In the sales cycle of a small business, it can often be feast or famine: either sales are going so well that you have no time for planning, or sales have slowed to the point where you are on the edge of panic, wondering if you should change something significant about your product, your business, or your brand.
Ideally, the decision to rebrand should not be based on short-term sales experience or a kneejerk reaction to current trends. Instead, take the time for careful, considered reflection on how you and your business have evolved over time, and how you might serve your clients effectively long term.
In addition, branding is not just about you. It’s about how your clients and customers understand who you are and what you have to offer, within the context of your competitors.
So, before you start wondering about how that new logo might jazz up your giveaway pens, ask yourself these five questions:
- Who are your competitors?
This one seems a little obvious, but bear with me, it’s for a good cause. After you’ve identified your top competitors, consider these follow-up questions:
- Are they the same competitors you’ve had for awhile? Are any of them recent? How did they break into your niche?
- How do your competitors market?
- Have they changed how they market and in what way? How recently did they make this change?
- Have they changed how they communicate with their clients/customers and in what way? How recently did they make this change?
- Who are your customers? Especially your best customers?
Though your brand is the heart and soul of your business, the person who really cares about that brand is your customer. Your answer to “who is your customer” will ideally build upon on the base demographic information you probably have already identified, and go further:
- How has your ideal customer changed over time?
- If your business supports repeat purchases, how frequently do they buy from you?
- Why do you think they buy/bought from you? What is important to them?
- What annoys them the most, in your experience?
- What pleases them the most, in your experience?
- What about your business is the same as or similar to your competitors’ businesses?
The baseline of any brand is your product or service niche. Whether you sell hamburgers or haute couture, you and your competitors are most likely attempting to appeal to the same customer or client base. So, identify those similarities. Here are a few possibilities to get you started:
- Similar price point?
- Similar product features/benefits?
- Similar customer base?
- Similar marketing strategy and advertising mix?
- Similar physical location/online presence?
- What is it you are doing that is different from anyone else?
Now we are getting to the meat of branding. Your brand pulls double duty, positioning you in a general category and then immediately demonstrating why you are different (and ideally better) in that category. So, why are you different? Put another way, why should a customer or client buy from you, vs. from your competitors?
- Better service? (If so, in what way?)
- Better purchasing experience? (If so, in what way?)
- Better results? (If so… you get the idea)
- Something else?
Follow-up: has that “Unique and Amazing Differentiation Point” changed over time?
- How are you currently expressing your unique difference (if you are)?
When you first designed your logo and created your website, storefront, and corporate pen collection, how did you decide to present yourself uniquely? Perhaps you used sleek styling or a decorative font… perhaps you used patriotic colors or high-tech flourishes. What were your original branding decisions—and why did you make them?
Then, follow-up: does that branding express the answers you identified in Question #4?
With this information, you won’t have the answer as to whether or not you should rebrand, but you’ll be able to frame the conversation. Arguably, if you can see a significant disconnect between Answer #5 and Answer #4, a rebranding initiative might be in order. But it’s important to link your results from this internal survey to what your current competitors are doing and to what your customers want (in general) from a product/service like yours. It’s all connected.
You may find that your branding is fine… but you need to change an element of your product or service. You may find that your product is outstanding… but you need to step up your marketing/communication efforts. And you may find that it is your brand that needs attention… and that with just a few tweaks to showcase your unique offering, you’ll be on the way to great results for yourself and your business.
But first, it pays to ask a few questions.
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