I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I used to offer a paid branding service for small businesses right here on Narrativity & Co.
I cancelled the service.
Unfortunately or fortunately depending on who you ask, branding is still very new in Malaysia. It's seen as a privilege not available to small businesses.
But it's not. I know it's not. All over the world, branding has been an integral part of small businesses. It's not limited to giant corps and people with money.
Branding is for all businesses, not just the big corps.
Heck, personal branding is huge. Actors, politicians, that famous girl on Instagram. They've all branded themselves. What's stopping a business from doing the same?
So being the naive and overly optimistic person that I am, I thought I could replicate this wonderful practice in Malaysia. Introduce branding not for the sake of capitalism, but as a way to weave passion with business.
I saw branding as a way to make people care about what they buy, and for you as a business owner to be able to sustain your craft for years to come. I still feel this way.
Sounds good right? It did to me. As soon as I graduated from university this year, I set to work on Narrativity. Registered it at SSM and all that. Bought a domain name, paid for a website plan. Spent so much time poring over the website design that my lenses had to be changed (bye-bye RM280).
I thought I could make it work. No 9-5 job for me, I'm going to work on my dreams. But I was making a fundamental mistake.
Where are the actual people that I want to sell to?
Where are the people I want to sell to? Are they (figuratively) gathered around me, listening to what I have to say?
Here I have a product that will make a difference in people's lives, but no one to sell it to. And for good reason -- I'm nobody's friend. I'm a stranger.
No one trusts me to have their best interests at heart, because I haven't spent time building that trust. I have no authority, no credibility. You're not just going to hand over your hard-earned cash just because lil 'ol me say that branding is a wonderful thing.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did have two clients while the Branding package was still on the website. But the branding process left me so stressed out that I just had to reexamine the package.
What was wrong with it? It didn't take into account the particular requirements of the Malaysian market. It wasn't tailored for Malaysian business owners. I knew branding was new in Malaysia, but I assumed that everyone was on the same page as I am.
If I wanted to make branding possible and revolutionary for small businesses, I have to spend time sharing with them how it works. The importance of a simple versatile logo, the consistency principle, etc.
When you educate your customers, you become someone they trust.
I didn't do that, so I ended up sabotaging my own product. Do you want to know the first thing I did after realizing this?
No customers = give up?
I applied for jobs. I wanted to have a steady income that I could partly channel into Narrativity. The domain name, website plan, newsletter service provider and Google Apps for Work are being paid for using my salary. (My current job has much to do with entrepreneurship, I'm very happy to say)
Make no mistake, Narrativity is a business. I want to sell something. But it's also my passion. It would kill me to launch a mediocre product that doesn't help people and their businesses. It would go against everything that I ever dreamed about.
To truly feel fulfilled in your business, you have to sell something you care about. Something that makes lives better in any aspect.
Now I know that the only way to launch a great product is to find out what people need. Solve real problems instead of getting too attached to an 'idea' of a product. I want it to genuinely and effectively solve your problems.
So that's why I'm here talking to you. I'm not selling anything to you. Scratch that, I don't have anything to sell. Everything that I'm sharing with you from the articles to newsletters to tips are for you free of charge.
In the process, I'm learning more about business and branding everyday. So much of my motivation comes from the fact that you were willing to listen to me in the first place.
When I do have a product, I'll be proud to sell it to you. Because I would have made it just for you.