Like most developing countries which are not developing nearly fast enough to accommodate enough of their citizens’ ambitions, Zimbabwe has millions of her citizens living abroad. Manpower is the only Zimbabwean export that has not only survived our tumultuous economy but has a tendency to grow bigger with each downturn. A more depressing term for this phenomenon is ‘brain-drain’ but let us not digress from the main subject of our discussion.
The ex-pat market has so far only been effectively exploited by money transfer and courier agencies, both those operating formally and informally (sometimes illegally). It is unfortunate that local companies are yet to fully harness the ex-pat market with international competitors (and their franchisees) dominating them at every turn.
As the incomes of most Zimbabweans continue to shrink, it is important that local businesses increasingly target our people living abroad most of whom have far healthier incomes than their counterparts back home. Let us explore how businesses can market to these individuals.
Rent billboards along airport roads
The most affluent (by local standards) of Zimbabweans living abroad use air travel. Businesses can, therefore, rent billboards along roads leading to and from airports. You can either build brand awareness using this method or use it to introduce new products and services.
Rent billboards close to borders
Placing billboards with your marketing message either close to border posts or the high traffic roads leading to them can earn you very significant returns. Some of the country’s borders like Beitbridge have such high traffic that a billboard placed there is one of the absolute best ideas this article can recommend.
Partner up with cross-border bus operators
There are several bus services which cross the country’s borders on a daily basis. A large portion of their passengers are Zimbabweans living and working abroad who have come to visit (as opposed to Zimbabweans going on foreign shopping sprees). You can partner with these bus companies so that they allow you to place posters or distribute flyers inside their ticketing offices.
You can also advertise inside the buses themselves either by using promotional stickers or adding your video ads to the onboard entertainment system’s lineup. It may also be possible to add your advertising or branding onto these companies’ tickets. Of course, all this requires a certain level of tact from you. The bus companies you approach must feel like they are getting something in return.
Place your ads near money collection agencies
Nowadays remittance money collection agencies are scattered all over most major towns and cities. The good thing is that they are also (legal) methods of advertising nowadays that give you more flexibility in the placement of your physical ads. These include branded rubbish bins and various other mobile setups that your favourite branding or advertising agency can apprise you about. In such situations, you will be targeting the dependants of these diasporans (i.e the people who collect money from these places) in the hope that you pique their interest enough that they relay your offer to the money senders.
Advertise on Facebook
Facebook is the world’s biggest social media website and is also one of the best places to advertise on. Facebook has massive amounts of information on its users, a fact which has gotten the company in trouble several times in recent years. This information allows businesses to pay for advertisement which can be made very effective by targeting people using a set of certain criteria.
You can choose which countries to target (e.g SA, UK, US) and then zero in on Zimbabweans using certain interests that are more likely to be their identifiers. I am not encouraging you to stereotype, because stereotypes are almost always highly inaccurate relics of a bygone era, instead, find someone more familiar with the communities you are trying to target if you are lost. Let us save a more detailed discussion on how to use Facebook for advertising for another day.
Advertise on Google
Like Facebook, Google has large amounts of information on its users. For Google, this roughly translates to anyone who has ever used the internet. Google offers several options for advertising. The first of these is called Search advertising where you ‘promote’ the link to your own website. Basically this is paying for your site to appear above other search results. The second allows you to advertise across the thousands of websites that have signed up for the Google AdSense program. Both of these methods offer targeting options which you can use to pick out Zimbabweans who are outside the country.
With search advertising, you can ride on what you think are interests of Zimbabweans by buying certain search terms. Like the Facebook example above, you identify a Zimbabwean expatriate by their lying at the intersection of people living outside Zimbabwe and those with a certain level of interest in the country’s affairs. Zimbabweans both inside and outside the country are very much interested in local politics; this means you can buy search terms associated with Zim politics (you know them) which are coming from outside the country and advertise to them. The only potential downside to this is that Google may actually waste your advertising money on someone in Harare who is using a VPN.
You can also do something similar with Google AdSense. AdSense has the added advantage of allowing you to control which sites your ads are shown in. You can point it at the several popular local newspaper sites and blogs.
I am sure several other strategies than those listed here also exist. Those entrepreneurs with more cavalier attitudes can even buy uncontested search terms such as the names of remittance companies in order to ‘borrow’ the attention of their clientele.