Increasing importance of corporate branding for SMEs
Ask most business heads of small and medium organizations about their top priorities and you would be surprised if corporate branding figured in the top 3 or 5 priorities. Majority believe so for the below reasons:
- existing business thinking imparts and exhorts that at the evolutionary stage of an organization, the top priorities are business development, customer satisfaction and managing the cashflows, the rest being add-ons. It further stressed that if one does this right, sooner or later the business will grow to a size at which stage only one needs to seriously look at corporate branding
- prevalent misconception that corporate branding by default is a expensive proposition
- lack of conviction among CEOs that the required essence and content for corporate branding is not there currently
Which has unfortunately led to corporate branding seen as a luxury which they need to look at and can afford only at a later stage in the evolution of their businesses. To be honest, some of the logic underlying this approach is still valid and will continue to be. The operative and important word being “some” and thus not “all”. Quickly let me outline few factors which have led to this.
Heated job market
The job market today is certainly very heated in that even talent half as good get attractive offers and salary levels continuing to defy logic. This implies that for a SME despite the many advantages they can offer their employees, the level of distraction due to outside pressure is fairly high and they definitely need to shore up their arsenal for retention, corporate branding being a key ingredient.
Brand conscious employees
One clear trend that is noticeable of late is the increase in the number of employees at the entry level who continuously and actively benchmark themselves against their peers not just in their own industry but others as well. A certain level of perks and a certain standard of infrastructure is assumed or taken for granted and is no more a scoring point in this peer comparison sport. A visible or well-branded company however allows younger employees confidence on the peer front thus reducing one potential distraction.
Early need for experienced and specialized talent
Most firms (irrespective of whether they are products or services ones) today need experienced talent or specialized talent in significant numbers right from inception. Most middle level professionals while willing to bite the challenge of a growth firm do get assured further if it has some branding of its own. Since it adds to the comfort levels and makes the decision easier to explain or justify both internally and externally.
The changing vendor/supplier mindset
Irrespective of the nature of the business, most SMEs have a battery of vendors and suppliers who supply goods and services in helping the organization deliver inturn to its customers. A well-packaged corporate branding often is a minor scale tiltor helping you leverage it for better credit periods and ask for more within the price range agreed. This would increasingly catch-on as more and more suppliers/vendors today are willing to buy into the story of growing with a promising firm and the need to invest a little extra in such firms. They also fully realize the benefit of that established relationship should the company go onto be a success or a market leader.
Having outlined some of the reasons, let me define “corporate branding” in the context of this article while underplaying the external element to an extent. Corporate branding could be a thought through definition of a firm, its business philosophy, vision, culture and values which is then packaged well and visibly/persuasively communicated at its premises or at every contact point with its multiple target audiences. If you really notice, this is actually simple but you would find that most firms paying less than required attention to this, looking at it more from an external point of view. This basic corporate branding has other benefits as well. It allows employees to imbibe the brand characteristics and transmit it well in all their interactions and secondly it allows them a constant reiteration of the character and persona of the brand they are working for. A sure win-win but not as expensive as one perceives it to be. In the next article will touch upon certain ways of evolving and communicating this corporate brand.