Street Toolz, an African marketing and interactive agency, with headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria, was founded in 2012, with the belief that user experience, interactivity and engagement, not advertising is the key to successful brand building and marketing.
The agency assists brands to increase market share and profitability via effective content, social currency, branding, communication, marketing and sales strategies.
From a one-client, one-staff and one-room agency, Street Toolz has grown to what is today known as Digital Shed, located off Allen Avenue, sheltering about 30 employees with diverse clients across Banking, FMCG, Government, Real Estate and Insurance sectors amongst others.
In its short period of existence, the agency has given birth to other businesses namely Zowasel, Toolz Academy and Growsel, which also toe the line of digital.
Today, Street Toolz stands out as a digital leader in the marketplace, helping other agencies reinvent themselves, while at the same time creating bespoke strategies that are unique to individual brands and their objectives.
Street Toolz: Thinking Ahead Of The Nigerian Ecosystem
The evolution of communication technology globally has led to a growing demand from different brands for agencies that offer professional marketing communication services, especially in digital marketing. In this interview with MARKETINGSPACE, Michael Ernest Nwah, COO of Street Toolz, one of Nigeria’s leading digital marketing and advertising agencies, takes us through Street Toolz’s journey in the world of marketing communication. He speaks about the company’s evolution with respect to the changes in time, how keeping abreast with new digital marketing trends has aided the growth and success of the company, and how the company is taking strides in attaining its new position of ‘Agency of the Future’.
Tell us about the growth of Street Toolz as an agency and its marketing communications approach for its clients.
Street Toolz is an integrated marketing communication agency. In the past, we were known for only digital services. But, due to the demand from most of our clients for traditional advertising, alongside the continuous adaptation of several of our works for traditional advertising and public relations, we decided that it would be a better fit for us to become a full-fledged marketing communication agency.
Alongside digital marketing, we now offer PR services, as well as other traditional marketing communications, which include media buying and placement for TV and radio adverts, billboard designs and company branding. We are strong in creative and graphic designs and can build a brand from zero level to point of enviable identity. Aside these, we have a training arm currently known as Toolz Academy, where we train prospective online executives on all they need to excel in digital marketing.
What do you mean by “Agency of the Future”?
When we became a fully integrated marketing communication agency, we decided to adopt that tagline, “Agency of the Future” because, though the future can be unpredictable to a lot of people, some others can predict the future, if only they choose to.
“Agency of the Future” simply means that we are thinking ahead of the Nigerian ecosystem. We are always thinking out new ways to reinvent ourselves and make the narrative of marketing more effective. We are always looking for ways to push beyond the boundaries. That means that we adopt new ways of doing things to achieve better results. But, as much as we think about the future, we are not blind to the present. This is what we mean by “Agency of the Future”.
As the Agency of the Future, what are the agency’s recent achievements?
We have gone beyond the ‘agency’ eco-system and are now looking into the future because we believe that the future has a lot of potentials. We see a lot of brands embracing digital marketing, thereby increasing the need for digital marketing experts. So, we established Toolz Academy to train people in digital marketing.
Also, with the increase in digital awareness and online shopping, we have created an e-commerce platform, where users can conveniently access mouth-watering deals from different deal shops. The platform also gives Nigerian consumers the opportunity to review a brand of their choice and also access genuine reviews from other consumers. This gives the consumer a clear idea of a brand they want to patronize and also helps brands understand consumer behaviour.
Furthermore, we also have a platform called Growsel. We are aware of the recent focus on agric business and its impact on the Nigerian economy. Growsel is a platform that connects farmers and investors. It is about funding farmers to farm and get their farm produce to the consumers. When we say, ‘the future’, we are not just talking about the advertising ecosystem.
Now that the attention is moving to digital marketing, how equipped and ready is your agency to handle briefs?
We are and have always been quite strong in digital marketing. We have people in different departments that attend to different marketing communication needs. There is a research team that is constantly researching and handling trends analysis to understand consumer behaviour at every given period in time – what they want, what they are thinking and what they are most likely thinking towards.
We also have a team of content developers, who are mainly saddled with the responsibility of creating unique content for brands. When it comes to creative designs, we have an army of creative guys that can give you creative designs that will blow your mind away. To effectively manage our clients, we have account managers that are well trained and experienced in interacting with clients and managing pressure from the clients and the agency.
We have the people, the resources, the ideas and good time management skills. We have put together the right team to work on different briefs and they are passionate about what they do.
Tell us about the best campaign or brief executed by your agency.
We have executed many campaigns over the years. Among the past campaigns we executed, I would like to talk about the British Council Enterprise Challenge 2016. The campaign was centered on a competition for entrepreneurs and innovators.
The challenge was in partnership with Virgin Atlantic, Samsung and Zenith Bank. The aim of the campaign was to get ‘quality’ people for the challenge. We were given a target of 1,500 registrants but we exceeded the number. It was a massive turnout. From our creative to content and execution, it was really innovative.
The beauty of digital marketing is that you can tweak your strategies at any time and this was what we did for the campaign. We keyed into trends and our campaign went viral.
It was a huge success for us. Despite the fact that we exceeded our target, seeing the lives of the people who won the challenge change forever made our success complete. They all had the opportunity to travel to London for a meeting with Richard Brandson. For us, it was an impactful campaign, not just to us as an agency, but also to our audience.
Our most recent campaign is the Lighting Africa project by World Bank. The project is to enlighten people about the use of solar energy.
With World Bank, the standard is not the regular standard. In preparation for the pitch, we spent the Christmas holiday working to ensure that our presentation met with the international standard. The pitch for the project was really rigorous. But, after the processes they awarded the project to us, despite the number and profile of agencies we competed with.
You have been in this business for some time now. How would you evaluate the level of digital marketing in Nigeria in comparison to that of South Africa and Kenya?
If we have to compare the three countries, it will be a little tricky. The market is different and the mentality of people in these countries is also different. I have a friend that works in a digital agency in Nairobi, Kenya. Anytime we communicate, we talk about the difference in the markets. We might be speaking the same English Language, but the way people perceive things in these countries are completely different. The way brands interact in these markets are also different. The Nigerian market is completely unique and sometimes unpredictable. So, digital marketing growth in Nigeria compared to South Africa and Kenya is not on the same level. They had accepted digital marketing ahead of time, while we were still struggling to understand that digital marketing is the future. When we started, Nigerian brands still saw digital marketing as social media that is meant for children. Now, every brand wants to get on social media because they now see its importance in the life society. It was a bit slow at first, but later on, brands started adopting its usage.
What do you think can be done to raise the bar of digital media usage in Nigeria?
Digital media usage in Nigeria is not really bad compared to the last four years. The growth has really been impressive. What could we do better? If data become a lot cheaper than it is right now, digital media usage will skyrocket. Just as the prices of smart phones are relatively dropping, if the cost of data also becomes cheaper, there will be lot more penetration in digital usage. A lot of companies, organizations, start-ups and others will have access to Wi-Fi.
What makes Street Toolz unique from other agencies in Nigeria?
It is about our speed. We work really fast. Brands now know that we work really fast and that makes them send us briefs. They send us briefs at the last minute and expect us to work magic. So, yes, we do our magic because one way or the other, we need to keep our clients satisfied. I believe it is our speed that makes us different from other agencies. And, of course, the people, because, without the people we cannot get to where we are today. We have people that are willing to work. So, as an agency, it is about the speed and the people we have.
What is it like working at Street Toolz?
We do have our fun times, but we also work with high speed to deliver on briefs. We all work extremely hard to see that we complete any project we have and achieve positive results at all times. Then, whenever we complete any project or win a new business, we come together to celebrate. It’s fun working at Street Toolz.
Tell us your clientele and major milestones you achieved with them.
We are presently working with Leadway Assurance Company and have been working with them for couple of years now. Last year, they achieved a lot especially in the use of Instagram, as well as a couple of other awards, one of which was for their use of social media and for their website, which we also designed and manage for them. We have also worked on offline projects for them that have been remarkable.
Grand Cereal Limited, both for the edible and animal feed, are also one of our clients. We also work for their parent company, UAC Foods; we built and manage their current website. We work with Sandtex Paints, which had a non-existing website or fan page when we came in, as well as Gossy Natural Spring Water, which needed a revamp. Then, we came onboard and changed things. Working with these brands, we have created quality interaction between their websites and their social media platforms. We also work periodically for British Council, Grenadines Homes, Property Mart, Union Bank and World Bank.
What is your projection in the next 5 years?
We look forward to more growth. We look forward to working with more multinational companies. We can never be comfortable with what we have at the moment. We think outside the box and in the next five years, I see some of our pet projects growing really huge. I see them being independent of Street Toolz. I see us creating more platforms or projects that we can build in-house or sell to people.
Our Goal Is To Spread Digital Marketing Knowledge – Funke Akinloye, Chief Learning Officer, Toolz Academy
In this digital age, business and corporate organisations are increasingly requiring digital competence as a criterion for hiring executives. Mrs. Funke Akinloye, Chief Learning Officer, Toolz Academy, in this chat with MARKETINGSPACE team, reveals the pros of having a sound digital marketing knowledge and how Toolz Academy, leading Nigerian digital training hub, under the Street Toolz Group, is stepping up to the digital marketing training needs of Nigerians.
At a period where the attention of Nigerians are shifting to digital communication, how do you think Toolz Academy can help Nigerians or brand owners increase their knowledge base?
Toolz Academy is a leading digital marketing training institute in Nigeria. We did not just become that by just saying it. This position is a result of the activities we have been engaged in. At a time like this, when there is a shift to digital marketing, it is clear that digital marketing knowledge is lacking in many quarters. Yes, people are seeking to gain knowledge, but it is not readily available to everyone. One of the things we plan to do is to ensure that we make this skill accessible to people, either free or at very affordable rates.
At the moment, we have a couple of initiatives to achieve our goal of spreading digital marketing knowledge. We have been offering free digital marketing training for those who are interested and willing to learn. However, even for the paid versions, we are one of those who make these trainings very affordable and accessible to interested folks out there.
What informed the establishment of Toolz Academy?
When Street Toolz, the parent company of Toolz Academy, started as a digital agency, there were very few firms that truly understood the concept of digital marketing and, as the agency got stronger and better, and delivered great jobs to clients, it became clear that, to be able to impact on the industry and get people to embrace the concept of digital marketing, transfer of digital knowledge is very important. At that point, we thought to ourselves, “Why don’t we create an academy that will offer the opportunity to transfer this knowledge to others?” It was this thought that gave birth to Toolz Academy.
What are the courses you offer and their duration?
At the moment, we offer professional courses in digital marketing, which cover areas like social media marketing, search engine marketing and optimization, pay per click and digital displays. In fact, we cover all areas of digital marketing because we have the expertise and are qualified to give certifications for professional diploma in digital marketing.
However, we go beyond offering the usual courses. We offer customized packages for organizations. We can develop a curriculum or course content that relate to the area where an individual organization would want to train their staff in.
We often put together relevant topics that should impact directly on the business organization’s area of specialty. In such customized trainings, we first of all take the staff through a free diagnostic test to ascertain their skill level. This would guide us on the key areas to focus on, since it’s not everyone that would have to go through the foundational level. This approach is also profitable to the company, as it helps avoid waste of time and expenses.
Who are your target audience?
Like I said earlier on, the skill gap is huge in digital marketing and it is not a skill that is very available across the space. So, our trainings are targeted at executives in established organizations, entrepreneurs, fresh graduates and small business operators interested in doing business in this digital economy. Anyone who is willing to transform at a very fast space is qualified to attend our trainings.
What are the channels you deploy to reach out to your target audience?
The first one is digital marketing, and that’s because we operate in the digital marketing space. We employ digital marketing platforms, which we have seen expand our reach and get us more attention at the moment. We also use all possible platforms on the digital marketing space. Beyond digital, we do other forms of advertising, which include PR and free trainings to attract new students. We also get referrals from our existing clients. We do one on one marketing as well. All these are channels we employ to communication to our target audience.
Marketing Space: How effective are your trainings on those who have attended?
This is not to blow our trumpet but, like I mentioned earlier, we offer professional certifications and also have regular and customized trainings. For the many that have gone through either the professional training or workshop with us, the feedback we have been getting has been amazing. Most of the marketing managers that have gone through our trainings have seen the direct impact on their brands. Our facilitators have been lauded because we use facilitators that are players within the industry.
We are not just using textbook facilitators. We use facilitators who breathe and live the courses they teach, giving us the opportunity to use real life examples. We use locally relevant materials and have partnership with an Ireland-based institution, which has improved our global network and provided us with the resources we need.
What makes Toolz Academy different from other digital marketing academies in Nigeria?
We belong to a group where we practice digital marketing and don’t just teach it. We live digital marketing and bring creative solutions to clients. They have bought into our ideas because they have seen our impact on their brands. Teaching what we do helps us to learn more, understand better and discover new tools. Our strength is that we teach what we do on a daily basis and also work with renowned and experienced industry players who are facilitators at Toolz Academy.
Alongside our experience is our centrality. We are located at the center of Lagos and are easily accessible to Lagosians. Our ambience as well is very welcoming; we have been commended on this severally. These are what we bring onboard that differentiates us from others.
Do you have other benefits you offer at the training?
Beyond just doing digital marketing trainings, we are also into research. Because we are in an academic industry, we are able to follow trends. We observe what is happening within the industry and from time to time, we release white papers, blog stories, articles and even conduct research in that area. Most of our clients reach us to conduct digital based researches for them to fully understand their clients. We are able to give insights and data to clients in most of these areas.
Tell us some of the companies you have trained in the past.
Our clients cut across FMCG and the advertising industry. Part of the companies we have trained include Dana Airlines, Kia Motors, Grenadines Homes, Leadway Assurance, TBWA/Concepts, Property Mart, Renault Motors, Fuel Communication, Verdant Zeal, Creative Zone and many more.
How is Toolz Academy giving back to the society?
For us, one of the key areas we have identified is education. Our own way of giving back to the society is through free trainings. We recently concluded a free training, where we were able to train over fifty professionals and fresh graduates in digital marketing. This would have cost each of the participants some good amount of money but, as our own way of contributing and bridging the digital skill gap, we did it for free.
Some other free training includes our recently concluded free digital journalism course. With this course, we were able to add value to the lives of the journalists that attended. We are also looking at conducting trainings for start-ups, HR practitioners and even teenagers. Sometime this summer, we would be training teenagers on coding for two weeks, for free. These are areas in which we hope to give back to the society.
Are there still plans to reach out to more people with the free training?
Certainly, we will expand the free trainings. We will expand it in line with the capacity that we have. From time to time, we’ll identify opportunities and evaluate the capacity that we have. We are always willing to give as much as we can back to the society.
What is your projection in the next 5 years?
We are looking forward to becoming the leading educational institute, even beyond Nigeria. One of the amazing things about the digital space is the dynamism. We want to be the platform to reach out to for accessible and affordable digital marketing education. We are looking forward to growing beyond digital marketing. Beyond just giving digital marketing training, we are looking forward to becoming the hub for training in other areas.
Toolz Academy is evolving to a level where anyone or professional can reach out to us through our platforms and take courses that will positively impact their lives in different areas. We strongly believe that a change in the standards of education will alter Nigeria’s position at the moment. Education makes a difference in the lives of people. The more we are able to make education accessible to more people, the more fulfilling it would be for us.
Our Goal Is To Transform Growsel Into A Farmers’ Marketplace – Growsel Boss
The focus on Agriculture in Nigeria in recent times is stirring up a sense of hope for a better life for many Nigerians. More so, the emergence of online platforms like Growsel, a member of the Street Toolz Group, targeted at enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of agricultural production, is even lending credence to this. Mr. Uche Onyewuchi, Head, Sales and Marketing, Growsel, in this interview, takes us through the idea of Growsel and the benefits the platform offers farmers, investors and the Nigerian economy at large.
What is the idea behind Growsel?
Growsel is an online market place for farmers. The idea of Growsel came up when we realized that every other sector was getting a boost with the help of technology. Mobile devices and the Internet have helped every other sector to improve drastically. People can conveniently trade and acquire adequate knowledge online. Despite this, we discovered that the agricultural sector was not getting the required digital boost; it was yet to be infused with technology. With this in mind, we decided to set up Growsel, where farmers can actually go online to put up their projects and request for funding.
Investors like you and I can also go online on that same platform in search of interesting farm projects to invest in. The whole idea is to make it easier for farmers to get funding and for individuals who are interested in agriculture to find a safe place to put their money and get very good returns.
How do you connect famers and investors?
It is actually very simple. We created a website that is divided into two parts. We have the section for investors and another for farmers. When you log in and register as a farmer, you are directed to the farmer section of the website. There, you can create an online ‘farm’ and subsequently create a farm project. But, as an investor, that doesn’t concern you. What you should be looking for is a place to put your money. All the new farm projects pop up on the website when you visit. If you click on any project, you would see details of the farm projects and the farmers that are running the projects, whether they are in Ogbomosho, Lagos or in the far North.
You get to choose the exact place to invest in – the farmer and the projects. You can look at a farmer’s profile to see if he has a very good profile and the things he has done in the past. You can also view his pictures and connect with him online, without being physically present. So, the platform is actually set up to connect these people together.
What is the process of investing in Growsel and what are the benefits attached?
For the investor, it is actually a very simple process and can be done in few steps. It is a bit different for a farmer. After you sign up on the platform, you can browse through the different categories of investment that you have and select anyone that you want. Next, you can click on invest and pay for it. It’s as simple as that.
Once you have made your payment, you will receive an email to welcome you to the platform. After that, a Certificate of investment will be issued to you. The certificate is to show that you have chosen to invest in a farm project, and that you are expecting certain returns at a particular time. Everything will be detailed to you. You can also monitor your investment through your dashboard; in terms of the farm’s progress, in order to know when the farm would be in its harvest season.
Another good thing about it is that you can actually request to visit the site. If you request a visit to the farm, we will organize that. The key benefit we offer is that whatever you invest is always guaranteed. With what we have put in place, there won’t be a scenario where an investor will lose his money. We have taken steps to provide insurance for every farmer we work with. We understand that there are risk factors in agribusiness; so we have partnered with a leading insurance company.
At the moment, we are working with Leadway Assurance Company for the insurance of the farmlands and the farmers. The farmers are insured in case anything happens to them and so are their farms. These steps have been taken to limit and mitigate any form of risk that might occur in a farming season. With this, you can confidently tell an investor that his investment is guaranteed. Another thing is, because we understand farming very well, we take our time to actually select our farmers and train them.
We are also careful with our use of farm inputs. For example, the seeds our farmers use are recommended by IITA. These seeds are recommended to produce a certain level of yield. We take steps to use best practices in everything we do. With that, we can guarantee high returns and tell investors that their investment is guaranteed. Another benefit is that, by investing, you are supporting a local farmer in Nigeria and that is what is most important to us. We believe that by doing this, we are helping to eradicate hunger from the nation.
When did you start this initiative?
Growsel was conceived in the early part of 2016, when, due to the ban on the importation of rice, rice became really scarce. We took a look at the statistics and discovered that agriculture was now a crucial sector in the country and, as such, needed more attention. Next was the scarcity of tomatoes, coupled with the increase in the prices of food that came as a result of the difficulties farmers were experiencing with their cultivation. These, in a nutshell, led us to seek for a way to support our local farmers to produce more.
Who are your partners on this project?
For insurance, we are currently working with Leadway Assurance Company. They are very good in agricultural insurance. For seedlings, we work with the very best, which is IITA. They are a research institute and produce the best of enhanced seeds for farmers. For fertilizers, we are working with OCP Africa. For tractors, we are working with Hello Tractors. Hello Tractors makes it easy to get tractors to every location.
We have a very good relationship with Grand Cereals Limited. Grand Cereal is very interested in off-takes with us. This simply means that they will buy off some of the crops that we produce. The above mentioned are currently our major partners.
Has Growsel recorded any success story since its establishment?
Yes. Because it is agriculture, it is not like an everyday business. Our success stories are very dear to us. For example, since inception, we have approached farmers from at least four states in the country. We have farmers in Lagos, Ogbomosho, Ilorin and Kaduna. We currently have 150 farmers that are already on the platform. A few of them have already started farming projects. Some of their projects have already been funded. By the end of this month, some new projects will kick off. We have been on the site with our farmers already, monitoring their activities. The farmers are also very excited about their progress. That is a very good achievement for us and I believe we are on the right track.
What is the business model of this project?
When a farmer puts up a project for a particular amount of money, that amount of money is what we will ask from an investor. An investor is allowed to get about 15 to 30 percent of his investment as profit. The reason we put that rate is because all crops do not have same duration. For example, you can cultivate maize in four or six months, and potatoes in four months, whereas cassava will take eleven to twelve months. Because of that difference in timing and cultivation, the profit that investors get will differ. But, give or take, an investor will get 15 to 30 percent of his investment.
If a farmer puts up a project and makes 100 percent on his farm produce, at the end of harvest, the investor’s capital is first of all, returned to him, then the remaining money is shared. The investor takes 15 to 30 percent of his investment, Growsel takes 20 percent to cover the cost of administration and management, then whatever is remaining after all costs have been settled, goes to the farmer. The farmer gets to make a lot of money from us because Growsel is a better deal for him, compared to going to the bank, where he would have to pay huge interests on any loan he collects.
Do you envisage any challenge in the business at the long run?
Certainly yes, because, in every business, there will be challenges. One of the challenges that we see, which we have put plans in place to mitigate ahead of time is the ability to track farmers. The ability to make sure that farmer will do exactly what he promises to do. For example, if I provide two bags of fertilizer to a farmer and he is supposed to completely use those two bags of fertilizers on a piece of land, how do I ensure that the farmer uses the two bags of fertilizers and not one and half, and sells the remaining? That is one of the challenges that we envisage that we might have. One of the ways we have planned to avoid these situations is by massive enlightenment.
We have observed that most of these farmers that try to play smart don’t do it because they are bad people; they do it because they don’t know better. They don’t actually know that if you shortchange yourself in the application of the fertilizer, the yield that comes out will drop drastically. What we’ll do is to engage them in a lot of trainings, telling them the benefit of engaging in best practices. We’ll also look out for smart farmers that are open to change and new ideas.
Our plan is to first of all train them in the use of best practices in order to ensure integrity. Secondly, there is a device that we would install on our farms. The device is called Growsel monitor. What this simply does is that it relays live feed of our farm activities back to us. So, we can watch all activities on the farm from our systems. Investors can also monitor the farms through this device, to see what is happening to their investments. These are the ways through which we plan to mitigate the challenge of farmers’ integrity.
What is your projection in the next five years?
In the next five years, we believe Growsel would have become a platform where every smart farmer would like to be. It is not just engaging farmers and investors. Growsel caters for the agricultural sector as a whole. So, in five years time you’ll not be seeing farm crops alone; Livestock farms will also be on board. Livestock farmers can also seek for funds on the platform.
We are looking forward to a time when even people who are not farmers but have lands to lease can come to the platform to meet with potential clients. Tractors and other farming equipment for lease can also be listed on the platform. Our goal is that, in the next five years, Growsel would have been positioned as the market place for everything agriculture in Nigeria.