Without an identity your business is bound to fail. Unfortunately the business environment in Africa allows many companies with larger resources to get away with not following basic business fundamentals. But what if you’re a small or medium start up that doesn’t have the luxury of a rich backer? How do you even the playing field with bigger businesses? A very important way of doing this is creating your identity, and then maintaining it. And I’m going to unabashedly use an actual business I came across in Livingstone, Zambia to show you what NOT to do when it comes to your brand’s identity.
A Rock Café style restaurant; great location; unique.
This business started off playing rock music ONLY, and served international pub style food, and had impeccable decor. It literally was the only restaurant of its kind in Livingstone, which you think would bode well considering it was situated not only in a prime location, but resided in a TOURIST TOWN.
One week after the restaurant opened, it took on a whole new identity. ONE WEEK LATER the menu had nshima on the menu, the music had switched from rock to urban and dance music, and big screen TVs were installed. I asked the owner what happened, his answer was simply “that what the customers want”.
His unique establishment became like every other standard restaurant and lost its identity, 3 months later the restaurant was shut down. How you can avoid this?
1. FIND YOUR IDENTITY
The concept of “identity” in business is a fluid one. You may have to tweak this till you find something that works, even after your business has started. The restaurant had a uniqueness that had already established itself over almost every other restaurant in Livinsgtone. This is exactly what your brand should do. Find an identity that is unique.
2. MARKET YOUR IDENTITY
There’s no point working hard to find a new cool identity if you don’t let people know about it. With knowing your identity you should already have an idea of what type of customer your business appeals to. Be sure to market smart. Be careful of following marketing strategies of more established companies as those strategies are catered towards their IDENTITY and not yours, come up with your own stuff.
3. WEATHER THE STORM
Start-ups seldom have the stars aligned in a way that they corner the market after 3 months, so as optimistic as you may be that this is going to happen, it’s not something you can’t predict. HOPE FOR THE BEST, and PREPARE FOR THE WORST. Business takes time, maybe even more tweaking is needed till you get it right.
The restaurant didn’t give itself a chance to have a bad month, quickly changing its identity after just ONE WEEK. I can guarantee if the owner stuck with his vision, with his theme, with his identity, he would have slowly but surely developed his own clientèle and still be open, but impatience and inexperience changed his standards and the business suffered because of it. Believe in your brand and WEATHER THE STORM.
This small simple advice can, make or break your business. Let it make yours!
Written by Bobby McCarron (Sales & Marketing Mangager @ RedNovacane Media)