The story of Incite in South Africa, and its steady growth in a relatively new and untested market, is evidence of the ample opportunities available to South Africa’s talented entrepreneurs, says Lauren Heap.
For those who can identify a gap, and leverage both skills and experience, South Africa’s business landscape is rife with potential. My journey has underscored this point for me.
After having worked for Incite in the United Kingdom for several years, I decided to move back to raise my son in South Africa. I had always joked about starting the company in South Africa, but when we realised that there was no one else providing a similar service here in the marketing space – leveraging both inbound and outbound marketing strategies – it became clear that this was something I should pursue.
At first, it was just a case of working from home by myself, testing the market to see if there was an opportunity for us – but after just two months we had secured our first client – and we have grown steadily since then.
Interestingly, the main challenge for Incite SA at the outset was that no one was really doing what we were, so there was a need to educate potential clients around our methodology and service offering. This has changed over the past year, as we now have competitors and the market is generally more sophisticated and developed with regards to inbound and outbound marketing – and how the two complement each other. However, the competition is a good thing, as it is pushing us to stay ahead of the curve and sharpen and improve our service offering to clients.
Content marketing (inbound) has become a buzzword, as global trends reach South Africa’s shores, so there is an increasing appetite for the service, yet we are still very much in the education and awareness phase here. Marketers are beginning to realise that in order to turn customers into brand ambassadors, they need to talk to them on their terms. Inbound marketing is multi-channel by nature because it approaches people where they are – in the channel where they want to interact with you, and in South Africa we are beginning to see this trend gaining traction.
Outsourcing new business
As a result, we are definitely seeing agencies explore the potential and possibilities offered up by the outsourcing of this new business function. Indeed, certain agencies are recognising the benefits of outsourcing their new business to us, because we specialise in helping marketing agencies of all types effectively market themselves to create well qualified, high value opportunities and pitches – and consequently win work from large clients. This is becoming a specialised and highly valued service that we provide to a growing number of agencies.
Incite SA is steadily growing and gaining exposure using its own channels to effectively market the business – in essence, walking the talk. Our main focus is client retention, as we want existing clients to be our ambassadors. The trend towards outsourcing new business in an agency is yet to hit SA in full force, and we are readying ourselves for this.
Globally, the biggest trend is a shift to inbound – we are specialists in this area, drawing on our learnings from London and Los Angeles, and we are therefore able to offer our clients something unique that their competitors haven’t been doing (but will be in the near future!), along with the bespoke new business function.
As a first mover in the local market, we are well positioned to lead the way and embrace opportunities as South African businesses harness the benefits of clever marketing strategies – so the future is bright! We look forward to seeing the development of inbound and outbound marketing in SA and the way that businesses leverage it as a key differentiator in competitive industries.
Five business tips for expats
- Don’t assume the South African market is the same as the UK/EU/USA. You need to honour the different nuances in cultural norms and approach.
- South Africa has such a vast opportunity for someone that has an entrepreneurial spirit, you need to be ready to come across a lot of closed doors but if you believe in what you are doing you will eventually break through and then the sky’s the limit.
- South Africans tend to take a much longer time making decisions when it comes to taking on new suppliers. You need to factor this timing into your budgets.
- Research the market and see if there are any competing businesses to yours. If there are not you need to factor in an education phase where you won’t win a large amount of new business. You need to have solid backing for this phase.
- Invest into the local market, South African’s are the hardest workers and are so keen to learn new and innovative ways of working.
Lauren Heap is managing director of Incite SA
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