Part 1: You can build your brand on a low budget!
I am now in the Christmas mood. What triggered it is the fact that I had time out to attend Carols by candle light and window shop late night on Friday. On Sunday night I also attended a lovely theatrical production of the birth of Jesus Christ. What amazed me was the simplicity, the excellence and ability to create the atmosphere. Most of my senses where triggered and the feeling I got was of peace and joy. The cost for me was next to nothing on both events, one was free, the other USD5. If I am asked to pay entry fees of $10 next year on each event, I will gladly do so. I want the experience again and again. So I started asking why do entrepreneurs like you and me fail to ignite the right emotions at times with our clients? What is it we do wrong? Anyway, today I have 2 tips for you, just be patient as you read, and then do a bit of soul searching!
Financial shortages and poor cash flows are the most common struggles for most startup businesses and SMEs. Because every cent needs to give back instant value, most businesses do not even think about real brand building activities or allocating a budget for branding. Similarly, when large corporates face cash flow or financial trouble, the first casualty of budget cuts is usually marketing.
Whilst they are many factors to success for any business, one of the key factors is developing and sustaining a good brand. It is the desire of many startups to become well-known brands, at both corporate level or product level, in their local markets and expand globally.
So the challenge is; at what point should a startup business/home business or SME start investing in serious brand building when the budget is ‘tight’ or always limited?
There are a number of definitions of what a brand is. It is important to note however that a brand is not a product or service, and a product or service is not a brand!
A brand is a promise your company can keep. It is more than a logo, mark, building or company name. My favourite academic definition by Kotler is as follows:- ‘A brand is a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to define the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors.’ Another author, Davis, defines a brand by describing what it is made up of. He says that a brand is made up of what a company sells, what a company does and what a company is.
1. Remember you are small and want to grow. The market first identifies the owner. So your personal brand is important. This is how people view you. Are you trustworthy, reliable, passionate and confident just to mention a few characteristics. Whilst it sounds simple, the impact of good personal branding can reap good results for your business. A bank can loan you based on trust towards your personal brand, a network of friends can support your product launch and refer business to you and wherever you stand to talk about your vision, people listen!
2. Start where you are. There are activities in your business that contribute to brand building without you having to fork out thousands of dollars. Examples include: answering all phone calls professionally, following up a customer about a service you offered and getting feedback, delivering quality service or product every time without fail, tidy staff clothes/uniforms, and ensuring your business stationary is well designed and has adequate information. Look for similar activities and make the necessary changes.
Before a certain funeral company became popular about 6 years ago, I lost a cousin and had to organize for burial. The level of concern I and my family was shown at the funeral parlour made me believe that the lady who was serving me was also grieved by my loss. I actually wondered how she gets through the whole month given that funerals occur every day. Today, that company is high flying and their brand is growing in leaps and bounds.
So, the next two tips will come before end of this week, I hope you look forward to reading them. Also refer your friends if you enjoyed this article. You can send your comments to melmudiwa@