When you work as a communications consultant helping start-ups with their marketing and branding needs, you get to meet people of all walks of life. I’ve met some who were starting a business just because “entrepreneurship” is a thing now, or so they thought, and others who wanted to prove their parents wrong.
There are many reasons behind doing the things we do, and why we are really doing them. But what puts me on an edge and lets my course of discussion about branding move into a new direction, to that of business development and prioritisation, is when a client puts emphasis on elements that are not really important yet.
A few weeks back, I met a very energetic potential client. We met for branding purposes. She turned on her laptop, and showed me some pantone colour swatches she wanted to implement in her logo and branding products.
She then moved on to another folder containing countless images she had picked up from the internet, of commercial spaces she loved and wanted to incorporate bits and pieces of into her upcoming business.
Next, she started talking about her office timings and the perks she would give her team and customers.
It all sounded great, progressive thinking and a place even I would like to be part of. She could be the next Google, but she had her priorities all jumbled up. And she is not alone. Numerous people I talk to consider their store’s layout before even thinking about a business plan or conduct some marketing research around their product and test whether there is an appetite for it to begin with.
When I asked my client more about her product and if I could see a business plan to understand exactly what she was trying to do, she shrugged her shoulders and said it did not matter.
Instead she wanted to focus on visual identity and office layout and think about the details later. She had planned to research her market and potential customers just before her business was ready to open.
There’s no doubt there are numerous details to consider before you launch, such as what kind of font to choose for your logo, how your office space might look and feel, and what kind of paper to choose for your letterhead. But there are more significant factors to take into account first, things that could make or break a business. And until those are figured out, it the thickness of the paper you choose for your business card is of no importance.
If you find yourself in a similar position, take a step back and re-prioritise. Instead:
• Work on your business plan. It should be the first step in your journey before you indulge in colour swatches and font styles. Work on a three to five-year business plan. Consider all the details from investment, financial projections, your team size and factor in all the costs. Writing things down will provide you with a different perspective and you may tweak or reconsider one or two elements.
• Do your market research. Your product/service may sound fantastic, but do clients feel the same way? Are you sure there is nothing similar in the market? And if there is, how would yours stand out? Make sure you understand your target market’s needs. What frustrates them? What do they think is missing in the market? What would make their life easier? You could do that in the form of a focus group or a survey.
• If it is a product you are developing, test it. Make sure it works. Work on a trial run. Share it with close friends, family members, and your target market and see what they think of it. Do they like it? Would they buy it? Take their feedback to enhance your products.
• Last but not least, take your time. When I meet clients, they are always in a rush, as if not launching their business next month would see it fly away. Take your time to make sure you have thought everything true, that your product has passed several test runs, that your customer service team is fully trained and ready to cater to customers’ needs.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and entrepreneur based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.
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