“You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by the way he eats jelly beans”. These are the words of Ronald Reagan which is best suited to start this piece. Barrack Obama presented before the Americans not only words of change or the reasons to be part of it, he expressed it in his appearance, coordination of his campaign and communicated it so well. He made his personality that change which the Americans saw, got convinced and experienced before they even start to achieve it. Sometime in 2009, Prof. Dora Akunyili the then Nigeria Minister for Information launched her “Rebranding Nigeria project”. Prior to the launch most Nigerians had heard little or nothing about Branding. At least it was not a popular word, act or a strategic part of our business consciousness. The popular vocabulary people casually spoke about was packaging. Now it has become a household word but to many who know the word and speak it truly means in business, for government and to an individual self growth and value is yet to be understood. 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. While a brand is the collective emotional response to their product or service or entity you present. Dora realized that Nigeria as an entity must have an appealing brand that truly represents what and who it is, a national brand that is emotionally stimulating, engaging and one that will attract mutual respect among nations with its complementing self integrity. Just like the Nigeria entity, individuals and organization must build brands that engage potential clients at an instinctive reaction level. For this piece let us delve more on personal branding as it concerns entrepreneurs and SMEs.
“I don’t like him”. I don’t seem to understand his ideas”. I am not convinced by what I saw today.” “Surely, he is not good.” “I don’t think he produced this himself.” These are some conclusions and judgments potential clients make about most entrepreneurs who presents before them goods and services or still an idea to be considered. These remarks were drawn from the assessment on the persona of the entrepreneurs. They must have appeared unprofessional, dowdy or un-coordinated and their presentation must have lacked direction, strong and concise message that couldn’t have been much convincing. All these reflect incompetence. Yes they may be proficient in what they claim to offer but their outlook say otherwise. That is the problem that has snagged the success of most entrepreneurs. I have been there, executives and potential clients have made even worst comments about me in the past about what I had presented before them, not because I lacked the skills to deliver but I lacked the prowess to freely convince them and to communicate my message and ideas to them. Now I have grown to understand what having a great personality means in business. It is not enough to talk and compile an impressive resume or alluring brochure but to express those qualities you have in prints in your disposition at the meeting. How you appear matters more than what you have written down. The character you express in any encounter is a mirror that reflects the quality of what you have to offer.
How best can an entrepreneur or start up compete favorably in today’s difficult market that is fraught with contending businesses with varieties of products and numerous specialized services to consider? The market needs more conviction, same as potential investors. So many people are concerned with keeping themselves separate from the brand. Success comes from being the brand in all you do. People do business with companies/people they like, know and trust. Walk the walk and talk the talk, and be a personal expression of what you present. You are the main brand, and the product you are promoting. You and your business is not separate, both don’t exit in isolation but run in concord. Even though you have a marketing plan for your company, you’ll need to create a separate strategy for you as the owner. Those who find you through your efforts to market yourself have automatically discovered your business and how you play out yourself determines how they judge your enterprise without making any visit to your office or engaging your services.
Young Nigerian entrepreneurs on their early stage of forming a business enterprise think that having a skill, a capital and presenting a competitive product or specialized service to the public is what it takes to have a guaranteed public appeal. Ok! You now have a start up, you want people to hear about and key into the idea that it whispers at that time. You need to build, and get to pitch in different business deals. How do you succeed in all these you need a good marketing strategy, and no other strategy is good enough more than a well packaged image of your person. Branding an SME 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.
Don’t hide behind a name. You are the core of your business, & customers want the opportunity to know, like & trust you. Let your personality shine through your work. For most small businesses the brand is the business owner. It’s about your image. Entrepreneurs are all brands onto themselves because they are judged based on their reputations. Selling your product is selling a psychological service. What that means is that your client-to-be needs to be “sold” on YOU! The more honest, sincere and genuine I present myself the more people feel safe to expose themselves to a perfect stranger. People don’t buy a product — They buy YOU! You don’t need to wear expensive clothes or ride in luxurious cars or speak like Richard Brandson, just show up on time, follow-up on sales calls, go back to determine a customer’s satisfaction, entice through well structured speech and speak in measured tones that is spiced up with strong and clear messages.
Sometimes a man’s self worth is horned by the outer expression of his person, not even an impressive resume. People are convinced about who you are by the character you exhibits before them, the grace you exhumes and the natural style you handle commitments, issues or difficult choices. Amongst all these, your fashion style, choice of words and human relations are huge decider of how people regard you or decide to engage you. Personal brand has to come natural or mastered through intensive and passionate self education, well nurtured, worn like a second skin and made a lifestyle. One has to understand the life you chose to lead, the persona that a career choice, vocation or status demands, which in their summation determine your success.
In this part of the world we often times failed to strike a balance between our domestic qualities and expressions, and the professional personality. I have not been to all the corners of the world, not even all around Africa, but I know and have encountered a huge number of Nigerians who at their different work stations wear dowdy outlooks that attract no good emotions from clients or inspire a potential client to strike a business deal. Hello, maybe you didn’t get it, what you wear, how you wear it, what you say and how you communicate them, and how you carry yourself really matter in closing that deal or attracting an appeal. So, if you don’t have an appealing personality that can easily arouse emotions or stimulate keen interest from an audience then you are in to run down your organization. Same applies to the wider society, where we mingle, interact amongst one another. A dearth of an appealing persona is an inevitable barrier to your social growth, significance and high reverence.
Your brand is you, you are your company. It is worth investing more time and given necessary attention. It’s one very secret a few have used to break even while it has sill remained a reason why many have failed to grow their businesses – that is those who don’t have an appreciable branded personality. Personal branding could be likened to power point that shape more decisions than ms excel, Your brand image makes an impression and expectations. It defines who you are, how you operate, and how you’re different from your competitors.