Building a business brand? Stay true to your promise and tell the story clearly


Author, marketer and entrepreneur Musa Kalenga speaks to Fred Roed on the HealthyBusiness show about building a brand as an entrepreneur and business owner.

Musa started his first business, MonateFellaz, at age 19 as a second-year student at Wits University. He has diverse experience as a marketer, so when building his own brand, he simply stuck to his personal principles and asked, “What will I be able to stay true to? What can I do any time of the day without question?” This is also something he believes the best brand builders, including the likes of Elon Musk and Richard Branson, have done well – always staying true to what they do.

What is a brand?

Authenticity is a common thread in Fred Roed’s conversations with entrepreneurs. While keeping true to his principles and his word, Musa says he wants to “keep doing epic things”. He distils building a brand into basic principles: “When you take away the fancy terms, a brand is really about the promises you make. You have to define the promise, stay true to that promise and then build the stories that amplify your promise around that.” Using his own business, Bridge Labs, as an example, Musa says for them having the promise “to always do hard things” has helped to articulate what they set out to achieve. The story you tell about your business connects you to people. Echoing the sentiments of many other entrepreneurs who have also been in the hot seat, Musa reminds us that “people do business with people, not with companies”.

How can you stand out as a smaller brand?

Musa believes it is important that you never take your eye off using the research and information you gather as a small business to think in terms of automation and scale. In addition, when you deal with commodities that have fixed prices, your role as an entrepreneur is to look at the experience around your products. What about when you sell a service measured in time? Make your time more valuable to your clients than the minutes and hours they see stack up. Know their business really well.

Why do research?

Research is one of the most important aspects for startups, and it starts with listening and asking questions. Musa stresses, “Your sales and research processes need to blend. Spend at least 10 hours a week in front of your clients. Get out there, ring the doorbells, get to know the needs of people and build up your empathy so that you really understand how to market the promise you make as a business.” Don’t bring your ego into it. He says, “You have to remove your own bias from any research. Be open to receiving information and feedback that goes against everything you know.” You have to make sure research is part of your business culture of curiosity. Musa says he always applies his business school lesson “to hold your own assumptions lightly”. His advice is to understand that feedback is about the work and not about you.

Have you heard of digital marketing?

Musa believes there is a misconception that digital marketing is a separate branch of marketing. Rather, it should be about better communication, using the available tools in a digital age. In the end, when you build your brand, Musa says, “Just start. Even if it is creating a bad logo. It is organic that you will improve on it. Where you start is not, necessarily, where you will end up. But see it as getting started.”

Listen to the HealthyBusiness episode, Marketing: building your brand with Fred Roed and Musa Kalenga here. You will get valuable marketing and research tips as Musa shares his journey, as well as his views on the Africa of the future, understanding the youth and getting started on your brand.

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