I’ve always had the passion for building great software and solving problems and one particular problem I’ve been trying to solve has been the lack of poor technology solutions around membership management in Ghana. I’ve built various versions of membership management softwares for small churches since 2005, each version getting better with time and experience.
However, in July 2015, I was able to finally help get a new solution of the ground with the help of an awesome team of people who help make the unofficial list of team members of Matrix Designs – an Integrated Digital Marketing and Software Development company. The solution is called Memberz.Org and it aims to make membership management (or community management as we like to call it sometimes) easier and more convenient for the end users.
It’s been a fun ride so far, an we have overcome many hurdles in the past year in trying to get off the ground and into the minds and hands of many users, and in the process I’ve learned several good lessons along there way.
1. There’s Nothing New Under The Sun
We learned early on in the process of building Memberz.Org that we aren’t the only ones in the Membership Management as a Service (MMaaS) space. There are tonnes of other companies home and abroad who are trying to solve similar problems for organizations and their members. This informed us that there was room enough currently in the market for us, because despite the proliferation of many solutions around, not many Ghanaian organizations and their members had the tools to help them effectively grow and communicate at an institutional level. Also, new organizations spring up everyday, meaning there would always be business as well as competitors in the space.
We also learned from this that we must tailor make our solutions for our initial target market, which is Ghana, by offering features and services that take advantage of local services and providing pricing that is ideal to Ghanaian organizations and individuals.
2. Social Media Marketing Has Little ROI for MMaaS
We do a lot of marketing of our services via social media but we quickly realized that it did not lead to good returns on investment since the majority of social media users tend not to be decision makers. They are good “influencers” of decisions but ultimately to make a sale, you need to find the right decision makers in each organization you intend to work with.
Even our recent Christmas Promo we advertised via our social media channels did not necessarily draw in many new users and organizations sign ups, so there were lessons to learn from this experiment. Perhaps we need better designs or a more attractive promotion, but in any case we are back to the drawing board on this.
3. On The Ground Marketing Works Best
We’ve however seen that as opposed to Social Media marketing, on the ground marketing where we actually get to talk to organization leaders and explain the features of our platform brings a much higher return on investment. Many of our business leaders fall in the generation of the Baby Boomers (as Americans would say) and new technology is often harder for them to comprehend without extensive explanations and demo sessions where questions can be tabled.
The results via this approach has been very positive although much more time consuming and harder to re-iterate due to the nature of our team and individual commitments. However, we endeavour to make time to do this more often, given the positive results it produces.
4. Team Work Is Essential
To often in Ghana we have a culture of trying to do everything on our own, as individuals, and this often does not lead to success. Having a competent team of individuals around you helps you to do more and accomplish more.
Without the help of the many team members who each contribute their unique skills to the project, we would not have the successes we have so far. Also, given our current approach to be more on the ground with our marketing, having a team of individuals helping in this regard is invaluable.
5. New Features Does Not Directly Add New Users
We add new features daily to the platform and advertise these via blog posts and postings to our Facebook Page, followed with sharing to personal feeds and more, but these don’t translate into new sign ups or even more readers to our articles.
This tells us that just adding features for the sake of it will not grow your user base. You must find the right kind of features and content and tailor those to the needs of your potential customers in order to add new sign ups.
We continue improve our platform daily (like adding ability to accept payments from your members online into your MPower Payments account) but we are also are taking time to learn new things about the world of startups and user interaction every day. Human beings are interesting and unique in many ways and you can’t have a cookie cutter solution that works for everyone. You must learn and adapt consistently in order to meet the needs of your customers and to attract new ones in the process.
I’ll continue to share more of my experiences and thoughts as I gather them and make time to document them.
Also, look out for tips and tricks we use in solving some of our technology challenges whiles building our platform.