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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 26, 2015 6 years ago

Make it sync

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Even 35-year branding experts make mistakes. This one learned a lot, too.
by: Traci McMillan Correspondent

Last year branding guru Art Fyvolent decided to go through his own rebranding.

But things didn't go as planned.

The 58-year-old CEO decided to change the name of his Web marketing company, Ideas4, to SyncPointe. Six months later — without a single new client — he decided it was a bad move. “It took cojones to try it, and it took bigger cojones to go back,” he says. “I should have done my homework and took my own advice.”

It was a kind of religious moment for Fyvolent, who helps companies go through rebranding and marketing strategy shifts. Over the last 35 years, he's spent more than two decades in website design and Internet marketing. He's helped develop web properties for Oracle, Microsoft, and Lexmark.

Fyvolent learned valuable business lessons from his own rebranding decision, which he'll readily talk about. In a recent Tech Talk hosted by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, Fyvolent talked about the right way to build a successful brand. Here are eight branding ideals Fyvolent believes all executives, with any size business, should know.

Be hunters and gatherers: The first step to develop a successful brand is research, Fyvolent says. Hunt for partners, networks and associations. Gather mailing lists, data and competitive intelligence.

Benefits, not features: Take a step back and think of yourself as marketing to “stupid people in a hurry,” Fyvolent says. “Make the assumption that they don't know anything about what you do and they have two minutes to decide if they care.” Sometimes companies, he says, can get “caught up in their own coolness.” They build websites with funky looking icons, but customers can't figure out what it is that they do. Make it obvious.

Listen, learn and respond: Ask for feedback through calls, emails, and chat forums. “Your company is here to serve an audience,” Fyvolent says. “Figure out what you're doing well and what you're doing poorly. “

Evolution isn't inevitable: Every company rebrands at some point, he says, from offering a broader range of services to selling to a different target market. “The company you build today is not the company you'll build tomorrow,” he adds.

Disrupters become targets: You may be a disrupter, but the minute you launch you'll become a target, Fyvolent says. “You need to have eyes in the back of your head,” he adds. If you grow into your features instead, your company will be the one chased. Let the customers tell you what should be developed next. “Don't get too caught up in your own activities that you don't see the competition,” he says.

Pick the right partners: Many executives are tempted to go with young marketing teams because they think they are more experienced in Internet and social media. But make sure your marketing team understands more than digital, Fyvolent says. The Internet only accounts for 22-23% of global ad sales.

Also, when hiring a rebranding agency, ask for three or four references or referrals, Fyvolent says. Follow up with a call to each to understand the agency's strengths and weaknesses.
Make it sync: All materials from the company should come from a singular voice. So signs, brochures and websites all need to look, feel and say the same thing. “It doesn't cost any more to do it right than it does wrong,” he says. “You build credibility with consistency.”

Evaluate investors: “Interview investors just like they interview you,” Fyvolent advises. Think about the “things they can bring to the party beyond the money.” That includes industry knowledge, contacts or access.

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