Why rebranding your company is like remodeling your house
They take twice as long as you expect, once you start there’s no turning back and to make it work you must go all in!
By Ken Schmitt and Vicky Willenberg
4 years ago, had you asked me to rank the strength of my firm’s brand, I probably would’ve given it a 7. Maybe a 7+ on a good day. I knew we were well-respected and carried a strong reputation, but I hadn’t done any kind of formal market review for several years. “I’ve heard of your firm,” was something I heard often when networking. I had been recruiting accounting/finance for almost 7 years straight at that point, and was pleased that our branding and marketing efforts were working, and I felt confident that our place in the accounting and finance recruiting world would continue to escalate.
Then everything changed! The recession hit, the market slowed dramatically, client and candidate loyalty went out the window and to be honest, my passion for accounting and finance recruiting had waned a bit. Something had to change.
I recognized the level of saturation in the finance and accounting recruiting field and felt there had to be some way to better service my clients. Here we were in 2010, 3+ years into launching my own firm, and I knew it was time to mix things up. After talking to 30+ clients and contacts, I uncovered a significant lack of support in the world of Sales & Marketing recruiting. I decided it was time for TurningPoint Executive Search to rebrand. We did not turn our focus away from recruiting, but altered our business model and the type of positions we would fill. It was during the process of implementing these changes that I learned just how entrenched my brand was – and just how tough it is to change an existing brand!
Although I was pleased to learn how successful our brand building had been, I realized very quickly that it was going to be difficult to recreate the firm’s brand in a new community, with a whole new set of buyers, companies, contacts, candidates and referral partners. Sales and marketing was not accounting! In the end, what I thought would be a six month process, actually took 18 months.
Now that we have made it through the recession, our rebranding campaign has proven to be a bold yet hugely successful move, and we are in the midst of our 2nd consecutive year of 100% growth, it is a good time to take stock of the lessons learned. For those of you looking to rebrand or perhaps add additional product lines or services to your mix, here are some tips I picked up during our rebranding endeavor.
6 Steps for Rebranding Your Company
1. Real-time Market Research. Personally reach out to your customer base to find out if they would have an interest in using your new products/services. If they are currently buying these services from someone else, this will provide a great opportunity for additional insight into the competitive landscape. Don’t be afraid to inquire about their experiences, taking stock of their likes and dislikes about their current suppliers. (I reached out to 32 of my clients to get their feedback on our new brand offering before committing to anything.)
2. Focus Group (yes, I know it’s old school). Consider hosting an in-person Lunch & Learn. I hosted 14 clients to get their honest opinion about our new focus. Not only did I receive excellent feedback, but because the face-to-face approach is so rare these days, I know this went a long way toward building our brand and differentiating from the crowd (two of those in attendance wound up becoming clients).
3. Become the Expert. Consider launching a new industry group, LinkedIn group or trade association which will provide you with the platform and vehicle you need to position yourself as the expert in the sector. Realizing there wasn’t a professional group that offered peer to peer networking for sales leaders, I launched the Sales Leadership Alliance to provide a platform for networking and professional development to the region’s sales leaders. This has proven to be a huge part of our success as it grants us access to and provides value to senior level professionals who otherwise might not return our calls.
4. Perfect your Messaging. Create a consistent, clear and memorable message for the marketplace and broadcast it everywhere and often. Be aware of the best channels to leverage, and know who you can count on as your “evangelists” to help spread the word about your new products or services.
5. Be Really, Really Patient. Don’t expect your new brand to take hold overnight. Depending on how entrenched your old brand is, 12-24 months is a reasonable timeframe for the marketplace to digest the transition.
6. Be Willing to Say No. If you are moving from being the low cost leader to a more premium offering or you are moving further downstream as opposed to being the upstream solution, you will have to draw a line in the sand. You must be willing to turn away the old business for your client base to identify the “new you.” Initially, we tried handling both accounting and sales positions when we first started the rebrand, but soon realized it was confusing to the marketplace. We would never be seen as specialists in sales and marketing unless we focused our efforts.
While the process took longer than I expected, our firm is stronger than ever. Our rebranding efforts have established us as the sales and marketing recruiters in Southern California and our business has grown nearly 400% since 2010. It is now up to us, to ensure that we don’t lose what we worked so hard to recreate!
About the Authors
Ken Schmitt is the President and Founder of TurningPoint Executive Search and the Sales Leadership Alliance. Specializing in placing sales, marketing and operations professionals across the country, Ken’s 16 years of recruiting experience have equipped him with the knowledge to serve as a thought partner to his clients for all recruiting, hiring and human capital-related initiatives. Ken sits on the board of Junior Achievement, the American Marketing Association, the San Diego HR Roundtable and is an Advisory Board Member for San Diego Sports Innovators (SDSI).
Vicky Willenberg has served as the Social Media Manager for TurningPoint since 2011. In 2014, she was elevated to Digital Marketing Manager, broadening her participation across all things digital for the firm. A former teacher with a Masters in Education, Vicky is an active and published blogger at The Pursuit of Normal and a marketing professional. She has her finger on the pulse of the latest trends in the recruiting, hiring and leadership sectors.