How to rebrand your small business

A marketing team work on a business rebrand

If your small business brand is underperforming, you need to think about rebranding. As part of your rebrand, you need to look at much more than just your visual identify. Rebranding means a thorough reappraisal of what your business is about.

An effective rebrand delivers a new brand identity that truly reflects your business values, how you behave and what you can offer to customers. A new, stronger brand can breathe new life into the business, helping to enthuse employees, attract more customers and set the foundation for long-term growth.

Does your small business need a rebrand?

Businesses typically think about rebranding when their existing brand is underperforming, or has become tired or outdated.

Start with your customers - how do they respond to your brand? A customer survey or informal discussions can help you find out:

  • how customers think of your business;
  • how you compare to your competitors;
  • what customers feel about you, and whether they have any emotional attachment to the business, your products and services.

Business performance can reveal problems with your brand. Danger signs could include:

  • declining customer loyalty or average customer spend;
  • fewer new customers coming to you as the result of customer recommendations;
  • increased price-sensitivity among customers and falling margins;
  • loss of market share;
  • problems recruiting and retaining employees.

Even a successful brand in a well-managed business can lose effectiveness over time. In fast-changing markets, a brand can feel relevant one year but lose credibility the next. New competitors, changing customer demand and emerging technologies can all have an impact.

The visual expression of your brand - logo, website design and so on - can also get dated. If so, your rebrand may only need to deal with visual branding, but it's important to check that there isn't a deeper underlying problem.

The benefits of rebranding

Small start-ups often skimp on branding, for understandable financial reasons. Attention tends to be focused on dealing with customers on a one-to-one basis rather than developing a brand. The brand that emerges from this sort of approach tends to reflect the personality of the owner or the team that started the business.

As the business grows, this no longer works. Rebranding can help you create a brand that:

  • gives new employees an understanding of the business and how to operate;
  • provides consistency, regardless of which individual is dealing with a particular customer or problem;
  • reflects how your product/service has evolved - for example from a local retailer to an online store;
  • reflects changing priorities and brand values - for example, if larger customers demand consistent quality;
  • differentiates what you offer from new competitors;
  • ties together a growing range of different products or services;
  • helps you promote your business to a wider area or internationally.

How to rebrand your business

The starting point for a rebrand is to look at your existing brand.

  • Revisit your USP. What is it that makes your business different?
  • What are the values that guide your business and how you behave?
  • What do customers think about your brand?
  • What do employees think?
  • Are there other important groups where your reputation matters, and what do they think?

This process should help you identify the problems with your existing brand. Often, part of the problem is that different groups of people have different perceptions of the brand, or if your supposed brand values aren't actually reflected in the way you behave.

Decide what you want to keep from your current brand, and what you want to change. Look at any fundamental changes you need to make - for example, making sure your pricing is in line with your brand positioning, or updating customer care processes to deliver the quality of service you want to be known for.

Once you have these building blocks in place, go on to revitalise how you communicate your brand.

  • Update your business image, with a consistent approach covering everything from your logo and website to premises and employee dress codes.
  • Develop the key messages you want to put out and a tone of voice that reflects your brand.
  • Consider getting help from professionals - for example, using a graphic designer and a copywriter.

Aim for consistency across everything you do, from working practices to visual identity.

Rebranding pitfalls

Too often, rebranding - particularly visual rebranding - is seen as a quick solution, without addressing underling problems. If you no longer match up to the competition, there's little point in trying to gloss over that with a new logo.

Equally, a brand only works if everyone - particularly your customers and employees - believes in it. Keep employees involved throughout the rebranding process, letting them know what's happening and listening to their suggestions. Think about how you should involve key customers.

Rebranding, like any change, is disruptive. Plan how you will manage the process and be ready.

  • Customers and employees who are most heavily tied to the old brand are likely to shout the loudest. But are these representative of where your future lies?
  • A rebranding may mean a dramatic refocusing. Are you ready to lose customers who are no longer a priority, ease out employees who cannot change, or ditch products that no longer fit with what you are trying to do?

Rebranding checklist

Take a step-by-step approach to rebranding.

  1. Assess the strength of your current brand and identify whether you need to rebrand.
  2. Review your market and the competition. Where are you now and where do you want to get to?
  3. Revisit and if necessary update your USP.
  4. Establish your objectives and set a budget.
  5. Assess the scale of the changes that the rebranding will involve.
  6. Decide who will be responsible, including any external suppliers you want to use.
  7. Develop your new visual identity and key messages.
  8. Involve customers and employees throughout; test new plans.
  9. Plan how you will launch your rebranding for maximum impact.
  10. Monitor outcomes and identify opportunities for further improvements.

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