So many people have different definitions of branding, many refer to it as packaging while to some it is corporate appearance and many more. Branding is the image building of an entity, product or service including the creative fashion of projecting the desired identity to any target audience appealing for acceptance. It is the impression that the public shares about an organization, a product a person, among others. As a Startup Entrepreneur, you have to deal with unlimited challenges while growing your business. How do you get the mindshare of your various prospects or pitch amidst established brands. All you need is to brand.
Though branding which is an all important promotional approach and a core business activity it is often than not neglected by new businesses and entrepreneurs. In Nigeria it has been exclusively reserved for the big organizations. SMEs are yet to accept it as vital in their business models. Branding is key in promoting the business objectives, ensuring that the products and services presented to the market generate an appeal and its acceptance by the public is sustained while garnering loyalty and increased market share. Every new entrepreneur, among other objectives must make sure the target audience has heard of their companies and likes what they see, hear or feel about what the company does. And these are what branding help you achieve. Today we live in a society fraught with contending businesses and saturated market that is presented with varieties of products and numerous specialized services to consider. To be a great player in the business world making more gains, increasing spreads, as a new entrepreneur you need to be technical, sensitive and creative in your marketing campaigns.

I have seen a lot of start up businesses shut down not because of insufficient start up capital or lack of great business idea and vision but simply the failure to confront and entice the market with alluring images of its business products and services and in creating a convincing good impression about their organization. It has always been the lack of brand communication or no convincing brand identity that frustrates the acceptance, dominance or success of what is been offered to the market. Aware of the intensified market competition for the heart of customers, it is important that SMEs raise the bar by constantly investing in market research, defining and enhancing their brands. Entrepreneurs in their quest for growth must brand their business – product and services if they must compete in the already saturated market.

Your business brand is a powerful asset for your breakthrough, get it right and you’ll attract market appeal and profitable clients. Even as a new comer, with an alluring brand identity you can communicate confidence and professionalism. But a strong brand image doesn’t just happen. It takes focus, skill, clarity and creativity. It’s too important to leave to chance. Most SMEs lack the creativity in influencing great perception about what they do as a trade or business. It is a common thing among SMEs to present to the public poorly packaged goods, I mean, either you find the wraps unconventional and poorly tailored, you’ll find them with inappropriate colorations, weak and bending labels, gushing adhesives, uninspiring images, fonts that lack character and laughable product communication that is not emotionally stimulating.

Branding an SME ( Small & Medium Enterprises) is not only about the attractiveness of the logo, a rhyming name, or special font. Small business branding is the owner. It includes what he does and how he does his work. His character and approach towards the business also make up a brand. Relationships are important in branding – the way an entrepreneur relates with staff and customers is really a factor. If you desire to be a good brand, learn to regard others and maintain a good relationship with both your external and internal community.

Steps SMEs can develop their brands?  First, define clearly your brand or what you are branding. Brand definition is what the market will always look out for after been lured by your marketing stunts. By defining your brand you have set a basis for other brand elements to build on. Secondly, highlight the objective of the brand. Here you set a target for the brand. Thirdly, identify your target market. The ability to identify, understand and focus on your target audience is the power of your brand.

The fourth step is to create a brand identity. Remember branding is your identity in the marketplace. Your company image is all about the appearance of your packaging. What is your company image saying to the marketplace? This is where the style of execution, mode of presentation, manner of business engagement or how professional you handle a business transaction, packaging of the good as presented to the market, corporate or business name, employee and your attitude towards customers. An engaging brand identity gives your business heart and soul. Furthermore, it is pertinent to have a logo with good color palette, passionate topography and design style that makes your business distinctive and engages with your customers at an instinctive reaction level. All these highlight your corporate image.

Brand strategy and communication then comes next. In developing your brand strategy you must do a careful analysis of the market conditions to identify specific barriers to encounter. All strategy must be drawn on the basis of the peculiarity of your brand, nature and orientation of the target audience and the competition. Also you must build strategies on how to achieve awareness, availability and accessibility of your products, and stimulate affinity which is an important factor. After understanding all these, you then commence marketing the brand through desired channels that fit your brand and which ensure that the target audience gets the feel.

Why should SMEs Brand? It is to make their smallness look big and associated with quality. Branding help entrepreneurs stand out from the rest and excellently establish good frame of perception. In addition it helps to convincingly engage the hearts of prospective customers, even in their absence. Through branding the market comprehends your specialty and what you offer. Branding paints an image of dependability, enhances reputation and communicates credibility, confidence and professionalism. It announces your presence and rings your bell. Very importantly, branding helps to increase and sustain your spread and market share.

Start up entrepreneurs whose businesses are SMEs if they must grow and compete with the big names must brand their businesses. Amazingly, you do not even need to have a lot of money to brand your products successfully; you just need to put the difference and quality into every thing that you do. A cheap but compelling brand survives the market competition, attracts and retains customers than an unbranded business with huge start up capital.



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