5. The Internet Is For SME’s
In Africa, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME’s) have become disenchanted with the Internet. For many, after launching their websites to their customer base and marketplace the interest dropped off, and business owners lost interest, the sites become stale, and clients who had the direct URL address did not return. People browsing the internet do not have the time to keep searching for a local search result that often is found after a staggering number of 1st Tier country sites. Given the poor performance of the Internet in supporting our local SME’s one might have thought that African usage might not have grown to the extent that it has. The driver to Internet usage growth in the recent past has been the social media.
For illustrative purposes and with a stretch of the imagination, you could look at the problem like this:
- Consider a scenario in which the world has been flattened by technology, and Africa has been eased off the edge of our flat earth and that it lies buried under 250,000 search results.
- As a result, African SME’s simply do not get found, and when they do, they offer little to excite, engage or entertain as they were not expecting visitors.
- There is a solution to the above scenario, for the Internet is an awesome leveller, between big and small business.
If so, why has it been a failure?
We need to do what we do best; wall ourselves in, build fences, educate and create communities that engage and share an opinion on what’s good and what’s not.
We need to address the interface between neighbourhood opinion and the supplier community that services its needs.
In response to the suggestion, that it is Time To Go Online, the response all to often has been; Been there done that! What a failure.
#ttgo Browsers: …without threshold fear!
#ttgo Entrepreneurs: …this time feed the itch and be found.
Allow me to tell you a story. It’s been a subtle war; everybody against everybody. Yes, ever since the first friendly messages never thought about keyword saturation there have been no sides, just a chaotic civil war and they’ve flattened the earth. There’s nothing round about the internet it’s flat, and Africa’s been pushed off the edge. Yip, the world is flat, everybody else is in view except that Africa has been nudged off the edge!
Against this backdrop consider the following one-act play. It takes place at the pearly gates.
- “Ignorance is no sin,” says St Peter, standing at the Pearly Gates, “our policy, however, requires a rewind in time to test your persistence!”
- “Eish, this itch,” moans an overdressed blonde, by the name of Sally Goodman scratching. “It’s ‘cos my candy shop has gone online and now cannot be found!”
- “Your candy man loved you,” said, an old man in a safari suit waving an old mail order catalogue hoping to provoke a reaction, “but you didn’t care enough to shop online.” The old man was her father, Bob Goodman.
- “He loved me?” she asked, the surprise evident in her voice and posture.
- “Yes, and you did not care enough to dig down there, off the edge of the earth,” said her Father still waving his printed 1948 mail order catalogue.
- “What are you waving that catalogue for,” bellowed St Peter, looking straight at Bob.
- “Oh, St Peter, if only we could use my printed 1948 catalogue,” said Bob, who continued to say, “We did it then – postage stamps were the name of the game, we connected offline with stamps on envelopes and not the internet.”
- St. Peter pointed to the two of them and gestured that they come before him, and when they did, he asked, “OK, shopaholics when shopping, what did you look for?”
- Sally responded in an instant, “ In the Mall, it’s fashion, jewellery, and candy.”
- Bob put up his hand, and when given the nod by St Peter, he said, “Deals, specials and pensioner discounts.”
- To this St. Peter responded, “Have you ever tried the internet?”
- Again Sally beat her Dad to answer, and she blurted out, “Facebook, and Twitter 4ever! But, hey not my credit card... no way.”
- Her Dad, looking irritated, said, “ Look, all you get on the internet is CV’s and boring stories and no deals and no products to browse.”
- St. Peter replied in a commanding voice, “Go back and do it again, and again, and again, until you learn to give your customers products to browse, to satisfy their interest, and deals to excite them to trade with you.” “Just keep at it till your customers dig you out from nowhere and put you back up onto the flat earth where you can be found, every day, feeding candy to itches for an awesome user experience,” continued St Peter, who closed off by shouting down to them, as they climbed down to earth, “...and when you get it right, I’ll let you in here.”
That’s the story and vision of the future. SME's can level the playing field with deals and specials, coupons and the like to attract buyers. If you are a doctor, your clients may wish to see your degree but if you sell a product, it is the product, the price, the guarantee, the service, etc. that they want to see and not you.
I hope that I have nudged you to reflect upon your plan to go online. If so, please share the link to this topic with your friends on Facebook and with your Business Connections on LinkedIn. To do this log into your preferred social media account and then click the share option at the top of this page.