Online marketing: Making your start-up to stand out

Tuesday February 9 2016

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Loraine Mwenesi, a fashion boutique owner in Nairobi, sells most of her wares on social media. She says marketing her goods on the sites have greatly boosted her earnings.

Like Ms Mwenesi, many other start-up owners use Facebok, Whatsapp and Twitter to market their goods and services.

Clearly online marketing is increasingly getting popular, especially in Kenya. Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) statistics for the 2015-16(July–June) financial year state that the number of Internet users in Kenya is now at 31.9 million. In the previous quarter, the number of Internet users was at 29.6. 

“Consequently, the portion of the Kenyan population accessing internet services reached 74.2 per 100 inhabitants up from 69 per 100 inhabitants recorded in the previous quarter,” the report states.

 The surge in the number on Internet users is attributed to the emergence of new electronic commerce services in Kenya’s rapidly expanding telecoms market. Since almost every Kenyan in an urban setting has a smart mobile phone, it has now become very easy to access the Internet.

 This is driving entrepreneurs to leverage on the online platforms to sell their wares and this means stiff competition. Therefore, for your services and products to stand out you have to come up with ingenious marketing methods.  

The normal trend now is to open a social media account and try to access the various markets that deal with specific products that one is selling.
To gain from these social media platforms, entrepreneurs have to be strategic in marketing their products.

Ms Mwenesi says it took her long to gain ground in the virtual market. When she started out, there were some days when not a single person looked at her clothes or commented on her posts. She realised that at first, her goods were not selling as much as she expected them.

Ms Mwenesi told Money that to stand out on Facebook and Twitter, she first had to engage her audience with attractive and inspirational entrepreneur stories that she frequently shared on her wall.

“I had to be known first, my audience had to find the need to buy my goods. I could only attract them by constantly engaging them.”

“With time, as I struck conversations with a lot of people on the sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, they began recognising my brand and they could even go as far as inquiring how and where to access the goods,” said Mwenesi.

She learned that the “Internet doesn’t sell goods unless there is serious packaging and branding”.

Also, she told Money that honesty, integrity and timely deliveries helped her get clients who are outside Nairobi, that she has maintained to date.

Mr Kamotho Njenga, an expert on virtual markets who is also the Secretary General of Information Communication Technology Association of Kenya (ICTAK), says when Internet marketing is executed in the right way it can lead to a surge in profits. 

“At the moment, as many as 80 per cent of customers are searching for specific products online, paying cash on delivery. Whatever makes them like a product is branding,” said Mr Kamotho. 


His sentiments are backed by research and advisory firm McKinsey&Company which states that to sell widely, a business man must take time to study its target market as well as brand and package his products accordingly.

“Cross selling and category penetration techniques increase sales by 20 per cent and profits by 30 per cent,” said the research and advisory firm. 

The firm points out the value that businesses get from analysing customer purchase history to recommend products that they are able to buy, in case they do not like the already existing ones.

It is also important to identify and predict attitude preferences based on customer purchases. This, McKinsey &Co states, helps to inform the retailers’ purchasing decisions.

In a case study of a specific retailer, the firm states that after identifying the approaches and proving their values, through a set of pilot tests, “we worked with the retailer to build the organisational, process, and IT capabilities necessary to support them.”

UK entrepreneur expert Robert Tyson in his research, The 7 Best Online Marketing Tools For More Traffic, Better Leads & Faster Sales, states that the Search Engine Optimised (SEO) is among the top things that will propel a start-up in marketing.

“Search engine optimisation is often considered by some as the holy grail of Internet marketing. You now have to delve deeper into learning how to use this SEO to rank your site higher in Google,” the study states.

As you continue marketing your products, experts advise that you have to make sure you are accessible on mobile devices. This is a sure way to gain an edge on your competition and be accessible by consumers on whatever device they decide.

This also implies that your mobile number that you have shared on the Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp sites must always be accessible. Your sites must also be flexible and easy to navigate, giving a view of all your products at a glimpse.

Mr Tyson recommends that an entrepreneur should also learn web analytics, taking it seriously as a big step in business. This will show you what your customers are doing on your site, on which web pages they leave your site, and in some cases how long they have been a customer. By learning these trends, you will also know how to retain them.

“Get yourself on Google Places, this is an answer to the good old yellow pages, and yes even if you haven’t made a shilling, you’re going to want to be found on Google Places,” experts on Business2Community website also state.