By Suzan Kibirige
Suzan Kibirige is the Growth and Campaigns Associate at the Anzisha Prize. She heads the selection process of finding the very young entrepreneurs to join the venture building program. She is the team’s digital marketing guru and can often be found deep within ads and ensuring we are constantly growing the movement. In the following article, Suzan shares her learnings and personal account of running her very first selection cycle in 2022. If you’re in the thick of any type of application/selection process, then this is for you. In her words…
Just reading the title gives me flashbacks of the blur that is Application Season 2022. This is not to say that this was a bad experience, but it was an incredibly fast-paced, new experience that I never saw coming.
In August 2021, I joined the Anzisha Prize team as the digital marketing associate and my job was to continue building and promoting the Anzisha Prize brand. What I didn’t anticipate was the response we received which means something went right.
My first challenge was application season. Application season happens once a year when we go in search of Africa’s talented and very young entrepreneurs. Competition is stiff as there are a limited number of spots available in the venture building fellowship, making effective campaign marketing and strategies a must.
So, what did I do differently and what did I learn? I met the entrepreneurs where they were and I spoke to them in their language. While young entrepreneurs are still an anomaly (which we are working hard to change) they are still young people and doing young people things.
The language change is two-fold. The first is that we advertised and created content in four different languages French, Arabic, Portuguese and English. What was super interesting about this adventure was that almost instantly – we received applications in the various languages and the regions in which these languages are primarily spoken – but more on this later.
The second was the tone – I took a real chance here and made the language surrounding promotion and advertising a little more colloquial than we’ve done in the past. I also adjusted our voice to be that of an individual than that of an organization.
Adjusting our language gave people the confidence to either query or apply because it was a little more relaxed. Intentional and clear – but relaxed. Not to mention when you know someone, a human, is on the other end of your comment or query, it gives you that extra boost and willingness to try.
Very Young Entrepreneur? Where for art thou Very Young Entrepreneur?
The next method tested and executed was creating and marketing to other territories and regions on the continent. Big marketing companies will often say market to the larger territories for the most traction, and while this is true, it means your ad spend needs to be astronomical to have the impact you seek, not to mention you’re now competing for space and eyeballs with other people who took that same advice.
I split our content and ads into the following languages: Portuguese, French, English, and Arabic – and then targeted African countries that have these as their first or second languages. I truly felt people connected more with us because we reached out in their language. There has always been this myth that if they don’t apply in English, it lessens their chances. I’m here to say that is fake news! We want all the qualified applicants, no matter the language they speak.
We believe it is imperative to purposefully seek out target-specific markets because, for whatever reason, they feel discouraged and don’t apply. This is why I further split our paid content into young women-only and for-everyone paid content. Directly targeting young women led to an overall increase in our applications and led to us receiving 593 qualified applications. While it is still less than our targeted 50%, it is definitely a step in the right direction.
From the moment these paid ads ran, our queries increased and so did our applications in the various languages this brought us a lot of joy because we are a proudly African organization, for African people – all 1.2billion of us.
What’s interesting is that, while we stopped paid marketing to the larger territories, we still received applications from them. The brand awareness is working folks!
Social Media Switch-up
Next, I moved our information sessions to the less formal/less traditional platforms. We host information sessions in order to provide potential applicants with answers and insight into the Anzisha Prize. In these sessions, current fellows or alumni join us and share their experiences of being in the venture building fellowship program and members of the Anzisha team provide insight into what we are looking for, what we expect and how to submit a strong application. There is no comparison between real life examples and experiences to get people motivated and excited to participate.
We tabled zoom and spent some time on Instagram and Facebook. This step to me was about accessibility and once again meeting people where they are at. More and more we use our phones to achieve everyday tasks and, on the continent, you are more likely to have online access through a phone than a laptop or computer. Not to mention network providers who sell lucrative social media bundles.
We hosted information sessions on Instagram and created other informative videos and content in the different languages that now lives on our key platforms. By taking this route our information had a longer shelf life and was easily accessible, not to mention affordable.
Now, I bet your asking, Suzie, how do you know it worked?
Well, the biggest tell was that we received 1501 qualified applications, our highest number of applications to date.
Our following and supporter base (especially on social media) grew continentally – the analytics said so (flips hair)…
Lastly, our DM’s (Direct Messages for all my Baby Boomers and Gen X’s out there) were literally on fire. We were receiving 100’s of queries per day per platform. Instagram, Facebook, Email, Whatsapp – the VYE’s were there and so were we.
And now you’re probably asking, Suzie, what’s next…
Well, I’m just going to hop, skip and jump down this yellow brick road and do my very best to make sure Africa’s Very Young Entrepreneurs’ stories are shared and their businesses are supported.