Create a reputation – then build on it

Entrepreneurship is gaining in popularity in the UAE with ever more businesses popping up, especially in the food and retail sector. A friend recently remarked to me: “How do all these emerging fashion designers make profits? I feel that the market is saturated.”

While it may seem that way – a factor that could deter aspiring entrepreneurs who worry about competition – when a business brands itself properly, the competition and everything else around it becomes of no concern. This is because the business has that distinguishing factor, that interesting brand story that makes it stand out.

Two weeks ago, I held our third Anjez business motivational talk with a brand strategist from Kuwait, Mohammed Al Robaian, who highlighted how branding is a large component of the success of a business.

We cannot deny how a solid investment and a good team are important components in the formula of success, but we should also not overlook the power of properly branding our business and maintaining its reputation.

To establish a brand and a reputation to go with it, here are few factors to consider:

1. Develop your mission statement.

If you are opening a restaurant, it is not just about selling food. What does the restaurant represent? What are its values? For instance it could be along the lines of: “To provide healthy food options at great prices”. Your mission statement encompasses what your business stands for.

2. Your brand and marketing should revolve around your mission statement.

Once you have set your mission statement and what your values are, start working on your brand identity.

3. Take your time to develop your brand identity.

As my guest speaker Mr Al Robaian mentioned in his talk: “Brand is more than a logo, it’s a story”. What does your brand stand for? What is its story? Let’s look at Starbucks, for instance. It not only sells coffee, it’s also a place where you can spend hours working, meeting clients, or just hanging out with friends.

4. Your brand identity and mission statement must be aligned.

If your mission is for your customers to receive a VIP treatment, then incorporate that into the way you address them, the invitations they receive, and how they are treated in-store. Your brand identity should reflect your mission statement not only in how your brand looks, or what your customer sees but also in how they experience your brand.

5. Take your branding out for a walk before you launch

Once you have started developing your brand identity, it is important to test how others see it. Conduct the experiment on potential customers. When you are working on your brand identity, keep your own feelings and assumptions on how you think your brand should look and feel to yourself. The most important thing is how your customers feel about it. For instance you might like a certain font, but it might not be commercial or appeal to your target audience. Start by conducting a survey, or a small conversation with your target audience.

6. Maintain a relationship with your clients

Even after you launch the business, keep an open conversation between you and your customers to continuously enhance the brand’s experience. That could be carried out via rating cards handed to restaurant customers at the end of the dinner, an email survey, or by simply asking them to suggest ways to enhance the experience. Some brands utilise their social media platforms for this purpose. They conduct a competition asking clients to provide feedback; those who do so are then eligible for a draw. Social media also provides a great platform to start a discussion group.

There will always be some competition, but how you brand your business and maintain its reputation can go a long way, and is probably the main reason behind its success.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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