How brand-building can give SMEs the competitive edge

The air is filled with a new exuberance. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Make In India’ aspires to turn India into a manufacturing hub for the rest of the world. Alongside, his invitation to US companies to participate in India’s industrial space signals a robust development for India’s booming SME community.

At an estimated 64 million in 2016, India has the second largest number of SMEs in the world, with China leading the table. While it has been established that SMEs have the potential to drive industry growth, what most entrepreneurs do not realise is that apart from conducive administrative reforms, some of the challenges they face can often be addressed by one important strategy in their arsenal: Branding.
Branding is a need, not a luxury.

We live in a world that is dominated by brands. A brand inspires trust. It is the single most powerful and unifying statement that embodies an organisation’s culture and values and once well established, can create incremental value. Unfortunately, the importance of branding is often undervalued. There are certain fundamental beliefs that SMEs often have about branding which makes it the last item on their checklist. Let us take a look at some of these:

Branding is for large organizations
As is obvious, most SMEs prefer to focus on perfecting their product and service strategies first. Prohibitive media costs and the bombardment of big campaigns by big brands only shine a spotlight on their scarce resources. However, just as there are SMEs across all industries, they even exist in the branding and advertising categories. As they share the same space, they offer specialised services tailored to the needs and requirements of limited budget clients. Hence, all opportunities must be explored

Branding is an expensive exercise
There is a common belief that branding involves huge capital investment. Those were the days of traditional media. Fortunately in today’s digital era, brands can and are often built on limited resources. Digital solutions are multiple and better targeted to audiences, giving your brand high visibility at a fraction of the cost of newspaper and television advertising. Also, entrepreneurs are nimble, quick on their feet and are therefore able to strategically use ‘out of the box thinking’ to break through the clutter at lower costs.

We know our customers and vice versa, so we don’t need branding: A possible cover-up for lack of budgets, this is often the biggest hurdle given that growth comes from attracting new, unknown customers and not just from the existing customer base. If you are not out there as a brand, there is no way someone can know about you.

We would rather invest our limited resources in our product and other critical areas of the business: Very often, it is the day to day survival that occupies the time for most business owners leaving branding at the bottom of the strategy chain. Entrepreneurs need to realise that branding is also a critical part of the business building process.

Branding builds bigger, better business
SMEs should shift their mind-sets and make branding an integral part of their business plan rather than an afterthought. It should emerge, grow and evolve along with the business and the company will see a significant difference in the impact it creates.

Building the business and sustaining growth
Growing the business with limited access to capital and resources can prove to be challenging. Branding helps in creating demand for products and services, resulting in faster sales. Even for B2B business, branding creates recognition, reputation and trust resulting in better conversions.

Expanding from local to national to international
No SME wants to remain an SME and always aims for bigger glory. The struggle to expand into national and international markets can be long and tedious. Branding helps in creating awareness and acceptance for products and services across borders, resulting in a faster adoption.

Attracting the right talent
Great brands are trusted. They cushion their stakeholders in security. People want to work for brands that they can entrust their career with, to the extent that they would willingly compromise on a higher salary offered by a smaller or lesser-established brand. This enables SMEs to attract good talent at lower costs which further increases their success ratio.

Getting a premium for products/services
People are willing to pay a premium for an enhanced, consistent brand experience. As a brand, SMEs focusing on the same can afford to charge a premium resulting in better business and sales.

Most of the large brands we trust today have started as SMEs. Whether we talk of Walmart or Virgin in the international space, or closer to home, Reliance, Airtel, Flipkart and Hero Group, among many others.

Today, best practice in corporate brand building involves defining the corporate brand (its purpose, beliefs, verbal and visual identity), integrating the brand in the culture, designing the brand experience for every stakeholder, and then relentlessly managing the brand across the universe of touch points.

Defining the corporate brand
The first step towards building your brand is to be crystal clear on what you stand for and what your promise is. There is no magic formula or model for this. It takes smart people, clarity and creativity of thought, debate, and sometimes more research to determine the right answer. Creating the brand idea also requires a leap of faith to find something that captures the current positive brand equities as well as a vision for the brand’s future.

It needs to be something that is relevant to your audiences but also differentiated; something credible to who you are and also accountable. The more visionary this idea, the more it can sustain in the long term. GE is about imagination at work. Nike stands for winning. Mahindra embodies rise. The brand idea acts as a strategic filter for the future. It should be reflected in the visual and verbal identity of the brand. The logo, colours, typography, photography, materials and tonality should all be in sync with the brand idea.

Integrating the brand in the culture
The smartest companies know that the brand must be lived internally first before being delivered externally. Once the brand is defined, you must spend time defining the culture that will best allow you to deliver what the brand promises. This is not about fancy internal brand launches that then fizzle off after launch day. It is a prolonged programme of engaging all employees with the brand so that it informs their daily behaviours.

Such engagement programmes involve consistent interventions by way of workshops, communication material, e-learning modules and other tools to take employees on the journey from awareness to understanding to belief to action. It can take anywhere from six months to several years depending on the complexity of the organization and the degree of behaviour change involved. The goal should be for everyone in the organsation to have shared brand values which they use every day in the decision-making on behalf of the brand. IBM is one example. After employees are on board, it is important to align other stakeholder groups as well including agency partners, vendors, government partners and others – to inspire them to live the brand promises.

Designing the brand experience for every stakeholder
Once the brand and culture have been defined, examine every relationship the brand has from the stakeholder’s perspective. A useful tool here is the Employee Journey or Customer Journey. It involves mapping every stage of the stakeholder’s relationship with the brand from awareness to loyalty. In each stage touch points are listed and are analysed based on the stakeholder needs. Then, using what the brand stands for, possible solutions are arrived at for various brand interventions across every stage of the journey. Companies typically roll-out such an exercise to improve the customer experience but rarely do they think of using the same tool to define the ideal employee experience.

Managing the corporate brand
It is always possible to do things well once (typically at launch or re-launch) but the hallmark of truly great brands is perseverance. Diligence and patience are needed in huge doses in the game of corporate brand building. Companies that have built valuable brands have institutionalized brand to the extent that there is no difference between doing something for the business and doing something for the brand. They know that perfection in execution is far more important than perfection in strategy.

They employ both simple and sophisticated stakeholder experience management tools to constantly mind the gap between promise and delivery in everything they say and do. If they do make mistakes, they quickly and transparently admit to their failings, solve the problem and get going with their daily task of building the corporate brand, one action at a time.

The rules of branding don’t really change whether implemented in a large organization context or aligning to the needs of an SME. However, there are some additional factors an entrepreneur must keep some important tips in mind:
Influence of the entrepreneur: Most SMEs are individual driven and born from his passion, personality and values. The brand must personify these to avoid discrepancy between the brand promise and customer experience.

Influence of the entrepreneur on the company structure: This is based on his awareness and comfort of brand management, the people chosen to run the branding function and the objectives set for the department.

Execution of the vision: The brand experience begins with the entrepreneur. He embodies the spirit of the brand and will affect everything – employee interactions, product and service interactions and other touch points.

To conclude, SMEs need to build and manage their corporate brands with the same urgency as their balance sheets. Investment in brand is investment in business. Brands project power. They are your differentiator in a world saturated with assembly line goods and services. This is the first and most important step towards achieving their goals.

This article was first published on Indian Economic Times on 18th Oct 2018

265 Comments

  1. Hi, I do think this is a great site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may return once
    again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.

  2. I’ve been browsing online more than three hours today, yet
    I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all webmasters and
    bloggers made good content as you did, the net
    will be much more useful than ever before.

  3. Ahaa, its fastidious dialogue on the topic of this piece of writing here
    at this website, I have read all that, so at this time me also commenting
    here.

  4. It is the best time to make some plans for the
    future and it is time to be happy. I’ve learn this submit and if I may just I want to recommend you few interesting things or suggestions.

    Perhaps you can write subsequent articles relating
    to this article. I desire to read more issues about it!

  5. Wow, this paragraph is fastidious, my sister is
    analyzing these kinds of things, thus I am going to
    let know her.

  6. I’ve been surfing online greater than three hours lately, but I by no means discovered any interesting article like
    yours. It’s beautiful worth sufficient for me.
    Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as
    you did, the web will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  7. all the time i used to read smaller content that as well
    clear their motive, and that is also happening with this post which I am reading at this time.

  8. I have been browsing online more than 4 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It’s pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all
    website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before.

  9. Amazing! This blog looks just like my old one!
    It’s on a entirely different topic but it has pretty much the same page layout and design.
    Great choice of colors!

  10. Hi! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I came
    to look it over. I’m definitely enjoying the
    information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this
    to my followers! Superb blog and excellent style and design.

  11. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my blog so i came to “return the favor”.I’m trying to find things to enhance my web
    site!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  12. I want to to thank you for this great read!! I certainly
    enjoyed every little bit of it. I have got you book marked
    to look at new things you

  13. Thank you for some other wonderful article.
    Where else may just anybody get that kind of information in such an ideal approach of writing?
    I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I’m at the look for such information.

  14. It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.
    I have read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you few interesting
    things or tips. Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article.
    I desire to read more things about it!

  15. This is a topic that’s near to my heart… Take care! Exactly
    where are your contact details though?

  16. I have been surfing online greater than 3 hours lately, yet I by no means discovered any attention-grabbing article like yours.
    It’s beautiful value enough for me. In my opinion, if all site owners and bloggers made
    just right content as you did, the net can be much more
    useful than ever before.

  17. I am sure this article has touched all the internet users,
    its really really good paragraph on building up new website.

  18. Howdy! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us
    so I came to check it out. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to
    my followers! Terrific blog and brilliant style and design.

  19. I like what you guys tend to be up too. This type of clever work and reporting!

    Keep up the good works guys I’ve added you guys
    to our blogroll.

  20. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this post plus the rest of the site is really good.

  21. It’s perfect time to make some plans for the longer term and it’s time to be happy.
    I have learn this publish and if I may just I wish to recommend you
    few fascinating things or advice. Perhaps you can write subsequent articles regarding
    this article. I want to learn even more things about it!

  22. I am sure this post has touched all the internet visitors, its really really fastidious
    piece of writing on building up new website.

  23. Everyone loves what you guys tend to be up too. This sort of clever work
    and coverage! Keep up the great works guys I’ve incorporated you
    guys to our blogroll.

  24. Wow, this paragraph is nice, my sister is analyzing these things, so I am going to tell her.

  25. It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.
    I have read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things
    or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article.
    I desire to read more things about it!

  26. All you might want to do is logon to our online generator,
    at its dedicated page and follow the on-screen directions
    to get your Robux for free of charge in any respect!

  27. Hey there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us
    so I came to check it out. I’m definitely
    enjoying the information. I’m book-marking and will be
    tweeting this to my followers! Outstanding blog and superb style and design.

  28. I will right away seize your rss as I can’t find your email
    subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you’ve any?
    Please permit me recognize in order that I may
    subscribe. Thanks.

  29. Howdy, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i
    was just curious if you get a lot of spam responses?
    If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or anything you can advise?

    I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any support is very much appreciated.

  30. cost of stromectol – ivermectin 3mg tablets price

  31. I have been surfing online greater than three hours as of late, but I by no means found any interesting article
    like yours. It is pretty worth sufficient for me.
    In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made good content material as you probably did, the
    internet will be much more helpful than ever before.

  32. Woah! I’m redally digging thee template/theme off this site.
    It’s simple, yeet effective. A lott oof tmes it’s difficult too geet thqt “perfect balance” btween supoerb uusability
    annd appearance. I muwt say you have done a amzzing
    job with this. In addition, thhe blog loadss extremeely fas for mee oon Safari.

    Outstganding Blog!

  33. It is perfect time to make some plans for the future
    and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I
    want to suggest you few interesting things or advice.

    Maybe you could write next articles referring to this
    article. I want to read even more things about it!

  34. prescription drug price comparison sites cvs coupon policy 2018 sildenafil effects on heart viagra prices women using viagra how much does sildenafil cost grapefruit with medication side effects

  35. sildenafil at walmart daily use of viagra sildenafil generic sildenafil citrate 100mg prices india legitimate generic viagra sites cvs rx discount card

  36. buy pfizer vgr 100 heart benefits of viagra short funny quotes buy sildenafil online red male enhancement pill reviews walmart tadalafil prices without insurance

  37. Hi, i feel that i saw you visited my site thus i got here to “go back the favor”.I am attempting to find issues to improve my website!I suppose its good enough to make use of a few of your ideas!!

  38. Very nice blog post. I certainly love this website.
    Continue the good work!

  39. I am sure this piece of writing has touched all the
    internet viewers, its really really nice piece of writing on building
    up new website.

  40. I’ve been browsing online more than three hours
    today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It is pretty price enough for me. Personally, if all web owners and bloggers
    made just right content as you probably
    did, the web will probably be a lot more helpful than ever before.

  41. generic viagra from us pharmacy how good is viagra is viagra safe for heart patients buy cialis pills online can you take viagra daily how to take 20 mg cialis belviq before and after pictures

  42. I will right away seize your rss as I can’t to find your e-mail subscription hyperlink
    or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please permit me
    recognise in order that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  43. qsymia diet pill fda approved seed packages for sale cialis 10 grapefruit pectin side effects does colorado medicaid cover viagra

  44. Холостячка 2 сезон https://bit.ly/39ioLkW Смотреть онлайн шоу Холостячка 2 сезон на СТБ.
    Пост шоу можно смотреть тут. Холостячка стб 2 сезон 1-2 серия

  45. Холостячка 2 сезон https://bit.ly/39ioLkW Смотреть онлайн шоу Холостячка 2 сезон на СТБ.
    Пост шоу можно смотреть тут. Холостячка стб 2 сезон 1-2 серия

  46. I need to to thank you for this fantastic read!!

    I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you
    bookmarked to check out new things you


  47. steel libido for men sam e drug viagrakari.com lilly cares samples request form ingredients in viagra and cialis companies waiting for fda approval

  48. Wow, this post is pleasant, my younger sister is analyzing such things, thus I am going to convey her.


  49. does sildenafil work for women how to use viagra effectively cialis 5 purchase viagra how does cialis work best non fda approved drug list

  50. It’s very easy to find out any matter on net as compared to textbooks, as
    I found this piece of writing at this website.


  51. I really like it when folks come together and share opinions.
    Great blog, stick with it!


  52. cenforce 100 customer reviews best price for viagra cialis coupon interaction between viagra and nitrates male enhancement pills viagra

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.