A New Year: A New Brand

Lately, a lot of companies that have been in business for more than a decade have asked us to gather more insight on what they can do to reinvent their brand and be perceived as innovators.  Every company wants to be known as an innovator—whether that means earning a spot in the leaders’ square of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant or maybe just being noticed.

So how do you even begin to invent or reinvent?
Answer: Break down your “makeover” into these steps:

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Step 1: Do a brand audit

Understanding how internal staff and the external market perceive you is important. Ask your current, former and potential customers, sales staff, media, analysts and third parties a few simple questions to get an accurate picture of how people inside and outside the organization perceive the leaders, the company brand and the company’s offerings. Using the answers you get, create a SWOT as part of this exercise to better understand Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats as seen from the outside. Find out if there is a gap in perception.

Step 2: Be open to change

Begin by doing a gap analysis and tweaking what you have, based on what you discovered in the brand audit in Step 1. Perhaps that means adjusting the sales model to better meet customer needs, or refocusing the product features to focus on one or two problems vs. all the problems. Most importantly, be open to feedback and taking a different approach to the market.

Step 3: Set goals

Envision specific goals for what you want your brand to become. Are you hip, innovative, relevant?  Is that what you’re aiming for? Or maybe it’s convenience and ease of use. What is your goal? Who do you want to be two years from now? Twenty years from now?

Step 4: Do market research

To succeed in the long run, you have to understand where the market is headed. If you do your homework, you should be in a position to predict the market before it happens. Talk with industry influencers to find out where they see the market headed. Read analyst forecasts. Talk with your customers to get a better understanding of what your customer needs are and how those needs are likely to change.  Research what your competitors are doing. Then you can create a roadmap designed to help you bridge that gap between present and future.

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Step 5: Learn to work with what you’ve got!

Often companies already have the basics of an innovative product, but something needs to be updated—an interface, or a back end or customer service. Companies that focus too exclusively on dramatic reinvention maybe forgetting that there’s almost always a secret weapon that can found internally: people, technology, processes.

Step 6: Look within

Your employees are your best resources for reinvention. Ask your employees their thoughts and ideas. Create an “Idea Dropbox.” Periodically select an employee to “run the company” for a day, or have them review your sales and marketing plans or listen to a customer call. You may be surprised at their input. This not only boosts morale and helps employees gain respect for their colleagues, it also may spawn ideas for better ways of doing things. Employees are likely to be more engaged in the company and root for its success.

Reinventing your brand doesn’t have a to be a daunting task. The best way to handle reinvention is not to have a top-down mandate. Get all departments on board. Have department heads craft their own visions for reinventing their department. Encourage them to provide input on the theme “ideas for reinvention.” Embrace change, and at the same time understand that change necessarily doesn’t happen overnight.