AMBER WILLIAMS: PEOPLE DON’T BUY PRODUCTS. THEY BUY STORIES

Amber Williams is the founder of Punkyflair, a brand story shop that serves beauty, fashion, and lifestyle startups. Building iconic statement-making brands is her jam, and she is committed to helping businesses grow authentically through a story.

Through Punkyflair, Amber has positioned new businesses in the marketplace, molded magnetic personalities, crafted money-making narratives, and named global product collections for leading brands like Camille Rose, Heat Free Hair, Shea Radiance, and Marjani.

Amber Williams connects young brands to the customers they want to reach through a story. She believes that story is the most critical business asset for one simple reason: it can’t be duplicated.

It is the key to building a brand that will withstand the test of time and last forever.

In this interview, she discusses how you can best understand your audience, communicate your vision, and sell with a story.  


Tell us how and why you started Punkyflair

 

My early career was spent in corporate America where I used my formal training in psychology and integrated marketing to create and launch brand strategies for companies like Armani Exchange, Volkswagen, The United States Olympic Committee, and Feeding America.

I was working within a world of limitless resources and possibilities in marketing. I had the freedom to be creative, spend however much was needed, and most importantly – test the water.

After several years of implementing creative brand marketing campaigns, I realized that my signature approach to every strategy I created was rooted in a story.

Every idea, every narrative, and every message I built told a story. Inadvertently, I used my knack for writing and understanding of human behavior to put words together that would sell clothing, jewelry, cars, and even promote funds for world-renowned athletes.

Every idea, every narrative, and every message I built told a story - @punkyflair Click To Tweet

I was a storyteller. At 29, I decided that I would package up my approach and all of my corporate learnings into a framework that would help startups launch and grow their businesses.

I created Punkyflair to empower entrepreneurs with the tools, training and thinking necessary to understand their audience, communicate their vision, and sell with the story.

Today, I have the good fortune of doing so for leading woman-owned brands like Camille Rose, Heat Free Hair, Marjani, BLK+GRN, and Shea Radiance.

What is brand storytelling and where does it fit in marketing strategy?


Simply put, brand storytelling is a method for connection. If you consider your favorite storybook or movie, there is most likely a character in it that resonates most with you.

Maybe it’s because you see yourself in them. Perhaps it’s because that character represents who you want to be. All great stories make you look at yourself and consider how you connect to the tale being told. Brand storytelling is no different.

A great brand story lets your customers know why you exist and how you fit into their lives. When done well, your brand provides the perfect reflection for who they already are but better.  Brand storytelling is the most effective, non-salesly way to build meaningful and profitable relationships with the customers you want to reach.

A great brand story lets your customers know why you exist and how you fit into their lives.” - @punkyflair Click To Tweet

How can businesses effectively explore the core elements that make up their customer profile?

 

All businesses should view their customers as the star characters in their brand story. Everything that your brand does–from operations to product innovation and marketing–should be built around your customer. It always amazes me how many entrepreneurs are willing to skip this essential first step.

A strong customer profile is made up of three key elements: perspective, preference, and personality. Understanding your customer’s perspective is all about figuring out where your customer is coming from, the unique challenges they face, and what they really want from your brand.

The next step is to discover what your customer prefers by digging deep to understand purchase motivators and where your brand solution fits into their lives. Finally, you’ll want to explore your customer’s personality traits.

Doing so will help you tailor your messaging in a way that gets the people you want to reach to listen and buy from you.

A strong customer profile is made up of 3 key elements: perspective, preference, and personality - @punkyflair Click To Tweet

As they discover their customers, how do businesses determine the best approach in talking to their audience?

 

Now that you know more about your customers, you’ll want to speak to them in a language that they understand. The best approach is first to visualize precisely who this person is. Bringing the person you want to reach to life humanizes your communication.

It brings back the reality that you, as the brand, are talking to a real person. When working to craft your narrative, ask yourself these four questions:

  • Why does my brand exist?
  • What problem do we solve for our customers?
  • What values or beliefs do we stand on as a business?
  • How do our products/services make our customers’ lives better?

The answers to these questions make up your core brand narrative, letting your customers know exactly why they should trust and buy from you. Plaster them everywhere (tactfully of course)!

As businesses increasingly incorporate storytelling in marketing strategy, how can “Motherland Moguls” craft a brand story that yields customer action?

The marketplace is getting extremely crowded! It’s never been harder to cut through the clutter than it is now. Customers are continuously bombarded with marketing messages and brands are spending a significant amount of money just to stay visible.

In this landscape, the challenge lies in not only being seen, but in making money also. The best way that Motherland Moguls can yield a favorable action from their target customers is to keep a pulse on their customers’ wants and needs.

Don’t get too caught up in the competition and what they’re doing. Always remember that people are buying from your brand for a reason. Serve them and then explore what else you can create to serve them again. Be authentic and tell the story only you can sell.

What’s your go-to advice to a business owner trying to instill more brand storytelling?

 

My go-to advice is simple: take yourself out of it. Simple, right? The #1 thing you must do to grow your brand and instill more storytelling is to get yourself out of it.

Sure, you are the founder and mastermind behind the business. It was your sweat equity and creativity that launched the brand. You identified a problem and created a solution. It’s your baby. I get it.

However, if you want your baby to grow, you have to move out the way and tell a story in your marketing that centers around the customer, not yourself. Customers are drawn to brands that they can see themselves.

Make your story a two-way dialogue, not a diatribe about your own journey. Spend some time understanding what matters to your people: what values they hold, what additional problems they face, what viewpoints they have on the world and your industry. Create stories from the deeper emotional layers that (above all else) truly connect customers to brands.  

Customers are drawn to brands that they can see themselves. - @punkyflair Click To Tweet

What product and service offering do you have in the works to help rising entrepreneurs with brand storytelling?

 

I recently released Customer Kamikaze. my 3-part customer discovery framework. It’s the exact same framework I’ve used to help my startup clients scale their businesses (some into the millions) by understanding their customers and building their brand stories around them.

People love it because it’s self-paced and fun! The exercises are intuitive, simple and impactful. Also, the result, once the framework is applied, is far higher than the minimal cost of the product.

I wanted to create something super affordable, even for early-stage entrepreneurs, but something that would have a tremendous impact and set the tone for a brand story that sells.

What are you most excited about at the moment, and what are you working on next?

 

I’m most excited about my next chapter! I want to move in a direction that allows me to help multiple entrepreneurs at once. This fall, I’ll be speaking more and even playing around with group coaching and live workshops.

Brand story is a concept that I absolutely love teaching and one that I love to see entrepreneurs benefit.

Amber Williams is offering a free audio training on building lasting brands. Contact her here.


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Salma Abdulatif – The Hair Nurse: I kept trying till I got Salummy right

Salma Abdulatif was born in Malindi and raised in Mombasa, Kenya.

She studies Marine Business Management at Moi University, and she is a Cohort – 15 graduate of the Young African Leadership Initiative, a programme initiated by former President of the United States, Barrack Obama. Apart from that, writing and poetry have been her forte all through her life.

She also enjoys motivating youth and creating innovative solutions to complex problems which she does through her Community-Based Organization, Motivational Talks for Youth (MTY).

Salma recently ventured into Natural Hair Oil business – Salummy and she takes us through the journey of being a hair nurse.


 Why did you decide to create natural hair products and how did you transform that into a business?

After listening to my friends complaining about stunted hair growth, dandruff, ‘rough hair, weak hair etc…. You know all those problems girls have with their hair.

The problems did not just end there, there was also the issue of hair products which promised to take care of the mentioned issues but most of them failed.  

Personally, I have tried all types of hair oils that I could lay my hands on and I found it difficult to get that one particular oil that I could constantly go back to and this was when I realized that I could be the solution to this problem.

After a number of trials and errors, I was able to come up with a particular oil that I used for some time and there was a tremendous improvement on my hair in terms of texture, color, size, volume, and strength.

I am a Muslim, so I cannot carelessly flaunt my hair all over the place. One day, as I washed my hair, my cousins noticed the change and asked for the secret behind my beautiful hair. After sharing it with it them, they also tried it and it worked!  

That is how Salummy hair oil was born.

Friends kept on asking for the oil, and I realized I couldn’t keep giving them my oil for free, and I slowly transformed it to my side hustle. I moved from making the oil to shampoo, hair conditioner and even beard balm for the men.

Where do you get the ingredients for your oils? Are they natural? 

I mostly use organic products ( chemical- free)which is a combination of carrier oils, herbs, and essential oils which when mixed together can be a perfect combo to more moisturized, longer, softer and thicker hair.

I use black Jamaican castor oil, curry leaves and lavender essential oil as part of the products I use in my combo.

I source all my raw materials locally and I get my bottles from Nairobi, in a plastic industry.

Who are your clients, and where are they located?

Most of my clients are natural and transitioning ladies but I also have a significant number of relaxed ladies who still find my hair oil helpful to their hair mainly in terms of reducing on hair loss.

I have a big market base- I have clients from Mombasa, Kajiado, Nairobi, Kilifi, Lamu, Zanzibar, Daresalaam, Nakuru and even England.

What has been the feedback since you launched Salummy Hair Products?

The feedback has been overwhelming. When I first started, I did not have a good response and I had to go back to the kitchen time and again to work on my recipe and to keep trying until I had the right proportion for all hair types.

There are so many entrepreneurs out there selling natural hair products, what makes your brand unique from the rest?

My brand is unique because I give the clients exactly what their hair needs.

You will find most brands promising so much and delivering little but I have always tried to test my products with my own family and friends before taking them out to the market so that I give the people what they really want and not what I envision for them which might sometimes come out as an illusion of expectations not met.

The first time you use a natural oil, you already can feel and know if it works or not. This is the beauty of it.

If you are passionate about what you do, you can never fail - @salummy_salmun Click To Tweet

What challenges do you or have you encountered?

The main challenge has been to grow the business by myself.

I have so many suppliers and ambassadors but I am still the entrepreneur and the head and it can sometimes come out as overwhelming especially since I have to deal with so many orders.

The other challenge I face is introducing new products that my clients need like shampoos, conditioners, deep conditioners, and even soaps. I am really trying to take it easy and go as per my capacity. But I eventually know that I will have all these products out sooner or later.

I am also thinking of adding partners in the company and a personal assistant to help me in distribution and marketing.

What is your advice to young women entrepreneurs who keep dismissing their business ideas with doubts and fears?

If you are passionate about what you do, you can never fail. Businesses do not grow in a day, it is a combination of effort, determination, consistency, and creativity.

If you have all these with you, your business will speak for itself.

Article by Rumona Apiyo.


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Webinar with Nibi Lawson: How to start a natural hair brand with your pocket change (Jun 15)

Nibi Lawson

Don’t miss another event! Join our community and always stay informed.

Team Natural in the house!!!!

Natural Hair

But how much money are you spending on products to keep that puff, right and tight?

We’re all about people embracing their natural beauty but black hair is a $50b industry and even though young black women are the main consumers of these products, we unfortunately aren’t the creators. International conglomerates dominate the market and are making money off of the hair that we’ve been pulling, twisting and toiling with for centuries. We need more young African women to enter this industry and create products that not only help us look good but create wealth in our communities.

Join us on Wednesday June 15 for a candid discussion on how you can build your own natural hair care brand and take advantage of this beauty boom. If you have a passion for beauty and hair, what is stopping you from turning that passion into a viable business and becoming your own boss!

We’ll be chatting with Nibi Lawson, founder of The Kinky Apothecary, the first natural hair care store in Nigeria. The Kinky Apothecary sells a variety of brands including their own private label, so Nibi knows exactly what customers are looking for as well as how to make your products attractive to potential stockists.

Some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • How to perfect your recipes and start creating products from home
  • Where you should source your ingredients & packaging
  • Understanding the testing phase and really knowing how effective your products are, product safety, quality control/consistency, and determining what products to market first
  • How you should think about branding and making your products stand out
  • Getting products to export grade

Webinar Details:

  • Date: Wednesday June 15, 2016
  • Time: 10:00am EST // 3:00pm WAT // 5:00pm EAT

 

About Nibi:

With a background in Finance, Nibi Lawson started The Kinky Apothecary as a hobby in 2010. Aiming to fill the huge gap in the market for suitable chemical-free products for women who had made the decision to go natural, this quickly developed into a fully-fledged business and the company has now started rolling out concessions over Nigeria. In addition to supplying products, The Kinky Apothecary also organises frequent workshops, originally hosted by Nibi but now expanded to include a slew of guest natural hair experts, in an attempt to educate women about their natural hair, as well as a host of new projects and a product line under development.

Product review etiquette for bloggers

There are many perks that come with blogging, but none so welcomed as the ubiquitous product review. That is, receiving free products from a company to review on your blog in exchange for an honest review or advertorial.

Some bigger blogs, in an ad network, are paid to do product reviews and smaller ones sometimes aren’t. It all depends on how you position yourself. If you’re able to successfully grow a loyal following, brand managers and publicists will notice and come knocking at your door.

The only rule everyone must follow is full disclosure. Tell your audience if you received products or payment in exchange for a review. If done right, your readers won’t mind and will support your hustle.

Beyond the full disclosure rule, here are a few etiquette points bloggers should follow to keep their sponsors happy and to position themselves for financial growth.

Treat your sponsors like clients

They are your clients, even if they aren’t paying you in cash and are providing you with free products. No rough handling, please! Care, attention to detail, and a basic understanding of their business goals puts you at an advantage for future business.

Respond in a timely manner

After you’ve done some preliminary research on the company to speak intelligently about their products, give them a call or respond back to their email as soon as possible.

Ask yourself if the product is a good fit for your blog

If not, let them go easy. Don’t burn bridges so the publicist keeps you in mind for future projects.

Give the sponsor a definitive time for publishing their review

Give a firm date even if it is months ahead and meet your deadlines. Plan your blog posts ahead of time or give a realistic estimate of the time it will take you to craft a blog post or film a YouTube video. Stay committed and make good on your deadlines so you don’t keep your client in the dark, waiting.

Make the product review honest and relatable but don’t kill your client’s business

Find kind ways to be positive about your client’s product. Yes, you can be honest with your audience and positive about a product you don’t necessarily care for at the same time. It’s all in how you word it. Your goal is to serve your clients and be honest to your audience while exposing new brands to them—not kill business.

If you are having a hard time crafting a positive post, communicate this with your client, tell them what you would change about this product to make it better. (Brands love constructive feedback especially from influencers like yourself.) Tell them about the review you will post and if you’re willing, work with them to craft a post that works for both of you. You always have the last say on what goes up on your blog.

Be grateful

Thank them for selecting you to review their products and keep in touch so that your blog/brand stays top of mind for future projects.

Bonus: After the review goes live, provide your client/ sponsor with post stats. They’ll thank you for the extra attention to detail and customer service.