As I sat down and reflected on the prospects of the company Roman and I had created, it soon dawned on me the weight of responsibility that stood on our shoulders as founders of Financial Insight. We are an SME and like many, we have been dreading year 2 of our existence. What is worse, the macro environment has never been harsher for small companies. The question we often pose to ourselves is the same one many entrepreneurs in Zambia continue to ask themselves “will my business remain relevant when the market decides to move on?”
Having run a small business that reached its pinnacle before the exchange rate crash of 2014, I am well aware of the importance of having a business that has a value preposition that can overcome many obstacle. In my failed business, I was so consumed by a specific product that I completely forgot what business I was in. Myopic, I know, but that has been the downfall of many businesses in a dynamic microenvironment.
Failure was not necessarily a bad thing. Reading the biographies of many successful business men and women, failure is part of the DNA of creating a successful business. However, I believe failure does something else as well. In my case, it was focusing on what strengths I possessed that were sustainable. Obviously, the approach required much deep reflection and constant study, but being able to fashion a product of relevance that over 4000 readers would come back for month after month required the creation of brand utility. This is something that happened over time.
Financial Insight’s brand utility is its affection for the nuances in numbers. It may be cliché for economists and finance people to speak about numbers in a ‘sexy’ way, but we have been able to harvest data and bring the drama that resides in the numbers. This is the reason why companies such as Google never have to advertise because over the years they established a brand utility of being the go to website for answers about everything.
Sticking with core competences is often the way to create brand utilities. Every new business must first identify and then focus on its core competencies to establish a footprint while gaining a solid reputation and increasing brand recognition. Furthermore, leveraging core competencies usually provides the best chance for a company’s continued growth and survival.
So in so far as surviving turbulent business environments, relevance will be determined not only by how much your marketing budget is but by the ability of the product that is sold to continue marketing itself after its been purchased. According to Mitch Joel (HBR “Great Marketing Is Utilitarian“), “Brands can create a utility. Something that people don’t just want, but need”. What this means is that regardless of the inflation rate that comes from Central Statistics Office, regardless of the lending rates from the banks, if you deliver a product that is not only loved but needed, your company can possibly escape erosion of value.