The explosion of digital marketing is no longer a relatively new revolution. Today, the internet is creating enough opportunities, and everyone knows that it has changed how businesses operate, governments function, and consumers behave. With the advent and power of the internet- a tool that now connects people to vast amounts of information and to one another- it has allowed the formation of virtual communities that empower people in their decision making.
Digital marketing is as transformative a technological trend as the internet itself. Every day thousands merely armed with virtually nothing but smartphones browse the internet, it’s pertinent to state that all those eyeballs create business opportunities for anyone; however there is so much theoretical literature that motivates people to embrace the digital age without offering practical solutions.
For Zimbabwe, the rise of the interconnected estate creates new opportunities for growth and development, as well as huge challenges to established ways of doing business. I will explore digital marketing from a different angle that provides a contrasting perspective on the demolition to time and distance that cyberspace has done, whilst providing insights on how entrepreneurs and businesses in Zimbabwe can make it relevant to their operations.
In addition, anyone can overcome the economic limitations imposed on them in these treacherous times we find ourselves in if they are willing to learn about this topic and enrich their lives. The goal of this article is to create opportunities for readers to go beyond the confines of the line of thought expressed by the writer and engage with the ideas presented.
Relevance of digital marketing in Zimbabwe
From the perspective of the state of the Zimbabwean economy, it is a more complicated reality such that it is critically important to understand that even though internet usage beyond social networks like WhatsApp and Facebook seems limited, nevertheless a closer look reveals that there is decent web traffic to various local websites. To simplify this, because of this web traffic there is a compelling business case for digital marketing in Zimbabwe.
There are people who subscribe to the school of thought that believes the theory that digital marketing has no relevance is Zimbabwe, because of the limitations we have when it comes to internet access. It all raises a critical but too often overlooked issue; not everyone listens to local radio stations, watch local TV nor buy a newspaper daily, however the number of advertisements are unprecedented on these platforms. Moreover, corporations and individuals are spending their hard-earned money on designing fliers which they are never sure whether they are being distributed to their target market.
It almost goes without saying that the current impact of the digital age has changed the way corporations communicate. It has created metrics by which advertising and marketing campaigns can be measured by in real-time, brought cost effectiveness to marketing campaigns, and the marketplace has now become a global village such that one can reach millions of people at a negligible fraction of the cost it took to reach thousands of people locally.
Cyberspace promotes consumerism and makes it easier to find and engage with those who might believe in what you have to offer as the internet has evolved into a virtual economic system. When the local economic environment is not promoting growth, business opportunities are scarce, and the search for physical new markets is costly, firms have the opportunity to cut costs by embracing digital marketing.
Benefits of embracing digital marketing in Zimbabwe
1. Reach international markets easily
Doing business in another economy outside your home country eliminates the effects of the treacherous economic climate in your country. One can launch a marketing campaign to look for clients in India, Ethiopia, DRC, and United Kingdom etc., whilst locally based in Zimbabwe through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Search.
The fact that not so many of us are doing those campaigns even on a small scale means that we are missing opportunities to widen our reach.
2. Be able to measure ROI on marketing expenditure
Most marketing budgets are spent trying to create brand and product awareness. Whilst creating brand and product awareness is very essential, in challenging economic times, many businesses do not have the financial resources to engage in awareness campaigns. Therefore, whether on a shoestring budget or in a better financial situation, every organization needs to be able to judge whether their marketing efforts are achieving any meaningful returns.
Digital marketing has the advantage of having metrics that can be analysed. Not everything is measurable with digital marketing but there is great progress daily in improving the technology that gathers data. The data gathered from digital marketing campaigns is much more useful that any sampling tools used in traditional marketing. That is why there are always reservations about the tools used to come up with the top brands in the country.
In addition, without empirical evidence those figures remain guesses and speculation. There is need for real data against which the claims can be verified.
3. Compete effectively locally and regionally.
As a result of the fierce competition online from international giants our local e-commerce companies are struggling to gain any traction and relevance. This set of circumstances is proving to be a challenge locally especially in search. As an experienced SEO consultant myself, I believe that it’s not very difficult to gain a competitive advantage on those international giants if one learns how to do SEO properly. SEO is an essential component of digital marketing.
The challenge now is how quickly do we embrace digital marketing and become so good that we are able to shift the balance of power from the international companies and begin to dominate the local business transactions online. As much as people are now transacting online, the local e-commerce companies have not fully embraced digital marketing properly so that they can dominate the international corporations in this space as an example. It is possible; one simply has to learn the basics of the game. The advantage of being a master at digital marketing is that you can compete locally, regionally and internationally.
4. Export consultancy and service businesses
One of the ways in which our local digital marketing skills can improve is when we begin to provide consultancy services to organizations in Europe, America and Asia whilst locally based. To be fair, we have a skilled human capital that is only suffering from a deficiency in how best they can leverage digital marketing to their advantage and stand-out as an authority in the subject matters of their specialty.
For example, I did a research on Bee farming recently. It was a shock to me to realize that there is no local individual who has established himself/herself online as an expert Bee farming coach. Even though I now know quite a few of them, still they believe that there is no significant value to be gained in having a presence online, and besides the idea of being online is far-fetched.
5. Increased entrepreneur success
The economic benefits of digital marketing to any industry can’t be overstated. Not surprisingly, I once had the benefit of providing consultancy services to a Safety and Health company formed by two young men here in Zimbabwe. From having virtually no financial resources to start their business, their company was able to hire six other people within the first four months after launching their product. It has worked for them because at their inception nobody was doing it online in SADC.
If we had our entrepreneurs making time to understand digital marketing, their businesses would experience rapid growth and establish a competitive advantage on their competition. That shoestring budget can be used effectively on an online marketing campaign that creates brand and product awareness.
6. Better visibility globally
There are basic fundamentals that we have always overlooked as a nation. Most of our local organizations including government don’t have online homes, and nobody seems bothered about their online homeless state. Those who have managed to put together a website of some sort have done so out of necessity because everyone is talking about the need to have a website without any thought process as to the value creation people have to benefit from visiting the website.
Markets are not just found, but also made: exposing yourself to the world is not a bad idea if you want people to know you and what you stand for. In an era in which brands are being created and achieving global recognition overnight, why would you not want to give your company every opportunity to be successful by jumping on the digital bandwagon.
Even as professionals there is absolutely no excuse for not being on a platform like LinkedIn. You never know who might visit your profile and what conclusions they might come up with about you. So many beneficial professional relationships have been created on professional platforms like LinkedIn. It is clear that self-promotion can never be under estimated as a tool to broaden your sphere of influence.
7. Work and earn money online
In this country, many more people could be earning money whilst working online and never have to complain about the prevailing catastrophic economic conditions. It is understandable that we have genuine reservations whenever anyone mentions anything related to making money online. However, not everything done online is a scam. Actually the digital economy is creating employment in other parts of the world.
Critical Skills for Success
In conclusion, there are certain basic aspects of cyberspace that we all need to work on which include;
Everyone can use social media profiles to position themselves to be good at something. Learn how to do self-promotion online. It will help you get more business, jobs and even industry recognition.
As a business, your website is your online office. Your website should do more than telling the world who the founder of the company is. The website must convert visitors to become clients. People should be able to initiate business with you from the website. This means going beyond the contact form with interactivity.
Social media engagement
Social media is a very strong marketing tool. Sadly many people just use it for social interactions. When you decide to beneficially use your social media profiles and other features, there is great value for anybody.
Learning professional digital marketing
Learning things on your own is good but being professionally trained is even better. Therefore, learn digital marketing professionally and practically. Get the best instructors, certifications and be sure to get your hands dirty implementing what you will be learning.
Lastly, the digital economy is booming, therefore try to find your own space in which you can dominate. We have been sleeping giants for a very long time; it is time that we create valuable solutions for the local digital economy.
Do you think that Zimbabwe will lead the online revolution in Africa? What are the missing elements and what should be done to help with the situation? Share your thoughts.