The third most important skill in business – the ability to sell to a customer (Part 5) 

___You and your brand.

When I launched my first business in 1996, I didn’t really know that much about marketing. As I mentioned in my first post in this series, I first learnt to “sell” when I was only eight years old. Remember my story about selling sweets to my school friends? People bought from me because they knew me and, of course, I was selling something I knew that they wanted!

It’s possible to run a very successful business short-term, even if you don’t know anything about marketing. You can sell, sell, and sell. But if you want to run a really profitable business, you must understand the importance of marketing, which involves many steps.

Confused? It only means I have gained your attention. Now let’s talk!

# Sales and marketing are not the same thing, but they go hand in hand.

# Advertising and marketing are not the same thing. Advertising is simply one of the tools we use in marketing.

# It’s important to develop a brand.  In the end, the most valuable part of your business must be its brand. Branding is what I want to talk to you about today.

A brand is not just a cool logo. It’s a kind of promise, an identity, a vision, even a mission that goes beyond the product or service to be sold. Think of the message communicated by Nike’s “Just do it.” No mention of sports gear at all! What do you think they mean by “Just do it”?

The Nike “Swoosh” is one of the world’s most iconic logos. Designed in 1971, the creator was a young graphic design student in Oregon, in the USA.  An accounting teacher at her school had heard she needed some extra money for oil painting lessons, and asked her if she wanted to help design a logo “that showed movement and speed and would look good on a shoe.” He and another guy were planning to start a company. He told the her the design mustn’t look too much like the main competitor’s logo, (Adidas’ stripes).

“What else you got?” was the response of Nike’s co-founder (the accounting teacher) when she presented him the Swoosh design. He was not very impressed.

So she designed a few more ideas, but he chose the initial design saying, “Well, I don’t love it, but maybe it will grow on me.”  At the time, she was paid only a whopping $35 ($2/hour) for her work.

45 years later, the Swoosh is still around, nearly unchanged. The company is now worth billions, employing tens of thousands of people globally.

__But it’s not the “Swoosh” visual symbol alone that’s important! Or the Apple logo.  Branding goes beyond the graphic image.

Although admirable in simplicity, and amongst the most powerful brands on earth, if Nike or Apple made bad shoes or computers, it wouldn’t matter how memorable their logos. A brand has to do with perceived values, and building trust.

Now think about Walt Disney which for decades has produced family films. Walt Disney was a pioneer of innovation in entertainment. What Disney wanted to do was “create happiness through magical experiences.” Not “create films,” but create happiness!

Bringing a brand like Disney’s to life over the years is not easy. It means continually listening, to understand what your customers really care about.  It means consistent delivery of value and quality, true to the brand you’ve created.  It means keeping your promises as a person and a company.

How do people learn about your brand? I’ll talk more about other aspects of marketing in my next post.

To be continued. . .

by 18 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

18 thoughts on “The third most important skill in business – the ability to sell to a customer (Part 5) 

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    Business is down everywhere in Africa, these days. Whether you’re in Angola, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and many other countries. In business we don’t believe that a “problem will fix itself.” We believe in doing something. This is a good time to get into marketing. How is what you sell different and/or better than what your competitors sell? That’s an essential question to answer. Beyond a logo, do you and your company have a unique “brand” identity?

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    “People will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” said the late great writer, Maya Angelou. Do you have a good understanding of your customers’ needs, wants and expectations? If not, it will be very difficult to get very far in putting together a successful marketing plan. Get started on that before my next post in this series.

  3. Ronald Koech

    Thank you for the lesson. Many candidates have been asked in an interview to differentiate between sales and marketing. You have broken it down in the simplest manner ever. Brand is who we are. Brand is what makes people stay loyal to our products. We can run campaigns, do marketing all day but if our brand doesn’t relate with the customer, there IS NO SALE.

  4. Mathias Raivha

    That’s interesting subject about marketing, I think I will learn more from you since I am starting a small business.


    Sir, my names are ifeanyi Onyeanusi, I’m an entrepreneur and the author of the facebook page “Sapientia for Entrepreneurs”. I have been searching for a way to write you privately. Here happens to be my best option.

    I started reading uplifting and
    inspirational words off your Facebook page years ago. They have inspired me to create my first company lightworx pictures, a visual entertainment company. Unfortunately for me the entertainment industry in Nigeria is badly corrupt and immoral, this year I made a switch to professional services creating Meadscom Nigeria Ltd (Integrated Media Advertising and Communications Solutions. I also created QiuerBOX( an eBook publisher and reader With target to have 7000 Nigerian tertiatry academic books in digital format by Q4 2017).
    I recently discovered that you are embarked on a similar project.

    I am writing you to request mentorship, a chanell through which I can have many of my unending questions answered since my projects and business models are a rare thing in Nigeria.

    We currently running around for a seed funding of N7million. And there is only one Venture Capital funding firm in Nigeria.
    I don’t know if you might be interested to partner with my companies for a 30-35 percent stake in the company.

    I will be greatly delighted to get a reply from you

  6. Gabriel Kwaramba

    That’s very informative and beneficial to us, as usual. That answers my question why is it that so many years down the line you still prefer to use your Econet logo and the caption “Inspired to change your world”. Thanks so much, every post is making us better businesspeople.

  7. Archie

    thank you sir, I have gotten something, I can do much also if I also treat my name like a brand… I am a brand

  8. Raphael Udonna

    So much to learn from a single blog post. More often than not, we tend to think that sales and marketing are the same.

    The aim of the whole marketing process be it advertising, promotions, reviews, publications, etc is to make sales. Sales is the essence of marketing.

    A brand is an identity, much more than a physical identity, a brand is really what a business/organization stands for.

    Once you build a good brand, customer satisfaction and retention would be very easy.

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Something on the power of the brand:
    [something for the senior class]___

    A friend of mine visited a company in China, which manufactured clothes for some of the leading clothes brands in the world. The owner of the factory showed him exactly the same shirt manufactured for two different global brands. They used exactly the same material, and virtually the same design. And yet when they were sold in stores, in the same country, one of them was almost 100x more expensive!
    “Those people are being cheated!” My friend said indignantly.
    “Not necessarily so”, I replied, “before I began to study carefully how brands are developed, and sustained, I would have agreed with you. Now I know that even if you told the customers everything, they would still buy that more expensive brand; there is an emotional connection which goes way beyond cost. You must understand these things if you are going to succeed as an entrepreneur.”

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Matobako, writes:

    Unique Selling Point! You always take me back to school – thank you sir.

    My reply:
    I don’t want you to go back to school; I want you to STAY in school!
    Every morning, when I get up, I’m excited about the new things I am going to learn. I’m a “passionate Learning machine”: it’s what drives me. My kids are amongst my best teachers, even my 14 year old daughter—I respect her, because to quote an old jazz singer, “she will know much more than I will ever know.”

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Through the law of faith, God has “set eternity in our hearts”; this means there is no limit to the extent of your faith; how far your faith can go; how much you can accomplish; how much you can take over. (Dr Chris Oyakilome)

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Something on the power of brand:

    There is a story told in marketing about a leading luxury car manufacture who had an amazing new competitor for its top brand. The story goes, that the company carefully studied the product from their competitor, and found that it was comparable in every way: reliability, speed, noise, everything. And it was also cheaper.
    After reviewing the situation carefully, the chairman said:
    “Step up the marketing, and increase the price.”
    What do you think happened?
    I want you to think very carefully about this, before rushing to answer—[tip] it’s not as simple as it looks.

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    You guys are truly remarkable!
    I just love your comments:
    You are asking, probing, questioning, all the right issues.
    All my life I have watched hard working entrepreneurs fail to make any real money because they did not understand the role marketing plays in profitability of a good business or product.
    I urge every single entrepreneur and business executive to not only read my posts, but equally and perhaps more important the debate that follows.
    Reading your comments, is one of my favorite activities of the week. Keep it up.
    Incidentally I’m not the only one enjoying your comments—it would blow your mind, if I told you some of the people who told me they enjoy the comments of my followers!
    [being discrete I cannot share their names].

  14. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    As I have said before, almost any adult can cook a hamburger, but it took a marketing genius to create McDonalds. If you are going to succeed as an entrepreneur or business executive, you must be intricately, and intimately aware of the dynamics that drive real profitability in a business.
    I want the next generation of African entrepreneurs to set the world ablaze—that is why I set up this platform.

  15. Pekun Flexxy Oloyede

    You are one in a million of Entrepreneurs, open hearted and ready to give freely. I read through you profile and I wish we could have many of your distinguishly far read multi-business entrepreneur doing this helping stray mind and forging strong young entrepreneurs to survive in the waters of business tgat is fully infest with sharks.
    Which to meet with you soon.
    By the way I have seen you on any TED talk? Please do for Africans/Africa descends.
    More oil to your wheels.
    ‘Pekun Flexxy Oloyede


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