Emma Macharia, CEO, EM Consulting
Emma Macharia is a communications consultant at EM Consulting, a communications firm based in Nairobi, Kenya. EM Consulting is dedicated to helping start-ups and SME’s grow and scale by effecting impact based marketing and communication strategies and tactics.Passionate about life, people, and business, Emma loves insightful conversations and turning ideas into successful business stories. Emma shared with SLA her thoughts on the Kenyan start-up ecosystem and her tips on effective marketing for start-ups.
What are your thoughts on the Kenyan start-up ecosystem? How does your company fit into it?
Kenya’s startup ecosystem, in my opinion, is at maturity level. By this, I mean that we are slowing moving from the hype of entrepreneurship and now starting to look at the sustainability of businesses. We are evolving from collaborations into partnerships and similarly from churning just new products and services to products and services that are customer focused and scalable.
EM Consulting fits into this system simply because it exists for one agenda only which is to help such businesses scale through effective communication with all their stakeholders; suppliers, customers, shareholders and so on. We help your business speak one language to get everyone growing and moving in the same direction.
How easy (or difficult) was it for you to step up EM Consulting in Kenya? How did you overcome any challenges?
Setting up EM Consulting in Kenya was not too difficult because of continuously improved business facilities and regulations that make the process of setting up a business more flexible. Similarly, the relevant government institutions have begun opening up to entrepreneurs and taking a more active role in the entrepreneurship space in Kenya.
However, building a communications firm in Kenya was quite a challenge due to the cut-throat nature of the industry. For this, I ensured I built my business on values that would withstand the industry such as innovation. Also, I ensured to surround myself with people of different skills sets and expertise to help me create a solid and well-planned business. Some of these experts include financial experts, tax consultants, brand strategists and technology experts.
What do startups get wrong when it comes to marketing?
When it comes to marketing within a startup, it is very easy to initially place the customer in the back seat of the business. Between figuring out your financials, to perfecting the product and pleasing investors; customers tend to take a back seat in the scheme of things. This is where I feel startups get it wrong. If startups and founders mastered two key things then their solutions would be irrefutable. These are; the problem around the solution they are working on and the value proposition of their solution to their customer.
If there is one thing I would advise all startups to have on the back of their hand it is their customer; to do this, collect insights, and invest in data and analytics from the beginning.
How can start-ups leverage their brand to achieve business goals?
Your brand is your credibility, so to this, I say build a brand that attracts your customer to your business. Communicate correctly and efficiently; figure out the one message you want your customers and stakeholders to pick from you and communicate it efficiently. Also, invest in a marketing plan to reap well from your brand.
How do you hope to inspire current and future entrepreneurs? How can they get it right?
Through the training service of EM Consulting, I speak to and train businesses and entrepreneurs on the value and leverage of the customer in building a business. Through these training sessions, I am able to share insights and trends about different kinds of consumers and audiences in different industries hoping to spark new ideas and innovations amongst entrepreneurs.
How to get it right? Learn from and listen to your customer. There are a lot of benefits to focusing your business on the ‘consumer;’ it helps with forecasting the numbers, it helps you anticipate future trends and therefore innovate accordingly, it helps you build a business beyond yourself.
What’s your major challenge as a startup that caters to other startups?
My major challenge as a startup working with startups and growing businesses would have to be money and buy in. I have learnt that the reason a lot of businesses are failing at communications and marketing is because they do not budget for it like any other business function.
Secondly, a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners overlook the role of effective communication on their bottom line. This is why I decide to include training and business consulting in my range of services to listen to my clients immediate and long-term business needs, and show them how effective communications will help them get there.
What communication trends have you noticed as more impactful for African businesses?
I personally think Africans are by nature early adopters of technology among other solutions and that is why platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Uber, and even LinkedIn thrive in our markets. However, in the last few months is when I’ve seen African businesses applying these technologies to their context and markets.
A great example is how service industries use WhatsApp or Telegram to build niche communities with their customers and share more personalized content or using Facebook communities to educate customers and build customer lists. Other communication trends include getting in touch with Generation Z consumers who are more focused on purpose and changing the world forcing businesses to relook their social impact as well as sharing more authentic communication to reach them.