What South African marketers need to be effective in 2018

Zimbabwe November 2017

It’s official President Robert Mugabe resigned, bringing the hope of change to the people of Zimbabwe. Business will be looking at the opportunities come mid-2018. Now South Africa awaits our own news with pending change at the helm of the ANC next month…...And how much does South African business need some good news?  Well, to say the least, it has been another tough year trading in South Africa. This article is not about the politics, but merely reflecting on how tough business has been for many large firms, SME and entrepreneurs alike.

It is no secret that many firms big and small have been accustomed to a tough time with flat sales and profit graphs, few bonuses paid to staff members, cost-cutting exercises across many business functions and of course many ‘product-orientated firms’ cut their marketing budget first before anything else. Sounds familiar to most of us?

Let’s consider the fact that when something is not growing, it will die? If you agree with me then many businesses in South Africa are “sick” and in decline?

As we enter a new year of business, are we entering this new year thinking “well, let’s brave another tough year at the helm?” or are we going to do something about it?

Let’s also mention that today the digital world has added countless channels to consider using and this now means that the buyer's journey has grown increasingly complex and so has marketing. There are so many convergent trends to consider, it can be confusing and hard for marketers to prioritise programs and channels.

Let’s assume you are a marketer, your CMO or Director has called you to inform you that your budget you were hoping to enjoy in 2018 has been cut to pave the way for mechanisation in the factory. Don’t worry, instead of having a fit, consider this the time for you and your team to roll up your sleeves and get tough. You are a fighter; a champion and you will restore confidence in marketing come hell over high water, right?

Here are my considerations while using some new trends that I believe will help you define your marketing and help you plan for a better 2018 and beyond:

Improve Your Marketing Buying Processes

Marketing Processes

Re-think what you need and what is marketing waste, think lean. Re-think the content in your catalogues and possibly the sizes too. A great example albeit not a copy and paste for all B2B marketers is to consider reducing your A4 catalogue size by half, a close size to a DL size, this will reduce your catalogue spend by 50%. If your target market is the industrial tradesman or contracting then these guys wear jeans so this is a good fit for the back of the pocket, not to mention you will be able to fit more catalogues into your existing catalogue stands. If not, your scenario, be innovative, get creative and do something different to stand out.  This is your opportunity!

Two words, Buffer Management. Work the same way as you would be replenishing your own milk in your fridge at home. You know when you will run out, you know how long it would take for you to get a new milk and you plan it so that you replenish your milk just before you run out. So why is your marketing any different?

Manage your marketing stock, use your supplier relationships to best fit your budget. Consider your printing and explore the possibility of using your suppliers as a warehouse, order what you need, print your requirements but have your suppliers hold onto the consignment on the premise that your supplier will replenish and invoice you for only your monthly demand requirements are over a pre-determined time of not more than 3-4 months.

It could be debated, but try it otherwise you may end up shopping around for suppliers who are willing to partner with you and be part of your brand’s growth.  

Ps: Your boss will love you, your budget will be looking great every month while you reduce your waste, and please negotiate better supplier terms while you are at it.

Get Real ROI Using Thought Leadership

Thought leadership

This is a new and possibly controversial trend since research shows that the creators of thought leadership are not confident that it works. Only 17% of creators of thought leadership said it led to a request for proposal according to Edelman-LinkedIn research.  But here’s the catch 41% of CEOs said that after reading a thought leadership article they included a company in a request for proposal process.

This misunderstanding of what real ROI is shown why marketers should embrace thought leadership. Therefore, if your thought leadership can position your company as a leader in your industry, it can minimise risk in your prospects buying process.

Let’s face it, we are all being challenged to deal with change in every aspect of our business and no one has all the answers that the 21st-century global market has presented us with. As such, this represents a unique opportunity for corporations and their leaders to cross-pollinate knowledge with clients and strategic partners to enable growth and innovation through thought leadership.

Companies and marketers that embrace thought leadership as a growth strategy, representing the essence of market leadership, corporate accountability and are changing the way we perceive client engagement.  All it requires is being transparent about your best practices and sharing them with your clients.

Your leadership must let go of the past and focus on the present for the betterment of the future and that of your clients. A company must think differently about your industry standards and accept that the traditional ways of doing things may no longer be as relevant as they once were and collaborate with your clients to solve the future together. Thought leadership is about introducing new ways of thinking that will reinvent industries and significantly impact business models being the marketplace, employees, consumers and the workplace. - whether you are a market leader continuing your market domination or a possible market leading challenger or entrepreneur, who wants to prove you have a better solution, consider thought leadership in your marketing plan.

Create a Universal View of Your Customer

Universal view of customers

Customer Experience – Ranges from a prospect first encountering your brand via marketing is engaging with your sales team to finally using your product is the norm in every company.

Start unifying your databases by including customer data from websites, marketing automation software, CRM Platforms and customer service interactions. By creating a unified view as prospects become customers which can improve the customer experience and can lead to gaining more customers and importantly keeping them. Embrace technology and use your marketing software to automate, track and analyse the customer experience so you can report your results to your strategic business units in order to recommend changes to your product mix, improve service level efficiencies and time your marketing messages more effectively.

Do Not Use Hypertargeting

Hypertargeting refers to the ability to deliver advertising content to specific interest-based segments in a network so that you deliver zero waste which is, in fact, a false promise. Think of the way you advertise in paid Facebook advertising?  How effective is it? Well, try pulling a needle through a hay bale.

If you are using hypertargeting you are more than likely excluding potential buyers and influencers, because you are not educating the buying segment who can be used to enhance word-of-mouth and referral marketing.

Instead, marketers should aim to reach the entire buying segment – which includes not only the decision maker but all the influencers. You need to strive for “relevant reach” to expand the market interest of your company.

The Notion of Everyone’s a Brand Ambassador

Brand Ambassador

In this digital age, your prospects are not in a trusting mood. It’s like the whole country has become the Show-Me State. South African research indicates that South Africans trust in government institutions crumbles. No surprise?

The barometer, which measures peoples’ trust in four institutions – government, media, business and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) – has revealed that above-average levels of fear about corruption, immigration and the erosion of social values are having an impact on the way South Africans perceive the country.

Unpacking the results of the global survey, in Johannesburg, Edelman South Africa MD Jordan Rittenberry said the South African government is the least trusted by its people out of all countries surveyed, with only 15% of citizens affirming their trust. “This was the lowest score out of 28 countries surveyed, with the global average coming in at 41%,” he pointed out.


Globally, trust in the media is at 43%, while trust in the media in South Africa dropped to 39% in 2017, from 45% in 2016.

The remedy to this prevalent problem is for marketers to place marketing messages into the hands of their employees for distribution on social media platforms, in person and during customer care and/or customer service calls.

Not only do your employees deliver a much more trusted message, but they also have more collective reach. A typical company base has +/- 10 times the social reach of the company itself. Make it fun and make your staff believe they are all Brand Ambassadors while they spread a trustworthy message.

Use Artificial Intelligence and Personalisation


Artificial intelligence (AI), data and personalisation are key concepts for marketers of the future, and its already available today.


Use your systems, AI is fuelled by data, so marketers can ensure they are delivering the right message, at the right time and to the right audience and all the time. Use AI on your website, for example, AI can serve visitors and provide or direct visitors to the right content and automatically reply to prospects with timely and relevant personalised emails. Data will help marketers identify new audiences so that you can serve them with new messages and content.

Explore the various software packages from leading marketing firms which will help you deliver that seamless personalised experience to your customers, this will, in turn, free your time up to spend more time with customers strategising.

Change Your Marketing Metrics

Big Data

 As marketers, we can measure almost everything. But be careful since, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts” For example, allow for cost-per-click and click-through rates to fall by the wayside for much more significant metrics that measure the actual contribution of marketing throughout the marketing funnel.

In the upper-funnel we should measure brand awareness, in the mid-funnel, we should measure content engagement and in the lower-funnel, we should measure lead generation and sales conversion – both give us insight into marketing’s very real contribution to revenue.

As a marketer, I often take offence to the comments like “It is hard to know exactly where your marketing spend is effective and returning you an ROI investment. Usually, these comments are made by so-called professionals who know, no better. If you’re one of these professionals, please do not take offence but in the digital age a marketer’s tools which are at our disposal is exponentially better than what we have 10 years ago, and it just gets better…….

Conclusion – These are a new few trends I thought would come in handy, to restore confidence in your marketing department come 2018, while making a real difference to your bottom line and marketing thrust by using integrated and personalised marketing tools, AI Systems and you’ll impress your boss with improved analytic reporting.