Does Your Small Business Need a New Hubcap?

Business as usual can’t be the mantra, especially in this ever changing marketplace.  Sometimes a small business needs some tweaking and that’s where rebranding comes in.

Whether it’s a rebranding of the company’s name or logo, the addition of a new product or service or an effort to boost sales, when done right it can help you gain a competitive edge or grow a stagnant enterprise.

“Whether it's Coke, McDonalds or paper towels -advertisers must keep up with trends, events and marketplace in order to retain past clients and gain new ones,” says author and small business expert Greg Reid. “It can be as simple as a fresh jingle, design, or social media, knowing that you don't always need to change the wheel, but simply install a new hubcap.”

According to rebranding experts, before you jump into a new marketing initiative you need to weigh the costs and benefits. Rebranding doesn’t happen overnight and requires a lot of effort and commitment.  It also isn’t something void of risks. For instance, companies with longer histories risk hurting their established brand during the process, which can be lengthy.

Success isn’t a given when rebranding. But the biggest mistake companies of all sizes can make is waiting until it’s too late to rebrand. BlackBerry, MySpace and Palm Pilot are just three examples of companies that did just that. As a result, these once icons “went from marketplace dominance to a question in Trivia Pursuit,” says Reid.

The costs associated with rebranding can be high, considering you’ll need to promote your new brand. The Internet can help with that.

Dario Ambrosini, chief marketing officer at Manta, says you can save money by tapping people with influence in your industry to build awareness of your brand. That could mean targeting a well-followed blogger or firing up someone of influence on Twitter.

Social media followers can also help. Manta says to ask them to spread the word about the new brand.

“It could be as simple as a sweepstakes that awards @mentions, or a coupon for every person that likes a branded post,” says Ambrosini.

Keeping your existing customers in the loop during the rebranding is also important, and can actually increase loyalty. Nina Brakel-Schutt, resident branding expert for Widen Enterprises, says to talk to customers about the name and logo you are considering for the brand and get their feedback. It’s not only a way to engage them, but it’s a free way to get them to understand what’s going on.

“Don’t wait until everything is done to unveil,” says Brakel-Schutt. “There’s no better way to start telling your story than by bringing people into the mix early on.”

Since most customers do their research online, you are going to want to make sure your rebranding efforts are seen on the Internet. One way to do that on the cheap is to engage in cross promotions with other small businesses. According to Reid, create a catchy banner ad and then find similar companies to cross promote with.

“You post their banner on your site and they post yours on theirs,” says Reid. “Instantly you have doubled your reach with zero out of pocket expense.”

The worst thing you want to do is adopt a shotgun approach to getting the word out. Ambrosin of Manta says to see where you’re brand gets the most attention online and focus your efforts there first. It’s not worth spending a ton to create rebranding videos for YouTube if none of your customers hang out there.

When it comes to rebranding, you have to take a gradual approach. Gene Marks, founder of The Marks Group, a customer relationship management company, has gone through a few rebrandings over the past twenty years and learned slow and steady wins the race.  You can’t wake up one day and decide you are no longer selling X but now Y and Z.

Marks says you need to find a balance between the old and the new or you’ll risk hurting business with your existing customers. Taking the gradual approach will also help you adapt to changes as you go through the rebranding. You may think your new idea is brilliant, but if it doesn’t resonate with customers you don’t want to have thrown too much money and resources down the drain.

“Overhauling is a sign of weakness or failure. I failed at this and now I’m trying to be that,” says Marks. “It should be more gradual. I’m still this specialist but now I also provide this.”