Growing your brand as a small business or start-up is a major challenge that owners of micro, small and medium enterprises have to grapple with. For many, capital is usually the issue, since most of such businesses are self-sponsored by their owners.
As such, even money for advertising is not available. They have to juggle between staying within the realms of the product or service they provide and keeping the business running. Sometimes, they go out and make their brands known.
A recent survey on 312 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, revealed how these businesses are struggling to allocate money for advertising, with the majority of them choosing to do it themselves as they cannot afford to outsource.
“Even with potentially bigger advertising budgets, larger SMEs are still more likely to hire freelancers (31 per cent) than marketing agencies (13 per cent),” reads the report titled How Small Businesses in Africa are bouncing back from a Pandemic released in February this year.
Maureen Mwangi, a brand growth strategist from Startward Consulting, shares tips on how small businesses can leverage their capacity as startups to make their presence known.
Branding is more than that website, logo or colour
Many people think branding is your website, your colour or your logo. For me, the definition I stand by is that branding is all about perception. It is what people think about you, say about when you are not in the room.
If you are a small business owner, branding can transcend into different formats. It could be user experience (how is your user experience) if you are delivering your products or services online or in person.
It also boils down to how your customer experience is: Does your customer come in and say I am constantly being taken care of when I come to the store. And lastly, are you representing your customer. It is not about the product or service but what the customer wants to achieve with your product or service.
When starting a business, many think about the product and the service, but your job as the chief executive officer or marketer is to represent the customer. You are the voice of your customer. You should think about what the customer wants. At the end of the day, that brand is what will allow you to get referrals and more opportunities. But if you do not think about it, you will not spend time and effort to create that.
Money should not be a stumbling block
You will notice that the big brands have been growing big for years. And there is a reason for that – they take branding seriously. They pay tonnes of money because they understand the power of a brand. And this is not the power of a brand from a marketing perspective but a legacy standpoint.
All you need is all you have
As a small company, you have what it takes to become big. You do not need to outsource your marketing or your content strategy. You can be your marketing person. Start small. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. My parents are entrepreneurs too and one thing they taught me is every small step adds up to something bigger.
And you have to make sure your foundation is right. I see many people wanting to outsource their marketing, but how are you going to outsource it if you have never done it? An agency or another person cannot do anything unless you guide them as the business owner.
To avoid stagnation and make use of data
As business owners, I have noticed that we do well, then we get to a point we plateau for multiple reasons – access to capital, and opportunities but also it could be a lack of not knowing what to do and copying what somebody else has done.
But when you start looking at any of the data you have, it could be customer data, financial or operational – you could start seeing opportunities and gaps because data does not lie.
Understand that you cannot copy and paste what you did last year. Growth strategy comes from looking at what is your three, five or 10-year vision and letting the data inform you. For example, a beauty specialist running a salon can start a training college.
When we are starting, we tend being many things to everyone. Remember if you are doing many things, nobody will know exactly what you do. Take one zone of genius – if you are good at styling, focus on that and your name will eventually be known.
Understand that the online market is saturated and be unique
Today, as long as you have Wifi you can start a business. The best way to stand out is through branding - communicating your uniqueness.