Noel K. Tshiani is the founder of Congo Business Network. He advises major startups on their product development, expansion into new countries and fundraising strategies. He also organizes delegations of leading startups from Kinshasa to participate in the biggest business and tech events in Africa, Europe, and the United States with the goal to look for investors and business partners.

The startup scene in Africa continues to get more media coverage at the local and international levels as entrepreneurs across the continent work to create innovative products and services to meet the needs of their local communities. 

But achieving product-market fit and becoming profitable is a challenge even for the most talented and experienced entrepreneurs. In this opinion piece for TechCabal, I share strategies that African startups can use to discover product demand, find clients, and become profitable faster.

1. Identify a clear target market

The most successful startups are those that have a clear understanding of their target market. African entrepreneurs should focus on identifying a specific niche. Entrepreneurs should prioritise understanding the needs and pain points of their target customers through conversations and surveys. Before launching your product or service, take the time to do your research and understand the needs of your target market. Talk to potential customers, read industry reports, and study your competitors.

2. Build relationships with potential clients

Building relationships with potential clients is key to discovering demand and building a profitable business. Entrepreneurs should be proactive in networking and building relationships with potential customers, listening to their feedback, and improving their products based on consumer preferences. Offering free trials or discounts is a good means to get potential customers to try your product or service. By using such a low-risk marketing approach, you will generate interest and get feedback from potential customers.

3. Prioritize digital marketing

Digital marketing can be a powerful tool for African startups looking to reach a wider audience at the lowest possible cost. Entrepreneurs should invest in building a strong online presence, including a website and social media accounts, and using targeted advertising to reach their ideal customers. Startups that want to stand out from the competition should develop thought leadership content that can be published on social media, including LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.

4. Seek strategic partnerships

African startups can benefit from partnerships and collaborations with other established brands and organisations in their ecosystem. Business partners can help entrepreneurs to reach new customers, access new markets, and gain valuable insights from experienced industry players. Attending top events in your industry in your city and abroad is a good way to learn the latest trends in business and meet potential customers, partners, and investors.

5. Focus on profitability from the start

Profitability should be a top priority for African startups from day one. Entrepreneurs should focus on building a sustainable business model that generates revenues and profits from the outset. Do not rely only on fundraising to sustain company operations. Providing excellent customer service is essential for any business that wants to succeed. It will enable you to build relationships with your customers while encouraging them to buy again in the future. Loyal customers can also refer you to people they know in their close circle.

Achieving product-market fit is a requirement for any startup that wants to succeed. By following these recommendations, African startups can arrive at product-market-fit faster, discover product demand, find clients, and become profitable businesses in a reasonable time period. With a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and a wealth of opportunities for innovation, Africa’s startup scene has the potential to drive economic growth and create meaningful prosperity across the continent.

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