The Business of Technology in Africa: How Can You Build a Local User Base – Part I

Guest Contributor: Tm Kotin

Building a user base for a new business is as critical in Africa as it is anywhere else in the world. I have picked up some important lessons after spending the last half-decade building two African businesses: E-coach Solutions, an education technology company serving individual learners and SuperFluid Labs, a data analytics and technology consulting firm serving enterprises. My experience with both businesses have enlightened me to many similarities as well as some important distinctions for different business types when it comes to acquiring customers.

Before delving into a discussion of how to successfully build a user base for a new business, it is important to first know “WHO” those users even are. Many startups have mistakenly expended significant resources of time, money and effort trying to market their product and services without first precisely identifying who their target users are. And even for target users of each business, we learned to distinguish between our customers versus the consumers of our products. Customers are the individuals that directly pay for your services/goods, whereas consumers are the individuals/entities who enjoy the services/goods your business provides.

For SuperFluid, which provides solutions to enterprises such as banks, we learned that the consumer of our business intelligence and data analytics solutions (e.g. the Chief Risk Officer) was often different from the direct customers of our services (e.g. the Chief Finance Officer or the Chief Operating Officer).  For E-Coach, which provides education solutions for learners and institutions (our consumers), we discovered that parents were ultimately our primary customers. They often either purchased our solutions on behalf of their wards or provided authorization to schools (via Parent-Teacher Association) to adopt our services and thus bill students via sanctioned fees.

I have come to learn that this first step of defining “WHO” your target users are – and knowing whether they are customers, consumers or both – is crucial in other to determine the best strategies for 1) finding or attracting them, 2) converting them into potential buyers, 3) selling them your service or goods, and 4) retaining them by continuing to delight and serve their needs.

In the next post, I will share some lessons and insights on how “HOW” to build up your local users once you have identified the “WHO”. 

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