“If You’re Not Building A Brand…”
I speak to as many as 10 – 20 entrepreneurs a week (I used to do that many daily). 9 out of 10 have no idea what marketing really is. Sure they all advertise in the Herald, email Dipleague, throw fliers around, word of mouth and what not… but I’ve yet to meet one whose results can’t be doubled, just by changing their marketing approach. Listen…here’s a fact:
Marketing is the single most powerful, flexible and actionable leverage opportunity in your business.
An example: An A5 size advert in the Herald will cost $300usd – whether it yields 1 customer or 100. Often, just by changing the strategy used in your ad, you can multiply your results by as much as 1000%! No joke.
And one of the biggest marketing leverage opportunities Zimbabwean entrepreneurs are missing out on?
If you’re not branding, you’re not really going anywhere in business. You’re not building anything. Branding is super-duper important. (Does anyone still say ‘super-duper?’)
Branding: It’s an overused and little understood word and I don’t talk much about here for two reasons
1) Branding strategy requires such a mega mind-set shift for most Zimbabwean businesspeople that I’d have to write a whole series of detailed posts to really show you how powerful and important it is and how to do it. I wish I had that kind of time.
2) Most are stuck in crisis mode so I tend to focus on teaching things you can action now and benefit from by end of week. You can’t do that with proper branding when you’re starting off or struggling.
But heck…gotta start somewhere right? Consider this a first in a haphazard series on making your brand rock!
In many ways, I’ve come to think of Zimbabwe as a ‘Brand-less society’ – that is to say, very few powerful brands actually exist (or remain). Some, like Wimpy, ZBC or Kingstons Books store are mere shadows of their former selves…has beens. Most are even worse – ‘never will bes’. Sure, some successful brands exist, but they’re few and in limited categories – leaving much of the market wide open for smart entrepreneurs – that’s you!
See, despite a mass exodus from formal employment to self employment and business, in recent years, we still have very few (local) power house brands emerging. Everyone’s been too busy surviving to build a brand. Problem is:
Zimbabwean Entrepreneurs have become opportunists, tactical and episodic instead of strategic.
As it stands now, very few actually know how to play a ‘patience game’. A mid to long-term strategic game. This, my friend, is a massive opportunity for you. Can you see it?
So what is a brand anyway?
Here’s the one paragraph version: A brand is a symbol or word that identifies and distinguishes you in your market place. Through marketing, it’s possible to establish emotional connection (and meaning) between the brand and the market. When done right, this emotional connection serves as the logic or criteria by which the market makes buying decisions. Make sense? If not try this
- Coca-cola isn’t the best selling soft drink because it’s the best tasting.
- Dr Phil isn’t America highest paid Shrink because he’s the smartest
- A Nike tick on a sneaker doesn’t raise it’s quality, but it does raise it’s perceived value (and price).
What do all the above have in common? People no longer make their buying decisions based on intellectual or factual logic. They buy because of what they’ve come to believe the brands represent. A White T-shirt with a plain black (Nike) tick costs 200% more than one with a more creative, nicer looking but lesser known brand. They buy because very smart entrepreneurs and marketers (behind the scenes) designed a new emotional buying criteria for the market.
Why you should care
- In competitive or complicated market conditions where choosing is difficult, people use mental short cuts to avoid risk…those short cuts are called brands.
- When you’re expanding your business from one location to two – to another town or country, a strong brand will fast forward the marketing process for you.
- A brand will make you more recognizable and memorable
- If you ever hope to sell your business, you’ll sell for pennies without a ‘real’ brand
- In a price driven economy/ competitive plain, strong brands get to charge A LOT more than weak (none existent) brands
Hold up…let’s talk about that last one for a sec…Some may disagree.
I often hear – “but my market only buys on price. ” “In this kind of economy, no one can afford to pay more” “I’m just starting out, so I’m going to gain entry by being cheap!” and on and on.
What a joke.
See, price matters most where brands are weak. When there’s little distinction between two products, price is all that’s left.
But truth is, VERY few people are genuine ‘price shoppers’. For example, right now, are you wearing the cheapest clothes you could find in town?
Really. Is that the Cheapest shirt available in Harare?
Assuming you could find that shirt, would you even wear it?
Truth is even if you’re financially challenged, you’re wearing the most affordable shirt that you like. You’re probably not running your business from the cheapest office in the city either. It’s the most affordable office that was acceptable to you. On Valentine’s day, were you really looking around for the cheapest present in the CBD? Your next business meeting: will you take your potential client to the cheapest restaurant you can afford? See, even you’re not a pure price shopper.
Neither is your customer.
Oh and did you notice the Christmas toys Spar (Letombo) was selling this last December? They went like hot cakes. Yet the EXACT same toys were being sold by the Zhing-Zhong shops down town – 1000% cheaper. Spar’s brand allows them to do that.
Bottom line: If you’re not intentionally (and skillfully) building a brand, you don’t have a real business strategy. You’re probably tactical or episodic in your approach. You’re not really going anywhere. And even if you’re making ‘good’ money now, you’re making a fraction of what you truly deserve.