“A product cannot sell itself if people don’t know about it.” LiepolloTsekoa, Head of Marketing at Alliance Insurance will be the first to tell you that the heart of any business lies in marketing. The essence of marketing is a means of communication between a company and its consumer audience. For a company to grow, it must build strong customer relationships. Successful marketing ensures a successful business, but how do you persuade people to part with their money and put their faith in nothing but a promise? Liepollo offers some insight about the value of marketing and the impact it can have on our business environment in Lesotho.
Liepollo had not initially intended to get into marketing. She came to fall in love with it through exposure with various roles while working with different companies. WesBank in particular, provided her with an all-encompassing and extensive experience as she oversaw multiple aspects of the business. Through this involvement sales and marketing was the aspect she fell in love with and when the opportunity arose at Alliance to focus on that she was greatly keen to pursue it. September will celebrate her fourth year with Alliance.
In regards to the proverbial ‘gift of the gab’ which is typically attributed to people in marketing, Liepollo says: “I’ve never met a marketer who doesn’t have that, and if they don’t maybe they are not cutting it.” She prides herself on the ability to sell an idea.
“You cannot make it in marketing if you can’t convince… if you don’t understand how people think and are able to work on their psychology… for their benefit of course, not to exploit it,” she says.
Liepollo says without a doubt that these are the qualities that she would be looking for in younger people who are looking to get into the industry.
She believes that marketing in Lesotho has great potential but just as with any other place, it is usually regarded as an expense rather than an asset to the company, because in order to put the company name out there as a brand you need to spend money. “In the case of living in Lesotho where you may not have access to certain metrics where you can properly measure your Return on Investment (ROI), it becomes very difficult to justify marketing spending and almost everything we do is a thumb suck.”
She says that although you [Lesotho] can employ certain tactics, you don’t really have the accuracy in which those systems would provide. In these circumstances other stakeholders such as finance departments or board members may question how they can justify a hypothetical budget request of say M2 000 000, because with marketing you do not get an immediate return and it takes time for people to appreciate what is being said. It takes time to build that brand loyalty to the organisation itself or to a particular effect, and the ripple effects take time to come in and even then the success could be maintained or short-lived.
With all this, Liepollo recognises the true value of marketing and believes that locally marketing is truly appreciated saying:
“At the end of the day when you get feedback with the financials or see that a product is performing phenomenally and the sales are coming through, if you’re honest enough you know it has to do with the marketing tactics that are being employed.”
“Marketing is actually like insurance… you’re selling a promise when you say ‘give me your money and I will make it happen.’” In this sense she alludes that there is indeed that appreciation and understanding but it is human nature to not want to part with money when you can’t see something tangible immediately.
When it comes to overcoming this hurdle, Liepollo says this is where cognising peoples psyche comes in. There is a critical need for appreciating what people’s inherent need is and honing in on that when dealing with internal or external stakeholders. Education is ‘key’ in this sense about teaching people the benefits of what you are saying to them and in turn it becomes easier for people to then want to buy what you are selling them. She also adds that local knowledge is also important, being able to understand the people and what makes them tick, being part of the community and understanding their concerns from grassroots level, so that you don’t end up trying to impose what may be a foreign ideal in the Lesotho market.
In regards to marketing to different genders Liepollo says times have changed. At WesBank she was dealing with a primarily male clientele as compared to now where women are more empowered and own many of their own assets. “For the longest time we were disadvantaged as women and could not afford to stand on our own and afford certain things.”
“We’ve had the law not being on our side as well, having to get consent from our partners (if you are married) to acquire assets,” she says. Therefore, in that space she was dealing with men and had to understand ‘what makes men tick.’ All in all it is important that you understand the different sectors that you are selling to.
Her advice on where marketing can take corporates is that marketing tells a story; it is not just about the hype of being able to sell ‘this or that’. Businesses need to understand that marketing communicates firstly: ‘why you are doing business in their community’, ‘how it is going to impact them’ and ‘what is in it for them in the long term’. Aside from profit making there should also be a positive impact from the corporate to the people they are selling to, for example, creating jobs.
She continues that in these days it is all about how quickly people have information to what you are doing. In this technological era savvy people want information here and now and it is very important for us to embrace that wherever you are.
Regarding the prominence of digital marketing globally and where Lesotho stands, Liepollo believes that we are getting there. “In terms of corporates there are some that are still conservative and perhaps concerned that there is no full control over what happens on certain platforms and their interaction,” she says. She iterates that some people would like to be in control of their conversations and not be boggled with comments and the likes. However she sees it gradually shifting and positively so. Organisations are now open to having Facebook pages and there is a realisation that mobile devices are the way to go. She says: “We bank with it and if I have a banking app and have the convenience of self-service, why would you think that other platforms that are accessible instantly like social media are not effective or that we cannot take advantage of them to push our message?”
“Mobile networks make it affordable for people to own smart phones or cheaper phones that have internet usage capability.Even my seven-year-old surfs the net.”
The tips she shares for local start-up companies to maximise their marketing are:
• Start small. Utilise social media as an affordable marketing platform.
• Minimize advertising and development costs by narrowing the focus of your site to appeal to a specific type of customer. Reaching a smaller group of customers with a perfectly tailored approach will yield a better ROI than burning the capital to capture a more diverse market. You can always leverage the success a narrowly targeted product line to launch into a new niche.
• You will still need traditional platforms but ensure you balance the needs of your business by allocating just enough for your above the line marketing budget and not making other aspects of your business suffer.
• Get a mentor. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice or guidance from more experienced corporates.
At the end of the day corporates and organisations should be able to understand the value of marketing not as a liability but a crucial asset and Liepollo is the maharishi that one can count on to truly recognise this statement.