As a consulting firm with a core pillar of providing IT marketing services, branding has always been my favorite kind of work. When we started discussing the ideas around refreshing our own brand in 2021, it was because we had grown from a traditional marketing agency to a business consulting firm. Our clients see the most consistent, year-over-year success when we provide strategy and consulting for sales, service, and marketing alignment. Thus, the concept Not Another Marketing Agency was born.
Nearly 18 months later, we launched our new brand, complete with an updated verbal and visual identity; and, in April 2022, we brought it to market (vocalizing it to the world), following the three-step brand process we've refined over 12 times since I founded the company in November of 2019. Here's how we did it: the good, the bad, and the funny.
What is a Rebrand + When Do You Need One?
No matter what kind of business you're in, you know that the right branding helps you take it to the next level. We all know developing a brand can be overwhelming, and if you're not sure what it entails, that's not a surprise. Branding is not something to put on the back burner while taking care of everything else. What's more, it can wind up costing you more in ways you haven't imagined if you do take that approach. If you do a Google search on branding, you will find it's often described as the names and symbols that set a business apart; but really, it is much more than that.
Your brand is your story. It's how the world perceives you. It's how your customers feel when they come into your business or talk to your employees. It's the culture that is personified by your company. When you notice that your brand awareness isn't as strong as it used to be, prospects don't have a clear handle on what you do, or your industry or company direction has changed, it's time for a rebrand. We explain these tell-tale signs in our blog, 3 Signals it's Time to Rebrand Your IT Company.
The shift for MarketDesign started as a message refresh and a visual clean-up. Our original website was a mini-project I created in five days to finish our HubSpot Partner Certification as a company of one, and it looked like it. The need to better and more accurately describe what we do and differentiate ourselves as IT consultants was a tall task. My mindset changed from a quick(ish) messaging update to embarking on an entirely new brand, inclusive of logo, colors, graphics, tagline, message.
Here are our tips from the trenches.
Lesson #1: Don't Go it Alone
Looking back on our 18-month journey, here are the highlights: Shoe-maker with no shoes, anyone?
- A Rebrand + Website Redesign project should have taken us six months, not 18; but, we were doing it alongside our client projects, which always take priority.
- When you have clients to serve, your own projects feel like they are hanging over your head and often come last on the list.
- You can't get out of your own way. The ideas, the content strategy, and the incessant tweaking of colors, logo, and message can quickly spiral out of control when you're so close to your own brand. The scope of the website went from about 10 pages and one blog to a total 70+ pages with four blogs to account for our full range of service offerings. Go big or go home, right?
Even with brand + web development as core capabilities of ours, looking back I can honestly say I should have sought a partner to manage the project and execute the design. This ensures the budget and time spent matches your project scope and business goals.
As a result of doing this with our own web, design, HubSpot, and copy resources, MDCo's brand and web relaunch was the most expensive and time-consuming project we have ever done. Resulting in 2x over our initial budget.
Lesson #2: Be Realistic About Your Project Scope + Goals
At MDCo, defining our core values and who we are as a company was a key step that started at one of our quarterly leadership off-sight meetings. In true creatively-minded fashion, we had post-it paper hanging all over the walls and we started to pull out words that resonated with the type of "person" our brand had evolved into.
Moving from traditional marketing services to a formalized methodology for business enablement and strategy, we started hearing two things from our IT clients:
- "Marketing is now outpacing Sales," or...
- "I need to make sure my investments in marketing are supporting our entire customer lifecycle; from prospecting through purchase through customer delight."
The first one is tough to swallow. When you've hit all the goals you've set out to achieve for your client and now you're out of a job because the sales conversion isn't keeping up—you don't feel like you've won.
Listening to what our clients were asking for prompted us to continue expanding our capabilities, moving from marketing-only to marketing and operations, and then to marketing, operations, sales, and business strategy. These directives gave us the story we needed to tell, and it started by defining who MDCo actually was.
To define your story and reenergize your employees, start with your core values and answer the following:
- What are your convictions, beliefs, and your guiding principles? Why?
- What is driving you? What makes you do what you do?
- What are you good at? Passionate about? And why do you want to work here?
Our goals for this project were simple:
Better articulate the MDCo's capabilities
Demonstrate the work that we do
Design a Unique Place in an overcrowded marketing space
We've also revamped our Resource Center where you'll find articles, videos, tools, and templates designed to help grow businesses, unify teams, and drive demand. Our updated newsletter, titled Proof + Perspective, is comprised of content that bridges technology innovation with real-world application.
Lesson #3: Don't Be the Hero, Be the Guide
While we started our brand project diving deep into who we are and what we do, we then realized how important it was to bring our clients to the forefront of the conversation. All of our new web copy was drafted through the lens of our audience. We recognize that MDCo is not the hero in this story; you are.
Enter the Storybrand 7-layer Framework, also known as the SB7. This is where the fun really began. We were meticulous in following the SB7 from our initial brand message through to each line in the portfolio. We even got to flex our tone of voice and tech background on many pages where we tell our visitors "you've come to the right place," meaning we understand your challenges and seek to eliminate potential buyers-remorse or inaction.
The SB7 Storybrand framework we followed included:
- A Character (our customer)
- A Problem (they need to solve)
- A Guide (our business)
- A Plan (our solutions)
- A Call to Action (to start the buying process)
- The Successful Outcome (the desired end-result)
- The Cost of Inaction (what would happen if they don't buy)
Lesson #4: Be Specific About Your Launch Strategy + Build in Time to Make a Splash
Before you flip your new website live, you should have a detailed roll-out plan waiting in the wings. Our pitfall, although we have a very comprehensive launch strategy, is me. As the founder of the company, it's important that I have all my pieces ready:
- The blog announcing the change and why we made it
- The client message + giving credit where credit's due
- My social media promotion
- A video to share to all our partners and communities
I was out of time, and getting these key pieces done to enable the rest of the roll-out was stressful and frustrating. Make sure you allow time for the "launch month" to communicate and cascade all the changes that have been made to your brand. This will ensure clarity and buy-in across the board. Enable your employees to champion the company and its efforts as they will be your most important brand advocates.
Measuring a Rebrand + Website Investment
In closing, the most common question I get from new clients when we recommend a new website and/or brand strategy is "What's my ROI?" It's a fair question. Everything in business should be—give to get. If I give up this time and money, what will I get in return?
While there are no hard and fast rules about one-for-one tactics in marketing, I encourage you to think of your brand and your website as investments in the future of your business. Your marketing team does not own your brand. Everyone doesn. ANd your website shouldn't just look nice, it should be a strategic content platform for demand generation and sales opportunities.
We'll measure the success of this investment through quicker sales cycles, a message that resonates with the right audience, and quarter-over-quarter growth. The results of our investment have doubled our prospecting meetings in four short weeks. But to be clear, we did not just rebrand and refresh our website.
We are running a very tactical, integrated marketing campaign to support these changes. These projects are not like a fancy Easy-Bake Oven. There is no "Set-it and Forget-it" here. You need to launch the brand, publish your website, and then socialize it across your community, cascade it through the halls, and invite your clients to champion the success. We have a 2x return in the first 30 days of our launch and fully expect to drive an additional 6-figures in a few short months as we continue to test and tweak our new pitch, focus on our Ideal Customer Profiles, and let our website drive demand.