South Africa's recent census results came and went in a week of media fanfare, and have now been consigned to the national archive. But business people would do well to take a look at some of the data revealed by the exercise. Take, for example, the fact that 89% of South Africans have a cellphone.
“This is a really important statistic,” says Kevin Greig, Sales Manager at telephony specialist SS Telecoms. “It means that the bulk of our population is reachable via the mobile phone. If you have the right tools and the appropriate strategic thinking in place, your business can really take advantage of this.”
Local companies have become wary of direct marketing and customer communication thanks to the stipulations of the Consumer Protection Act. But the Act, according to Greig, should be viewed not as a barrier to communication, but rather as an asset that engenders a high-quality approach to business.
“The Act prevents spamming and unsolicited communication,” he says. “But this is a good thing, because annoying strangers is simply bad for business. Instead of thoughtless mass communication, companies should be looking to build a strong, database-centred core of communication with trusted partners, service providers and clients. The aim should be to grow this database in terms of numbers, and in terms of the quality of the interaction.”
A highly effective tool within this paradigm is bulk SMS. And, contrary to popular opinion, managing bulk SMS is actually easy and very cost-effective. A tool such as the SS-10 SMS Router from SS Telecoms allows the company to control communication with its database quickly and efficiently. Most importantly, the tool features in-built functionality that caters to the needs of new and old recipients.
“The opt out, for example, is essential to effective use of bulk SMS,” says Greig. “It empowers the recipients and the company, and ensures that the quality of the database is as high as possible at all times. New legislation is arriving in South Africa in 2013 that will enforce the opt-out requirement for SMS communication, so all companies using SMS as a communication tool will be legally obligated to have this ability. From a compliance perspective, the opt-out is very important.”
But Greig points out that a compliance mindset is ultimately counter-productive when it comes to electronic communication. His view is that the right combination of strategic thinking and technological innovation will allow business owners to take full advantage of the gold buried within the country's demographic data – and that this combination will automatically cover legislative requirements.
“Quality communication within a brand community, that should be the aim,” says Greig. “If the company uses the right tools to drive this approach, it can radically increase its marketing and communication return on investment. It'll also be able to tick all the legislative boxes. It's when the focus on quality disappears that technology becomes counter-productive.”