Giving Your Business a Facelift
“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
The world, for the most part, has changed. How much, only time will tell. The post-pandemic economy is already proving to be different from anything else we’ve experienced. Old habits are being left in the past. Customers are changing the way they shop, eat, drink and even socialize. It may require businesses to find new ways to bring in new customers and get old ones to come back.
Even something as simple as a fresh coat of paint on worn exterior walls may let customers old and new know that you’re open for business. A new sign along the road – a road someone may not have driven in some time – can make your business suddenly stand out amongst the crowd.
This is even truer if your business moved to a new space or is opening its doors for the first time. Retail, hospitality and restaurants were particularly hard hit in recent economic downturns and getting business to return may be more challenging. Many shoppers have come to love shopping online, and the home delivery model may be hard for restaurants to discontinue. Bars were particularly hard hit in the latest round of economic upheaval, many closing forever. A new bar opening in its place will need to find a way to draw in a new base of customers with fresh ideas and out-of-the-box thinking.
Many of these societal trends were happening anyway. Global events simply compressed the timeline for adoption. Brands, buildings and business models are not timeless. They each have a specific shelf life, and if you don’t change them up now and again, your business runs the risk of falling victim to changing times, changing customer preferences and needs and a changing marketplace. Does anyone remember Blockbuster?
Like Blockbuster’s management team, many business owners embrace what has always worked and refuse to see their business objectively. In the case of Blockbuster, no one stopped watching movies. But they did change the way they went about it. Blockbuster even had the chance to buy Netflix at one point for $50 million but didn’t want to change their business model.
Some First Steps
There are some things you can do without hiring an interior decorator or a high-priced consultant. If you’re rebuilding an existing business, these are things you should be doing periodically, regardless of outside events or forces at play. If you’re starting a new venture, these questions will still be pertinent, though you will need to modify them a bit to fit your unique situation.
1. Ask for help. Ask others who are outside your business to provide perspective on your brand. What are its strengths and weaknesses?
2. Revisit your core message. What are you trying to accomplish? Does it align with the look and feel of your brand, or is your brand looking a bit dated?
3. Define your audience. It may have changed over the past year or so. It may have been changing before that, so don’t limit your view to a pre-pandemic/post-pandemic comparison.
4. Simplify your brand. Align your brand with your target market. You can’t be all things to all people. Focus on your audience and articulate your brand with them in mind. Reduce the breadth and depth of your offerings and focus on what is profitable. Do what you do best.
5. Review your graphics. Is your signage contemporary? Does it draw the eye quickly, or is it overly complex? While you’re at it, think about your color palette. Is it outdated? Color trends change over time, and a simple thing like changing your colors to something more contemporary – even if you don’t update your logo – can work wonders.
6. Does your logo still work for you? If not, ask a graphic designer to give you some new options to consider. Places like Guru.com or UpWork.com have very affordable designers who can do the work for you.
7. Think aspirationally. Think about what your business will look like in one, two and five years. How will your branding support that vision? You want a brand that you can grow into, not one that will be out of date a year or two from now.
8. Look at trends. How do consumer and market trends affect your business model or brand? Subscription boxes are an excellent example. The subscription model introduces your products to customers on a regular basis and creates a steady revenue stream. It works because it surprises and delights the customer and keeps the company top of mind by the need to review and update the subscription options.
Refreshing Your Look
When you’re in the day-to-day of running a business, it’s easy to forget the need to update and even reinvent your business from time to time. Your customers change, the market changes, demand changes, so why not your business?
A brand is much more than a logo and some pretty colors. It’s the sum of every interaction your customer has with you, from the moment they first hear about you or step through the door to the day they no longer frequent your company or buy from it. It is not a statement of what you are now, but what you want to become, hence the need to occasionally review and refresh it.
You don’t need to bring in a highfalutin branding expert for this. If you’ve run your business for several years, you probably know its value to customers, competitive advantages and why your customers buy from you and not someone else.
That said, know that the market itself has changed, perhaps permanently. A study by McKinsey noted that 75% of American shoppers have changed brands during the pandemic. The main reasons? Value, availability and convenience. People are in upheaval, and the pandemic will affect their lives for years to come. Near term, there is pent-up demand and people are less loyal than they once were and open to trying something new.
Consumers are changing too. There’s an increased demand for transparency and authenticity, especially around racial justice and social inequality. Younger shoppers want brands to be aligned with their own values. They want to shop somewhere that values sustainability and has a clear mission that benefits a cause.
Additionally, there’s the chance to be there for your customers, old and new. We have all been through something historic together, and nostalgic consumers may yearn for an outing that recalls the days when social interaction was the norm, not the exception when shopping or dining out.
The key is to know your customer as you know yourself. You don’t want to change everything just for the sake of change. Instead, you want to be deliberate and change because the world has changed to some extent, and your customers may have changed along with it. There is a fine line to walk between making a fresh start and demonstrating the steadfast reliability your customers have come to expect from you, especially in the wake of a major crisis or event.
So, where do you begin?
- The first step is to revisit your mission, vision and values and see if and how they fit into the world around us.
- Next, think about what parts of your business still work for you and your customers and what you can change to refresh your business, products, services and culture. In gauging this, listen to what your customers are saying and see what the competition and the market are up to.
- In updating your business, build in some agility. Don’t go into a refresh with a strong vision of what it’s all supposed to look like. Change a little at a time, test new ideas, pilot new programs and explore new customer targets. Keep what works; don’t spend a lot of time on anything that doesn’t.
As you examine your business, realize that you don’t have to do a total facelift. It’s not like you need to rip out your entire shop and start from scratch or undertake an expensive redesign of your online store. Little things can add up to a lot.
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, start with its curb appeal. Maybe you want to start with new signage out by the road or a fresh coat of paint inside and out. Even if you don’t change your logo or type, a new palette of colors can make your business stand out, even if it’s been there for 20 years.
You probably need to move stuff around to paint. This is the ideal time to redo the traffic flow in your store, refinish display cases or shelves and remerchandise the store. This works for your online presence, too, by the way.
As you plan out the customer experience in your business, think critically about:
- What motivations and problems do your customers face?
- How can you realign your business to solve these problems?
- How can you make the journey easier and more accessible to compress the sales cycle?
- What can you do to improve customer conversations and conversions?
- What can you add that will increase per transaction revenue?