FORTNYT SERIES – START-UP #7

Many businesses today are operating but can’t seem to understand why they can’t suitably and competitively penetrate through their target market. What they have failed to understand is that company branding plays a huge role in boosting company sales and the overall customer perspective.

The 7th session of the Fortnyt Series tackles the importance and need for start-ups to focus more on branding in order to achieve their desired success. The Q&A session hosted by TechBuzz Hub on the 12th January 2018 at its main office in Ntinda under the theme BRAND STRATEGY AND STRUCTURE (How does proper startup branding and structuring contribute to its fast growth?) was paneled by young entrepreneurs and brand strategists who have achieved tremendous success in their businesses due to branding.

The   discussion was moderated by Mr. Keneth Twesigye along-side the evening’s panelists; Mr. Joshua Nsiimbi brand strategist and co-founder Shades, Mr. Charles Ekaju C.E.O and founder Eknza Investment limited and Daniel Mwesigwa: a Techie and Blogger at Dignited.

A brand is the consumers feeling about your product, your service or organisation defined the moderator quoting the author of brand Gap Marty Neumeier right before proceeding to the first question of the night.

Tell us your story about branding in regard to the company you represent today?

According to Joshua; they carried out market tasting and assessed what people want “We knew we want to sell but how do we get you to buy? Said Joshua. We did market tasting, shared it around among friends and they said it was good.

Then we went to colors, we thought of what colors would resonate on caps, t-shirts, key holders” he said. “After that we had to look at feelings, how do they feel when they put on these t-shirts? Do they feel confident? that’s how we dealt with the feeling.

We went to the Packaging and delivery: We got code names for the shades like zero-five (05). How it works is that; while contacted through your phone inbox people use the codes and we never mess up on the orders” Joshua explained.

Daniel Mwesigwa: Having worked with different companies and then now involved in a number of different works, blogging, co-founder Arvac a t-shirt company, worked with investment advisors. Daniel’s responses throughout the session were mainly from the experiences he has had with these organisation/companies. “I am more of a theoretical guy I borrow from different sources” he said giving a historical insight of Arvac’s branding journey. “There was a void in the market, why should I wear a low quality, expensive t-shirt? He asked. “It was quite easy because it’s a big void, branding wasn’t hard” he responded.

 “A product is the soul of the company, its hope you’re selling. Our focus was university students who wanted to go to fellowships, retreats. We looked at how to do illustrations, looked at quality of paste. We use screen printing, do four layers. We do the largest number of print” he affirmed.  “We source our fabric in Kenya not because Uganda doesn’t have the quality we need but Uganda’s fabric is not ready and consistently available” Daniel explained

“We figured out a niche ourselves, we focus on quality, affordability and speed of delivery.                                                                                               

We looked at; how do we give value and how do we make profits. We started off selling our t-shirts cheaply @15,000ugx as we gained market share we increased the prices to cover our expenses.

Our cheapest t-shirt costs 25,000ugx. Very many people go in for the big brands and big prices. We are the cheapest on the market. We fall in the middle without crippling ourselves and providing quality” he said.

Ekaju Charles:How many people use social media? How many have bought a product on social media? What enticed you to buy?” Charles asked. “Just the logo itself will entice you to buy” he added. Recalling a time on the Ugandan market where the government had banned the use of polythene bags (locally known as obuvela), so he tried to seize the opportunity of making paper bags to make money which later drove him into the digital marketing business he his proudly doing today.

“My aim was to make money. I bought papers and started making paper bags. The market was limited, I was selling to chapati guys who wanted 100 paper bags at only 500ugx Said Charles. “I approached a manager at cafe javas and told him I wanted to supply them with paper bags. He told me that: they are a brand and can’t buy products that are not branded. I ended up missing the contract because I didn’t have a brand said Charles. That’s why I registered my business and started doing marketing” he added.

 He advised the audience to think big and continuously work on building their brands “The reason why you know big companies is because they have a brand they have built.  Brand has to be unique because it’s what sells your product and don’t think small. You have to be persistent in promoting your brand” Advised Charles.

With regard to operations, customer interactions, customer support, customer values and company image. How different are your brands from other related competitors?

Daniel Mwesigwa: “We don’t care about competition and the other thing which is contradictory is that we are obsessed with competition Said Daniel”.

Joshua Nsiimbi: “Customer service, instead of explaining your mission, vision act like it” Joshua said. That relationship with your client is what sells your product he added giving an instance where a client gave an order and upon delivery he was shocked with what he saw. “They expected to see a sweaty guy carrying a lot of things but they found a clean eloquent guy” said Joshua.  “You’re not selling a product but you’re giving them a reason why they should buy your product” he added.

Charles Ekaju: “We focus on being unique. We don’t want to give you the content but rather train you to get the content, and we believe that sometimes the business has to be confidential. We train you, we give you the concept then you train yourself how to run your business. After some time we get feedback and in case you have any difficulties we come in and help you” said Charles.

How do you monitor your brand elsewhere in a channel where customers access your product or services?

Charles Ekaju: Social media the likes of Facebook Twitter and other media platforms play a very important role of promoting and boosting company brands. “We focus more on Feedback, in the comment sections people are able to express what they think about your product” said Charles.

Joshua Nsiimbi: “I use more of social media on ground to monitor my brand. Off ground I monitor the behavior! How is the behavior on ground. Monitor the people who visit the site, who like our page and talk to them. I establish the pain points on site and on ground” said Joshua.

Daniel Mwesigwa: “With feedback, our business is very reliant on referrals. We listen mostly offline. Strict enforcement, what our quality is like! What our price is like!” said Daniel.

What communication channels and strategies can you or have you employed to reach the audience?

Daniel: “When Warid launched on our market their focus was to be everywhere. Where there was a Coca-Cola billboard you would find a Warid billboard. If your focus is mass market you need to focus to push more offline. It depends on what your focus are and narrow it down to a specific channel” Daniel Said.

Joshua: Word of mouth, if people speak about you it’s easier to do the convincing for you.  Even if you’re scaling be practical, if you are using an influencer why? In the African market, it’s the peoples market. Find the right people to sell your product” said Joshua.

Charles: “People like a brand that is involved with events. Learn to do events partnerships! That’s the bests way you’re going to build a brand. Business cards, they might seem small but they are big, he said, a business card shows how organized you are! he added. Personal outlook sell you, how you present yourself, the way you look communicates. Always involve your brand in everything you do, learn to put your brand name on everything you do” said Charles.

In a way to promote the brand where should our brands (start-ups and entrepreneurs) spend most of their time?

Joshua: “Before you start selling a brand make sure your product and brand are on point. Create visibility, position yourself in the market because when you position, your product resonates as you scale. Don’t focus so much on the team, in the beginning minimize resources?” said Joshua.

Charles:First know the type of business you’re going to do. Focus on what your business is doing. Communication and marketing, good communication sells he said. But also, as a brand, Documentation is key. Learn to have your documentation in order so that if you want a loan with the bank, your books of accounts can defend you. Stop being lazy! Learn to be hardworking and learn to be an innovator” said Charles.

Daniel: Brand starts from the internal and the purpose of the startup. Therefore, spending time in research is a typical element, It gives you a chance to study the market both micro and macro. Micro is what you’re capable of, your talents. Macro is facing the market, how big is your addressable market” according to Daniel. “As you’re doing your research don’t fall in the tyranny of numbers Daniel advised. “Most of these companies with big statistics have been there for a long time he continued”

What processes do you put in place to make sure the brand is carefully managed?

 

Daniel: “Avarc’s processes are more of quality control, how is our logo presented? It’s more of lugezigezi (Self-belief)” Daniel said. “But that’s what our style guide advises us to do, he added.  “Feedback, we encourage interaction, marketing, everything we put out is carefully thought of” Daniel assured.

 

Charles: “Monitor your product, monitor your service, and keep track and follow-ups of your products. Asses your product, analyze your product, analyze the response. Learn to listen to your fellows. Innovate, learn to come up with new products. Personality, exposure, get into the dirt and work. ”Charles advised.

Joshua: “When you position you have a culture. Listen and improve. Look at the numbers but don’t get limited by the numbers” Joshua advised.

What do you advice to be put in place or considered for startups/entrepreneurs starting in the regard of maintaining a good brand?

Joshua; He recalls during the social media awards, Mr. Daniel Mwesigwa and his colleague inspired him to start the business his doing now with just his words, “Sometimes you have to break the rules”. You have a company of people that help you learn. Have papers. Blend it with what you do” said Joshua.  In most cases there many rules you have to follow before starting up a business requires a lot of expensive paper work to be done before starting, then there is market tasting and analysis. “The heartbeat of a lasting brand are the people behind the brand” he noted.

 

Charles: “Learn to challenge yourself as a startup, don’t fear because you will have people that tell you it won’t work. Learn to be human don’t over stress yourself. Be ready to learn because you don’t know everything. Choose your team well. Prayer is always something that works no matter what your religion is” Charles emphasized.

Daniel: “Do something out of the odd! Do something to stand out even if you’re to claim you have the best material, the best blog” said Daniel.

          Audience questions

  1. I have done graphics for four years I noticed that branding is looked at differently. When am hired to do a job I usually talk to my clients’ customers Find out what they like then I can design something that they (clients customers) want. What kind of tools do you use when branding? (Dianah Bwengye – graphics designer)

Design is empathy: there has been different newer concepts in design. If you want to build a product, how fast can you build it and with minimal expense. Design sprints: how do you accelerate through sprints cut down on decision, how quick are you at prototyping” said Daniel.

“Come up with different demos present them to clients give them a chance to design what works for them” said Charles.

“Understand, collect as much as you can, find out what they want and deliver” Joshua.

  1. How do you protect your brand from competitors?(Samuel Okiror)

”You need to document or register, if not, do some basic forms of registration then it’s open to anyone” said Charles.

“Don’t worry about the brand unless it’s done. When you’re thinking about brand, just be the best you can, beat them (competitors) at execution” said Daniel.

“The market is not kind and forgiving, start and follow up. It is the best way you can protect your brand” Said Joshua.

  1. How do I study my market? How do you protect my idea/brand?(Daniel Kasozi)

Copyright lasts 20yrs, what exactly are you protecting? Daniel asked. You should learn where the best protection is, are you protecting a module that cures aids. Protection is important but also costly said Daniel

  1. In order to sell a product you need to have a good story. Is it true for the Uganda market?(Dianah Bwengye)

“You need to stand out, sometimes it’s the product and the story but sometimes in the market there is no time for a story said Joshua.

Sometimes if the story doesn’t speak out the social value then it will not sell.

  1. How do start-ups collaborate with big companies? (Nakaffero Nora)

“If you want to be at the top you have to run the race. The big dogs are not your enemies, they worked to be the big dogs. It’s not good being at the top sometimes, its good being a good number 7. Being at the top is brutal. Do you need to be at the top or do you want to be at the top?” Advised Joshua.

A brand sets you apart from your competitors. It directly speaks to your clients/ target market and clearly stipulates the quality of products and services your offering to the public. It certainly keeps you on your toes in order to deliver what you have promised. It might take time to achieve but all good things take time you must consistently thrive to be better than your competitors by doing the best which eventually drives you to being the best.

 

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