by Leslie “LAM” Miller | Featured Contributor
Most small business entrepreneurs don’t have fully staffed marketing departments whose job it is to manage our brands, and when you’re enmeshed in the day-to-day operations, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. At my own company, after one major web update seven years in, it took five more years to realize we were beyond freshening the paint—it was time to remodel. One of the best moves we made was to get an outside perspective. Our consultant was invaluable in challenging us to really think through who we were and where we wanted to go. But it took a while before we recognized it was time to seek help.
How can you tell if it’s time to rebuild your brand? Here are five signs:
- The Competitive Landscape Has Changed
Evaluating your competition on a regular basis is key. For Girl Friday, when we started in 2006 we were one of the only book publishing services firms of our kind. In 2018, that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’re staying up on trends in your industry, you’ll get a sense about major shifts in the competitive landscape. Turning that feeling into data with a good old-fashioned SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis can reveal that your stake in the market is too crowded, and it’s time to shift focus.
- You’re Trying to Please Everybody
Regardless of industry, being a jack of all trades is a nearly impossible messaging proposition. This was a perennial struggle for our company, where we create very different kinds of books for very different client types. Our old website attempted to address everyone’s needs—and the result was confusing for visitors and ineffective at attracting the clients we really wanted. Don’t be afraid to put a stake in the ground about who you are for. Doing so doesn’t mean that you can’t have a variety of offerings and client types, but it does mean your brand messaging is focused only on attracting that target client. If you do a good job at owning the marketing in one category, the rest of the business will feel the halo effect of your brand’s growth.
- You’re Attracting the Wrong Clients
As your company matures your ideal client is bound to shift, and so too must your branding. What to us read as “accessible” and “quirky” five years ago was deemed “adolescent” by our recent consultant. Ouch, but he had a point. Our ideal client is serious about getting her ideas or story out in book form and is seeking expertise. She’s ready to make a big investment both in terms of time and money. We needed branding to attract her, not a hobbyist or someone on a shoestring budget who couldn’t afford our services. If you find yourself frustrated by the wrong clients coming through your pipeline, it’s worth stepping back and examining what you’re doing to attract them.
- You’re Not Leveraging Your Assets
We women tend to be a humble group—sometimes overly so. It may seem obvious to highlight what’s special about your company, but many of us are so busy trying to ape other people or models that we forget the power of being ourselves. For our firm, one of our major assets is an all-women leadership team. We also have a flexible work model because we were founded by moms with young babies. Internally, we all appreciated the company’s make-up and strengths, but we weren’t talking about it outside of our walls, let alone purposefully leveraging our uniqueness as part of our brand. What makes you unique? It’s time to put it out there!
- Your Branding Hasn’t Kept Up with Digital
As part of our rebrand, we updated our logo, in part to bring it more in line with our brand tone, but also because our old mark was too small and detailed to work well in social. Whereas we like to look at book designs on our large desktop monitors, we recognized that most people who find us online are browsing on their phones and optimized our website for mobile. If you’re not considering your client’s journey and building your branded assets with those considerations in mind, you’re missing a big opportunity.
- (Bonus!) Your Team Spirit Is Flagging
Sometimes, your company culture needs a reboot. Teams love to see themselves reflected in the company messaging. If your employees feel invested and clear on your business’s value proposition and see that reflected in your branding, odds are that they will make excellent ambassadors for the company and stay energized.
Leslie “LAM” Miller, CEO/COO and chief instigator of girlfridayproductions.com
Just-call-her LAM has worked in publishing for longer than her teenage children have been alive. In the beginning, she acquired, edited, and wrote a range of books for traditional publishers. In 2006, she and her work wife struck out on their own, cofounding a book production firm that’s 83% female and 100% into creativity, balance, and excellence.