It is a widely accepted fact that no economy can survive without a flourishing Small and Medium-size Enterprise, or a Micro, Small and Medium-size Enterprise sector. This is because it is impossible for the government to employ everyone, and one of the best ways to solve the myriad of unemployment problems is to empower individuals to become employers themselves.
For many decades, several administrations in Nigeria have come up with plans and programmes aimed at growing the sector, but the issue of programme sustainability has stumped the growth of the sector. This has necessitated some corporate organisations to set up one SME forum or the other to assist the growth of the sector and offer some form of stability. This move, while strategic, is dependent on the availability of funding from the supporting company, and how well the said company’s business is faring in the marketplace.
According to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in 2018, Nigeria’s over 37.07 million MSMEs account for more than 84 per cent of jobs in the country.
The onus then falls on the small businesses themselves to tough things out and survive as business orphans with no support from either the government or the private sector. SMEs and MSMEs in Nigeria today provide services for their businesses, which ideally they should not, than their counterparts in developed climes.
Among the number of alarming expenditure incurred by these small businesses, power stands out as their leading bane in Nigeria, and indeed most parts of Africa. SMEs purchase generators and other power generating mechanisms at exorbitant prices and constantly fuel it because the public power supply is not dependable for a growing business.
Multiple taxations is another headache that threatens the continued operations of many SMEs. Start-ups in Nigeria are, daily, bombarded with bills from federal, state, and local government agencies; sometimes almost simultaneously with sanctions and place of business locked up for the delay in payment. Touts too cash in on the onslaught of these start-ups.
Start-ups that are into products or services that involve movement also experience a problem with the transportation of goods and service from one part of the state or country to other parts. Many internal roads are not motorable, and those that are, extort a high price from vehicles due to the poor state of the road. This leads to added cost for repairs and replacement of damaged vehicles and goods coupled with the extortions by ill-entitled touts and some corrupt uniformed personnel.
In the end, these extra costs and services add up as extra to the SMEs’ delivery, meaning that SMEs cannot sustain a competitive enough price to elicit sales and sustain the business at a break-even pricing policy. This stunts the growth of that business as it is focused more on surviving than thriving and competing favourably in the marketplace, thereby lending credence to the estimation that over 90 per cent of SMEs liquidate almost as fast as they set up business.
Some SMEs that manage to survive these issues die off because even though there is a market for their products and services, they cannot reach the market because they can’t afford the cost of advertising. To demand a product, you need to know it exists.
To advertise products in a newspaper cost averagely N200,000 for a quarter-page advert. If the start-ups aim to achieve ten major newspapers that would cost about N2m to promote the brand or its products in one advert campaign in the papers only.
With the addition of television, radio, digital media (online and social media), there is no way a regular start-up can afford these expenses without going bankrupt. The rising apathy towards adverts, which has seen readers and consumers continue to flip advert pages and tune their TV and radio stations to other stations when an advert comes on air, is not going to help SMEs out of their predicament.
Public Relations offers start-ups a better option to create awareness and expand brand visibility at an almost insignificant cost; with the 80 per cent probability that the content will be accessed and digested by most people who pick up the newspaper, watch the TV, listen to radio, and visit social media.
PR will also succeed in promoting small businesses where advert fails for these listed reasons –
*PR is more cost effective. The N200,000 to N250,000 for a quarter-page in just one newspaper advert can be used to achieve better mileage in 10 newspapers and online platforms when PR is deployed.
*PR is more efficient: unlike adverts, target readers don’t avoid PR content, rather they seek it because they can’t distinguish between news content and a PR content.
*Advert allows people to form opinions about the product/brand, while PR influences target readers to have a positive opinion towards the product.
*PR builds the reputation of the start-up, which will come handy in the future when the brand needs to rely on past good deeds. PR contents also serve as a reference point for potential customers to make research about the business.
*PR is more detailed and not a hurried product. Most viewers or readers miss the message of an advert because the copy was designed with the limitation of the timeline. When the reader doesn’t follow the message fast enough, then that potential lead has been lost.
*PR is entertaining and engaging: through the use of storytelling, PR is able to keep target customers captive as they enjoy reading the content about the brand or its products.
*Advert emphasises push promotion with conditional languages such as, “buy now while offer lasts,” with a disclaimer at the end which sometimes makes potential customers push back. But PR places emphasis on pull promotion by focusing on entertaining, informing and educating customers, leading them to seek the content voluntarily. Advert messages instruct potential customers to buy, but PR offers reasons why they should buy.
*PR provides the business other incentives that other promotions can’t such as interviews for the company’s chief executive officer, features, profile, and backgrounders.
*Aside these, PR offers advisory services to the business, which could save the brand from crisis situations.
Start-ups need business or brand visibility that can help position them in the comity of companies and package them as a larger than life brand even though they are start-ups. In business, perception is everything and if potential customers are not persuaded or subtly convinced to patronise a business, that customer might be lost for good.
Building favourable perception about business makes sale-goals easier to achieve. Customers tend to patronise familiar brands better than unknown brands, and when a narrative is used to promote the brand it makes recall-ability easier.