We talk about raising investment, product features and everything that surrounds but isn’t important to the success of a startup. The most important thing is and always will be distribution; How do we get our product in front of X amount of customers. On that note I came up with this rule;
Get your product in front of the most customers, in the shortest amount of time, for the least amount of money.
This is what guides us at Myphotographr. Sometimes the cheapest route might not be the fastest and the fastest option might not have the largest reach. Finding the balance is the art. You can read a 100 articles on distribution from silicon valley authors. Unfortunately most wont resonate here. We are a different people, with different mind-sets, spending habits and buying patterns. We need to develop our own distribution models. So in no particular order these are some examples, lessons and methods I hope you will find useful.
Where is the best place to buy a fashion magazine in Lagos? If you tell some one “from the abroad” that it is in moving traffic in Ikoyi, they will think your crazy. This is distribution thus far in Nigeria; largely inconvenient and limited. This is a massive opportunity for tech startups. I’m not saying you should advertise your fashion blog in hold up, lol. However, meeting your customers at the right place is key to selling more.
Lets look at a few familiar businesses;
You may have seen this new chin-chin company sweeping the nation. Maybe not. However they are in every mallam shop, mom & pop store and even in moving traffic. Basically everywhere a N50 product should be. They’re fairly new to the market and they are the largest guys in the chin-chin game (pun intended). They are the only branded chin-chin I’ve seen in different areas. Digging a little deeper and apparently they have the same distribution company as power oil. Makes sense. If they were solely in Shoprite, Spar and other convenience stores. probably not.
I’ve been to a few different Cafe Neo’s over the past few weeks all within a short distance of each other. At first I wondered why so many? However, thinking about coffee lovers; most are busy, working class individuals with tight schedules. No matter how good your coffee is most won’t travel 30 minutes for it, especially during lunch break. Having close, hyperlocal outlets is key to their distribution strategy. They recently started delivery!! Now my coffee comes to me :).
With companies that sell physical goods it’s a lot easier to evaluate their distribution models. With tech/software companies you can compare places to sales channels. It might be Facebook ads, PR or physical events. Finding the most efficient place to meet your customers is essential. With Printivo, a lot of their initial traffic most likely came from local tech blogs. It was the perfect channel. At the time of the dotng boom (pun intended) a lot of young tech-savvy people were launching startups and one of the first things they need is business cards.
For a lot of us, avid tech readers are not our target market. Find the best place for your product, live there.
Lagosians have this underlying default to price everything. We believe it’s our right. I think the success of Uber in Lagos has been based on the fact that it’s pricing is fair. As a tech company (website selling stuff) the price of your product at first impression really counts. It decides if your effort to get the customers attention was worth the hustle. When we first launched MyPhotographr, we thought young socially connected adults (18–25’s) would be our biggest market… we were wrong. Most of our products are >N6000. This age group spends mostly <N5000 on our website. However when we refocused on the 25+ age group we found that they were comfortable with our prices. It was more affordable than what they were used to. So working out the right price for the right group of customers should also be mixed into your distribution strategy. It’s equally important.
When you finally meet with your potential customer? How you converse with them will determine if they like the product. When they first come in contact with your product, what do they see? If its BUY ME!! BUY ME!! you have already lost their attention. Sometimes we think its the channel that’s not right. It might just be the message you are sending.
Everybody is selling something in Lagos. People sell in picture comments, spectranet calls me almost everyday. We all receive enough spam as it is. Try and build a friendship, not just a relationship with your customers. Sounds a bit far fetched, but you've probably bought more from your friends than the stores that sell suits, shoes and wigs for the exact same price.
- Save each customers phone number with their names so when they call in you respond with their name.
- Educate them about your product/service. Why it can save them time, make things easier or solve their problems.
- Help them imagine how it will look in their offices, houses, on their devices (software) and how happy they will be when they buy from you.
- Walk them through the process of ordering your product. “ We are targeting people who have shopped online before” is not a sustainable strategy. Some of your customers might be ordering online for the first time.
I’ve gone a little further than distribution so I’ll stop right here. We all (me included) get distracted by the many things revolving around a startup but above all getting in front of customers is king. Finding efficient and innovative ways to do this should be the topic of discussion.
Thanks for taking out the time to read this article. I hope to share more of my experiences and lessons from building a tech company in Lagos. Please comment and share your lessons and experiences too.
Do more with your photos.