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The Digital Marketing Industry Challenges in Nigeria

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

This is an interview with Marketing Professional, Tomi Ajiboye.




Digital Media
Image Credit: Wix

Simon

You know, I've known you for a while now. I'm impressed with what you've been able to achieve for the little while I've known you. So talk, talk more of what you've done so far in your career.



I think you've done well for yourself. So tell us about yourself as a background story of yourself.



Tomi

I won't bore you with all the details. But yes, I am a graduate of Geology and Mineral Sciences. I didn't practice that profession at all. As soon as I was done with my university degree, I found myself in branding, communications, sales, and marketing.



And my first experience of branding was when I recently finished my youth service, and I met a few friends who were into branding and still do it the way excited passionate people. And although they're just friends wasn't like I was working with them.


I liked the passion. We're talking about branding and the little clicks on something that was interesting, you know, and that was when I said, just pay a little bit of more attention to what that was about. Before then I used to be interested in business, not the buying and selling kind of business that was exposed to while growing up actually building a business or a company.


I've always been interested in that. And I've always seen myself as somebody that would be involved in building a corporate organization in the future. So when I started talking to friends, we're talking about branding from the corporate point of view. And that piqued my interest. And that was how I started, I got my first job as a salesperson, I must say, I hated it because this was my first time trying it, it was terrible.


I did not enjoy it one bit, it was a computer sales company. And at the time, this was 2009. And it was a computer sales, you know, job. And I had to go out, hit the streets to get people to buy computers. It was terrible, right?


Yes, yes. So I realized that early on that sales was not my thing, but I wanted to understand the strategy behind getting products to the customer. That was important to me, how do you get the customer to actually buy a product.


And I realized later on that was actually what marketing was about, there was a lot of thinking a lot of strategic thinking behind getting the product from the manufacturer down to the end-user. And that was how I started my interest in marketing. And then of course, after that job in sales, I got another job as a marketing analyst in a company in Lagos.


And before I knew it, I was getting more interested in marketing, I was understanding some bits and pieces of marketing. And then I got my third job in 2010, where I stayed for about 10 years. And my first job at the time was called an e-zone executive, which was somewhat of a sales job, but it was not customer-facing it was not a street kind.





But it was more like sitting behind your computer, use the internet, use social media, use all the tools that the internet provides all the tactics that the internet provides that to get people to buy the service. And that was how I started, I was using social media I was using online, I didn't it wasn't even called Digital Marketing that much at the time. It was mostly, in fact, my role, like I said, was an e-zone executive. And that was how I started. And then in 2011, I stumbled on this course, by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in the UK.


And the cost was affordable and they were just launching into Africa at the time and it was a diploma in digital marketing. And I just decided I was going to take that course. I think I was one of the first few people to, in Nigeria and I think in Africa at the time,


I enjoyed it, there were different areas of the program was really good. And that opened my eyes to the possibilities of what digital marketing can do. And then, of course, that was the first time I will actually say that I became a marketing person because that was the first time I was doing something marketing-related, although he was mainly focused on digital marketing. And yeah, so that was how it started and all those years I rose through the ranks in the organization. So I became the head of the business



On the internet company, I was also instrumental to the founding and the running of the agency's sister company, Simon Page College of marketing. I was instrumental in getting that business off the ground. This is First Floor digital. And I was part of the people that helped to get things started. And it was a very good experience for me an opportunity for me to actually practice digital marketing on a larger scale, you know before I was doing it for a service organization, but this time around, it was an opportunity to practice this on a larger scale, working with different brands, different industries, from FMCG, to banking, to insurance, and, even hospitality, and tourism.



And it was really good. It was an opportunity for me to learn more outside of what I was used to at the time. And from then, I mean, that's basically what my background summary is, I spent 10 years because it's a sister company to my company that was working with at the time.


So I was I got to the point where I was now responsible for both organizations both the first company I was working with, which is Simon Page College of marketing. And then I was also responsible for the agency i.e. Third Floor digital. And then I spent 10 years there. And then in 2020 last year, I moved from there to the company where I'm working currently.






Simon


I said well done on your career growth, that's fantastic. So in all these years of your career, which career mistake has given you the biggest lesson. If you had such a mistake.


Tomi

Career mistake, it would be that I got at some point, I think I got comfortable.



So there was a time in my life or in my career that I was working really hard, and was really lots of things happening at the same time. I was busy. And you know, but I think there was a time when I got used to it, I rose through the ranks. And it just felt, you know, everything became second nature to me. And although I tried to find other things to get me going to bring some more challenge, I think that I stayed on at that spot for too long, longer than I should have.



I should have found other things to do, I should have considered other opportunities outside of where I was. I realized that in that space of 10 years, I stayed in the same place, although it wasn't like I was not moving. But I was reaching for opportunities that were immediate that were you know, around me, I was creating opportunities that were around me, without a need to actually move outside of my comfort zone.


It was a mistake looking back now. Yes, I was I wasn't moving. I was stretching. Yes. I mean, I wanted those things, the things that I was able to do. It can easily they didn't. But I wasn't I was stretching, not moving. So for example, I was in the same company. And then I started working with the agency. So I'm still like I didn't just move away from the company, I was still in the same place. But I was stretching. And then eventually I was in some company that is a lecturer in marketing, and he was in the same company. But I was stretching to do something else.



So I think I think that that was a mistake I made because at that time, my career where I just launched, my career was started, I just started. And it was I mean, if you look at the spectrum of one's career, I would say that I was in my early, mid-career days. And I think that's the best time to move. That's the best time to try your hands on several things. That's the best time to move out and reach out to different industries sectors until you find what sticks if you know what I mean. So I think that mistake I made and looking back I wish I'd done it differently. Yeah.


Simon


You know, sometimes when you come across people who tell you they've spent 20 years in a particular company. Sometimes it makes you wonder, is it that great. I think after a while


People tend to get scared of going out somewhere else and trying out new things, you get too comfortable and everything around them is so easy. They just decide to stay there, and before you know it, 20 years is gone.


Well, it is a good thing you've moved on, at last, you learned a lot of things in that place. And like you said, it was a launchpad for your career.


So like you said earlier on, how do you avoid being complacent in your career? Like you said that you got to find yourself, you're not just in the same space, even if you were while you were growing in the company.


Tomi


Okay, so this was, at the early stage, like I said, this is the feeling of not moving didn't happen. All throughout my stay in that company. There were times when, for example, when I started in 2010, I had practically little or no experience. in marketing, I didn't know much about marketing, I didn't know much about leading any business. But I started in 2010, with this company, and I became somebody responsible for managing over 20 people.



And then I was also responsible for providing oversight for companies say, for the company. So they do for workers in the company, outside Nigeria, because the business had operations in has operations in Ghana and Kenya. So I have also had the experience of learning to manage people across borders. So I would say that it was at the beginning, I mean, the first six or seven years of my stay in our company, I will, they will lot of things that I was doing. And for me to have been able to be to become what I became the required me to learn. So in 2012, when I first became the manager,



I remember that was my first time in a managerial role. And I had no experience whatsoever. I don't have any training with management. And I knew that I needed to do something about that. I had done some training in digital marketing and marketing, I have some idea about what marketing was about. But this time around is required me managing people. And that's something that I didn't know much about. So what I did was I decided to go for management and leadership training in my church at the time.


I paid for myself because I understood that skill was lacking for me. And I needed to build that skill. But I realized that it was something I needed to do for myself, you know, I wanted to do better at it. And then of course, as the years went by, I trained myself on a lot of things, I read a lot of books, listen to lots of podcasts, in order not to remain complacent, like you were asking, I also tried to keep my hand on the pulse of what is going on in the industry, to see what my counterparts outside of my company are doing, what are they doing? What is happening? What is trending? What is the new tool that is being used? What is the new concept that is being, you know, developed?


How is it helping, how is the landscape changing? Because I realized I needed to remain relevant, for me was my focus. Wherever I found myself, I don't want to remain at the same stage. So that kept me on my toes. And I also surrounded myself with people who were also

very eager to learn.


Of course, you want to get people together who you want people to be able to know stuff and do stuff. But at the same time, you don't want to remain irrelevant. And I was also lucky enough to have a boss who also you know, give me free rein did not treat me badly whatsoever.


That wasn't the case with my boss and his company. He did not in any way restrict my movement.


He encouraged me but there was a day he said to me that he has to learn more so that he can be a step ahead of you because he knows that I'm always chasing him.



I found in him a mentor. And that helped me because I realized I was going for what is pushing his own career boundaries, I'm also chasing after that, not because our dreams are the same, but because I found someone that I can look up to. he was more like a mentor than really a boss. So that helped me a lot. . So yeah, I think to keep in mind knowing what my counterparts are doing, working with, surround myself with people who are also eager to learn and eager to push your career forward.



And also being supported by a mentor and a boss that, you know, encouraged me to do more. And that helped me to push forward.


My current place of work, my boss here is good, you know, but there's a very big difference, knowing that there's someone who would support you who would do everything to make sure that you learn, especially after your, you know, it didn't just happen overnight, I had some time, I spent some time to demonstrate to him that I am willing to learn.


And I'm willing to go over and beyond the call of duty, that I'm willing that I want to do better, I want to be better. And I think you know, like, you know, I'm from this western part of Nigeria. And there's this adage, they just say that a child who wants to be carried has to raise his arms.


You know, and that's exactly what I demonstrated that I was ready to learn. And I was eager to learn. And I was, you know, willing to make sacrifices to learn. And that's helped me and so that attitude or helped me to, you know, find favor with my boss. And he was always there and always ready to help me. So that alone, I think is a very significant boost for me in my career so far.


Simon

That's great. I mean, of course, secondly, surround yourself with smart people, if possible, smarter people than yourself so that you can learn from them and grow as well. Because it's always important if you are if you're always the smartest person in the room.


It's not always good. It's good to learn from people as well as not just the ones that I've seen, I've learned in my career is once you start getting a bit too comfortable, you also know that it's a sign that you need to move.


It now depends on you whether to answer that call to move or just remain there. . So good. That sounds like we're moving along fine. Yes. So now, what is the biggest risk you've ever taken? Okay.


Tomi

I would say right now, the biggest risk that I've taken is to move from my previous place of work to where I am now, like I said before, I was comfortable.


there's a sense of job security where I was. It was more than an employee-employer relationship with, you know, the founder of the business and all of that, you know, there's a level of security you get, just being in that place. Yeah, and I was leaving that completely for the unknown.


That's number one, I was also moving from a role that involves marketing, business management to strategic thinking or strategy development to even some level of HR management, or Capital Management, I was moving from, you know, doing a lot of everything to going into a boat that is solely focused on marketing.


I also practice marketing on the agency leg, as well as on the business like that of the, you know, the Simon Page College of marketing. So I was managing people who were doing it. And I was also managing people doing other things. So my role was very strategic, my role was very broad, if you, you know, kind of like a CEO kind of, but this time around, I was now moving into a role that is solely focused on marketing, I wanted to be excited about the idea because I've always been looking forward to, doing something really focused in every way.


In the hierarchy or the organizational chart or the company hierarchy, I was moving into a lower role, if you understand being the head or the director or country director of two businesses, to one company, where I am just the head of marketing.


That was really scary. I must be honest, it still remains one of the scariest and the riskiest moves I have made in my career. It could have gone really badly.


All right, so yeah, but I, I just realized that I needed to do something to move away from my comfort zone, I needed to do something, something drastic, something different. And I told myself that, if I don't do it, then I won't know. So far, it's been well worth it.



Okay, of course, I expected that he was going to be, but it was Rocky. And of course, for me, I made up my mind, I wasn't going to give up.


I could have given up and gone back to my previous company. I mean, I would've been welcome with open arms, you know, but I made up my mind that I was going to stick through, I was going to do whatever it is I needed to do, you know, I saw this as an opportunity to grow and the first few months was tough for me. But natural. I mean, in the last couple of months, it's been better, things are kind of like stabilised a little bit. There's still a lot to learn because I moved into a completely different industry.


So it's a different industry, different roles, different levels in the company, it's everything was just different. And I made up my mind that I was going to do what am I took for me to do to to to own that role and make some difference and make some impacts. And that's what I'm doing right now and things have gotten better than it was before. I'm not there yet. I'm not completely out of the woods.


Simon

It is always the case whenever you move to a new place you need to build that reputation, make that impact again.


I'm sure where you are right now you've learned a lot of things, that you will not have if you had remained at your previous place of work.


So now we know that yes, Lagos where you are is the tech headquarters of Nigeria


But the good thing is that tech is now remote so wherever you are, you can be doing a tech job in Lagos and be in Zamfara. In your career so far what would you say is the biggest challenge for the digital marketing industry in Nigeria.





Tomi

I am biassed to strategy development digital strategy requires you to know a lot about know in a little bit about every aspect of digital marketing because you need to know enough to be able to develop a strategy to include those areas in your strategy.


Because you need to know about them. You need to know what they can do. You need to know how they feel, how those pieces fit together, what they can do for your objectives. So yeah, the main focus on my main expertise is strategy, development. Okay, so now back to the question. What would you say is the biggest challenge for this digital marketing industry?


One of the top challenges has to be data.



I think that in Nigeria, the data is not just there.



We don't have the culture of keeping or mining data. Because data has a way of helping us to be exactly what we should be doing. And some of them are not exactly cheap, especially, you know, because it looks like this magazine is free you can you are the on the internet for free hoping that's what digital marketing is about.


So when it comes down to it, the time you spend on on certain channels, the development of you know, content for those channels, promoting those content, all of these things don't exactly come cheap. So it is, this is this thing where we do trial and error, all of that can be eliminated, if we have data that we can analyze, and data that we can use, okay, based on data. So it takes time to police data number one because even if you are aware of the need to use data, and you are using it, take some time, you'll have to, you can't just start a new role.


And most of the time, I mean, right now, one of my biggest challenges is getting data that I can use to benchmark on different you know, campaigns and use that to measure return on investment, whether the company is working or not, most of the time, most of the data that you will find, usually for foreign data, they tell you no, this is outside of Nigeria. And the problem with that is that


the people the way the internet is there for everybody to use, but the way and manner we use the internet differs based on socio-cultural differences and different countries different area. So the issue of being having data available is a major, major problem. That's number one.


Number two is understanding. So I think that it is a marketing skill, is we don't have enough digital marketing skills.



And I think that we have gotten to the point where most of the time digital marketing people report to a marketing manager


most of the time, right, and we are in a situation where the marketing manager probably does not understand the use of digital marketing that much. And so when ideas are being pitched, you know, the understanding is different, there is an uphill task of having to convince your manager about the best way to approach someone, even if you know it. And then there's also the CD special where you have people who do have such a social media account, they don't need to be there but they are quite vocal on LinkedIn and on Twitter, and they position themselves as a digital marketing expert.



And you have people who have a certain number of following on Instagram or Twitter. And you consider yourself to be a digital marketing expert just because of that. And that is not what it is. Because that's just you being an influencer. That's the difference. So even a micro-influencer at that, I think that's one of the challenges that we are having that the the the skill sets, understanding digital marketing skills there, there's a lot of back there.


And we need to fill that gap with people who take courses who take some training, and a lot of trainings online now about digital marketing. So understanding that and learning more about it, especially for people, leaders of marketing, or sales, or even CEOs need to understand it, if you're in a small company, you are leading a small company, and maybe the market data marketing person reports to the CEO, the CEO needs to get some understanding to be able to make decisions.


CEO or the person, the President or the leader understands what digital marketing can do, then you better get support and still be able to deliver better results than when the person is not interested. And then oh, and then you're trying to push it, and let's try this. Let's try that we can do this, we can do that. And then you know, you're getting pushback, that was one of the second one. And then the third one is lack of the code, the lack of the culture of measurement.


I think that's where the issue is.


Being able to measure is a challenge. measurement is very key. measurement is what you can use to prove that that idea that you floated is working and how to measure also math



So we might be excited at the possibility that, oh, 5 million impressions justifies, you know, small amount of money. But the question is, what does that do? We need to look at the person that you're talking to? So that understanding and what what, what drives the business? What's the business trying to achieve? And how can you use that? You know, how can you take that into consideration when you are reporting on your own measurement on metrics? That's one of the challenges that we're having?


Simon


Well, you know, most times this measurement issue, something always comes up in the company, especially between sales and marketing. You know, most company sales and marketing are really not in good terms most times, especially during difficult times.


Now, some people just believe that once you mention, digital marketing, first thing that comes to their mind is social media. I'm talking about in Nigeria, yeah.


There's a good number of people that don't understand that social media is just a section of

digital marketing.


How would you say the digital marketing industry has changed in the past five years?


Tomi


I would say that in the last five years, I would say that there is more adoption of digital marketing as a part of the go to market strategy, or promotion of most businesses. Before it was a question of should we easily assess our customers there, right now that question doesn't even come up ending any longer? So yes, that's one of the changes that I have observed.



I would also say that there is now more skills. And there is now more more focus on data more than there was five years ago, although it's something that we improve on.


The understanding of how digital marketing works, the skills has improved over the years.



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