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Thursday, 28 January 2016

Brand Craft

Be a Brand or a Monopoly. Otherwise Be Small.

You will never create anything big unless you make it a brand- whether a bank, musician, university, toilet paper, politician, search engine, fast food restaurant, Computer, soft drink, charitable organization, media house, clinic, law firm, athlete, church, etc.
If this is a fact why do so many entrepreneurs and SME Business owners work so hard to grow their business without trying to make them brands? They invest time, money and effort to develop innovative and quality products, systems, hiring the best sales people, selecting the hottest business names, tag lines, company colors and creating logos.
But is this not what brand building is all about? Yes and No.
Yes because this is the first half of building a brand and a big NO because this is the smaller half. In a three step brand development continuum where the lowest level is a commodity, second step a label and the highest a brand when you have the best you can achieve with all these efforts is a label.
A commodity is an undifferentiated product, service or company. A label is one has identity that is differentiates it from others businesses or product offerings of same kind. But a brand has emotional and psychological connection with a sizable market segment. There is a form of love relationship between the brand and its target customers.
Every human being by the mare fact that he has unique finger prints, name, DNA, mannerisms and behavior is a label. He has an identity. He is different from other men. But Nelson Mandela, Barrack Obama, Billy Graham, Michael Jordan are brands. As long as you define your uniqueness using the physical and biological characteristics you will always be a label. You may be a brand but only to a few. That also applies to businesses.
Many entrepreneurs and business owners are working very hard to build labels. They want to bake the sweetest cake, sell the highest quality of furniture, be the consultant with the most tools, be the best doctor in town etc. They talk in terms of lowest price, best quality, good location, fast service etc. They wonder why their business doesn’t grow and hope that by working harder things will be different. The sad truth is that unless and until they are able to make their business brands they will remain small.
They need to come to the realization that the vehicle that will carry their businesses to growth is making brands of their products and businesses.
Building brands has many advantages to a business but I want to focus only the ones that play the biggest role in driving revenue and profit growth.
  1. Help Create a Monopoly for your Business :
Everyday there are many businesses started and products rolled out in the market with the aim of offering the customer variety of choice. In essence the market is out there for everyone to fight it out to for. Fighting out to be seen, considered and be bought. With a label you have to keep on trying many things to achieve one or more of these objectives.
The market forces are always seeking to push any product or company to the lowest level of a brand continuum – a commodity. They push brands to labels and labels to commodities. That is why some brands of yesterday are just labels.
Whatever business you are in, you should know it is easier to multiply your profits and revenues if you are a brand rather than a commodity or label. You should therefore look for a way to deal with the market forces that want to push you down. You could either ask the government to declare you as a monopoly or you use the only other alternative of creating a form of monopoly power – create a brand.
A brand becomes a tool that aids you in creating and owning your market segment. It helps you become friends with this market. You develop an emotional connection with it. When you own this market then you can unleash the business multiplier machine on it. This multiplier machine operates on the logic that you can only grow your business profits and revenues by getting more people buy more of your products, more often.
Labels and commodities have to spend so much to win a new customer, spend even more to keep them and get them to buy more. It is harder and more expensive to unleash the multiplier machine on labels and almost impossible on commodities. 

           2.Growth through new products
It is very difficult to grow any business beyond a certain point just on one product offering or product line. At some point, even for those who own a particular market for a certain category of products, you will need to add something new in your fold. The reason being that the market tastes, preferences and circumstances are always changing hence they will require new products. Competitors will pursue your customers with a better value propositions. To respond you will need to create new products and services.
Majority of SME Owners are innovators who have brought into the market something new. They appreciate the effort, resources and time required to make a new product succeed. Even for large organizations with massive resources it is never easier and there are no guarantees. That is why they build brands which are better equipped to launch a new product. Brand offer some level of success assurance.
Without a brand they will have to go through the pains and overcome the countless challenges of new product launch whenever they need to introduce a new flavor, launch a new product, complementing service, open a new store, and add a new feature etcetera. Every time you do this the customer sees you as new. You don’t have a point to leverage on your business experience, market knowledge, capacity, supplier networks etc which you have invested in over time. This heavily limits you chances of success. A brand ensures you the benefits of being an old friend.
‘NEW’ as a selling proposition works only for trusted brands. For them NEW is considered innovative and progressive. For labels and commodities ‘NEW’ is viewed as risky and inexperienced. Anything new has to be sold, and as a sales expert I understand selling is tough work worthy doing only when you have to do it.
If you are in the technology business you appreciate how fast you have to generate and deliver new products to the market. Without a brand as a vehicle through which you have to deliver your new innovations you are doomed from the start.

              3.Build Business for the Long Term
  Commodities experience high rate of ‘child’ mortality. Labels usually have a life expectancy of their creators. Brands have a life of their own.
Every entrepreneur I know starting or running a business has a desire to see his business outlive him. To do this lawyers recommend you register your businesses as limited liability companies and management consultants tell you to create business dependent on systems. This is wise counsel but only to some extent because they help separate your business from your body and mind but you still share the soul.
When you give up your soul the body and mind of your business will not live too long after.
A brand is the soul of business. It makes it alive. It stops being a robot supported by a legal document. It becomes an organism that can have relationships of its own; it can love and be loved. It has connections with its market, employees, suppliers etc.
Coca Cola, Toyota, Apple and countless other brands are alive and growing strong without the entrepreneurs who founded them because they are brands not because they are limited liability companies or they have great systems. A branded business is the only form of business that can grow on its own. Any other form will require the passion and genius of the founder to grow it.
If you really want to leave an inheritance to your children then need to make your business a brand.
These three points are not exhaustive but, if they would push you to be more determined to build brands or even to add a little knowledge on the subject then am happy.

Busting Impostor Sales Trainers

13 Questions You Should Ask a Sales Trainer ( and they should answer to your satisfaction) of the toughest decisions you make as a sales manager, training manager or Human Resource Manager is selecting a sales trainer who will give you value. Many trainers consider sales training as the easiest thing to do and consequently giving their clients less than they paid for.
Next time you are selecting a sales trainer or a sales training course for your team you can ask these questions of the training providers. The answers you get should help you go to sleep in peace. Otherwise you could be throwing away your money. You don't do that. Sales Training is an investment and you want to be sure you can get a good return from every coin you have invested in it.
  1. What pre –training activities will they carry out to understand your needs? You want to know you will get a suit tailored to your size.
  2. Do they know all the factors that drive sales performance? You are checking indepth understanding of sales and sales management.
  3. What tools would they use to deliver the training? If they charge you an arm and a leg, it need to be invested in quality tools for delivery.
  4. Beyond notes and PowerPoint what skill implementation tools do they provide? You are not looking for a parrot (or are you ?0 Implementation is important.
  5. Can they explain the philosophy behind the course design? If they just gather nice sounding phrases with no backing then you should not allow them near your sales team. They will infect them with the disease.
  6. How much does their course resemble a college lecture? Do you really want your people to go back to college ?
  7. How much is the trainer willing to customize the course? You are definitely not like their last client. Remember Number 1. We are not repeating it it in vain.
  8. How do they ensure that their trainers deliver quality? Especially if the guy infront of you is not the one delivering the course. Many times what is delivered is nothing close to the promise, and you have the bill.
  9. How much are they specialized into sales? Beaware of jacks of all training training your people. Do you believe the guy who trains on Labour Laws, HIV Awareness and Ebola Management can make your sales people sales professionals ?
  10. Can they show how their training will fit in with your sales objectives and challenges you are currently experiencing? They should have picked this in the initial meeting you had with them. Can they articulate those objectives and demonstrate that all they will be trying to do is help you achieve these objectives?
  11. How do they back their promise? A tough one. Any money back guarantee or better if you don't like it don't pay for it policy. If non of these they give you numbers of some of their clients call them, email them and ask the right questions.
  12. How conversant are they with new trends and best practices in sales force performance improvement? What was hot last year might be too old today. You want your team to be equipped to be competitive in the current market situation....
  13. How do they see the training they are proposing fitting and complimenting other competency development initiatives? Time to get a little guidance and support from your selected consultant. If they cant do this, take your wallet and leave because all they want are the contents in it. The person should be in a position to tell whether what you want to achieve from this training is reasonable or not given other sales factors affecting your teams performance.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

4 Lessons I Learnt from New Product Failures

I have launched products that failed both as an employee and entrepreneur. From these failures I picked some lessons that I am happy to share with those who care to listen. I have applied them in my current business and also in my consultancy engagements.


Given that we live in a society where those who fail are laughed at, very few entrepreneurs and managers would like to talk about their failures. As a result we follow the same road that has led many to destruction. I would like to warn those starting businesses and launching new products for their companies of the mistakes to avoid from these four key lessons I picked from my failures.
Probably if you take these lessons to heart your products will not join the list of the 90% new products that fail in the process costing businesses billions worth of investments.

Lesson 1: All your assumptions are wrong, until proven otherwise by the customer
 When I started my first business, I wanted to hit the world of entrepreneurship with a big product that would revolutionize the market. I looked around and I discovered some new product that seemed like the ultimate solution to sales training problems. The product was based on some ground breaking principle in adult learning. It combined interactive games and sales lessons. I made the assumption that every organization that has sales people would love to have it. In addition to its power it would help companies do away with expensive training programmes because the sales manager would use the tool to train his people.

I talked to my wife into disposing of the family car and invested the savings in the business. My partner took a loan and off we went to bring the product in the market. Everyone who saw the product fell in love with it but, only a few forward looking organizations bought the product. What we got is a lot of organizations that engaged us to train their sales people using the toolkit.
Our assumption that companies were ready to replace external trainers with in-house training resources was wrong.

When we were left with a huge stock of the product that was not selling, despite the fact that my partner and I were great sales people, the lesson sunk. Whatever assumptions you have about your target market’s needs prove them with real customer who has to pay.

Lesson 2: Those who are most enthusiastic about a new innovation are rarely a representative of the target market
 Whenever I developed a new product I targeted it to the most open minded customers I can imagine of. The result was always quick sales and raving fans. But after the first few customers who saw the obvious benefits of the products I would come across a number of customers who were not willing to spend on something new and innovative.

After a lot of reflection I discovered that the so called early adopters do not represent the real market you want have. The largest chunk of any market segment is conservative and is not open to new ideas. Most new products are made for early adopters with a hope that the conservatives will come running after them. This is prayer not a strategy and most of the time it is not answered because it is a faulty prayer.

Lesson 3: Sales people are the best resource in development of new product
Generally speaking, most new product ideas are generated by those who sit in the offices and factories.

The driving desires are usually to grow the business revenues and increase market share. Those who can make decisions on new products exchange their ideas and agree to go ahead. Production people are asked whether it can be done and their response is we have all that is required to do it.

After the product is ready it is given to sales people to sell. They try hard to sell it but the results do not come through. Over time sales people are fired for bad attitude and non performance. While there are sales people who look for excuses for non-performance, experiences shows that it is the company that came up with a product that the market was to be sold rather than to be bought.

The lesson from this is that the best resource you can utilize in your new product development is the sales team. These are the people who are with the customers on daily basis. They understand the dreams, frustrations and wishes of the customers. If only you asked them what kind of product to make you would not struggle trying to throw more money into bad money trying to sell the wrong product?

Lesson 4: Product development should not end with the product launch
We work so hard to have a perfect product which the customer must buy, use and like. If they don’t like it we blame the customer. We are annoyed that he doesn’t see how hard we worked to come up with the best product for him. In our determination for success we decide to do whatever it will take to get him to buy and like the product. However hard we try the more indifferent the customer becomes.

This battle between a company that believes it has a great product and customers who insist they require some improvement will go for long or short while depending on how much resources the company has to ran marketing programmes. But as long the product doesn’t become better as per the customer requirements it will eventually fail.

They take home from this be open to make adjustments on your new product until it matches what your customers require. This can be demonstrated through Radio Africa’s strategy of setting up new radio and television stations. When a new station is being introduced you feel that although the company is determined to get a new station it is not certain on what kind of station it is trying to create. Changes are made to the product and sometimes even the target customer is changed. At the end of the process you cannot tell the final product from the one you first saw.

While you may not do it as Radio Africa but, you should not miss the fact that you need to learn after you introduce the product and build the lessons picked into the new product.

Ultimate Lesson: Listen to your customer
If you combine all these lessons you get one simple lesson that whatever product you want to make for the market it should be inspired and driven by the customer. . Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.

How Not to Burn Training Money

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. I need to add if you think training is expensive try bad training. It has been observed that over 90% of all lessons learned in training are lost within three months. It is called burning your training money in three months. Many people use this as an excuse to cut on training and development budgets. Unfortunately companies that struggle most train least, consequently they struggle more. A vicious cycle.
However, an organization you can drastically improve results in a big way if it focuses on doing training the right way.

Before the Course
A lot of training initiatives fail at what happens before the training. Many firms believe the most important preparation they can do is a training needs analysis. While TNA is an important step in preparing for training, many firms conduct it on their own without the involvement of the trainers who will deliver the training course.
It is important the evaluate the factors that necessitate the need for training. Not all competency gaps can be addressed through training. It is important to pick them from the ones that require training. When you involve a professional trainer who has expertise in his area he could give advice on the best way to approach so as to address the problem.
Many firms that come to us seeking sales training do so because their sales performance is unsatisfactory. On carrying out the evaluation of their situation we find out that most of their issues cannot be addressed through training. There performance could be an issue of wrong people in the right jobs, insufficient management systems, lack of adequate sales strategies, non-existent sales processes among others. The sales skills are just one of the many issues that require sorting out.

Course Design
Many trainers have one course that they deliver to every other organization. Customization of content is a key element in course development. The content must be tailored to the training objectives, the skill level of the team and the general context of the organization.
One the biggest challenges in the world of training is when trainers develop a great training programm and get organizations to take as it is in form and content. It is agreeable that there are many great courses out there. But however good a program is it requires customization for it to have maximum impact on specific organization especially at the point of application.
Trainers who desire to give the best value for their clients will go out of their way to understand the internal and external context of the organization in order to develop the most effective course content as well as a delivery plan to achieve the training objectives.

The Morning After
What happens after the training is more important than what happens during the training. A well designed course must have strategies, activities and tools that will ensure that the lesson learned are reinforced post the training as well as applied as they were learned.
The feel course evaluation at the end of training can only measure how much the participants were entertained but very inadequate as a tool to measure the effectiveness of a training programm. The best measure is the behavior change after the training. When preparing for a training you would want to be sure that the trainer has a plan on how you are going to get maximum application of skills learned post the training. He may not be responsible for what happens after the training but he needs to give what you require so that you can maximize your returns on training investments.

Sam Kariuki is a Business Growth Strategist, Consultant and Trainer with Growth Partners.  Contact us on  or call 020  8012627/ 0721303864 for more details.