Yes, it is possible to rebrand a startup without losing customers or partners. Here's a primer on how to approach the process.
1. Know Why
I’ve been involved in several corporate rebranding projects over the years from my own one-man company to startups, and even a large global enterprise. These experiences have taught me that rebranding can be extremely resource-intensive, disruptive, and distracting to your operations. It can confuse your user community, throw off your clients, and even anger some people who preferred your old brand. It certainly is not something to be undertaken lightly.
That said, if managed well, a rebranding project can be a great opportunity to reset, refresh, and update many aspects of your business that goes far deeper than merely swapping out your logo.
My client, Xtra, Inc. was formed from the merger of two companies. Both parties felt that it was a merger of equals and that they wanted to use the opportunity to create something new and clarify the value proposition of the new entity’s various services. The process has been a positive experience and laid a great foundation for growth. I’d like to share what we learned.
2. Define the Scope
Don’t assume that things are going to magically fall into place. The larger and more complex your business, the more moving parts it has, the more you’ll need to avoid missing.
What is Changing:
Define what items are going to change and why. Here is a list of items you might consider:
Company mission and value statements
Building on this, you may need to update or create some of the following items:
Website, social media accounts, and email newsletters
Visual assets (photos, videos)
T-shirts or other branded items
Convention booth assets
Invoices, receipts, billing
If you just throw a switch one day and change, people will react negatively. It’s crucial that you communicate what is changing and why. Here are some items to prepare in advance:
Emails for any stakeholders including clients, customers, users, investors, and partners
Social media notices
Perhaps less urgent, but still important is updating any directory listings such as the following:
Startup directory listings
Industry directory listings
3. Have a Plan
Once you have listed out all the things that need to be updated or created, they must be assigned to a task owner and given a deadline. You’ll also need to have a launch plan for the day when you switch over to the new brand. The more you get into a rebranding project, the more items you will find need attention and incorporation into your planning.
Be sure to let staff know that, unless specifically instructed otherwise, they need to keep the rebranding confidential to avoid causing problems. Everything needs to be rolled out at the right time. It may make sense to postpone the rebranding to focus on servicing your customers.
In some cases, it may make sense to warn some stakeholders ahead of time so that they are aware of what is going to change and when. However, everything must be prepared to ensure the rebranding can be done within one day. Confirm and re-confirm with all project members that need to be done by whom and by when. You don’t want to be stumbling around trying to catch up with forgotten items that need updating.
4. Prepare for Reactions
Humans don’t like change. We get comfortable with things the way they are. We’re busy with many concerns. If something they relied on sudden changes, it costs us in time and energy. We have to stop what we’re doing and take the time to digest the changes. Rather than calmly process the changes, many people will simply react negatively.
If well executed, the above-mentioned communications should alleviate much of the concern and confusion. However, don’t expect everyone to notice or carefully read them. Some of your most important stakeholders may not follow any of your social media accounts, be subscribed to your email newsletter, or bother to check your website. They’ll just show up - other online or offline - and start reacting.
Be sure to have a frequently asked questions (FAQs) document easily available. Also, be sure to arm your staff with it in case they need to explain to people directly. If executed skillfully and carefully, a rebranding should elicit an overwhelmingly positive reaction from all stakeholders.
5. Get Help
Once you understand what needs to be done and the required process, you may feel overwhelmed. Adding to that, your team may lack the expertise to implement several items on your list. In that case, consider bringing in one or more specialists to help as needed.
In some cases, it might make sense to source and hire experts such as designers, copywriters, developers, photographers, or videographers locally so that you can meet face-to-face to avoid communication issues. Alternatively, if you are confident in your communication abilities, consider hiring a freelancer online via a site such as Conyac.
Rebranding should only be done if it is going to help the company grow and better serve its clients. Be clear on why you’re undertaking a rebranding. Carefully plan how each item will be implemented, by whom, and by when. Ensure that everyone is on the same page and prepare for potential negative reactions ahead of time.
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