7 Tips for Staying Relevant to Your Customers–While Also Attracting a New Generation
How to avoid throwing out the baby with the bath water
My firm is right smack in the middle of what marketers call an inflection point. We want to re-position ourselves to reassure our traditional customer base that we'll continue to solve their public relations needs in the most strategic and creative ways possible.
At the same time, we've anticipated the needs of an entirely new buyer who is far more focused on data analytics, augmented reality, customer experience, multi-channel, personalized communications and solving their current and future digital business needs.
Note: Being at an inflection point and needing to re-position your organization is dramatically different from the challenges facing a business that MUST change its entire identity, a subject I addressed in my most recent column: 6 Reasons Why You Might Consider Re-Naming and Re-Branding your Organization.
I once again turned to Hayes Roth, a corporate ID and branding expert, for advice and tips you can follow in striking just the right balance for your rapidly-evolving company.
First, a caveat: Repositioning any brand must be approached thoughtfully and with commitment. A brand's positioning should remain relatively consistent over time. It's the central narrative. Successful brands are crystal clear and generally unwavering about that.
That said, all organizations must evolve and adapt to stay relevant. That invariably means re-examining and updating your brand story periodically.
Here are some common-sense steps to follow:
1.) Start with your business strategy: A strong brand positioning is the outward-facing expression of your real-world business strategy. It should reflect your vision for the future of the enterprise.
2.) Engage your senior team: Your key managers and officers will ultimately be the champions of your new narrative, so they must feel involved and heard. A select few can participate actively in the branding process, but remember: good branding is inclusive, but not democratic!
3.) Look for the white space: Conduct a branding and messaging audit of the competitors you respect (and don't forget to include your own brand in the analysis). What are the core messages being communicated? What voice, tone and visual languages are being used? Where is there positioning room (i.e. white space) for you to claim that is credible, compelling and available?
4.) Obtain insight from customers, prospects & vendor/partners: Ask each why they like working with you. (Note: Ideally, this should be done by a third-party expert to ensure candid responses). Seek out former clients and lost prospects as well. Ask why they left (or didn't hire you) and dig deep for insights. This is also a potential selling opportunity. You can float the positioning direction(s) you are interested in to uncover a new need that didn't exist when you parted ways or first pitched their business. [We've excited interest in a long-ago client who's intrigued with our new suite of offerings.]
5.) Write your story: Based on input from the four previous steps, you should have enough data points to draft narratives that build upon your brand strengths while envisioning your desired future state. Narrow these down to one persuasive concept. [When we were re-positioning Peppercomm a few years back, we listened long and hard to what clients said was their number one complaint with their agency partners: customers said their firms didn't invest time to understand the client's business. End result: a new positioning line that read: "Peppercomm: Understanding the business of a client's business."]
6.) Align your brand expression: Once you've settled on your new re-positioning, you MUST decide if your brand expression (i.e. design and internal & external communications) need a minor or major overhaul to reflect the new narrative. By definition, there should be some discernable change in how the organization presents itself, whether visually, verbally or both. [Peppercomm has completely changed the look and feel of our website to reflect where we are and where we're headed.]
7.) Launch with intent: Last, but far from least, whatever form the brand refresh takes, it must be properly articulated to employees, current clients, prospects, investors and partners alike. This is a rare opportunity to celebrate your story to every target audience. And, make sure your in-house marketing communications team and marketing and communications agencies are actively engaged in the process and publicizing the re-positioning. That will ensure you'll receive maximum positive exposure.
Obviously, what Hayes described above is neither easy nor intuitive. But, if you follow his guidelines, you'll be able to do what I suggested in my opening paragraph: remain relevant to your core audience while properly positioning your company, product or service for a whole new generation of buyers.