You can't run your business the same way forever.
Even the most successful companies need to adjust with changing markets, and sometimes that means rebranding in order to breathe new life into an operation.
For example, consider computer technology giant Oracle Corporation. The Silicon Valley-based multinational went through three different name changes and rebranding efforts over the course of three decades before landing on a winner in 1995. Ever heard of a company called Back Rub? That'd be Google. "Let me Back Rub that" just didn't cut it for the long haul.
Of course, your small business doesn't have the type of resources of an Oracle (or Google), but that doesn't mean you can't be Oracle-like in your rebranding decisions.
Making your business appear fresh is a great way for attracting new customers. However, renaming is only part of an overall brand strategy for both products and services that encompasses not only changing your identity across multiple platforms, but also determining who you are and what story you want to tell.
Developing an overall plan.
The name change. Secure your brand name on various platforms. The first step is to make sure that your brand name is unique and that you can secure your brand name across a variety of social media websites. For example, if you are Bill and Bob's Bike Shop in Queens, N.Y. consider using a name like "BillBobBikes". Many social media sites do not allow usernames that are longer than 15 characters. A great website for finding out if you can acquire usernames is Knowem.com.
Set metrics to determine what exactly your goals are. Are you looking to make sales, get people to sign-up to a newsletter, download a catalog, etc.? Small business owners should be aware that most visits obtained through social media will not have a high conversion rate (percentage of visitors who make a purchase or request a consultation). However, you should gauge how well you're doing by taking a baseline count of your Twitter followers, Facebook fans, LinkedIn group members, and any other form of social you decide to employ. This way you can measure the success of your efforts.
Install Google Analytics on your website to determine where visitors are coming from and monitor your highest traffic sources. Tools such as Bit.ly can measure clicks on your links and Facebook Insights measures activity on your Facebook.
Use promotions to offer discounts to your customers through social media, and measure redemption rates based on that feedback. The more you try different test patterns, the faster you'll recognize what's working and what's not. Soon you'll understand where it is best to focus your attention.
Define a brand voice/story. What exactly is this brand about? What is your mission, your culture, and core values? To begin understanding this, a small business owner must ask themselves, "What is my company known for and what do I want it to be known for?" Use this to set communication guidelines. Find out what people on the Internet already know about your company, and then fill in the gaps to complete the picture that you want them to have of your brand.
Find your potential customers online. As a small business, it's important to identify specific online communities that are relevant - both geographically and topically. Using the same example of Bill and Bob's - I would find where people in Queens are talking about cycling-related topics.
Here are a couple examples:
a. Cycle Astoria - a group for people in Astoria, Queens to talk about everything related to cycling.
b. Relevant Meetup Groups.
c. To find more, simple search on Google for things such as "cycling queens," "cycling blog queens," "cycling forum queens," etc.
Create rules of engagement. Decide how you will approach each community and what exactly you will do. Perhaps as the owner of a bike shop, you should start your own meet up and/or join others. Give "Why Leave Astoria" members a special discount and answer their questions without being overly self-promotional and respecting the group's members.
Executing your plan.
Become an "Agent of Trust." There is an excellent book by Chris Brogan who is also a contributor on Open Forum called Trust Agent that makes a very good case for becoming a trust-worthy member of any community. To summarize, he says to first setup tools to monitor the conversation, and then respond with helpful comments and links. It's helpful to have a "home base" such as a blog to post relevant content to so that users have a place to come back to.
Engage your audience - and not just for promotions. For every five to 10 responses to conversations regarding a topic of interest, only one should be self-promotional. Always create new content that is interesting to your target audience. The point is to keep them engaged in a conversation with you and to continually build trust.
Identify influencers. In any community there are always those who make up a great number of the contributions. Identify those individuals and figure out how to best get them to do the broadcasting for you.
Assessment of results.
Wait at least two to three months before deciding whether something is working. Keep in mind that it's important to have a consistent voice and repeat messages to be heard above all of the "noise" in social media. Make sure that your website is fitted to track all results and that your employees are gathering data from customers to find out how they found your business.
Check out these other famous rebranding efforts:
Quantum Computer Services - AOL
Bearing Point - KPMG
Diet Deluxe - Healthy Choice
Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation - IBM
Lucky Chemical Industrial Corp - LG
Marafuku Company - Nintendo
Brad's Drink - Pepsi-Cola
Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web - Yahoo