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Friday, July 24, 2015

Alero Ladipo joins Smile Nigeria Communications Limited as Chief Marketing Officer 
When Smile Telecom Holdings entered the Nigerian market months ago, it came with a promise of changing broadband experience for teeming Nigerian data guzzlers that have for years contended with poor internet services.

At lauch, Chairman of the company, Dr Ernest Azudialu Obiejesi had said: “People’s ability to access the full range and benefits of ICT, and to use these to create a better world is one of the defining issues of our age. Our digital lives increasingly define who we are, how we live and the opportunities we are able to pass on to our children. The digital revolution holds untold promise, but only if we can ensure that every resident of Nigeria is also a full and equal citizen of our digital world.”

Continuing, Obiejesi said ““Nigeria is one of the most dynamic markets in the world, and mobile broadband will play a crucial role in the transformation and development of the country. Unfortunately, Nigerians are still too often let down by slow and unreliable services, and have been disappointed too many times when operators promise more than they can deliver. Smile will not repeat their mistakes, we have the technology, people and partners to ensure that we deliver what we promise and more.”

Smile says it is going t play in the 4G LTE broadband space and immediately began roll-outs across the country. As challenging as this is, Smile has made some progress in roll-outs as well as in user experience. 

Critical to maturing the Smile brand and their services, many believe, lie in deepening rollout and retail penetration, engaging the market and investing in exiting the customers for referrals that will enable growth.

To achieve this, Smile recently hired seasoned communications expert, Alero Ladipo to facilitate customer engagement, retail products development and penetration and general growth of the Smile brand in the Nigerian market.

Alero comes with a rich background in marketing and marketing communication that, many believe, will impact the Smile brand and their businesses in the immediate term.

A lawyer by education, Alero packs years of valuable experience in marketing communication having worked in A-list institutions, including Vic Lawrence and Associates, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Standard Bank and Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. Her experience in the retail business may have counted in her favour as the brand is reported to be set to expand into all major Nigerian cities.
To succeed, Alero thinks she has to focus on the critical areas of:

1. Highway transmission: Data on the go is one channel through which Smile wants to get into the hearts and minds of the Nigerian populace. Alero’s experience in retail may have told her how easily people forget brands that keep certain distances from their customers. So she thinks ensuring a sustained interaction is way to go. Nigerians are a striving lot, traversing the length and breadth of the country in search of opportunities, excitement and relationships. Alero’s vision is to have Smile services on all major highways in the country to facilitate seamless experiences for customers. A Smile customer who would have to switch to other networks while riding from Lagos to Abuja may likely not be a loyal customer since he will have to either live with the frustration of not dealing with issues in real time or he will have to rely on other networks to enable this. But a “Smile” along the highways, for Alero, is one sure way to be with the customer end-to-end. In the business area, this is more opportunities for the brand to also make more hay.

2. SMEs connectivity: Small and Medium businesses are the critical drivers of any economy. They may be scattered unevenly around the country and they may not be fat data eaters like the big corporations. But the aggregation of these disparate units forms a huge market for anyone that taps into them. S broadband services begin to penetrate in Nigeria, Alero also knows that winning the SME’s is critical to success. And she says she is out to connect these segment of business to the broadband ecosystem. This is a huge opportunity. According to the Federal Office of Statistics, there were as many as 17.28 Small and Medium Enterprises in the country as at 2012. The number would have grown but key thing is whoever solves the data nightmares these people face on a daily basis will certainly “smile.”

3. Quality Experience: Buffering. Glitches. Slow Upload. Frustrating downloads. Poor connectivity. These are languages Nigerian internet users have become familiar with. Many believe it may never go away because service providers seem committed on delivering terrible network experiences. But this is an assignment Alero also says she is at Smile to help conquer. “We care about our customers and I am here to drive Smile’s commitment to deepening customer experience. That is the reason I am here.”

4. Customer feedback: Yes, we are in a country where solving customer complaints can take eternity. Where you get 48 hour response time to complaints, people shout praises. But Alero says Smile will be different under her “marketing” care. “Our response time to complaints is 24 hours. We are committed to that and we will sustain the commitment,” she says.

5. Social Investment: Social responsibility ranks high in her agenda for Smile Telecom. Alero says Smile believes in social investment and will continue to do that throughout its business life in the country. One of the critical planks of the CSR project of Smile that she hopes to sustain and deepen where necessary is the provision of free internet access to public schools in all the states the brand rolls out in. Already there is a policy which enables free data services for 25 public schools in the states where we roll out services. “We work with the Ministries of Education in these states to effect this. The only criteria for a school to benefit are: they must be public schools and they must also have computers. We are doing this because we understand that education is the key plank for national development. So we are encouraging e-libraries and e-learning cultures in many schools across Nigeria,” she stated.

6. More cities: Alero says good retail product development and marketing will encourage rollouts in many more cities across the country. Already in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, Smile is looking to expand to 16 major cities in the country in the short term.

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