Are you thinking of rebranding your company? Many business-to-business (B2B) organizations find that their image (think logo) needs to be updated more often than it did in the past in order to stay contemporary and relevant in the markets they serve.
You may decide to take this step at your own business because your current image no longer reflects your company and its capabilities, or you simply feel it's time for something new. Whatever your reason for rebranding, chances are you'll make a significant investment to come up with a new identity that represents your company as it is today and resonates with your internal and external audiences.
A new look and feel is great. But many CEOs of B2B companies find themselves wondering after a rebranding exercise whether they got the full value they were expecting from the new identity.
Their disappointment usually stems from the same problem. In the early stages, everything went well because the firm and its executives were excited about creating a new look and feel. But they weren't nearly as fired up about the next phase: the humdrum tasks required to roll out the new image to internal and external stakeholders. So the company's senior leadership ignored these tasks—or, at most, gave them only limited and short-term attention.
I saw this unfortunate scenario play out recently at a large Canadian B2B company with about 500 employees. The firm changed its name from a phrase to an acronym two years ago. The idea was to make the company's name easier to remember and ensure that it didn't limit the types of products it could offer. This firm undertook an expensive rebranding process to come up with the new logo and design. But now two years later, the company finds that many of its customers still call the firm by its old name—and even some of its employees do! The CEO lamented to me, "Did we waste all that money? How is it possible that so much time has passed, yet so little has changed?"
The reason is that this company spent too much of its rebranding attention on the first part of the process, creating a new logo and design; and too little on the second part, rolling the new brand out to all its stakeholders.
Rebranding is a major exercise for a company, so it's vital to get the full value from it. Here are six steps that are essential to doing so. And please note one striking thing about this list: the first three steps are exclusively internal. That's because if you don't get employee buy-in before you start communicating with customers, your rebranding will fail—guaranteed.
Educate your people
Create a shared understanding of the vision and the brand to your team. Tell your employees why you're changing things, and how it will benefit them and their customers. A common benefit to employees is that the new name or image creates a more accurate representation of what the company now offers. If your business launched as a consultancy but now develops software, it's not very effective to still be going to market as ABC Consulting. Spend time communicating and celebrating your firm's new direction with your people; companies often underestimate the amount of time they need to invest with employees in order to have the new brand really stick.
Ingrain your updated brand in day-to-day operations
Make the new brand a habit. Embed it in processes. As just one example, make sure that email signatures are all updated. I know this sounds obvious, but you wouldn't believe how many companies let this slip.
Nurture the brand
Rebranding isn't a one-off process. Figure out what you have to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to keep your updated brand in people's minds. You might do a brand launch at a town-hall meeting with all your people, then a weekly update with imagery of the new brand in action to keep it top of mind for employees for the first eight weeks after the launch.
Integrate your brand everywhere
If you have multiple products or brands, pull everything together under the new image to create a cohesive, consistent look, feel and message across every element. Extend that consistency to websites, trade show booths, internal communications, press releases—anything people will see related to your company.
Build customer awareness
If your clients are used to your company operating under its former name, it will take a lot of effort and education to make them aware of the new name and to start using it. Do everything you can to educate your existing audience about the new brand—don't just send out a single communication and leave it at that. Remind them often, often, often. Tell them at every touch point. Reward them when they use the new name—something as simple as saying, "Thanks for using our new name when you introduced me to that new potential client via email yesterday." And gently remind them when they don't.
Build market awareness
Once you've done a good job with employees and existing customers, you can take the new image out to the market at large. This is usually the easiest group to educate, because you're not changing their behaviour, you're simply bringing something new to them.
As more and more B2B companies find that they need to rebrand in order to stay current in the market, it's becoming more important that they effectively roll out their new brands, not just create them. Like everything in business, it's not just the concept that counts—it's the execution!