Making business progress?

Then tell someone


Sometimes you are so busy that you lose perspective. This happens to companies – they lose market perspective.

Their senior Production people have installed a line that will double output and enable them to offer a new packaging form to the market. Their Distribution guys have taken two years to re-work depot structure and trunking schedules so that customers in Mbarara can receive goods ex-Mombasa 12 hours earlier.

Their IT team has redesigned the website user experience to ensure that visitors get to their destination in no more than 3 clicks. (Actually I made that one up, I have never met an IT department that has improved a user experience). And after all this effort, the Market has not noticed.

I have sat in many meetings where senior business people have become frustrated with the market. ‘What is wrong with people?’ they wonder. ‘What do we have to do for the market to acknowledge our hard work?’

Funnily enough, the answer is very often ‘Tell them’

I recall a huge security business in this region, with a track record of 30 years of innovation. They pioneered manned guarding, then they pioneered alarm response, dog patrols, even electric buttons you placed at intervals around your compound for the askari to press on his perambulations – to chart his progress. They were called Securicor, and when I met them they were outraged that their brand name had become a generic. ‘For goodness’ sake,’ they lamented. ‘ People in the market even ask each other what kind of Securicor they have got?’

The problem was they had never announced their progress in a meaningful and memorable way. Not through PR which, when well written and photographed, is almost free. Certainly not through advertising. They came from the ‘why would we need advertising?’ school of thought.

The fact that they saw thousands of guards in training and on deployment; that they had the biggest market share of security contracts; and that everyone they met (staff and customers) knew who they were blinded them to the truth. The market is not obliged to see things your way. Or to put together the fact that you have a lot of vehicles, signs on people’s gates, and maridadi uniforms … and come up with a rounded understanding of your offering.It is your job as marketers to make your Brand Promise clear to the market and be tireless in demonstrating that you are delivering upon it.


I know huge poultry businesses who have done remarkable things to breed chickens humanely, hygienically and profitably. If I told you how many chicks they breed every week you would whistle. I know microfinance businesses that transact millions of dollars in tiny loans every month without mishap. I know people who can triple the yield of the small potato farmer, so that when he pulls up his plant at harvest time he dances around the field waving enlarged tubers with abandon.


I know the geniuses that make our Banks and Telecommunications companies hum with their clever integrated technology solutions. But if I told you their brand names, you would not play back these ‘gee whiz’ facts to me. These nuggets of excellence. Your perception of them would date from the last time you interacted with them, and that might have been decades ago. Or never.


It’s a heartening fact that many successful businesses in Africa are moving into their third, fifth and even eighth decade of operation. That is something to celebrate. Not at the Christmas party or the AGM, but in regular dialogue with the marketplace. And now that we have online channels there really is no excuse. It is just about taking the time to craft your evolving story.


Which reminds me of the Nigerian who prayed nightly to his God to let him win the national lottery. Night after night, week after week, year after year he sent his supplication up through the ceiling. Until one day his God lost patience.


‘Abadom, this is your God. Is it you who bothers me every night with your request to win the lottery ?’

“Yes Lord, might it please you to facilitate this small thing and therefore give me a good day?’ replied the unabashed fellow.

‘ Abadom, I will do this thing if it brings me peace. But kindly assist me with one matter.’

‘Name it Lord.’ replied the Nigerian with alacrity.

‘ For goodness’ sake meet me half way and buy a ticket.’





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