The 21st century has been characterised by an increase in knowledge and education propelled by information and communications technology (ICT). New highways have been created to transport information within a flash. This has in turn created customers with varying levels of complexity, which makes it difficult for companies to adapt. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), however, are not spared from these developments by virtue of size. One major solution for large corporates and small enterprises alike is to build brands that depict the changes that are happening and the ability to adjust, adopt and even cause change.
marketing insights with GEORGE MAGAMA
While companies are focusing on establishing so as to enable production, most SMEs cast a blind eye on the need to also establish a brand. Branding is not just the name, the logo, the symbol or the colours. Branding is about giving an identity to a product, service or corporate which will make it unique and distinctive. It is this identity that will be carried in all facets of the business, from the helm to the last man in the hierarchy. With numerous changes transcending around us, there is need for SMEs to ensure that they are powerful, efficient and effective. SMEs also lack the knowledge on how to manoeuvre in becoming a recognised brand. In most cases, everything that is related to branding (packaging, business cards, signage etc) is viewed as an expense. I believe branding is an investment, not an overhead.
The following are some of the nuggets which SMEs can use to sustain their brands:
You cannot give what you do not have
I believe the starting point is the creation of the brand itself. This begins by sitting down and taking time to think about what you want to deliver to the customers. It is not about giving the best product or service, but it is what gives life to that product or service. I believe there are better cooks than Chicken Inn, but what Chicken Inn has done is to give their chicken a certain life of its own. The concept of branding should be embedded in the vision, mission and objectives of a company.
Wear the same uniform
After the identity has been created, it is the duty of everyone to be fully abreast to what the company and its products stand for. That means information should be freely disseminated to each and everyone (from the boss right down to the cleaner). The identity should not be communicated for the sake of it; rather, it is supposed to be a way in which values are inculcated to everyone. Everyone should be able to wear the corporate logo with zeal and passion.
Make noise like a mad man
Once a brand has been created, it is the duty of everyone to make the necessary promotion. By virtue of being small, and operating under tight budgets, cost-effective but effective promotional campaigns can be utilised. As an example, the distribution of fliers at road intersections is seen as a nuisance by some; but believe you me, there is always a flier that will stand out among the rest and one is forced to read it. The idea is to have the best of what you have. A nicely designed flier, printed on a good quality paper will go a long way not only in selling your product but in exposing who you really are.
Deliver as if your life depends on it
Once an order has been secured, I believe this is where the rubber meets the road. No matter how fancy the promotional campaign is, the real test of the pudding is in the eating. I believe the SMEs should utilise this opportunity by giving the customer a “sucker punch” of a service. This is where integrity comes into play. That means giving what you promised the customer.
Don’t let money get into your head
One major challenge that SMEs face is the issue of consistency. When the business is being established, usually the owners are very humble and by being humble, the treatment to workers and customers alike is that of a king. If much due care is not taken, most SMEs fall into the trap of thinking that they made the money from their hard work alone. It is one thing to make money and another to keep it. It is not how much you make that matters, but what it does to you and others around you. This is when you begin to see the entrepreneurs lavishing themselves with expensive lifestyles at the expense of the company. This will then mark the beginning of birth pains for everyone. Workers begin to grumble. Suppliers will tighten their terms and customers will not get their product or service on time.
Grow bigger than your shoes
The question that will continue to be asked is, how long does an SME continue to be an SME or a small brand continue to be small? I believe the answer to that is largely dependent on the choices made. The growth of any brand will create opportunities for more growth within the brand itself and opportunities for growth for other facets of the economy. That means it is the duty of the SMEs to have a broader and a bigger perspective than just to continue being small. Those that do not learn how to grow will be wiped out.
Let go and you will be free and happy
If you don’t brand your organisation, it does not mean you do not have an identity. It only means people will give you one. As indicated earlier, many SME owners fail to separate themselves from the business, such that any branding that relates to their business is more attached to them than to the business. I believe many SME owners will be a lot happier if they let go some part of the business to others. This entails finding people who are smarter and putting them in their area of expertise. I eagerly wait the day when the entrepreneur will hand over the business to a managing director, in a quest to look for more opportunities and besides, is it not what entrepreneurship is all about?
George Magama is a marketer and entrepreneur. He is also a qualified marketing practitioner.
This article was contributed on behalf of the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. For any further information, kindly contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website on www.maz.co.zw