Entrepreneurship: To Brand Or Not?

Entrepreneurs around the world deserve commendation. They take risks where others fear to tread, they think out of the box, they are not afraid to try new ventures, and they are usually champions of innovation. In a developing country such as Nigeria, the risk is even greater, as entrepreneurs assume all the risks and rewards of launching a new business. The high degree of initiative required to manage any enterprise goes to show that entrepreneurship is no mean feat.Many times, entrepreneurs find themselves struggling in a competitive market. From a business point of view, it’s a case of dog-eat-dog, and the entrepreneur is faced with two major challenges – the need for continuous innovation, and the need to maintain enough stability in a rapidly changing environment. There is a steep learning curve between starting a business and keeping that business alive.

In Nigeria, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) make up 96% of businesses, according to a survey conducted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). A study carried out by the Federal Office of Statistics places this figure at 97%. However, they contribute to only approximately 48% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

How Is Branding Relevant To An Entrepreneur?

Simply put, as an entrepreneur, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells customers what to expect from your products & services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’.

Your brand strategy is how, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering your brand messages. Where you advertise is also part of your brand strategy, as well as your communication distribution channels. What you communicate visually and verbally are important too.

An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in competitive markets. Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity. Brand equity is the added perceived value bestowed on your products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command.

How Should Entrepreneurs Brand Their Businesses?

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the following questions:

  1. What is your company’s mission?
  2. What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  3. What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  4. What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Find out.

In branding a business, it is also important that entrepreneurs find a “voice” that reflects their business. This “voice” should be applied to all written communication and be incorporated into the visual imagery of all materials relating to the business. The “voice” should be reflected in the attitude and disposition of all who represent the business. For example, an enterprise with a performing customer service team can be said to be projecting a reliable and efficient “voice”.

There should be a clearly defined vision and mission which drives the operations of the enterprise. To cite a Nigerian example, Guaranty Trust Bank, a leading financial institution, identified a number of problems in Nigeria’s banking sector and set up shop with the aim of restoring the ethos of service in the banking industry. Today, the bank has positioned itself as Nigeria’s favourite bank for millennials. Guaranty Trust Bank emphasises customer service, visual brand standards and technology.

What Can Be Gathered From All This?

From the thoughts highlighted above, there are a few pointers that budding entrepreneurs should pay attention to:

  1. Identify the needs of the market, as well as the general perception of the product you are selling.
  2. Define your target audience and niche.
  3. Have a carefully laid out mission and vision that guide the business.
  4. Develop a “voice” that reflects the direction and spirit of the enterprise.
  5. Draw up an efficient strategy that communicates that voice consistently across multiple platforms.

In conclusion, every business needs a brand identity to achieve all-round success in a market that is never short of competition. Every enterprise must have that distinguishing feature that sets it apart from others who provide similar services. From logos to taglines to standards of service; creating a brand identity is necessary to avoid getting lost in the crowd of businesses and service providers.

In a competitive market, you need a brand identity to distinguish your product or company. Click To Tweet