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Firm Choice Solutions, recently signed a contract with the Nigerian Agency for News to provide audio visual display equipment nationwide that would display content controlled by NAN. The first phase in the capital Abuja has already being completed and commissioned. Following the extremely positive feedback from this first phase and the resultant upsurge in demand for the technology by other sectors of the economy, the state capitals and the parastatals, there is now the need accelerate plans to implement a nationwide phase.
As part of the contract FCS working in partnership with IGNL a Nigerian IT consortium will market the AV technology to the intended clients with the NAN content and services as an incentive. Taking cognisance of the fact the Nigeria Government, the banking industry and the multinationals, being the largest employer of labour in the country, are the largest potential customers for this technology, the Nigerian Laws are structured strictly to ensure an ethical code of conduct hence the need for adequate advice that cover for instance forms of negotiations employed in the marketing campaign and other applicable area to avoid corporate gestures and gifts being deemed as bribes.
The stigma of corruption looms large over government practices and business in Nigeria and as a result the Nigerian Government have now taken a though stand on the issue of bribery and corruption with severe consequences for both perpetrators and accomplices alike. FCS also operates an ethical policy of transparency that reflects in wherever they conduct business worldwide.
The immediate problem that is now anticipated is due to new laws on deregulation, the intended clients are not obliged to enter into a contract with FCS because the laws allow for the intended clients to contract with any other vendor foreign or indigenous that can provide the same infrastructure and service for NAN and other stakeholders to display their content and as a result the cable companies already domiciled and indigenous sole entrepreneur alike are already gearing up for this challenge.
As an emerging industrious nation with an impressive annual economic growth, it is important for FCS to carve a niche in this market to boost her global business outreach which it desperately needs to weather the storm of the recession that the western world is just now recovering from.
Consequently, this briefing paper if adopted will form an integral part of the marketing team's policy for the proposed nationwide phase of the project.
The analysis put forward will involve, from a cultural perspective, a review of the concept of gifts, bribes, negotiation, persuasion, possibly applicable cultural frameworks to be employed in the process, and a detailed consideration of macro and micro economical factors that are abound to effectively access the situations. The analysis from the macro-economic view point will feature factors like: Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Environmental and Legal while the micro-economic will feature factors like: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Treats
The concept of gifts and bribes in government and business circles was analysed by Judy Nadler, a senior fellow at the Markkula Centre for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University, Silicon Valley, California United States, who identified the distinguishing factor between both concepts as the intention of the giver. She proposed that they are both a thing of value that the giver gives, in the case of a gift, freely devoid of expectations, but in the case of bribes (Egun'je or Cron'je in local Nigerian parlance) in anticipation of a return of some sort (Nadler 2010). Based on this analogy, the difficulty in planning this marketing strategy can be appreciated. How does the marketing team present incentives without having their intentions misread as unduly biasing the judgement of the potential clients? Negotiations, it has been proposed, features commonly, the process where different parties having differing and similar positions interact to reach a consensual arrangement (Smart 2010). Persuasion is simply the ability to convince the other to understand, adopt or accept a similar position.
There are many different cultural frameworks for assessing national culture notably those put forward by renown researchers like Edward Hall, Alfons Trompenaar and most popularly by Geert Hofstede all of whom identified basic dimensions of low and high context; universalism and particularism; individualism and collectivism; masculine and feminine, weak and strong uncertainty avoidance, long and short term orientation and small and large power distance. The Nigerian cultural framework reflects dimensions of high context, collectivist, masculine, high uncertainty avoidance, large power distance and short term orientation (Smart 2010). The task therefore, is how does one relate with potential clients in such a cultural framework as that which Nigeria possesses to reach an understanding without giving out incentives that would be legally questionable?
The political atmosphere is highly sensitised against bribery and corruption and as a result each successive democratically elected government always puts a programme in place to tackle the issue. With a changing world order and polity, there is a need for each country to show transparency in all of her dealings internally and externally to be able to command a pride of place among nations and Nigeria is no exception in this global effort regardless of what measure of success it actually attains. The collectivist, large power distance and strong uncertainty avoidance nature of her culture heightened by a one dominant political party majority will come to bear on the transparency of negotiations with government who is the largest employer of labour and the other key sectors of the economy filtering down to large and small scale businesses.
The economic atmosphere is also significantly poised for investment by foreign or indigenous parties that will boost economic growth. To this end, the government, contrary to certain opinions strives to create an enabling environment for investment to grow. Nigeria and the African region boast some of the most impressive economic sector growth in global economy today in areas like telecommunications (Lambo and Onyuike 2008). The demographics of the country having a population of over 150 million people with a significant proportion having basic education positions her to be a leading global market force for the future (CIA World Factbook, 2010). The collectivist nature of the economy will require negotiations structured to be effective in a large power distant, high context and strong uncertainty avoidance
The sociological atmosphere is strongly motivated towards advances in technology and innovation for new and better ways of doing things in an ethical way that will foster harmony. This is borne out of the rapid growth of other key sector of the economy a highly skilled professional working class. Also, the government has also been promoting measures to revamp the operating framework of key sectors of the economy and her various parastatals to enable the country function more effectively as a developing nation shaking off the decadent shackle of the past brought about by misdirected ideologies.
The technological atmosphere in embracing the kind of technology FCS proposes speaks loudly of the desire to rapidly embrace new technology that will benefit the growing economy, the newly emerging working force and the populace in general. Information dissemination is one of the key factors to promoting and sustaining economic growth of any developing nation and advancement in technology such as these solutions are always well received. Thus, transparent marketing incentives are practically feasible.
The environmental impact are virtually non existent because the solution and the infrastructure that leaves no carbon footprint is virtually green with no requirement to burn any fossil fuel like by products of crude oil or release chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases into the atmosphere. Apart from the requirement that the screens need to be situated in a cool temperature that the customer provides, there are no other indirect links to the infrastructure that can have any form of effect on the environment. To this end, the marketing team do not need any clearance from the environmental agencies like the National Environmental Standards Agency and the Regulation Enforcement Agency but will deal with them transparently as potential clients for their products.
The legal atmosphere with the enactment of laws on deregulation is suitable for marketing this technology however competitive the market may be as a result of these laws. It is significant to point out that deregulation has now opened up the market for business of this nature to thrive. The unwritten rule that foreign companies intending to be domiciled in Nigeria should have a significant portion of its market share held by Nigerians or should operate in collaboration with an indigenous company, where the former requirement cannot readily be met allows for this venture to operate. Anti-corruption laws demand all business dealings must be conducted transparently.
Accordingly, the strengths of FCS marketing team's intentions within the desired framework or ambit of transparency are in the initial success of winning the contract for the first phase and the deploring and commissioning of the project in collaboration with the indigenous company IGNL in Abuja the capital city with an extension in the commercial capital and in terms of the nature of the product being marketed and the nature of her operations in Nigeria. The product being an AV solution is an intangible item that can be marketed with transparent scheme that are generally acceptable. For instance, giving presentations on potential client's infrastructure that is already in place for other purposes. The partnership with IGNL in operating in Nigeria is another significant strength because it ability to operate in a locally acceptable way to penetrate more key sectors of the economy, parastatals, large and small scale businesses will be boosted with the indigenous ally that has an impressive tract record of transparent performance.
However there are certain weaknesses of the initiative which are off shoots from the strengths of the initiative. The nature of the product and services is not peculiar to FCS alone and other foreign vendors with local collaboration can offer the same product or more competitively with greater incentives. The manner of operating through an indigenous collaborator can also limit FCS abilities to that of her partners because she is unable to make creative forays into areas that her partners are unable to support or sustain due to previous records or experience. These may cause anxiety that may lead to offering desperate incentives that may be deemed bribes.
There are several opportunities that can arise as a result of this experience. The most significant of these will be the first hand experience the team will gain in assessing if there is the possibility of FCS, operating transparently, at some later date in future establishing a permanent presence in Nigeria based on the feasibility of potential rapid growth of the business opportunities.
The treat of carrying out this endeavour however, is that it may lead the marketing team to attempt to develop working relationship with other potential partners that may go against the contractual agreement with the indigenous partner, a point of concern that will question their ethical stand of transparency. The activities of the marketing team in this respect may alienate the IGNL FCS partnership working understanding in a way that would hamper the smooth operation of this and future marketing processes.
SOLUTIONS AND RECCOMENDATIONS
The basic solution to the marketing teams tasks of how does it present incentives without having their intentions misread as unduly biasing the judgement of the potential clients and how does one relate with potential clients in such a cultural framework as that which Nigeria possesses to reach an understanding without giving out incentives that would be legally questionable is simply - effective negotiation. To negotiate effectively FCS marketing team must adhere to certain accepted rules of international negotiation identified by Gary P Ferraro (2002, p. 125- 140) which include using collaborators as interpreters and in so doing exploiting the advantage of their familiarity of the other parties customs and practices, placing focus on the interest behind your position, remaining flexible at all times, avoiding reliance on cultural generalisation, being sensitive to timing, preparing carefully as is being done with this brief, listening attentively and encouraging traditional interaction to increase warm familiarity amongst the participants.
Effective negotiation in a collectivist structure demands skilled negotiators that the team must build itself into. Amongst the many required skills they should possess it is recommended that they include: intelligence, preparedness, creativity, flexibility, patience, rational, and analytical. As a team those factors they must be prepared to mitigate against are the anxiety and uncertainty that negotiators exude when faced with: an unfamiliar setting - different ethnic groups, different religious convictions; different organisational structures, outside interference, volatile unpredictable geo-political realities, natural disasters, terrorism, culture shock, location, host advantage, time pressure, exhaustion, weather (Ferraro 2002, p. 139).
Nigeria, being of a collectivist culture where the negotiation style is in contra distinction to that of the individualist culture that FCS is more familiar with, will be more favourably disposed to competitors from other collectivist cultures that are vying for the same contract because their negotiation and persuasion styles are similar. Hence it is recommended that a dynamic strategy of persuasive presentation that is more analogical rather than quasilogical be implemented during the negotiation process. Also a holistic negotiation style that is suitable for collectivist cultures should be adopted over the sequential individualist style that FCS is used to implementing in past negotiation initiatives (Guirdham 2002, p.335). When offering incentives it is recommended that these should be projected toward the organisation as a group rather than an individual at the helm of affairs and the team must always operate as a team effort, with the local partners initiating the presentation, that depict collectivist cultures and not as individuals in a group. The style of delivery should not be predominantly colloquial that is used in presentations of low context cultures but should creatively involve proverbial quotes gestures and re-enactments and non verbal cues that can carry the same effect in high context cultures. These incentives should not be unduly complicated to create anxieties about the future and should address commonly held expectations and incorporate locally acceptable practices. Emphasis on time and punctuality should be handled with patience and caution (Ferraro 2002, p 125 - 140).
The marketing team should always bear in mind that the way to conduct negotiations in a collectivist polity will differ from what the team is used to in that of an individualist polity. The predominant influence of the one ruling political party structure with indigenous lobbyist skilled in negotiations of this nature fielding other foreign competitors cannot be underestimated. To successfully negotiate new procurement and installation of the product at the current market cost that may have challenges from other competitors on price without incentives offered being branded as bribes will require both intellectual and passionate appeals to the clients that are transparent and defined. It is recommended that the joint team initially approach those customers whose operating and organisational policy reflects shared principles, goals, interest and values of purpose for the product they are marketing.
The team should allow their indigenous partners set the pace for the public or general presentation possibly using local performers, social and mass media where applicable to appeal socially to all customers and intended clients. As a result, the FCS joint marketing team will be able to develop and maintain collaborative, friendly relationship devoid of any conflict but marked by transparency when negotiation with potential clients.
The joint marketing team should capitalise on the growing economy to stage presentation in association with other programmes being run by government, banks, multinationals, telecoms, parastatals, hotel chains to market products with feature presentation in places of business for such presentation with special arrangements made with these reputable business locations and organising bodies to distinguish their strategy of marketing presentation from other competitors to attract clients transparently.
Lastly, based on the strength, weaknesses opportunities and treats to FCS joint transparent marketing process with IGNL it is recommended that simple qualitative items can be given out as souvenirs that may subtly market the product without being considered as significantly influencing the customer or intending to favourably bias clients judgement towards FCS during negotiations A scheme whereby trial versions of the product are installed for a specific time frame to give the customer or intending client a unique experience to persuade the client commit to purchasing the product could be applied. This will serve to develop a long lasting transparent relationship with the customer or client.
FORECASTS AND OUTCOMES
Judging by the solution and recommendation that were born out of the analysis of the task of implementing a transparent marketing scheme devoid of questionable practices, it is forecasted that FCS in collaboration with any indigenous company will build long standing relationships with customers that will pave the way for promoting business transactions that serve as a benchmark for transparency in the Nigerian business environment.
The consequential outcome of this forecast is the possible establishment of Firm Solutions Nigeria Limited in the future to continue to promote and reflect transparent business practices in Nigeria.