By Emily Kinuthia
Small market enterprises are an important mix to economic growth and are a key catalyst in improving the living standards of Africans through employment and entrepreneurship in the business value chain. According to the World Economic Forum, these small and growing businesses (or SMEs) create around 80 per cent of the Sub-Saharan Africa’s employment opportunities, and are a key ingredient in establishing and growing a new middle class while fueling demand for new goods and services in the region.
However, SMEs face numerous challenges in a complex and dynamic market environment despite their potential to drive African economies. One of the greater challenges facing SMEs in Africa is packaging and delivering a compelling value proposition that will persuade not just their consumers or customers, but one that will allow them access investors who will unlock their funding. Among other challenges is access to credit as well as a difficult business environment brought about by policy inefficiencies. This only results to SMEs lacking sufficient capacity to leverage market opportunities and grow their businesses.
Marketing communication is a vital activity for the survival and success of SMEs. As the marketing and communication landscape scene keeps evolving fast as a result of technological advancement, small market enterprises have to rethink their business value proposition infrastructure in addition to the traditional or normal forms. Small Market Enterprises need to critically analyze the use of traditional and technology-enabled marketing communication tools employed by SMEs globally and map out how best they can utilize them.
Over the years, different sector players have developed models to explain the apparent mismatch between the need for marketing activities to sustain and grow companies in a competitive business environment and the actual marketing efforts used by these organizations. The models have from time to time evolved to accommodate the changes in this fast environment and marketers have to find new models to adapt to the new reality.
In a recent study by research firm, Hubspot, marketing professionals confessed that among the most difficult scenarios they have to navigate, is showing the return in investment for their allocated budget. 40 per cent of those interviewed said that their companies’ biggest marketing challenge is showing the return on investment (ROI) for marketing activities. 28 per cent of those interviewed noted that apart from showing value for money, the other big challenge was securing enough marketing budget and lastly, another 26% said that identifying the right technologies with which to carry out the marketing activities was a challenge.
In marketing, all these factors need to be put into consideration for them to meet the specific targets that will steer the business forward. The organization, and in this case the SME needs to find the perfect mix that works for its products. Identifying the right technologies to use, supported by the right budget and lastly justifying the budget allocated to the specific tasks actually yielded results by increasing profitability (ROI).
Marketing value propositions should be clearly articulated, precisely targeted, communicated effectively, and actually deliver on their promise consistently. This has become increasingly critical for any business to succeed in today’s environment. The reason for this is partly because of the complex competitive environment we operate in today. However more importantly due to the increasingly discerning consumer, who has access to a lot of information at their fingertips, on the various products and service available in the market, and is able to make decisions in a split second, owing to the technology advancements. As a business, you need to be able to capture this consumer at their point of decision making, and appeal to their rational and emotional needs, in order to convert them, and keep them loyal to your product. To do this accurately and consistently calls for a great understanding and accurate articulation of your value proposition, and the ability to make the connection between the consumer need and your product offering, in a compelling manner.
It also needs to be appreciated that markets in general are increasingly fragmented, and there is immense pressure on SMEs to differentiate their products and service, and add value to the consumer whenever possible. This way, there is consistent growth, and it makes it easier for the firm to build a loyal customer base while adding new ones.
While acknowledging that there are issues in the SME sector that cannot be solved by marketing, it needs not to be a hurdle for the businesses to have sleepless nights. Without a targeted value proposition, the business cannot take off even with other problems of stable energy, sufficient funding and infrastructure out of the way. Therefore, entrepreneurs need to give first thought on how they will package their business and brand it properly so that the target market finds it relatable and attractive. That way, the business will be able to grow sustainably and grow its brand equity.
(Emily Kinuthia is a marketing and branding consultant based in Nairobi. She is also the GM for Marketing, Citizenship and Communication at NIC Bank).