By Lilian Onditi
Francis Waithaka is a digital marketing and advertising professional with over fifteen years of experience. He studied Information technology at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology. However, his interest in digital marketing was born purely out of passion. He had various insights to share on this new unchartered platform
What would you consider as the key skill for a Digital Marketer?
Listening. Sounds simple but it lacks in a lot of people. Not many are willing to empathize with the customer, be in their shoes. It is important to understand the needs, goals, and challenges that a client is going through. The problem is that most digital marketers think of their own end game before evaluating the needs of the client. The results should always say what the client wants without speaking
What are the main challenges that you face in your line of work?
The main issue that plagues this industry is lack of skilled labor. There is a big gap for content writers, programmers, mathematicians, user experience designers, copywriters, media buyers and more. A lot of Kenyan universities churn thousands of graduates annually who might be educated but are unemployable. They lack soft skills like discipline, the culture of hard work, perseverance, having a learning spirit. These cannot be taught in school as one has to make a conscious effort to improve. A client would not understand why a project that had a three-month deadline is delayed. When having a meeting at nine in the morning, a designer shows up when the agenda has been concluded. The lack of professionalism, as well as small details that are taken for granted, have a serious effect on the industry in the long run.
Companies are also not willing to pay for value. I have come across many businesses who want to do what everyone else is doing without thinking of the client. All they want is the finish line without making the journey. Getting a meaningful digital identity costs money and time which most companies might not necessarily want to spend. If you want quality, then you must be willing to pay for it. This is not the case with most clients as there is little knowledge about the industry so getting people to understand the valuation of a digital campaign is not easy.
Every company that wants to come across as having digital awareness now has an application. How practical is this considering people can only have so many apps on their devices?
Innovation is meant to understand the customer needs, while technology automates it. Companies that rush to build these apps do not necessarily have the customer in mind. They are mostly done for the department with the main aim of monetizing them. After it fails to meet this objective, that is when they go back to questioning why the needed the app in the first place. Designers should practice design thinking, which has the consumer needs in mind as well as market demand.
How do you deal with these shortcomings?
I try to lessen the skills gap by training. I teach Digital Marketing at the African Digital Media Institute. This is a fairly new area of development where changes occur on a daily basis. There is always a new way of doing things or an improvement being made on the existing method. It is important to keep up to date. I am glad to be in a position where I can redesign the learning process and guide students into reimagining the learning process. I also mentor people. There are lots of opportunities to grow and I am glad to point people in the direction where they will have the biggest impact.
How do you gauge success in your job?
Whenever I take on a new client, I make sure I take an assessment of its digital footprint. I consider myself successful when the brand grows into something that hopefully exceeds the company’s needs but also satisfies the end user.
Another factor is when I add value to my students. I strive to be accessible and I am always willing to share knowledge. Building the next generation of digital enthusiasts gives the students the experience they need to explore their talents which in turn leads to growth in the industry
Finally, how do you stay focused?
They say that the two most important days of one’s life are the day you were born and the day you discover why. Once I identified my passion, I developed a purpose-driven attitude. I achieve this purpose by prioritizing my activities. I rely on apps and planners that organize my time by giving me reminders and ensuring that I optimize my day well
Francis is the lead consultant at Digital for Africa limited, a Digital consultancy company with a wide range of clients. He has also written a journal on Monetization of content on the Internet
Francis is a digital transformation champion and is keen to build an ecosystem that gives entrepreneurs access to new markets, talent, and capital. He says that Technology has flattened the world like a pancake, where value can be created by anyone and delivered anywhere in the world through technology.