With the dawn of a new year, many new innovative startups are also bound to see the light as young entrepreneurs with stars in their eyes and dreams of becoming the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Shuttleworth, put their ideas into what they surely hope will become profitable action. This is especially true in Africa and the Middle East, where small businesses are thriving.
2012 proved to be a breakthrough year in this realm, seeing the birth of many new mobile and tech startups. That’s because technology products and solutions are typically easier and far less expensive to introduce than traditional ones.
Apart from the initial capital, a tech company doesn’t necessarily require a lot of upfront investment. All that many of them need to get going is a couple of talented developers or programmers, an Internet connection, a domain online, a small office space, and a creative idea for an innovative app or service designed to fulfill a gap in the market.
However, even if the idea behind a product can easily rival that of any successful billionaire businessman, users have to still get out there and sell it to the intended market, says Louise Robinson, MD at CG Consulting, a South African-based company that specialises in lead generation, database management and direct marketing throughout Africa and the Middle East, specifically for the ICT industry.
“While entrepreneurship should be lauded in any society, anyone with a creative enough idea and some ambition can start a business. Starting a business is almost the easy part. However, it takes a lot of know-how and savvy to not only keep the business going, but to let it flourish and thrive.”
And for that to happen, she says, users will need customers. But how do they make those customers aware of the amazing product or service in the first place?
“Unless they are lucky enough to have major investors helping them out in the beginning, it is rather safe to bet that the average SME will not have an advertising/marketing budget,” Robinson says.
“So unless your idea is so groundbreaking that it generates a lot of media attention and hype, the chances are that, with so much competition jostling for attention, it will be easy to remain unknown and simply fade into obscurity.”
But Robison gives the reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of an extremely simple solution.
“Acquire an accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive client database.
“It will be a great investment, because not only will the correct database help you to identify exactly who your intended target market is and where or how you can reach them, but it will also provide you with useful information about them so that you can better understand their needs, spending habits and product preferences, which will serve you well when you reach out to them.”
In addition, an effective lead generation campaign can make the difference between potential leads and actual sales. Hiring a consultancy to provide these types of campaigns, or even to manage a database, is the ideal solution for new companies that do not have the expertise to manage this on their own.
Similarly, a consultancy that can provide a comprehensive marketing plan can help startups take their ideas to the market more effectively.
“Researching all that information on your own will take up a lot of time; which is not a commodity that SME owners have much of, especially in those early days when they are trying to execute their business ideas and keep their fledgling company alive,” Robinson notes.
“Hiring a consultancy to create and maintain a database for them, and even to generate sales leads or create a marketing plan, will leave them with enough time and energy to focus on other areas crucial to their business operations, such as dreaming up more potentially best-selling ideas.
“In many cases, their area of expertise isn’t marketing or sales, so the assistance of a specialist consultancy can make all the difference in getting the new business off the ground.”