Rebranding an established business is not easy, says contributor Jamie Pitman, especially for small businesses. Here are 6 marketing and local search tips to help make the process a success.
There’s a whole host of reasons you’d want to rebrand your local business:
- Your product and service offering might be outgrowing your name and website.
- You might have found a new location close to the center of town.
- You feel a facelift might revitalize a flagging business.
Whatever your reasons, they must be good given the work it takes to rebrand. It may be the biggest and highest-risk challenge you’ve ever faced. The tone of voice, website design, color scheme, logos, directory listings and sales process may all need to change at once. It’s not an easy or quick switch.
Interest in a local business’ rebranding isn’t as strong as big brands enjoy, so you can kiss that viral piece on the evolution of your brand goodbye. Unlike Pepsi or other big brands, there is a high likelihood few will notice a logo change from a small business.
Small businesses don’t have access to a multimillion-dollar branding and communications strategy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still make a true impact on the bottom line with a thoroughly researched and well-executed rebrand.
I’m going to go through a few key marketing points and steps to take if you’re considering or in the process of rebranding a local business. While I will be providing insights on the less technical, more strategic side of things, I have included a link that explains how to migrate your site to a new domain.
Involve your audience
Are you looking for a whole new audience or an expanded one? Either way, it’s worthwhile involving your current customers in the rebranding process, even if just in a small way.
First, survey your customers on what they already like about your brand so you can avoid losing those elements in your new branding. Learn why they came to you initially and, almost most importantly, why they stick around.
If your rebranding is already underway, show your customers some potential logos and ask them to vote on their favorite. Remember that unless you make the results public, you’re not beholden to select their logo unless you love it, too!
You can be as open and public or as secretive and private with your customer involvement as you like. The former is great if you already have a loyal customer base willing to share the news of the rebrand. The latter is better if you are in the very early stages of rebrand consideration.
Go wide and loud with a request for customer feedback on Twitter and Facebook (perhaps with a link back to a website-hosted survey) or via a pop-up on your website using a tool like Hotjar. You can also keep it quiet with face-to-face questions in-store or a segmented email to your most loyal customers.
Whatever amount of noise you decide to make with your customer involvement, make sure you highlight how important it is for you to keep current customers satisfied and happy. They’ll appreciate having their thoughts and feelings considered and be more likely to stay on board when the new brand is launched.
Don’t change too much too fast
Unless you’re determined to completely pivot your business and reach an entirely new and different customer base, I’d recommend not changing too much about what makes your business what it is all at one time.
Smaller, more iterative adjustments to branding (a smoothing of the edges here, a lightening of the color palette there) will lessen the risk of losing your current audience’s connection to your brand. Obviously, the risk will be even less if you’ve involved them in your rebranding strategy.
When faced with a potential name change, try to keep an element of your original business name. This will give you more options down the line. Consider how Snapchat Inc. became Snap Inc. and eventually branched out into products like Spectacles.
The other reason not to change too much too fast centers around your SEO. If, with a snap of your fingers, you launch a new website, new company name, a new tone of voice and new copy, your site may lose rankings and take a while to rebound. It makes sense to slowly tweak things and avoid those negatives.
Research the landscape
Thorough preparation is critical ahead of a rebrand, and one area you’d be foolish to overlook is the competition. This is particularly true if you’re changing your business name.
There can be no worse (and no more easily avoided) frustration than learning the potential name you’ve been cherishing all this time is incredibly close to another business, or worse, a business in your industry.
Checking out the competition on Bing or Google is easy. Be sure you look at local, organic and map results.
It’s also definitely worth making sure your planned business name has all social media usernames available, and I mean all of them. You might not think you need Pinterest or Snapchat right now, but as they’re free to use, it’s better to be covered and safe than sorry.
While you are researching your social media profiles, keep in mind you’ll want to use the exact same username across all platforms for complete brand consistency. When you snag that next new loyal customer, you’ll want them to immediately find and follow your social profiles with ease.
Plan your Google My Business changes well
Whatever you do, it is not a good idea to set up a new Google My Business (GMB) listing for a rebranded company and leaving the old GMB listing intact. Having two profiles does not mean you will dominate the rankings for your local search terms and could cause duplicate listing issues.
The only exception to this would be if your rebrand changed and what you’re selling changed along with it.
For example, if you’re an Indian restaurant pivoting to Vietnamese cuisine with a new chef and a new menu, you would need to open a new listing and close the old one, as all information and customer reviews on the older listing will no longer apply.
Google wants GMB to accurately and fairly represent the experience of using or dealing with a business, so it doesn’t want to see reviews of an Indian dining experience on a Vietnamese restaurant’s GMB profile. In an ideal world, business owners would have the power to remove reviews that are no longer relevant, but this currently isn’t possible, and “flagging” reviews only reports them for offensive language.
If you only need to update your current GMB profile, the extent to which you do so will depend on how big a rebrand you’re going for, but you’ll certainly want to look at the following items to see if they will still be accurate after the change:
- Business name. If you’ve changed any part of your business name, you’ll need to update this and get it verified as soon as your rebrand strategy is in progress.
- Categories. Only change these if your rebrand involves introducing new services that will fundamentally alter your business category.
- Address and phone number. Only necessary if your rebrand includes a move of premises.
- Logo, photos and videos. Rich GMB content will need to be carefully considered after the rebrand. Do what you can to encourage people to take photos of your newly rebranded store, and be sure to upload a new company logo. Consider bringing in someone to record a 360 tour of your business to show off the new branding.
- Q&As. Will the answers that you and your customers have left for enquiring minds still be accurate after the rebrand? Take a look, and if something is no longer accurate, just click the three dots next to the answer to “Report” it, and then select: “No Longer Applies” to flag it for removal.
Update all your citations
Probably the most important information on your Google My Business listing is your NAP — name, address and phone number.
Sites that carry the details of your business (also known as your “citations”) will need to be contacted and asked if they will update your information as a way to avoid negative impacts on rankings due to inconsistent NAP.
And it’s not just your search results that could suffer. Recent research shows that incorrect or inconsistent contact details or business information found online would make 80 percent of people lose trust in a business. It’s not a simple job to update all your listings, but this shows it’s definitely worth it.
You can update and clean up your citations by using an automated tool or doing it by hand. Updating manually rather than using a tool service allows you to keep complete control of your listings, even if it is a little more work. Automated tools stop working if you stop paying for them, and you’ll likely see your listings go back to how they were if you stop paying for the citation management service.
Make the most of the PR opportunity
A well-planned, creative and significant shift in branding can result in coverage in local and industry press. To increase the chances of this, you’ll need to hold events at your brick-and-mortar store and host a press launch.
This gives journalists something to photograph, and these kinds of events are far easier to feature in publications if accompanied by plenty of smiling faces. Even if you don’t have an offline store, you can still host a media release and a special promotional code to celebrate the relaunch.
Whether you’re tweaking a logo, adding a new partner to your law firm name or completely changing your whole business model, keep these tips in mind as you rebrand. Be sure to involve your customers, update your citations and get the press involved. You’ll enjoy a successful rebrand if you do!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.