DURBAN – Who doesn’t want to be successful and make money? This entrepreneur believes that helping the less fortunate to spread their business message is something we all need to think about.
If you want to open a small business and don’t have a clue about digital marketing, the chances are you are going to come unstuck sooner than later.
Twenty-three-year-old Talent Makanya, one of a new breed of digital marketing pioneers, believes that people shy away from becoming part of the online digital community because they are scared of it and think its beyond their capabilities.
“I am sure it has got a lot to do with the fact that the jargon used in IT is difficult to understand unless you work with it everyday, so a lot of businesses simply ignore it, or feel it isn’t necessary for success.”
The problem, he says with the head-in-the-sand- philosophy is that the world has changed so much that what your father and grandfather thought about business marketing, is no longer relevant.
“It was a much simpler world then. If you had something to sell you would tell your neighbour, your family and your friends, and hopefully they would be interested in your product. Bigger companies would look at advertising in a newspaper and that would be about it. Today there are hundreds of ways to market your products through platforms you might never have heard of. Every day it gets more complicated and demanding, even for the technicians.”
The longer you leave IT solutions out of your business strategy, he says, the tougher it becomes to make sense of the marketing dynamics.
While Makanya accepts that making money out of an online digital marketing service, is the only way to stay afloat, he suggests that there is a way that you can open up opportunities to people who cannot afford to fund a digital platform “add-on” and yet are eager to succeed in their business.
“I don’t see this as a ‘freebie’ but a creative tool to stimulate business” he says. “If for instance I develop a digital platform for a small business that is looking to extend its reach in the marketplace, and it does well, that would also help me to get more digital business. I look at it as a partnership. What is so great is to see people getting excited about what is out there and what is possible through digital marketing. You see, if they grow, I grow that’s how it works.”
Makhanya began his IT journey shortly after matriculating from his Umlazi school.
“I was one of the lucky ones. My house was next door to my school, so after hours the teachers allowed me to use the computers as I didn’t have far to walk home. It was all I wanted to do. I had learnt to write my own IT programmes even before I finished school.”
After completing a diploma in information technology at the Mangosuthu University of Technology, Makanya launched his own digital platform business, having among his anchor clients the Mangosuthu University of Technology.
“Make no mistake it’s a minefield out there. There are many options and tools available to help develop websites and other digital platforms, but the real challenge is to find the search engines that are specific to a particular business or organisation.”
He believes that real time communication across a number of platforms is a fundamental element to increase audience reach. So too is using all categories of social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and blogs.
Makanya’s tip to those entering the IT business is to make sure that when you pitch an idea, you have done a great deal of research.
“If you are aware of what the challenges are in a business you are half way there, because it’s not about how good or successful a business is, but how they could improve their status. It’s about looking for positive solutions, creating brands using your “like” fans as ambassadors who will then share your content and recommend your business, at little, or no cost.”
Township spaza shops, he says, were among some of the small businesses that he cut his IT teeth on.
“The shop owner is far too busy to worry about IT. Of course he wants to tell people about his specials for the day. It could be reduced priced cooked chicken or bargain price tinned goods. When you show him how his specials can pop up on his friend’s cell phone at lunchtime, it’s like magic. Turnover is increased without him having to do very much. Imagine how his family benefits?”
He says other small businesses that could benefit from a digital presence include fitness and aerobics centres, home based skin and health care outlets, people making clothes and other crafts at home.
“Mr Ramaphosa talks about more jobs that are needed. I say let’s start with the poorest people and help them get started. I want to do that because we all must try and make a difference to people’s lives.”