pamojamedia.com/services/ for an obligation free quote on our emarketing services.

You have one new message

October 17th, 2011

image courtesy Google

In the current Internet marketing climate, email marketing isn’t getting heavy rotation as SEO, paid search and social media marketing.

Two reasons could be the cause: due to the spamming menace as you need permission from your potential customer before you deliver your email into his inbox otherwise your email marketing message will land in the spam folder. Secondly, email requires much writing and rewriting and editing before getting it right and in these days of pressure to meet and exceed profit targets, most Internet marketers lose appetite to include it in their Internet marketing menu.

However, with the right strategy and tools, email marketing is not only cheap to implement, but it can pay handsomely on return on investment to SMEs’ Internet marketing efforts.

First, you need to build a database. You can do this by putting a sign-up form prominently on every page of your website and posting the links on your social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. To assure your recipients that you are not a spammer, you should declare on your sign up section that you won’t share their email messages with third parties. Add an incentive such as a discount or a gift to persuade people to sign up. Your database contacts should contain information such as name, title and company.

Second, you need to identify the objective of your email marketing campaign. Do you need your recipients to download research, make a purchase or subscribe to your company’s newsletter? Make ite clear in your call to action.

Third, depending on the quantity and duration of the emails you plan to send out, you will have to either write and send them yourself, or outsource distribution to email providers such as www.mailchimp.com.

Tomorrow’s post will examine the ingredients you need to add to your email marketing campaign to increase its chances of succeeding.

Will Kenyan brands utilise these statistics?

October 14th, 2011

Kenyan brand marketers, especially in the FMCG arena, have resorted to various tactics to retain and hopefully grow their current customer base which has slashed their spending because of the weak shilling.

Road shows, raffles, discounts and associations with issues such as personal hygiene are some of the tools brands are utilising to maintain space in consumers’ memories and wallets.

A sector that has witnessed an increase in numbers is Internet subscriptions. According to the latest quarterly sector statistics report released by the Communications Commission of Kenya, there were 12.5 million Internet users by June 2011, compared to 11 million in March 2011. In December 2010, they were 8.6 million.

What do these numbers mean to marketers and businesses?

These numbers should spur brand marketers to conceptualise Internet marketing ideas for long-term brand health. As more and more people are spending their time online, traditional advertising models should be married to Internet marketing strategies to increase a brand’s reach.

Instead of paying high advertising rates to run campaigns on traditional advertising to do a promotion, for example, they can direct people to their websites or social media network pages where customers can learn, register or participate in the promotion. Not only will brands reduce their campaign costs, they will also stand a good chance of their promotions going viral if they excite customers’ attention. It’s much easier for online communities to share online communications than say, ‘Have you seen the ABC contest billboard on Mombasa Road?’

As we wind down the year, brand marketers can use this numbers to seek more monies for their marketing activities in the coming year as they will be able to persuade accountants to budget for Internet marketing. Previously, the stock answer from the latter was, ‘Show me numbers?’

Additionally, Internet marketing efforts are measurable, thanks to tools such as Google Analytics.

Yes, Kenyan brand marketers should view the 12.5 million Internet users as a minefield for their products, but it doesn’t mean that basic tenets such as excellent customer service and privacy with customers’ data should be ignored. Otherwise, you might have 12.5 million problems on your hands.



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