Let’s get the bad news over with, shall we? Difficult times and the very real suffering they represent reinforce the need for bold fiscal action. If industry players fail to act, they are likely to lose millions, if not more, and an already expanding unemployment bubble could very well burst free.
So, what’s the good news, you say? Given the glaring economic realities, how do businesses and marketing leaders reinforce confidence in their ability to lead? How do they exemplify brand integrity and any goodwill their company may have? Given the current dwindling levels of consumer confidence and economic malaise, is such a thing even possible?
Believe it or not, it is not only possible, but best to build a strong brand in an unfavorable economy; opportunities abound. Using some tested and time-honored rules, one can strengthen brand trust and grow share of wallet and voice even in the most difficult of times.
Two great opportunities to leverage those time-honored rules come to mind: 1) competitors are reducing their marketing spend and 2) your stakeholders are most perceptive during times of uncertainty. Most important of all, you must never stop communicating with your stakeholders when times are difficult. When confidence is low, customers and employees want their trusted brands to exude competence and integrity.
While competitors go back to cut costs, savvy marketing practitioners use the opportunity to fill the void with communication and brands that are relevant to the lives of both stakeholders and customers.
These days, anyone who provides comfort, confidence, constancy and consistency wins. There are some inexpensive yet powerful methods to produce significant rewards. Whether you lead a small business or a multinational, every message emanating from your organization and brand during these challenging times must take on additional significance. Your stakeholders are listening to what you say and closely watching what you do.
Customers may not be spending as much, but they are paying attention to every signal your organization sends. Even as paydays draw near, employees are also anxious and thus paying close attention to every move their leaders make. With every new data point, stakeholders and customers alike have either increased trust in your brand, or lost confidence and moved to some other brand.
Once again, difficult times are the best times to establish your credentials as a trusted brand. Here are 20 critical actions for establishing a strong brand in a weak economy.
- Let your brand always be regarded as the company’s most valuable asset: A brand is not just a marketing tool; it is often the essence of your company. Though this may be recognized, it is often not acted upon. More attention is paid to property, machinery and technology than to brands. The truth is that a weak brand losing trust in its markets renders an apparently sound company worthless. Brands are valuable. While auditors and lawyers may take their time in recognizing this, the new generation of managers are already acknowledging the change, so why shouldn’t you?
- Let your brand involve customers in a relationship akin to friendship: Brands have to involve people. Personal attention, recognition, surprises and doing exciting things together are the essence of friendship. As an added extra, find a common cause to passionately participate in, engaging your stakeholders and customers every step of the way and you will then have found the perfect recipe for success as a brand builder.
- Let your brand stand for something;be different: It is better to be something to someone than nothing to everyone. The traditional brand does not want to let anybody down. It is atypically a mass-market product. The trouble is that such brands are emotionally shallow. For the new individual audience, the brand must stand for something special. It must have a philosophy and be different, not only in features, but in attitude. Such a brand creates fans, or better still, brand-groups who through their sheer loyalty will not only stand by the brand but will also enthusiastically introduce it to others.
- Use your social media network: So much has been said on the subject, so we will not dwell on it, save to say that everybody is on some form of social media and is tuned in loud and clear. Spend some time listening to chatter about your brand. If there’s none, then you have your work cut out for you, my friend.
- Exude integrity: This is the most important element of building a trusted brand. Organizations that will be able to thrive in a weak economy are those that will always deliver on their promises. No exceptions! It’s no longer about what you say but what you delivered on. You can hardly bring in a positive stream of goodwill if there’s only negative feedback about your brand. Once tainted, your integrity is gone! No business!!
- Showcase organizational capabilities: It’s one thing to talk a good game. It’s quite another to deliver. Stakeholders want to know that your team has the technical know-how to deliver on your brand’s promise. Teach people how to better interact with your brand, and they will bless you for it with their hard earned monies. Become a trusted source of knowledge in your industry or sector.
- Emanate goodwill: Authentic goodwill, particularly as the public suffers in these hard times, drives a powerful message across organizational channels and throughout your marketing mix. For example, brands with long term investment in sustainability practices are shoring up credentials as brands that do good whilst doing well. Organizations that embark on cost cutting measures to save jobs are far better respected than those that do otherwise. The key is to lead with integrity, let your stakeholders know that your company has a soul and your brand will have a cherished place in their hearts and pockets.
- A brand is created in the customer’s mind: The traditional view of the product or service is that the brand is dead. The brand train has moved on to something almost ethereal. Whether your product comes in a 50 kg/liter pack is no longer of relevance to the consumer. The brand is now the perception which the customer has of what your brand does for them. How it makes them feel or be seen amongst their peers. How differently it makes people of both sexes perceive their importance in society. No longer can you sell the product or its benefits to your consumer, but the perception of what it should be.
To be continued…
Written by Brain Essien
How to register for FG’s N75 billion MSME survival funds
FG released guidelines to access the N75 billion MSME Survival Fund.
The Federal Government (FG) has released the guidelines to access the N75 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survival Fund and Support Initiatives, which took effect from September 21, 2020.
The scheme, which is the core of the N2.3 trillion stimulus package of the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan includes the N60 billion MSMEs Survival Fund and the N15 billion Guaranteed Offtake Schemes.
This disclosure was made in an official statement by the Federal Government through a series of tweet posts on its official Twitter handle.
The statement from FG read, “As the portal for the registration of prospective beneficiaries of Survival Fund opens, interested Nigerians in the Payroll Support Scheme are to note that the site will be open from 10 pm Monday, September 21, 2020.”
The statement says that the registration for the payroll support will start with the educational institutions at 10 pm Monday, September 21, 2020, and will be followed by businesses in the hospitality industry by 12am Friday, September 25, 2020.
The portal will also open for other categories of small businesses from 12am, Monday, September 28, 2020. It should be noted that the scheduling of the registration for prospective beneficiaries is to ensure that the process is seamless and hitch-free. The registration of every sector is to continue until Thursday, October 15, 2020.
To register for this initiative, the Federal Government has also provided a portal for entry. Potential beneficiaries are advised to log on to https://survivalfund.ng to complete their registration.
As part of the registration process, the beneficiaries are expected to provide personal registration details, activate their account, register their organization after they have successfully activated their account.
Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) Number, Bank Verification Number (BVN), SMEDAN Number, a Tax ID (optional) and the organization’s bank account details will be needed.
Completing the Payroll Support Registration, beneficiaries’ first name, last name, email, mobile number and Password will be required. Also, their Date of Birth, residential address and residential Local Government Area will also be provided.
These 2 MSMEs initiatives namely MSMEs Survival Fund with payroll support track and the Guaranteed Offtake Scheme were introduced by the FG as part of the efforts to support businesses overcome challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The MSMEs Survival Fund scheme is a conditional grant to support vulnerable micro and small enterprises in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguard jobs in the MSMEs sector. The scheme is expected to save at least 1.3 million jobs across the country and specifically impact on over 35,000 individuals per state.
The scheme will be implemented over an initial period of 3 months and is targeted at employees of MSMEs and self-employed individuals with 45% for female business participation and 5% for special needs participation
The Guaranteed Off Take Stimulus Scheme is expected to perfect and sustain the income of vulnerable micro and small enterprises from the economic disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic through the implementation of various initiatives aimed at boosting the production capacities of small businesses as well as the provision of grants.
The duration is also for an initial period of 3 months and is targeted at micro and small businesses registered in Nigeria.
Registration for #PayrollSupport will start with educational institutions at 10pm on Monday Sept 21, 2020, and will be followed by businesses in the hospitality industry on Friday September 25 beginning from 12am.
— Government of Nigeria (@NigeriaGov) September 21, 2020
Up for a raise? Use these 5 strategies to make it happen
To avoid appearing selfish or materialistic, here are five strategies to employ when demanding a raise.
Requesting a raise is an important conversation that you should have with your employer, particularly if you believe your salary does not measure up with the value you bring to the company or the duties for which you are assigned.
In a bid to avoid appearing selfish or materialistic, many people shy away from this. They continue to expect the day the company will announce a raise or promotion for the employees. Although in some workplaces this sometimes plays out as expected, many other businesses seldom revisit the salary specifics and performance evaluation document of their employee to evaluate and conduct a correlation in order to make recommendations for a raise to those who merit it.
Demanding a raise does not entail asking for a favor from the company, it simply means asking for suitable market value for your job roles and responsibilities. In as much as this might be the right of an employee, it is necessary to know how to go about it appropriately in order to achieve a favorable outcome.
Here are five strategies to employ when demanding a raise:
1. Evaluate your contributions and performance
To ask for a raise, you need to have a well-grounded knowledge of the positive contributions you have made to the company. Create a list or record of your discharge obligations or duties, as well as significant achievements that you made on the job. This will give you insight as to the value you bring to the company and what you get in return. Evaluating your results will provide you with a sound understanding of your efforts, achievements, and will also increase your confidence to demand a pay raise. This will help your boss realize that you know your worth.
2. Boost your negotiation power
Negotiation is the process of reaching a fair agreement for the parties involved by means of meaningful conversations. Most employees cower in the face of salary negotiation because of the impression this may create about them to their employers. Others who are brave enough to take the step lack the skillfulness to achieve or reach a handy result.
Negotiation is an art that should be learnt. Employees should improve on their negotiation skills if they intend to get a fair bargain for their efforts. One of the negotiation techniques that can be incorporated when asking for a raise in pay is to layout specific options from which the employer is to choose. This will offer both parties substantial choices to make a decision from.
3. Right timing matters
There is a time for everything. As cliché as this may sound, it is a fact you should accept and work with. You have to assess the company’s financial position to ascertain if asking for a raise will be feasible. When this is done, you can proceed to arrange a meeting to discuss it with your employer. Find out from your employer when it is convenient to discuss issues of concern that you have.
4. Present cogent reasons
When demanding a raise, one of the strategies to achieve this is to tender reports or proof of your achievements or efforts that have contributed to the development of the company in some way. You can request for a raise on the grounds of the length of service, duties, or performance. Your motives should reflect the principles of the company and they should be objectively stated.
5. Express gratitude
Appreciate the employer for the ability to work for the company and show a sense of appreciation for their service. Let the employer know that your demand for a raise does not mean that you are dissatisfied with the employer or the work, but rather that it is a request for what suits the specified roles you play.
For a variety of reasons, many organizations give an employee a raise based on different factors that range from efficiency, motivation, length of service, promotion, and a few other factors. If you are assured that you have fulfilled the requirements for a raise, the methods mentioned can be used to improve the chances of having a raise.
Personal Finance Culture: The 4 Cs of Financial Success
To achieve financial success, the 4Cs will be of great help.
Many Nigerians who had a pseudo-confidence in their financial stability, were rocked by the storms of the economic hardship that followed the COVID-19 pandemic. Some did not survive it, while those who did, now seek ways to be better financially equipped for future eventualities.
It’s six (6) months since the COVID-19 outbreak was officially declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11th, 2020. With the full enormity of the pandemic in mind, we cannot come out of this without noting its attendant life lessons. Interestingly, some of those lessons correlate with principles that can enhance your personal finance, on your journey to financial freedom.
Financial freedom does not happen overnight, as it results from self-discipline and good money habits practised consistently over time.
To help you on your journey, I have come up with the 4C’s. To achieve financial success, you must be;
- Creative – Find creative ways to earn more money. Having more than one source of income is a good way to increase your financial security. I’m sure the people who lost their jobs or took a pay cut during the pandemic will agree with me.
- Conservative – Be conservative with your expenses, and make sure to spend less than you earn. You can actually save more if you stick to a budget. It is okay to occasionally reward yourself, and enjoy the finer things of life. But that should also be on a budget.
- Consistent – Form the habit of saving and investing a part of your income. As far as savings go, you need to have at least 3 months’ worth of living expenses, stashed away in liquid assets – Emergency funding, to cushion the impact of job loss, unplanned medical expenses, and other emergencies. It also applies to small businesses – many SMEs without any financial buffer felt the impact of the lockdown from Day 1. Investing, on the other hand, is the only way you can grow your money. You should take it seriously; develop the right mindset, become financially intelligent, and seek expert advice before taking a step.
- Careful – Be careful who you listen to. Not every investment advice is good for you, and you should do your due diligence before releasing your money.
So, will you be making any changes to your money management style? What did you wish you learnt about money pre-COVID-19?
Importantly, we are not out of the woods yet. The virus is still out there, and you should stay safe, as Health is Wealth.
Temitope Busari, CFA
Temitope is an Investment Professional, with over 11 years of cognate experience spanning regional financial markets across Sub-Saharan Africa. Her technical skills cut across Treasury, Risk management, Fintech solutions, and Strategy. With a passion for positive social impact, she leverages multiple media platforms to advance financial literacy efforts, helping individuals and small businesses make better money decisions.