Opinion: Engagement in entrepreneurial brand mix

As a way forward entrepreneurs should develop and own a brand audit sheet which becomes a brand operational checklist/yardstick .

Traditional branding philosophies seem to be anchored on building positive image mostly.

That is through the publicly known elements including advertisements, sale calls and mere logos. Yes it is part of the whole focus towards build high brand equity. 

Though there is need to move forward through add-ons that are for real brand engagement rather than general presentations, displays and propositions.

Engaging with the customers and general populace seem to be overlooked as a standalone pillar in the existing marketing mixes. Which then makes this proposed model (S.P.E.L.T) an amplified version to configure what I call a progressive as entrepreneurial brand mix which is spearheaded by engagement.

Brand engagement is a critical component for our survival, growth and longevity as aspiring entrepreneurs. It’s a daunting task to say in practice.

 Especially if we ask ourselves at which level of the entrepreneurial business lifecycle we should do a brand engagement.

You will find that some will engage more with the targeted customers/stakeholders in the formation stage as start-ups and others later on when they grow to big corporates.

Though most will out of ignorance, excitement or mistakenly stop engagement when they grow in the name that the brand will now be selling itself. That is wrong as a practice especially in this era of extensive competition and volatility were it is easy to be forgotten and replaced.

Real brands continue to engage and search for better in terms of relating and talking novelty. Of course in many instances we have talked about Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and its benefits but here we search for a deeper symbiotic connection. One that results in all sorts of benefits/gains by both parties that is the stakeholders (mainly customers) and the entrepreneurial business.

Some of the benefits (from both a customer and company) that will accrue out of real brand engagement have been discussed in various fora and we can even remind each other.  For the former the benefit has been seen to be mostly elimination of financial and psychological risk.

The customer will know that he/she will get high value for money through engaging with a prime and reliable brand. That is through being guaranteed in terms of performance and satisfaction.

Again it is important to note that the reason why most of our entrepreneurial offering (products/services) are not consumed or even just end up being for window-shopping is that of psychological risk.

Which the potential customers perceive to be part of our business craftsmanship as SMEs. There is more fear of the unknown in our markets when we present our offerings to them (even of losing life through consuming what we have provided). It then calls for real engagement through brands that foresee, addresses and clarify risk-free before and after consumption. 

Conversely there are also key benefits when the company priorities engagement in its branding mix. Mainly the SMSE will become and develop to be not only an establishment for products/service provision.

But a source of comfort where other personal/character related matters of the customers/stakeholders are looked for and addressed. Here we get a competitive advantage by being extra customer centric through brand engagement.

As a way forward entrepreneurs should develop and own a brand audit sheet which becomes a brand operational checklist/yardstick that continues to monitor brand engagement processes.

There are key areas that needs to be part of this packaging. Especially those that connects audits brand value against customer satisfaction.

This seem like a water and oil mixture as the two parties (company and the customers) are usually not at the same level of measurement.  It is when we closely monitor, visit, talk and address concerns of our global customers that a brand audit for engagement will be a success. There has been some software developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other automated networked systems to enhance such an arrangement for engagement (which is a detailed discussion in other editions to come).

We then go to setting-up meetings (especially face-to-face) for brand engagement which should be done on a regular basis. Like the upcoming annual ZITF which is a low hanging fruit for our SMEs to directly interact through brand engagement with the potential stakeholders (customers, investors and other stakeholders).

We as participants at such platforms also learn through a wider engagement as we share with others in the same/related industry.

When we go for these indabas and expos (local, regional and international) we ride on the law of brand fellowship as we do not only compete but share experiences, new innovations and proposals for likely mergers/integrations. 

All these are an outcome of the having engagement as a key ingredient of the contemporary entrepreneurial brand mix.

Lastly, it is now clear that engagement is not only with the customers but the whole value chain as the brand will start its dominance from the inbound logistics where we acquire raw materials/set-up services to the last part of after sales.

It should always be appreciated that brand engagement moves up the point where after sales services converted into shareholding.

As the same customers/stakeholders will become brand ambassadors/advocates and venture capitalists. Everyone is prepared to invest wholly in a brand that is popular at all levels in terms of its visibility through a highly connected engagement.

You can do the same at any cost. Let’s revamp our SMEs brand engagement and escalate towards a new mix of our age across all sectors of enterprising. Till then we look forward for a continued engagement as we grow driven by visionary entrepreneurial brand mixes that are created by us.

  • Dr Farai Chigora is a businessman and academic. He is the head of business science at the Africa University’s College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance. His doctoral research focused on business administration (destination marketing and branding major, Ukzn, SA). He is into agribusiness and consults for many companies in Zimbabwe and Africa. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted for feedback and business at [email protected], WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871, Website www.fachip.co.zw

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