32 min read

Defining Rebranding Goals & Brand Strategy - A Complete Guide

There are a lot of questions to ask when rebranding. It can be a time-consuming and expensive exercise to get wrong. In our case, this would mean coughing up a bunch of money and potentially losing some big-ticket clients.

This was enough motivation for us to figure out what we were really trying to do before we started our complete brand overhaul.

Our first step was to work out a broader brand strategy. Our strategy ended up being a detailed look at the problems with our current brand identit

Tim Davidson
Author
Tim Davidson

There are a lot of questions to ask when rebranding. It can be a time-consuming and expensive exercise to get wrong. In our case, this would mean coughing up a bunch of money and potentially losing some big-ticket clients.

This was enough motivation for us to figure out what we were really trying to do before we started our complete brand overhaul.

Our first step was to work out a broader brand strategy. Our strategy ended up being a detailed look at the problems with our current brand identity, setting goals and defining outcomes and working out how we were going to get across the line.

Here’s a summary of the topics we cover in this rebranding series:

Things to consider when rebranding a company

We haven't rebranded before and we're not rebranding experts. But as professional problem solvers, if there's one thing we're good at, it's thoroughly thinking through all the options. The image below is the best way I can sum up just how deep our planning goes.

Rebranding image showcasing planning depth
Rebranding mindmap illustrating the depth of planning

These are the things we felt were the most important to think through before pulling the trigger on our rebrand:

  • What do we like about our current brand?
  • What are the problems with our current branding?
  • What should our logo say about us?
  • How will our new brand identity communicate what we do?
  • How will we achieve brand recognition?

We were also planning on a website redesign to reflect our new brand.

Old branding style before reworking
Old style desperately needed an update

Even though a website redesign isn't technically the same as "rebranding", we're treating it as part of the process. These are the considerations for the new website:

  • How can we encourage visitors to reach out to us?
  • Is our copy persuasive?
  • Are we telling an engaging brand story?
  • Does our website speak to our target markets?
  • Does our web design "wow" our customers?

The Clean Commit team are a critical bunch. As we were thinking through the considerations for our rebranding we were also auditing our current branding. We all agreed that our brand identity was confusing and lacked the instant recognition we're chasing.

Example of confused branding
Confused imagery and styles is a good reason to rebrand

It's easy enough to point out what's going wrong and make a plan for improvement, but it led us to ask the question...

When will we consider Clean Commit a "successful brand"?

Brand reputation is hard to measure, and we couldn't find a good scientific answer to this question. Instead, we figured these were the things we wanted to achieve that would define us as having a successful brand:

  • Easily recognised and consistent visual brand identity
  • Aligning our website, social media and written documentation with clear brand guidelines
  • Doing an amazing job on our website redesign and having leads ask us to create them a website just like ours
  • Picking new brand colours and visual elements that just look good
  • Implementing a brand story that new leads mention in their contact form submissions
  • Writing copy that successfully speaks to our customer profile

Some of these points will be impossible to measure accurately. We'll never really know if the brand's voice is consistent and truly speaking to our target markets. Just because we objectively say we've passed the test, we felt it was important to have some kind of measure of success before we moved on.

Problems with our current brand identity

Figuring out concrete goals for something as conceptual as branding is something we were struggling with. However, we were pretty clear on the problems in our current branding. We figured fixing these problems would be a great start to our new branding strategy.

These are the issues we identified:

Poorly defined niche

Offering lots of services isn't how to niche down
Trying to do too much with our niche

If you think not having a well-defined niche isn’t a problem for a brand's identity, you’re wrong. Across the first few years of our operation, we tried to do everything for everyone. We were jumping at whatever work we could get our hands on, which meant spreading our skills thin and not getting really good at solving one line of problems.

When people asked what we did, we would say web development. But that’s a poor answer and not a niche. If anything, it’s a commodity or generally a profession. A small company can’t build a recognisable and memorable brand around such a broad service.

We needed to be able to tell new customers and visitors how we could help them in one sentence so they instantly understood if we can solve their problems.

Picking a niche is difficult, and it took us many months to work out. Like everything else we do, there was a method behind the madness, which I’ve written about separately.

No clear brand story

Lack of brand story and consistent copy
Lack of brand story and consistent copy

The other problem with not having a niche is being unable to tell a brand story. Great brand identities focus on the customer. They need to be relatable so readers can identify with their position. Since we hadn’t figured out what problem we were solving, we couldn’t paint a picture for readers that they would relate to.

Current logo and brand assets paint us as a utility rather than consultants

Clean Commit's old logo
Clean Commit's old logo

My business partner, WK, who spends his time working as a full-stack developer, created our logo in less than an hour. I think he did a great job. The logo looked great and was easily recognisable.

Despite this, it had a couple of problems;

  1. Half of the development agencies on earth use some kind of code-related logo
  2. We don’t want to be associated with coding resources, because that’s a race to the bottom

The second point is the most important one. Our old brand image painted us as a commodity, or supplier of resources. The kind of development shop you could write to and ask if they have a React developer available for four weeks, almost like you’re hiring a pair of skis.

Hiring out one of our React developers for four weeks may be the end result of an engagement, but we need to make that recommendation after careful analysis of the client’s situation.

Our new logo needs to distance us from this model with something more conceptual to reflect the fact that we’re consultants that help businesses balance their technology equations.

Copy lacks a consistent voice

screenshot of random longform copy
long form copy appeared randomly throughout our site

Our content had been written as a piecemeal process, one page at a time, across a couple of years. The messaging consistency was all over the place, creating a chaotic reading experience.

Keeping the voice consistent across our website and written content is a subtle problem, but one that affects how persuasive and memorable we are as a brand.

Website layout and design are not focused on our target audience

Lack of CTAs
Lack of CTAs

The layout and focus of our website aren’t really “branding” by the letter of the law, but it’s a problem we wanted to fix at the same time as our rebranding. Our site is, after all, the main vehicle for delivering our branding to visitors.

Our site looks pretty good, and the design itself is solid. It doesn’t showcase how competent we are as a development agency, lacking animations and complex interface features, but that’s a problem that could be overcome in time.

The bigger issue is that when we assembled the site, it wasn’t focused on achieving any particular goal. We had thrown a few calls to action into the content to get potential customers to reach out to us, but the approach was anything but scientific.

We needed a site that told a story with its design and content layout, pushing new customers to take the next step in engaging with our brand.

Setting our goals for a strong brand identity

By the time we came to lay down our rebranding goals, we had defined our niche: we help businesses that have outgrown their technical stack of web tools. Our new branding exercise would focus on helping customers understand what we could do for them.

communicating a niche through website copy
Website copy needs to clearly communicate a niche

Most of the “goals” we ended up with are more like outcomes or objectives. Besides the increase in leads and email list growth, there is no direct way to measure the other targets. Regardless, this is what we ended up with:

  1. Create a conceptual logo that distances us from being “coders”
  2. Define a clear brand story that will run through our copy
  3. Rewrite our copy with a consistent voice
  4. Reorganise our website structure to focus on actions
  5. Grow our email list to 1,000 users over the next 12 months
  6. Increase our lead acquisition conversion rate by 100%

I’ve already explained #1 through #4. These goals are focused on fixing problems in our current branding.

#5 and #6 are the money items and require some explanation.

Grow our email list

We built a small email list about 12 months ago. It grew to around 650 people before we abandoned its maintenance.

Old ActiveCampaign email list
Old ActiveCampaign email list

Why would we get that far and give up? Because the approach we took to build the list sucked, and the people who opted in didn’t have any investment in what we were doing.

Most of the opt-ins came from an advertising campaign that was geared to push potential clients to convert straight away. We offered them a couple of mediocre lead magnets like pricing guides and website templates in exchange for their email address. They were then greeted with a 5-part series of emails that tried to move them further down the funnel.

Dentist lead magnet that didn't result in any business
Dentist lead magnet that didn't result in any business

In hindsight, it was poorly thought out, and the clients we did acquire from the process were highly price sensitive.

In the end, it was an expensive learning experience.

This time around, we’re going to build our email list the right way, with people who are interested in coming on the learning journey with us. We won’t secretly be trying to sell to anyone who opts in. The goal is to build relationships and offer value over time.

The launch of our newly branded website will be the engine for this growth. Our new website content and design will be focused on getting visitors to sign up for our newsletter or download one of our helpful project planning resources.

We’ll probably end up adjusting the target as we go, but our initial goal is 1,000 subscribers across a 12-month period.

This isn’t a finger-in-the-air metric.

Conversion focused workflow visualization
Conversion focused workflow visualization

Our website currently receives between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors a month. We expect to convert around 2% to 3% of visitors into email subscribers. Our monthly website visits should rise as we build our backlink profile and write interesting content (like this!).

3,000 users per month x 0.05% conversion rate x 12 months = 150 opt-ins.

There’s no point in setting a low target, so we’re shooting a bit higher than where our estimates would see us land.

If you’re enjoying following our journey and want to hear more stories about the lessons we’re learning with rebranding, website design and development, and picking the right tools to succeed, then why not help us reach our 1,000-user target right now 🙂. We use this email list to build relationships with potential clients - we don't sell stuff.

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    Increase our lead acquisition conversion rate by 100%

    As a service-based company that gets leads from various places, we’ve never had a good hard think about our website conversion rate and the factors that might be impacting it.

    We went through an exercise about a month back to figure out what percentage of website visitors end up submitting a legitimate contact form enquiry. The number we landed on is 0.6%.

    If you think that sound like a really small number… then you would be right. It’s too small.

    Since we’re trying a new website structure and focusing on more specific problem-solving, we want to increase this conversion rate by 100% to 1.2%.

    The main ways we plan on increasing this number are:

    • Clearer copy that explains the problems we solve
    • Writing high-quality, less generic content
    • Keeping our audience warm by providing valuable assets
    • Giving users easier ways to reach out to us (contact forms in places that make more sense)
    • Split testing language and design on all parts of the opt-in funnel

    While we expect the new branding and website design to create some “wow” factor that will result in higher contact form submission rates, it’s unlikely to get us all the way to our goal. We’ll need to continue taking small steps to optimise our funnel.

    Timelines for our new brand identity

    The last part of creating our brand strategy was figuring out how long we needed to get everything done.

    While we have a full-time designer in-house, he's not a branding guy, so we needed to account for finding a specialist to help with some of the visual identity creation.

    This is roughly how we planned the rebranding timeframe:

    Rebranding timeline GANTT chart
    Rebranding timeline GANTT chart

    Logo, typograph and style guide (6 weeks)

    • Find a branding specialist (week 1 - 2)
    • First version of logo, fonts and colours (week 3 - 4)
    • Finalised logo, fonts and colours (week 5 - 6)

    Website planning (4 weeks)

    • Roadmapping (week 1 )
    • Card sorting and figuring out sitemap (week 2)
    • Wireframing (week 3 - 4)

    Writing content (4 weeks)

    • Writing content & variations (week 1 - 4)
    • Adding content to wireframes (week 4)

    High fidelity website design (4 weeks)

    • Create website in Figma (week 5 - 8)

    Build website (2 weeks)

    • Develop website (week 9)
    • Testing & release (week 10)

    These timeframes seem optimistic for a company that's actively managing dozens of support websites and applications while also working on a handful of major projects. Unfortunately, we need to soldier ahead despite the workload. Getting more done in less time is part of the agency lifestyle.

    Wrapping up

    We’re happy with the goals and objectives of our rebranding exercise. It’s not just a case of making a new logo, some nice colours and slapping together a cool-looking website. We need results, and creating a more cohesive brand that solves a problem will help us get there.

    To identify the most meaningful goals we first had to identify the problems in our current branding that have been holding us back. The biggest problem with our current branding can be summarised as poorly expressing how we can help customers.

    new logo branding concepts
    Early look at Clean Commit's new branding

    Our new brand image will distance us from this issue. We’re putting intentional thought into a visual identity and written communication that will help visitors see the value in working with us. Ultimately, we want this to build a 1,000-person strong email list and increase our contact form submission rate by 100% within the next 12 months.

    We’ll provide monthly updates on the steps we’re taking to ensure we hit these targets with detail on what’s working and what’s failed. If you’re in a similar position to us or interested in keeping up to date with how things are going, then join our newsletter.

    Next steps

    The next step in our rebranding process is picking our niche. This is something we should have figured out at the start, but better late than never.

    You can read the article on how we figured out which niche to commit to here.

    Written by
    Tim Davidson

    Tim Davidson

    Tim is the face of the company. When you want to kick off a new project, or an update on your existing project, Tim is your man!

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