How to ‘Localize’ Your Solutions and Strategy for Growth in African Markets

Localize your business for the African market

Once you have a clear understanding of the total African market and have prioritized the markets that will bring you the best ROI for your business, it’s now time to localize your solutions and build local strategies within each of these countries to help you capture market share.

It goes without saying that building business across different languages and business cultures requires a diverse approach. There isn’t a one size-fits-all strategy to apply that works across all 54 countries in Africa.

The market dynamics vary per country. It even varies per city within each country. There are different market players, the distribution landscapes have different challenges and approaches. Regulations vary from state to state and prospective customers have unique challenges and needs.

That’s why it is important to ‘localize’ – develop a country-centric go-to-market strategy for each of your prioritized markets. This will help you develop the best approach to get your solutions into the hands of eager customers and increase your chances of capturing market share in each market.

Market Intelligence

You can localize your solutions build this strategy by doing some market intelligence and assessments. 

This will help you develop a go-to-market approach that shortens your lead time to your first customer and build a business model that’s sustainable enough to capture the long term opportunities in the market.

Doing in-country market intelligence allows your team to understand who your customers are, where they are aggregated, what they need, and how to give them what they need in the most sustainable way.

You use the insights gathered from this business development exercise to “localize” your product – meaning that you adapt your product to meet the local market needs.

Finding the “product-to-local-market-fit” does not mean that you have to customize the features of your solution. No, you don’t have to report back to headquarters or production to develop an entire new product for your prioritized markets in Africa.

However, you will have to change the way you market the same product, so that it is clear to your target customer the benefits it will bring to their lives.

‘Localize’ Case Study: “Efficiency vs. Leakage”

Let me make this clear with an example:

A few years ago, one of our clients that sold computer hardware products was trying to make an entry into a priority African market. They are a big multinational with a huge global presence. They already know the value proposition for their products. As the clients would say “we make businesses more efficient.”

Unfortunately, “business efficiency” was just not resonating with the prospective target customer base in the prioritized market, which inherently affected their sales. After conducting some market intelligence and spending time with the prospective customers, we found that one of their main concerns was “theft from their warehouse inventory.”

This gave us the insights we needed to “localize” the product. Once we changed the value proposition from “increasing business efficiency” to “reducing leakage and theft”, there was an immediate uplift in interest and sales.

This is just one of many examples of how localizing your product is important for each country you decide to find customers for your product.

By building a local strategy around your solution, you give yourself, your team, and your solution the highest chance of success. This localization process can be achieved through some targeted business and market research and I’d show you how next.

Market intelligence to localize strategy

When doing your market research, the goal is to answer questions that allow you and your team to make informed decisions about the best way to build your business.

You want to make sure you are not relying on any assumptions about a new market.

Thoughts like “this is how our business in the Middle East works, so it should be similar in Africa” can be very damaging to your business plan.

Although business in different African countries have similarities amongst themselves and with countries in the Middle East and Asia, each country is quite unique. To avoid any mistakes and wasting funds on failed investments, it is best to build your business on a solid foundation of credible market information.

Although questions may vary per industry and company but some of the main questions you want answers to are:

  • What is the total addressable market for your solution in the country?
  • What is your target customer base?
  • What is the competitive landscape and current install base for your target customers?
  • What is the current distribution landscape?
  • What are the regulatory barriers for your solutions?
  • What is the local unique value proposition of your product for your customer?
  • What are the key accounts to target? Who are the decision-makers?
  • What’s the best business route to provide your unique value proposition to your target customer base? Local office support or through partnerships?

These are just a few questions to ask. The answers from these questions will allow you to build a local strategy that’s customized for that market.

It also saves you time, allowing you to avoid mistakes that can put an end to your nascent business activities.

Gathering Market Insights

There are different ways to get this information. Here are the three main approaches:

  • Desktop research
  • Market surveys
  • Face-to-face interviews with industry experts

We’ve found that the highest level of quality information comes from the minds of industry experts and customers in the field. You can deploy a team member to gather this information or use a research firm that has access to these respondents in each country.

Once you have your list of questions and the type of respondents that you want to get the insights from, all that is left is the ground work to schedule interviews, conduct the interviews, aggregate the data, and garner the strategic insights from the information.

Building out local strategies and localizing your solutions per market is very important as you develop your business across African markets. 

It gives your team a plan and playbook to follow as you continue on the path to capture your short and long-term goals within your prioritized markets in Africa.

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