When is the right time to rebrand your business? This is a question that plagues many business owners.
Rebrands can be expensive, time-consuming, and there’s always a chance that the end result will leave your company worse off. So why take the risk?
An outdated brand will limit the opportunities and rate in which your business can grow. Not adapting to a visual language that sets the right first impression for your business can also be the start of the end for established companies who are being forced to adapt to the digital era.
I run a digital agency called Square One Digital that partners with Canny on many projects so that clients can benefit from the shared experience that both of our teams can offer. Like Canny, we also offer branding services. However, I recently carried out a full-scale rebrand on my business and thought it would be a great opportunity to share what I’ve learned from the perspective of a business owner and a branding specialist.
This is a post for people who have thought about rebranding in the past but have done a really great job of finding reasons to put it off for another year, or who want to understand the benefits, downsides and dangers of going through this process.
Let’s start with the basics:
What’s in a Rebrand?
Put simply it’s the act of redefining how your business is presented to the people you want to sell to, your audience. It could involve changing the name, modifying your logo or creating a completely new one. You could have all of your marketing materials re-designed or completely start from scratch with a new everything.
The scope of your rebrand will depend largely on the problems you’re trying to solve – which is the real point of a rebrand, not just to look a bit more modern. Good design looks nice; real design solves a problem.
Only you can answer the question of why you need to rebrand, but it’s easier for a lot of people if we redefine the question.
What’s Holding Your Business Back?
For me, pre-rebrand, my businesses had the look and feel of something in between a freelancer and a small web and design company. I knew we could manage and complete projects bigger than local freelancers would handle and we invested more into each project than many of the local web/design companies.
The bigger the projects you go for in our industry, the higher the expectations of clients. They don’t want to risk a large part of their business with a lone wolf or small company that lacks the experience needed to complete a project whilst satisfying all expectations in the way an established team can.
I had plenty of clients to work with, and we were still signing up new ones, but it was putting enough people off that I knew something had to be done. When that happened, the conversations would revolve around proving our ability to do the project, putting their concerns to rest, rather than jumping straight in with a positive outlook, matching our solutions to their problems.
If you give off the wrong first impression, you’re going to have a much harder time selling products or winning new clients.
There wasn’t a whole lot any of us could do about it with the brand we had in place – which was a frustration we all had to bear, not just me.
So I decided to rebrand as Square One Digital and present ourselves as an agency. This gives us plenty of room to grow and means that we don’t have to worry about another rebrand in a few years time.
A great brand is tailored to suit the long-term goals and aspirations of your business, not just what it’s doing right now.
You Can’t Rebrand a Business That Doesn’t Actually Have a Brand
I speak with business owners on a regular basis, whether they’re one of my clients, someone I’m hoping to turn into a client, or a business owner who just wants a bit of advice – I get to learn about their business what they consider to be their problems and how they’ve gotten to where they are.
One of the most common scenarios I’ve come across is small business owners who believe they have a brand but don’t actually understand what one is. If you want to understand more about what a brand is, Canny has written a great post about that here.
If you’ve paid someone just to create a logo, that’s not a brand. If you’ve spent thousands of pounds putting together a fantastic logo and a range of great marketing materials, that’s still not a brand.
Creating a brand starts earlier than the visual stage. It starts with your beliefs and mission. The visuals are your brand identity, which should be derivative of your brand strategy.
If you’re looking for a branding guide, or an idea of how to build your brand from the ground up, check out The Ultimate Small Business Branding Guide.
Until you’ve defined, analysed and developed a strategy to engage with your target audience, you don’t have a brand.
Owning a brand is making a commitment to yourself, your team and those it does business with to adhere to a set of rules. In the same way, you know that certain people in your life are either reliable or incompetent, creative or dull, you need to build up the reputation of your business in the same way people do.
Making the Right Decisions for Your Brand
If you find that you’re struggling to decide what to do with your business, how to grow it, how to solve problems, how to better engage with people or are ready to start doubling or tripling the size of your business, you need to engage with a branding professional like Canny to help you get the job done properly and start seeing the results you want.
Your brand should reflect the expectations you want people to have of your business.
People either engage with you, or you engage with them via your marketing materials or your sales team. But what thoughts go through people’s minds when that engagement takes place, are the right expectations being set and are you filling them with confidence or doubt?
It was often a struggle to win new projects when the competition was involved, and the feedback was always the same. “We thought company X had more experience in general and for projects of our size.” On occasion, I would manage to get the name of the company that won and almost every time we’d take a look through their website and realise that we had a much a stronger portfolio. So, whilst your portfolio is important, it’s not the be all and end all when it comes to building relationships with clients in person.
Clients will gauge your competency for a job based on the perception they have of you and your business.
The problem was that I was trying to pull in clients that were outside the league our brand positioned us in. We did very well on the personable front, but nothing else matters if a client doesn’t think you’re able to do the work.
You might be a restaurant owner selling food to people who don’t know that you only use fresh ingredients and think you’re too pricey for what they’re getting.
You could be an online fashion retailer trying to sell expensive and luxury items on a dodgy looking website that people don’t trust enough to want to give their payment details too. And if you are trying to do that, take a look at our top ecommerce tips to help you sell more online.
You might be trying to launch a new business, trying to attract investors, with a brand that shows your vision for the business is little more than a stone’s throw away.
You should know how people that have engaged with your brand feel about your business and what’s putting them off.
Unfortunately too many owners, directors, and managers lack the proper processes to really understand what’s going on, preferring instead to guess, believing they know everything there is to know about the people their business serves.
You need to be able to understand your brand from the perspective of others.
Even if you’re the business owner, you shouldn’t be the only person involved in deciding to rebrand. Feedback needs to be sought on an ongoing basis by everyone the brand engages with. That includes management, staff, customers/clients, and suppliers – but be warned, getting the right feedback is not as easy as it sounds and it is advisable to get professional support with this task because it’s one of the most common processes that businesses get wrong!
Seeking Qualified Feedback on Your Brand
I spoke with my team, clients and many others at depth about my thoughts on the brand before I decided to start again with it all.
One of the more surprising discoveries was the fact that we still had clients who didn’t know about all of the services we provided. More importantly, we had lost out on business because they assumed we didn’t do what they needed, but guess what? They all said that if they had known, they’d have come to us first.
Branding is more than just making a pretty logo and set of marketing materials. One of the more important elements of branding is understanding how you can best engage with the people your business interacts with. Engaging with people in the right way will unlock opportunities and insight you can’t get in any other way.
The further away people’s perception of your brand is from reality; the more rewarding a rebrand is going to be for your business.
What Your Brand Should Do
Your brand should inspire confidence in presale situations. It should also inspire confidence in you as the business owner, and your staff team.
We’ve already covered that the business owner is not the only one affected by the quality of a brand, so let’s look at a specific situation. Believe it or not, if you don’t have a brand, you have the wrong or a low-quality brand, it’s very likely that it’s having a negative impact inside your business and outside.
Imagine you’re the head of sales and you’re attending a black tie event filled with people that you know need the services/products your company offers. It’s a huge event that could not only boost your career but have a hugely positive impact on the business you work for.
You know that everything, from the first impression and pre-pitch build up to the closing of the sale, needs to be spot on. Now, imagine that you have to attend this event in a clown suit. You’ve got no choice. It’s the only suit available to you.
What’s that going to do to your confidence and ability to close a sale? Now, of course, this is a bit silly, but in reality, the clown suit represents a brand that can’t deliver. You might be referring someone to an embarrassing website or handing a corporate looking CEO a brochure that reads and looks like it was designed for children. You could be cold calling and simply not understand how to talk about the problems your customers/clients are trying to deal with.
All of these situations are due to a poor brand experience, which impacts everyone that engages with your business.
The presale situation might look different for you; it might be done over the phone, or over a coffee, or purely online. Empower the people you work with and the people you sell to with a strong brand that encourages positive outcomes. If you want people to invest in your business, show them that you’re prepared to invest in understanding their world by creating a strong brand that speaks to the right people in the right way.
Conclusion: When is the Right Time to Rebrand Your Business?
Rebrand your business when what you say stops reflecting what you do.
It’s highly like you have questions about rebranding, and that’s great!
A strong brand is expressive, open, and communicative. They have a mission, and they want the world to know about it.
Whether you’re positively disrupting an out of touch industry filled with dinosaurs, helping people lead better lives or looking to fill a gap in the market – you should always have a message and strategy, things to talk about and promises to make.
Promises are important.
When a friend makes you a promise, and they break it, how does that make you feel? What if they refused to ever make promises in the first place? Would you trust them?
From how your sales or support teams speak over the phone to the language you use on social media and the visual language you use in marketing materials, everything you do is a promise, big or small, to stand for something (that isn’t just profit), and do things in a certain way.
This all needs to be communicated, through social channels, your website, engagements with potential customers/clients in whatever form that takes, and through your own opinion. This approach wins new business. Saying nothing, without a brand in place only limits the amount of success your business can achieve.
If you’re not saying anything to anyone about what you do other than “we make widgets” or “we sell widgets” then you have to invest in defining your brand.
If your brand positions you in a capacity that doesn’t reflect the reality of what your business is or does, you should consider a rebrand.
What do you think? When is the right time to rebrand your company?
reading time: 12 minutes