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SMEs must leverage email marketing, Ekundayo

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Ekundayo

Ayeni Ekundayo is the Chief Innovation Officer of CareerXpress, whose mission is to collaborate with clients, help them increase their market share, by outsourcing digitally trained and skilled professionals to get the work done.

Through her team, companies have hired the best of employees resulting in the explicit and calculative motive of placing African youth in line for relevant job qualifications. In this interview, he speaks on the need for SMEs to embrace email marketing to boost sales.

Is email marketing relevant in this era of social media platforms?
Electronic mails still ranks as the largest and the most engaging channel for digital sales across the globe. I can say for certain, there are barely products on the go without email marketing playing a part.

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I have realised that email marketing is the point of advantage for a lot of businesses. With emails, communication is codedly personal. For me, it is the fastest way of creating prompt engagement.

With foresight and data gathered, we have gone through the end to end process involved with email marketing thus placing us on top of the game. A neglect to email marketing as a digital marketer is likened to poor understanding of the core of marketing. Globally, the online platform with the highest conversion is email marketing; it is a worldwide standard.

Email Marketing is part of the fundamentals of a business – if you offer e-commerce services, you require emails for your cart abandonment sequences, client reminders, etc. It is time to have a proper email system set up for your business to communicate with your customers.

Why is it necessary for businesses to begin to see the potential for Email marketing?
Businesses need to start using emails to drive conversations, distribute top-of-mind content, and make new purchases. Use emails to create awareness, publicize events, scale your business, and a host of other things.

People still stumble over emails we sent 4- 5 years ago and they inquire about the service in question. These past efforts have brought us before clients we never imagined would engage us in business transactions.

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There are often too many bottlenecks and bureaucracies in sending out proposals these days. There is often difficulty in engaging with prospects, or sending a folder or a document – but sending an email breaks the chain, and communication seems much easier. It is not fraudulent as most define it to be – in quoting them, they refer to it as being scammed. It is simply us running adverts to you, asking you to buy from us, which is similar to billboards.

Why do people not give attention to their emails?
The billboards we drive by daily on the roads are the responsibility of an organisation. So do not get angry at the placements of billboards you meet along the way. This also goes for emails that you receive that sells you on things. All that is required of you is to make a buying decision – either it is a YES or NO. There is a buying decision process set in place.

Surviving as an entrepreneur in Nigeria back then was pretty difficult especially in the digital sector. How were you able to break even and what is your advice to upcoming start-ups?
Most start-ups have this belief that there is a hero coming to save them with capital. Starting out as an entrepreneur, I recall doing bootstraps in my first two years of the business which literally started at my dining table.

The first training we organized, we charged N5000 which is about $10 today, and only three people showed up for the training. The moment we started the training, electrical power went out, we bought fuel and spent our personal funds; at the end we had nothing left because we had to give the attendees refreshment.

For me, the main thing was that I needed to believe that what I was doing was viable and possible. So, I went to my LinkedIn account and downloaded all the contacts I had , which was about 1576, and through my MailChimp account, I sent emails to everyone; after all, it was a free package I was on. I uploaded and hit the send button.

It was a personalized message that read – “if you are interested in attending my training, the fee is N40, 000. Where I will show you how to send bulk emails. It was a whole day of training; from that particular email, we were contacted by an organisation who had 10 people.

They signed up, paid the money; so that was a shift of revenue coming in from $10 to almost $1000. Just in a space of two weeks, another organisation contacted us and signed up 18 people. Then others came in, one after the other; I had to run the training in two batches. That was how we got our first bulk funds.

So the size and the engagement that you create in the marketplace determines the value that you get in exchange, most people do not like going professional, they prefer to cut corners.

How can the corporate world take advantage of this sector?
First, there is a lot of awareness that needs to be driven. Secondly, there should be comprehensive understanding about the internet service provided. Because our country’s Internet service providers (ISPs) prefer the dialog forms (voice) – for example, some banks at the end of the month, when sending out bank statements to all its customers, operate on slow servers and the common excuse is – “the network is not working”.

It is the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMPT). This is the issue. Banks want to send emails to over two million customers while the resources on the server are being used to the maximum, so there is a struggle to deliver. Which is why when we perform transactions, it takes two days before an email gets sent to you, on the transaction done.

These are all SMTP issues, bulk email marketing issues. These are things we should focus on and try to solve so delivery of results can be prompt, fast with our engagement.

In terms of infrastructure, give more backing and exposure to this aspect of the market. It is a large industry, massive and you’ll read and hear stories about organisations raising incomes up to $20million to start this as a business in developed countries.

So, how ready are the indigenous companies in Nigeria to deliver this service?
We created a partnership with a cybersecurity organisation and they are some of the best in the world. We work with several Israelis on this project, this will leave you to imagine how much advanced technology we are getting from them.

The challenge though, is that our current system is yet to trust the indigenous start-ups in the country.

We have internally developed an Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) with all the connectivity, we are just now trying to create some sort of network where we will get enough noise out there and then they take it up from us.

What should regulators of government be playing a critical role in the development of this sector?
In developed countries, it is against the country’s laws to shoot or print ads outside the country and run it on your country’s TV channels. Nevertheless, these things happen in Nigeria, even though the law sanctions against it.

These are things the government should clamp down on, and not people who leverage the internet to do legitimate activities, all in the name of controlling social media platforms.

They should understand how this emerging sector operates, create and promote the right policies, while weeding out those who bring a bad reputation to the country.

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Why the acrimony between traditional advertising companies and the digital agencies in the country?
Clamping down is not the idea. The focus is rather on building relationships that help you understand what other industries are saying, so digital marketing is not here to wipe out traditional marketing; it is rather a complimentary service for traditional marketing at some level.

However, digital marketing is a sector that developed entirely on its own, but most people still see it as something specific to the youths. Well, the younger you are, the better you understand it, and know that there are different branches in this sector.

Look at the fuel subsidy campaign that happened in 2012 and the ENDSARS wasn’t published on TV, nobody developed billboards but they all communicated on social channels. This means that the channel is so strong, the connectivity is so high and smart corporates are using it to transform their businesses. We complement ourselves to deliver products and services across a spectrum of clients.

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