Often SMEs don’t realise that having a brand is just as important for them as it is for larger companies, however, presenting a professional image and consistent identity to your prospect and existing customers, whatever your size, is a vital part of securing new and ongoing business. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend the big bucks, but it does mean that you need to give your firm’s brand some thought.
January is a popular time for companies to reflect on their current position, review their performance and set objectives for the next 12 months and beyond, and taking a look at the company’s image often forms part of this process. So for those of you that are considering a business rebrand, here are the five things that I think it’s most important to consider before you dive in and develop a design.
1. Go back to basics
Your brand needs to reflect your company’s values and ethos, and appeal to your customer base, as well as differentiating your products and services from your competitors. Take some time to think about and document your competition’s branding and analyse what you think works and what doesn’t so that you can avoid these pitfalls when you rebrand – as well as any chance of accidentally developing a similar brand to others in your marketplace.
2. Keep it simple
Developing a brand doesn’t have to be complicated, but is does have to be consistent. Whilst you can keep colours and logos clean and basic, assuming it fits with your ethos and industry, you do need to make sure that your brand is reflected in all aspects of your marketing materials. From your website to your stationery to your latest leaflet and your merchandise, you’ll need to make sure your new image is projected throughout your marketing streams to reinforce your brand’s strong identity.
As a small firm it’s tempting to use up the last of your brochures before you move on, but if you really feel you need to do that, don’t introduce your new brand until you are ready to use it everywhere. If you run two different brands consecutively, it will confuse your customers, dilute your brand and make the overall impression of your company unprofessional.
3. Know your strengths
As a consumer nation we are generally pretty thrifty in January, following the post-Christmas excesses, and it’s tempting to translate this into our business world too. However, if you’re not a branding or design specialist, it’s usually best to invest in some professional support. Costs vary considerably for a rebrand service so make sure that you shop around to find the right price for you, as well as to find the right designer for you – one that really understands the SME environment, the requirements and, specifically, your firm’s ethos and the way that your SME operates.
It’s easy to get wow-ed by expensive designers that have worked with large, recognisable brands, but this doesn’t mean that they will understand your marketplace or your firm’s branding and design requirements, so be sure of your choice of supplier before you put your hand in your pocket.
4. Take your concepts for a test drive
Before you settle on a brand, you and your designer will come up with several concepts – different styles and colours for your brand. Once you’ve narrowed down the concepts to two or three, it’s always a useful idea to see how your target audience feels about the different brands, to find out which one really works for them and what messages your concepts are sharing with your target audience.
It’s tempting to ask friends and family for their opinion, however, what you really need is a group of people who are objective and who would be your ideal prospect customers. It’s these people that you want to be drawn to, and impressed by, your brand and so it’s these people that you should ask. It’s often easily done, as you’ll be surprised how much input you can incentivise for a minimal high street voucher! You could get the participants in one room (focus group), you could hold phone interviews with online visuals or you could send out/have online questionnaires.
As long as you are planned and consistent with your questions, you should be able to get some really useful feedback about your design concepts. It’s also worth mentioning that if you have different products and services targeted at different audiences, then ideally you’d have a sample from each of these target groups to ensure that your brand has an appeal to all of your prospects.
5. Give your brand some substance
It’s all very well developing your brand to communicate particular values, however, you need to make sure that you can put your money where your brand is, so to speak. By this I mean that you need to have examples that illustrate your brand values in your marketing streams, like on your website, in your brochure or in your PR. For example, you can develop client case studies that you can utilise in all of your marketing streams to reinforce the identity of your brand, your website may have a news or blog section which you can use to illustrate your values or you may decide to promote specific successes in the media.
It’s important that you have some of these actions/elements prepared prior to the launch of your new brand so that your brand doesn’t look unsubstantiated, and it’s equally important to make sure that there is an ongoing ‘drip, drip’ of substance stories throughout your company’s lifespan. You don’t have to create different examples every day, however, once a month will help to keep your brand alive and current.
Whatever method of illustrating the backbone of your brand, it’s essential that you show your current and prospect customers, as well as your competitors, that you can live up to your brand promises and that there’s more to your company than a professional image.
Image: Branding via Shutterstock