“Spread the Word” – How Businesses are Winning with Grassroots Marketing in Nigeria

“Spread the Word” – How Businesses are Winning with Grassroots Marketing in Nigeria

Recently, I escorted a friend of mine to a mechanic workshop – one of the largest in town. When we arrived, I noticed a small crowd gathered somewhere at a very conspicuous spot. Some car owners and a few mechanics were there, and there was an umbrella in the middle.

I noticed a guy doing some serious explanations to the crowd. So, as a curious individual, I moved closer. I needed to see what’s going on.

It was a lotto game spot. And the guy was explaining how the numbers he has “forecasted” are winning numbers, and started convincing people to play. In fact, he advises that if you needed a better return, you need to play with N100 and above. People were playing.

It was fun. Though I didn’t understand a thing about lotto games, I asked the guy if he was the owner of the stand, and he said yes. So, I brought out N100 and played the game he was preaching about. I knew I wouldn’t go back there again but I played anyway. I played because I understood what the owner was doing business-wise.

A few minutes later, I was chatting privately with the young man. And he explained to me that he needed to “boost” that spot which is fairly new. He said he had to convince those mechanics that they can win and the moment anyone wins, that spot will continuously “vomit” money for him. I asked him how, and he said I shouldn’t worry that the mechanics will “spread the word about that stand”.

The guy was implementing what we call grassroots marketing. Perception drives actions and results. From my perspective (forget what the textbook says), grassroots marketing is when you target those at the grassroots level. Just like grassroots politics.

Who are those at these levels? Those market women, mechanics, Okada drivers, etc. These set of businesspeople or services-oriented people makes up a large chunk of the 37+ million MSMEs in Nigeria and if your business does not have a strategy to target them, you are losing out.

See why…

  • The sports betting industry in Nigeria came into the limelight a few years ago, and players in this sector have understood the importance of grassroots marketing. Forget the top shots who can afford anything. Market your product to those who struggle to make N1,000 daily. The sports betting and gaming industry is now a N4 billion a day industry in Nigeria. They make use of extensive agent networks that sell to the common man.
  • In my state, if you can convince just 5 Okada men or Keke drivers that your product is good, in one week, you will have more than 300 people buying your product. They are the masters of word-of-mouth advertising.
  • MSMEs contributed N38 trillion to the national GDP in 2015. The federal government does not joke with them. If you want to boost your revenue, create a grassroots marketing strategy.
  • Companies in the sports betting industry can survive for the next year without spending a dime on ads, and they’ll still make billions. Why? Their market segment does not need paid ads. They just need agents located in the streets where Okada drivers or mechanics can easily locate them.

 John E. Lincoln, the CEO of Ignite Visibility, observed this.

Remember Occupy Wall Street? The 2011 movement eventually involved millions of people attempting to cleanse the dirty practices of Wall Street.

But it all started with just a few – a spontaneous group of people who were fed up with the process. That was a grassroots movement.

Grassroots marketing follows the same principal. Using grassroots campaigns, marketers work to purposefully target a niche group of people in hopes that they will spread, or propagate, their campaign message organically.

“The focus of the campaigns is on intent and audience. Your audience = the niche group, your intent = motivation to spread the word.

A man sets up a chain of restaurants around town, and his company’s revenue now exceeds N200 million annually after expenses not because his services are the best, but he implemented grassroots marketing. He used an interactive marketing strategy driven by Okada riders. “Bring up to 4 people to come and eat here, and you’ll get a free meal.” The strategy worked. In a few months, he started opening new branches.

Grassroots or guerrilla marketing starts from the bottom and works its way up. It is the art of advertising using word-of-mouth, and its effectiveness starts the moment you bring in those market women, okada or keke riders, mechanics, etc on board. It is cost-effective and can make your products or services go viral.

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5 thoughts on ““Spread the Word” – How Businesses are Winning with Grassroots Marketing in Nigeria

  1. Some knowledge of social science may be useful here, marketing is both art and science. You first need to understand what motivates people to take action, and when spending money is involved, the dynamics changes a bit.

    Those whose businesses and target markets are ‘elitist’ in nature will need to employ a different kind of grassroot marketing, in order to get a look in.

    The digital platform business model is fundamentally premised on grassroot marketing, christened as ‘network effects’. That’s what platform operators chase first, subsequently you can talk about revenue.

    Nice piece.


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