LeanData is a fast-growing 6+-year old software company founded by a pair of innovative executives who created an ingenious tool to improve the flow of CRM data to accelerate the revenue process. As the newly appointed CMO, my job was to craft a unique brand identity and narrative that would reflect our past but focus on our ambitious plans for the future. LeanData needed to evolve from its SMB roots to capture midmarket and enterprise businesses. And as the company expanded its product portfolio, we needed to move LeanData from an “important tool” to an “essential platform”. LeanData’s positioning and identity were dated and did not reflect its true characteristics or potential. We needed a total rebranding. And quickly. That often comes with the territory in B2B fast-growth businesses. And is often one of the things that companies overlook in favor of immediate revenue-generating activities, versus investing in the core of the company.
How Did We Get Started?
What follows is meant to be a best practices approach. Be sure to look at the situation holistically and stay true to what you are trying to accomplish. In the case of LeanData, we were looking at who we were as a company and what we wanted to be in the future. So on to the elementals:
What’s a brand?
A brand is more than a logo, a typeface, and tagline. It’s the total set of qualities and attributes that make a company unique. It’s the company’s reputation. It’s the promise a company makes to its consumers, partners, and employees. It’s the collective total of your customers’ experiences with your company, product, or service over time.
Obviously, we needed to raise awareness of LeanData. But awareness of what exactly? We needed a new relevant message to send to customers, prospects, and partners. We needed a consistent message for our employees to communicate internally and externally. And we had to make sure whatever we said was going to reflect a unique market positioning that would help all our audiences understand our capabilities and value. To get us to the next level, we had to build a brand foundation that would include the following: Brand Vision, Mission, and Promise; Brand Narrative; Brand Archetype and Personality.
Start at the beginning.
LeanData did not have the in-house capabilities (in the form of a branding or creative team) to undertake such a large and critical job. And I didn’t want to do a whole RFP thing because I didn’t feel I had to. I brought in a trusted strategic and creative partner who I’ve worked with when I was at VMware, Qlik (consultant), and at Marketo. They’re an NYC-based company named Grok, which means “to communicate with deep understanding.” And that they do.
We conducted a competitive audit. But the brand transformation process really accelerated when Grok led an interactive workshop or “GrokShop” where all the key members of the executive and marketing teams came together in one room. Our founders Evan Liang and Kelvin Cheung were active participants who revealed their inspirations and aspirations. We examined all the various opportunities and challenges. A brand archetype exercise made us think about ourselves in new ways and helped form the what kind of personality we could project.
We considered all our options and agreed on a strategic direction that would achieve our business goals.
Be true to your brand.
The brand transformation process has to be collaborative. Sometimes we can get into the weeds. I must say, Grok kept us focused and true to our brand value. And we arrived at a brand framework that reflected our heritage but looked ahead. Here are some key components:
- Vision (A company’s ‘North Star’) is an aspirational sentence that sentence that communicates the direction of the organization. It’s not a sales pitch, tagline or slogan. LeanData’s vision statement is To facilitate meaningful connections between data and people in order to connect business to revenue faster.
- Mission (A company’s purpose) is a brief statement that describes the reason an organization exists and helps guide priorities, actions, and responsibilities. Here’s where we landed with our mission statement: To relentlessly improve the buying experience, create meaningful connections between marketing and selling, and accelerate revenue growth.
- Brand Promise (The essence of our commitment to our customers) is the organizing principle upon which our success is built. Our values turned into action. LeanData’s brand promise is We will always innovate around the sales and marketing operations processes, so you get to revenue faster.
We also articulated a new brand narrative, product narrative, and attributes. We created brand videos to engage employees, customers, prospects and other stakeholders. (A link to our Brand Guidelines can be found here.) We also launched a digital campaign to customers to our new website. And we designed a new logo too.
I’m pleased to report that reaction has been extremely positive internally and externally. In fact, Ravi Mohan, Managing Director of Shasta Ventures and a LeanData investor said, “LeanData recently unveiled a major rebrand in what is one of the best examples of rebranding I’ve ever seen.” (Link to article here.)
Build for Change.
As with any good Marketing practice, test, test, test and refine. That’s what we did. We bullet-proofed our brand strategy framework with thought leaders and customers. Here’s what Craig Rosenberg, Co-Founder and Chief Analyst at TOPO had to say: "Delivering a remarkable customer experience is a strategic imperative for today’s enterprise solutions. In order to deliver on this promise, organizations require an operational platform that spans marketing, sales, and customer success, and can enable the streamlined buying experience that customers require. LeanData’s rebrand positions them as a key partner to support these mission-critical efforts."
I don’t have to tell you how quickly everything changes. Make sure that when your company embarks on a rebrand, the result is not rigid or complacent. The true test of a strong brand foundation is how well the business will be able to adapt and compete in a changing world while being consistent with its core brand values.
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