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.

Kenya’s depreciating currency and its gigabyte effects on Internet marketing

October 13th, 2011


image courtesy:www.africaknows.com


The effects of the continuing depreciation of the Kenya shilling have been felt by the entire economy. Oil importers, manufacturers and consumers are paying more because imported components and finished products and services have become expensive. On the other hand, exporters of horticultural produce and the tourism sector are benefitting because our produce and destinations have become more affordable.

Internet marketing will undoubtedly experience stiffer challenges because of the depreciating shilling. It’s unlikely that ISPs will reduce bandwidth prices further, for their claim will almost be that they purchase wholesale bandwidth prices in US$ which has strengthened against the Kenya shilling.

So, what are the likely scenarios of the weakening shilling on Internet marketing?

  • If Kenya can’t grow the current 4.7 million Internet subscriptions because of high prices, then Internet marketing is in trouble.
  • If prices of computers and mobile phones and accessories rise, then Internet marketing is in trouble.
  • If mobile phone service providers increase their Internet access prices like Safaricom recently did, then Internet marketing in Kenya is in trouble.
  • If brands can’t market their services online through platforms like paid search because they can’t forecast what they will pay tomorrow, then Internet marketing in trouble.
  • If Kenya can’t attract seminars and other events that are about the Internet, or if only a few people can afford to pay to attend, then Internet marketing is in trouble.
  • If multinational marketing services companies set up Internet marketing subsidiaries in Kenya because it’s cheaper for them, but they pursue alien marketing tactics because they don’t see the need to understand the market, then Internet marketing is in trouble.

Kenya won’t realise the much hyped vision 2030 if a basic requirement like Internet access is still a luxury to most Kenyans.

Kenya’s Internet marketing future bright, thanks to students

October 12th, 2011

Image courtesy:www.africaknows.com

If you are a Kenyan parent or teacher, you will be horrified at the statistics quoted in a Daily Nation October 10, 2011 article: ‘Internet zombies in class;’ presented by Lenana School students at the National Research Club Of Kenya competition held on September 16 in Nairobi. Among the highlights, many students in high schools and colleges spend up to six hours daily on social networks “… chatting, blogging, updating status, sharing jokes, tweeting, and spreading news, rumours and gossip on Internet and social media…” 87% of them use social networking as their main communication platform and 66% of them being active Facebook users. Furthermore, 74% of them were ‘hooked’ to Facebook and 81% of high school students’ use their mobile phones to access social networks.

But if you are an Internet/social media marketer/SME in Kenya, these statistics are gold dust. Why?

First, they prove that you are spoilt for choice on how to promote your brand using social media, especially if high school and college youth are your primary target audience. Will you take advantage of the ‘spreading news, rumours and gossip’ aspect to start a viral campaign? Will you target influential bloggers to endorse your brand? Will Twitter work better? All of the above?

Second, these students will be tomorrow’s adult ‘unga earning’ consumers who will rely primarily on their peers for information regarding brands and less on advertising. Does your brand have an online reputation management /web PR strategy?

Third, Facebook will still be THE pre-eminent social networking site in the near future, so your brand will need a separate Facebook strategy and tactics.

Fourth, you will have to include mobile marketing in your Internet marketing mix.

Fifth, these statistics, when combined with the latest Communications Commission of Kenya numbers, show that the future of Internet marketing in Kenya is bright.

By all means, be alarmed if you are a parent, but if you also double up as an Internet marketer, give your high school/college offspring a bear hug.

How offline actors can contribute to KBO success

October 10th, 2011

Image courtesy of Google.

Now that SMEs no longer have an excuse to miss an online presence thanks to Google’s  www.kbo.co.ke initiative, other offline actors can contribute to the long-term success of this project.

First, Kenya Power has to speed up both the rural electrification programme and the generation of other energy sources such as solar and geothermal power. It’s scandalous for rural SMEs to be left behind just because their owners lack access to electricity. The much hyped mobile Internet phenomenon is not conducive to this project because of a lack of a mobisite option.

Second, ISPs have to design SME-friendly Internet access pricing products. The overused line of ‘Government has to grant us tax breaks first’ won’t wash. Did Safaricom ask for tax breaks before launching M-Pesa?

Third, SME website owners should ensure they keep their content up to date. The world won’t do business with Kenyan SMEs whose websites rival government websites in terms of outdated information.

Fourth, Parliament should enact harsh laws that elevate vandalism of underground cables, manhole covers, transformers, and other Internet marketing support infrastructure to the same level as robbery with violence crimes. This action will stop courts from viewing vandalism as a misdemeanour.

Fifth, government, being the biggest buyer of goods and services, has to consider web presence and activity as an alternative method of verifying SMEs’ existence instead of insisting on a physical location as the standard benchmark in the scorecard before awarding tenders. Alternatively, the presence of a website should result in a discount in the price of physically registering an SME. The inefficiencies and corruption at the AG’s Chambers should not deny web savvy SMEs an opportunity to bid for State business.



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