The past few weeks I have met a lot of young entrepreneurs in this city determined to grow and build their businesses. It’s been pretty exciting.
As the conversations flowed from business potential, content creation options to costs, the most common statement I received from entrepreneurs was, “please remember, this is still a young business.” The standard Nairobi code for, “don’t charge me like a multinational corporation.”
I understand where this comes from; most startups don’t have that much capital to spare beyond basic operational costs. But I also realised the hard way, by expecting to get dirt cheap, you also compromise on quality. You’ve heard it before, cheap is expensive.
It took me 6 years to find some clarity on what I wanted for my career. The direction I needed it to take. I swam around and worked with various graphic and web designers who shafted me. I lost a lot of cash, with one person, I sacrificed my tuition money to pay for the services rendered and in return got an unreachable person on either phone or email. In both cases, I was also to blame; I was too trusting, making payments prior to the individuals signing contracts, which were never signed, work never submitted and money never reimbursed.
We all have those stories that serve as hard lessons. But being shafted isn’t the reason I am writing this. I learnt my lesson and finally sought professional and talented graphic and web designers who worked with me to build my growing brand.
It was an investment.
One thing I am learning as I build a legitimate business is that there are so many hidden costs that you are never aware of. For most people when they think of starting capital, people factor in operational costs and product development. But for some reason a lot of us neglect brand development.
You can have a fantastic product but if it looks sleazy, no one will want it. Packaging your product and the messaging of your product is essential. Building a brand identity and brand communication strategy does take time and money. But the investment is worth it.
There are three things each business needs to do when they have finally developed their product. And this is done before you go to market.
- Brand Story – It’s the reason you got in to your line of business in the first place. To you it may seem meager and non consequential. But it could be as simple as, “every time I sketched an image growing up, I felt like I had created a new world.” With a logo you can transform a company’s perception from the startup that it may be, to a multinational corporation. That is a unique gift and a great sales pitch to differentiate you from fellow graphic designers.
- Brand ID – You need to ensure your visual brand ID is clear and consistent, for a product that is obvious. But for those of us in the service industry, we tend to overlook it. Yes, I offer branding services, so do over 100 other companies, what makes yours unique? You know your brand story, you need to start looking like the image and the story you depict in words. That’s where logos, typography, brand colours etc come in.
- Online ID – This is a fusion of your Brand Story and Brand ID on all online platforms, website, social media pages and digital platforms. The message needs to be singular, targeted and consistent. It doesn’t always have to be overt. Most successful brands do it subliminally. Coca-Cola always sells happiness with friends. They don’t say “buy Coca-Cola it makes you happy.” They just communicate it consistently across all advertising and marketing platforms, and condition you to think that every time you are having fun with friends is Coca Cola time.
The only way to do all this successfully and consistently is to ensure you have number one completely clear. You need to know what your brand story is. And that my friends, is why you need to invest in it, it is your differentiator. If you have no clear differentiator, your business will never grow to its full potential. I will be running a few workshops in Nairobi, soon, which will cover this in more detail. So keep your eyes peeled for more updates.