For many businesses operating in a localized market, their brand identity has been an organic by-product of one thing: staying in business.
You're aware you need a logo, some collateral materials and a slogan or tagline of sorts. Brands get built almost accidentally, and that's okay- many businesses that have never formally engaged the branding process do very, very well.
Your business might be one of them. And that's great.
But there will come a time in your organization's growth cycle when an accidental brand needs to be transformed into an intentional, strategic brand system. Your business might not be there yet, but hopefully it will get there.
Pondering rebranding is actually a good problem to have. It means you're approaching a tipping point for your enterprise. If you're thinking about the following questions, your business is likely doing well:
- What is rebranding?
- Should I invest in my brand?
- What are the signs we should rebrand?
- What are the benefits of improving our brand when it comes to new business?
In cases where the brand comes to exist by happenstance, it's often difficult to separate a given brand from reputation and word-of-mouth awareness.
A business has succeeded (it might not be profitable but has stayed operational), grown its client or customer base through strong performance and the “brand” has evolved accordingly.
After all, your business has come this far and has lasted this long without investing money in branding.
So why start now?
Among a slew of difficult questions faced by growing businesses, engaging in a formal process gets brushed aside until it’s too late.
So, as a key stakeholder in a growing business, when is it appropriate—and even more importantly, necessary—to engage an outside marketing and branding agency in a formal effort?
Let’s take a look at four key signals that your company should invest in a formal rebranding and re-positioning process.
You Have Plans to Expand Your Market Reach
The business plan you’ve created with your leadership team includes growth beyond your current market. This could involve expanding into a neighboring county, another state, multiple-states or even going national.
The critical factor here is as you expand, and the farther you move away from your local comfort zone, the less awareness exists of your track record and strong reputation, i.e. the “brand” that evolved naturally along with your localized success.
- Where a mere mention of your company name in local circles created all the good vibes needed to get in the door and get that first meeting, your name and brand carries little to no door opening juice in new markets
- As you attempt to penetrate new markets, you’ll encounter more intense competition where securing even an initial meeting will require far more work and effort
- Without a formal, intentional, strategic and refined new brand projected across all of your materials and a reimagined positioning strategy that tailors the presentation of that brand to different markets, your business will be at a severe disadvantage when it comes to penetrating new markets
Your "Storefront" Has Been Neglected
Your business has been successful. You're growing rapidly. You keep winning business. But you have not updated your website or collateral materials in years. Your “storefront”, or the materials that carry and project your brand to the market, needs a facelift to match where you business is today, not where it was five or more years ago.
Granted, it’s been easy choosing not to invest in a new website or in refreshing your brochure. Business has been fine. No one complains.
However, now that you’ve tapped out the local market, your “storefront” is more important than ever, in that it will determine—particularly in the case of your website and digital presence—how potential new clients or customers perceive your operation.
This is not about investing $100,000 in the most technologically advanced website ever.
- It is, though, about investing in a website that is modern, on message and that speaks to the pain points and needs of all your target audiences, both local, regional and national, as applicable
- This is about all of your materials across all mediums- print, digital, business cards, letterhead, brochures, signage, office design, social media, radio and TV—projecting updated and consistent brand values and identity
- An outdated “storefront” and fragmented brand presentation across your materials will hurt your business development efforts in markets less familiar with your word-of-mouth reputation. And it could, eventually, hurt your ability to win local business as well.
In House Branding Efforts Failed
You set ambitious goals for growing your market, and fundamentally understood a formal branding effort was a key to success.
Like many business owners, you thought those best suited to branding your company were those working for it. This is the best of both worlds:
- Branding done by those that live the brand
- And I don’t have to sink hard costs into the process
Despite the best intentions, the team you put together to brand your company fails, not because of a lack of effort or passion or commitment, but because the customer or client always comes first.
And that client or customer is not your company; it’s those organizations paying your company and your staff salaries.
- Branding work is complex, time consuming and requires the expenditure of a tremendous amount of thought capital. What’s more, it also needs to be done objectively. In both these areas, it is nearly impossible for an internal team to successfully build and implement a formal, objective branding and positioning strategy while being asked to perform their “regular” jobs at a high level.
- The key here is recognizing where your company is in its lifecycle. For start-ups and businesses just hitting their stride, branding has to be done in house.
- It's a necessary evil, so to speak. But for businesses that are growing rapidly and want to grow more, for businesses that have the capital to invest, keeping things in-house is no longer necessary. In fact, it's counterproductive.
Either your clients will suffer or your brand work will suffer. Luckily, for you, your team chose your client’s happiness over brand development. If you’ve tried to do the branding process internally and failed you’re not alone. It’s the most logical first step for any business owner, but one that very often is doomed from the start.
When you have the financial means and are aggressively pursuing growth, hiring an agency with branding expertise and experience will add a layer of objectivity to the process, and, if they know what they're doing, maximize the input of your team without overburdening them and disrupting day-to-day operations.
This will require a financial investment as well as giving up control to a trusted partner, but the long term benefits to your organization, clients and staff cannot be understated.
Your Competitors Have Already Invested in Rebranding
As you’ve kicked around the idea of formally branding your organization, you’ve taken a peek at your competition, both local and beyond.
And what you’ve found is not good.
A few of your main, local competitors have a new website with a blog, videos, case studies and client testimonials. It looks good. It’s functional. It’s easy to navigate. And tells a cohesive brand story.
Somehow, they’ve done what you could not. They’ve invested time and money to revamp their “storefront” and showcase their brand differentiators in a way that speaks effectively to multiple target audiences.
And when you take a peek into the markets you want to penetrate, you find both a higher number of competitors and a higher density of competitors with strong branding programs.
This is a threat on two fronts:
- Your local competition is investing time and capital in branding, which means they are aggressively pursuing your market share
- Your ability to penetrate new markets might be more challenging than you originally thought
Growing your business is a numbers game, for sure, but it’s also about communication and maintaining and expanding an emotional connection with your existing customers and target audience.
If you connected with one or more of the signals detailed above, it’s time to engage an outside firm to brand your company.
Branding is not the be all and end all for company success. However, those companies that can combine skilled data analysis, outstanding customer service, innovative service and product development and tell people that story via branding excellence will win the day.
They won’t continue to grow and thrive by relying on word-of-mouth generated business (though it always helps). They’ll win the day because they’ve armed their business plan with process, intent and a formal branding and positioning platform that connects with the people it seeks to serve.
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