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The Feel of Business

Every organization, business, NGO, social or political have a component you cannot experience with the five senses. You cannot see, hear, touch, taste or smell it. It can at best be described as an experience. So you visit some families and you don’t want to leave because you just love it there. If asked what you like about being with them, you’ll probably answer something like ‘I can’t really put a finger to it, but they make me feel……..’ They simply invoke certain feelings that make you want to go there again and again.

It’s the same with business organizations. Besides buying a product or enjoying a service, there is a ‘feeling’, pleasant or otherwise, that doing business with them evokes in their customers. Usually if the ‘feeling’ is positive, they come again and again. If not, they probably never come back except they absolutely have to. Branding a business is the process that creates this ambiance that evokes these ‘feelings’ customers love. It becomes the heartbeat of the business. It goes beyond the products or services being offered but includes the entire atmosphere of the business. That is what keeps the business alive. That is what makes customers come to business A rather than B despite their similar offers.

The Heart of Business

In an earlier post, The Business DNA, we discussed the Vision, Mission and Values of a business. You can read it ?. But in this series we will extrapolate a little further to make it plain enough for the entrepreneur with simple everyday products and services but is not as big as Coca Cola.

In any discuss concerning Branding, names like Apple, Cocacola, Guiness, Cadbury will probably be mentioned. Bring it to Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank, MTN, Dangote, First Bank would be our local examples. So business owners at the SME level, think Branding is for big businesses. That is where the problem is. Every business should be branded-big or small. Every business owner should take their business beyond selling a product or service to making the selling process an encounter. That is what distinguishes businesses and ensures the required edge.

How does a business owner who has limited resources build a band? What are the components of Branding to consider? First would be the entrepreneur making the decision to create a business that sells products or offers services that makes the exchange an experience for its customers. It has to start from the business owner’s heart. Then everything flows from there.

I once ran a one stop shop beauty salon, called Ruthies. My heart was to offer beauty services in a serene beautiful environment which focused on making the customer comfortable while enjoying our services. I did not just want a woman to come to us to have her hair done, but I wanted her to enjoy the experience. My experience had been that I would go to the salon simply because I had and never because it was a great experience. The heart of our business was the total comfort of our customer. Once the desire was set, the rest is a matter of course.

The Character of Business.

Every business should have a clearly defined character. However, most business owners leave this to chance. The character of the business brings the heart of the business owner to life. The character of the business will affect everything else the business does. For instance, the character of Ruthies was warm, caring, serene, classy, practical, educated. That drove everything else we did. Our fliers, our staff, our location, our colors, everything else, the entire ethos of the business.

Our people had to be friendly and warm. Our workers were usually hard working but not noisy people. We had our people dress in white top and black trousers in any style as long as it was decent. That allowed their personalities to come through in their fashion. They were people who liked to serve people. Not everyone does. They went the extra mile. They would close late if the need arose. If a customer arrived just before closing time, they would attend to her without the bad attitude. Our environment was exceptionally clean. Mothers did not mind bringing their little girls to the salon because the place was clean. Our toilets were beautiful and very clean. Our colors were lilac and pink, very feminine and welcoming. Our lights were bright but not regular fluorescent bulbs and it felt like being in your home. It had a classy feel. We had great motivational materials for women to read. Women simply loved the experience. Our character came through in everything we did.

When we say character, it means the business always comes through like that. It’s the way they behave all the time. Character is built over time. Before a business can be defined as having certain characteristics, it would mean that they present themselves that way over and over again. It is painstaking, intentional, and requires the ultimate determination to build. The important thing is to understand the need to build it. It takes your business away from being an entity to a persona. At this point, the probability of success is magnified exponentially. It is all part of Brand Building.

Physical Attributes of Business

In case you’re just joining this discussion we started yesterday with Part 1 of the series Branding Your Business, The Key to Survival. Please click on ________ to read it. Besides the character, which manifests in the way businesses sell their products or offer their services, there is the aspect of the things you actually see about them. These attributes take their origins from the character of the business. Such things like the name, logo, corporate colors, stationary, gift items, office location, cars, uniforms etc.

What they all have in common is that you come in physical contact with these things when you encounter the business. Let’s look at the name of the business. Have you ever heard any of our Nigerian comedians talking about the names of high brow parts of Lagos as against the lower demographic areas? Victoria Island versus Mushin, Banana island Versus Bariga. Victoria Garden City versus Okokomaiko. It always triggers off their audiences and it applies to business names too. If the character of a business is classy and it has a name like Agbalowomerin & Sons, you can see there is a huge disconnect. Businesses must have names that typify the character of the business.

Beyond the business name is the logo of the company. The logo is erroneously thought of as the essence of Branding by many business owners. The logo is just an element of the brand. However it is a very important one because it is the symbol of a company’s identity. It is supposed to capture the entire character, values and heart of the business. The logo of a company is usually custom made for the company. Instead of reading a name you see a graphic representation of the name. The catch is that people think in pictures not letters, so if customers identify with a logo it goes a long way to attracting them to do business. It’s a mind thing. That is how the business distinguishes itself in the market place. That is why your business logo must look attractive. It must be something that will appeal to your target audience.

The logos we are familiar with represent the big businesses of our times. Every business must evoke some response from customers through the logo.

The logo then transcends every other physical attribute of your business. The letter heads, call cards, signage, the website, email addresses. The logo should ideally be on each of these items.

Because most business owners feel the logo is the brand and that it is just a diagram, they get on the internet and put a diagram together and call it their logo. There is much more professional insight that goes into creating a logo. Which is why you should always get the services of a professional, no matter the cost. Remember it is key to your Brand identity.

The Truth of the Branding Matter

Branding is a major part of marketing of your business. The saying goes that Marketing is the engine of business. Once you have a recognized brand, business becomes a lot easier. I remember the day KFC opened in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The queue was phenomenal. It caused major traffic, simply because Tanzanians and all other nationals there were excited about KFC. It was an overnight success. All they needed to do was put up the sign post and we were all planning to be there on the first day.

My kids hounded me just to get some chicken on that first day. Was it about chicken? Of course not. It was the KFC brand that did it. When we go to any GT Branch in Lagos, high or low brow, the queues are killing. In fact I am aware that some people are closing their accounts because it is getting more uncomfortable to use them, but the queues are still long and arduous, simply because people believe in the brand. I am not sure they go about canvassing for customers. I think they focus on relationship management. That is because of a strong brand built over many years.

Business becomes easier when your brand is recognized. That is why it is not optional for any business. It is a cost, in fact a major one. However, it repays itself over time. Create a budget for it and start somewhere. And see the dividends roll in. It is a must build for any business to survive in these times.

Have you begun to Brand your business? Share your experience.

Chinwe Kalu,

+234 803 201 2458

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