As entrepreneurs, the primary goal is often a search for that electrifying moment when a big idea materializes, creating a spark that inspires people to do something truly new, big enough to ensure a new breath in how a business function.
But with consumers changing and competition ever growing, finding that cutting edge in a market bombarded by billions of messages, is becoming much more difficult, especially for African entrepreneurs. It is even worse for an African startup competing with already established deep-pocketed companies.
According to Forbes, 90 percent of startups fail, with some entrepreneurs writing their failure post-mortem before they launch their businesses. In Africa alone, 70 percent to 80 percent of small businesses fail within five years.
To help entrepreneurs in Africa discover the niche to grow their business, The Nerve Africa, recently organized its maiden edition of West Africa Branding and Marketing Strategy Masterclass for entrepreneurs in Ikoyi, Lagos. This was done as a build up to its annual Emergent Continent Conference scheduled for November in Lagos, Nigeria.
The 30 selected Nigerian participants, mainly owners of small and medium-sized businesses, were given expert insight into how they can improve the effectiveness of their brands while also addressing issues including brand management, brand strategy, brand archetypes, positioning, identity management, creative strategy and marketing in a competitive marketplace like Nigeria.
During the workshop, attendees explored what techniques lie behind effective communication skills and learnt about ways through which they can gain leverage in a market saturated with big-budget competitors.
One of the facilitators Oluwaseun Agbelusi, a Brand Strategy Consultant, told the participants how the perfect archetypal brand storytelling can distinguish a brand from its mid-market competitors.
According to her, being able to design a brand personality around an archetype that connects unconsciously with our audience is a big first step for brand loyalty, community creation, engagement and conversions.
She narrated her experience to the audience, explaining how she had sought to create a unique identity and voice that connects to the customers, both psychologically and emotionally, in a way a brand can engage the users, and the users can easily identify with a brand.
Agbelusi also spoke about the branding tools companies need to give consideration, including logos, tone of voice and brand values, as well as how to identify potential customers and find the best channels to reach them effectively.
“It’s about using story-telling – rather than simply shouting facts and figures at people, you need to find stories to reach them,” she said.
Her session concluded with an exercise for participants to share their experience on how they have been able to connect with their market over the years, while she proffered solutions to their challenges.
Idiare Atimomo of The Sky Ltd, a creative services agency had the audience glued to their seats as he took the participants through ways they can maximize the potential of the social media to connect to their market.
He described the digital media space as a free market. For him, any business can compete with any competitor regardless of size with a solid digital marketing strategy.
Aside reduced cost in reaching far larger audience, digital media makes it easy to measure how a business brand is accepted by the public. “With digital marketing you can encourage your prospects, clients and followers to take action, visit your website, read about your products and services, rate them, buy them and provide feedback which is visible to your market,” Atimomo said.
He, however, advised the participants not to neglect the power of storytelling and the use of traditional media when reaching out to targeted audience.
A step by step guide on carrying out an effective digital media marketing campaign for brands was also introduced to the participants.
In the second part of the masterclass, Director of Strategy & Planning, Wild Fusion Olatomide Asher told the audience that brand strategy is a long-term plan for the development of a successful brand in order to achieve specific goals.
Asher discussed how to convince when presenting challenging ideas. He suggested that people who want to lead change often have to face ambiguity and resistance as people in general are afraid of change. He stresses, therefore, that change leaders need to live according to their values and make them as transparent as possible to their audience.
‘’We’d all like to live in a world where the most influence in leadership is awarded to the people who intend to create – and do create – the positive change the planet and the people living on it need and deserve,” said Asher. “But humans are not ‘designed’ to recognise those people easily. We’re inclined to pay attention to people who communicate in a confident and engaging way.”
CEO, X3M Ideas Steve Babaeko, an industry veteran called on the participants not to give up or look down on their ability towards their target.
“Brand building is an integral aspect of personal and business development. It not only increases the voice and consumer awareness of a brand, but it also gives it an identity and worth”.
“The advent of participatory and interactive platforms has given many businesses the chance to enhance brand awareness and equity. If you have been thinking of building a personal or business brand, then it is important for you to know that brand building takes a great deal of time and resources, and create a unique brand that resonates in the heart of people and can be easily identify should be the prime target of any entrepreneur,” he said