When it comes to rebranding, what can your small business learn from a manufacturing giant like Sharp Electronics? Quite a lot, as it turns out.
After its purchase by Japanese electronics manufacturer Hon Hai Precision earlier this year, Sharp went through an extensive rebranding process to focus on its home appliance division.
The effort resulted in a new umbrella of “Simply Better Living,” which demonstrates the company’s increased focus on premium home appliances and commitment to enabling health and wellness for its customers.
The rebranding was led by Peter Weedfald, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Sharp Electronics Marketing Company of America.
In addition to holding an executive marketing position at Sharp, (and Samsung and Circuit City before that), Weedfald started his own business, Gen One Ventures, a consulting practice, in 2008. As such, he knows the challenges small business owners face regarding rebranding.
He spoke with Small Business Trends via telephone and shared some of the principles he’s learned over the years that guided the Sharp rebranding and that small businesses can apply as well.
Lessons from the Sharp Rebranding Example
1. Do a ‘Checkup from the Neck Up’
This step, which should precede everything else, means that before doing anything else, you should conduct some extensive market research. The purpose, according to Weedfald, is so you will “know who you are and who you are trying to be.”
He used the metaphor of a three-legged stool to explain what that research entails.
The first leg deals with understanding what Weedfald referred to as your “unique editorial franchise and position.” In other words, what makes your products and services different from that of your competitors? Do you have a commoditized offer or something better? What is your unique value proposition?
Weedfald said that, as a small business owner, you need to understand three things in particular:
- The market conditions you are playing in;
- Who the buyers are that you’re trying to reach;
- The competition and what they have to offer and not offer.
The second leg of the stool has to do with an understanding of your distribution strategy. In what ways can you distribute your products and services that attract people to them?
The third leg addresses the issue of pricing and your ability to upsell, side-sell and create greater rhythm in your selling. You need to understand the benefits that come with the monetization opportunity and how to leverage it to increase sales with your current customer base.
Weedfald said that many businesses never follow up after the initial interaction and, therefore, miss an excellent opportunity to sell more of their products or services.
2. Utilize CRM Software
Customer data becomes highly relevant to the second leg of the stool, Weedfald said. In fact, he’s defined the acronym CRM  to mean “consumers really matter.”
“CRM is the Holy Grail,” he said. “The better you know your customer, the more likely you are to be relevant to them.”
3. Get Creative with Your Rebranding
‘In their rebranding, small businesses have to get into the creative zone, to escape the predictable,” Weedfald said. “You can’t just say ‘I’m a plumber,’ ‘I’m in retail,’ or ‘I’m in manufacturing.’ You have to look at it more creatively. There is too much competition for you to be the same as everyone else.”
4. Think Consistency, Frequency, Size, Color and Location
Advertisers bombard consumers with messages, yet no one can remember a single commercial (other than those from Geico and Progressive).
Weedfald shared a formula that can give your businesses a way to fix that and ensure you don’t waste money when advertising: consistency, frequency, size, color and location.
“You have to drive frequency and consistency in advertising,” he said. “Infrequent, inconsistent ads won’t work. And don’t be small; don’t be buried somewhere. Go big. And do it in a way that’s highly relevant to your customer base and location.”
Weedfald uses the term “color” metaphorically to represent the creativity used in producing an ad as well as the ad itself.
5. Pay Personal Attention to Your Customers
Weedfald said that every Christmas and Hanukah he sends personalized video emails to every one of his business customers.
“I took an entire weekend to send 120 different video emails to as many people and groups of customers,” he said. “That worked, too. They all told their friends and colleagues about the video.”
The idea, he said, is that by being more relevant and personal in your marketing, you build emotional capital with your customer, which, in turn, fosters brand loyalty, drives opportunity and increases your position in the market.
6. Earn the Right to Ask for the Order
You have to earn the right to ask for the order and be highly relevant when you do, Weedfald said.
He advised that businesses focus on the sales formula — attention, interest, conviction, desire and close — and that they practice articulating that in various time frames: 30 seconds, one minute, five minutes and an hour.
“Practice makes perfect,” he said. “Over the phone, face-to-face or on the Internet, practice sharing highly relevant, highly energizing information. You should be able to articulate why your product or service is better, stronger and more useful than your competitor’s just as easily in a 30-second elevator pitch or a 30-minute presentation.”
7. Ask Questions and Act on the Answers
“For small businesses, questions are the answers,” Weedfald said, “so continually ask questions  and act on the answers when you get them.”
8. View Objections as Requests for More Info
Often, businesses look at a “no” as an objection, Weedfald said. Instead, what they should do is view it as a request for more information.
“You have a business, and you’re trying to get someone to buy,” he said. “If they say no, that’s your fault, not theirs.”
He added that it’s “better for you to spend your time figuring out why you’re not getting opportunities and losing sales long before you run an advertisement to try to get more business.”
9. Use the Internet Smartly
Weedfald argued that many small businesses limit their Internet presence to a website but, instead, should take advantage of all that the web (which he refers to as “free enterprise in the cloud”) has to offer.
In particular, he advises small businesses to connect with customers using social media.
“Forty years ago we would have to write a letter or make a phone call,” he said. “Now we can just get online and interact with customers directly via social media.”
He also encourages businesses to take advantage of the power of Internet video, which played a significant role in Sharp’s rebranding, as you can see in this example:
10. Make Your Brand a Promise
Aside from his emphasis on the “checkup from the neck up” and use of the three-legged stool, Weedfald said the most important aspect of rebranding comes in the form of making your brand a promise  and sticking to it.
In fact, he calls the brand promise the “seat” of the three-legged stool.
“Your customer is supposed to sit on that seat but he won’t if he does not like your brand, products, services or who you are and who you represent,” he said. “Treat others the way you want to be treated, do the unexpected and you will receive brand loyalty.”
Rebranding  Photo via Shutterstock