Ready to Rebrand? Entrepreneurs Share Lessons Learned

by Stephanie Taylor Christensen on May 13, 2014
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When your small business outgrows your original vision or your target market shifts, rebranding may be in order. But updating your image and messaging can be risky. So, how do you alter your approach without damaging your reputation or losing customers?

Intuit Small Business Blog asked a few entrepreneurs who’ve successfully rebranded for tips on how to ensure a smooth brand evolution. Here’s what they recommend.

1. Be realistic about rebranding costs. “A rebrand is more than new logos and stationery; it carries through every existing instance of the old brand,” says Christopher Tompkins, CEO of online marketing firm The Go Agency. “It can be time-consuming and costly.” To ensure you’re financially prepared, he suggests budgeting for every aspect of the rebranding and planning how you’ll pay for each one.

For example, when Tompkins rebranded his agency to attract higher-caliber clients, he tallied up the projected costs of supporting the endeavor, online and off. He then developed a “one-off” service package that would cover the total costs he projected for the rebrand. He then tasked his sales team to sell just one of them. Once they did, he was able to use that additional cash flow to cover his rebranding costs, without straining his operating budget.

2. Consider your existing customers. Rob Bellenfant, CEO of  TechnologyAdvice, recently rebranded a portion of Thrive Marketing Group to reflect its growth in the technology realm. He says that staff communication, a checklist of messaging that required change, timelines, and an organized strategic approach were all critical to rebranding. But the most important part of the process was keeping the company’s existing clients — especially those in industries other than technology — informed.

“We had direct contact with our current clients before we went through the rebrand, and [we] made sure our sales team had phone or in-person conversations with our non-tech clients to answer any questions they had. The goal was to be accessible and transparent throughout the process, so clients weren’t caught off guard by anything and felt good about what was happening,” Bellenfant says.

In addition, the company sent emails, a letter, and a press release worded with clients in mind. “While it listed the new services offered under the TechnologyAdvice brand, it also detailed the current services and reminded clients that the service they were accustomed to receiving under the old brand wasn’t changing or going away,” he says.

3. Hire the right team. Heidi Rasmussen, co-founder of freshbenies, a health discount card for higher-deductible insurance plans, embarked on a rebrand about a year and a half ago to turn her “very sterile, insurance-y brand” into a simple, understandable one that spoke to end users. To that end, she painstakingly redefined her intended customer, product, and vision. She also hired a team that would convey the new brand message.

“It all starts at the job description,” she explains. During the screening process, she looks for cues that signal a prospective employee has a shared vision and passion, such as the language used in a cover letter and how deeply a candidate appears to understand what the company does. “We also have a rigorous interview and testing process, and while it’s very tactical, it also measures a prospective employee’s behavioral match to our company.”

Rasmussen adds: “Hire for attitude, train for everything else. Not every employee is going to have a personal interaction with your brand prior to working with you, but there are little flags [that] say, ‘This person gets us and will be a huge asset to our brand.’”

4. Understand that repetition is key. You may be tempted to get creative with your new brand messaging, but the more you repetitive you are, the more familiar your brand will become to your audience. Ideally, that familiarity leads your audience to form an emotional attachment to the brand.

“It can seem boring because you see it all the time, but your brand must look the same and say the same things, so that potential customers understand what you do. Your brand should be a seamless experience no matter where it is, from a business card to a website to a Facebook page to a direct mailer,” Rasmussen says.

Stephanie Christensen is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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