Branding is a necessary step for every small business

Monday, April 16, 2012
Tammy Gwaltney is executive director of Beacon Health Center, which underwent a re-branding last spring. The center, formerly called SEMO-NASV, now offers a walk-in health clinic in addition to sexual assault recovery services. (Fred Lynch)

Having a brand with a loyal customer base is critical to both immediate and long-term success of a small business. If you're looking to re-brand your business, there are a few extra things to consider in order to carry your customers with you, and to draw in new clients.

"If you're going to re-brand, you have to work twice as hard to change the name as you did to start the name," says Dr. Greg Pursley, owner and chiropractor with PC Wellness Center in Cape Girardeau. His practice, formerly called Pursley Chiropractic, underwent a re-branding process in September, changing its name to reflect a broader range of treatment options. "You have to not only get the new people to understand (the change), but also change the views of your previous patients or clients," says Pursley.

Noting an overall trend toward wellness in the U.S., Pursley added Dr. Seth Hudson to his practice, as well as weight loss and nutritional supplements and pain reduction laser treatments.

"The name 'Pursley Chiropractic' leans more toward chiropractic services, and we found that people didn't really understand that until they were educated one at a time in our office," says Pursley. With the name PC Wellness Center, says Pursley, "We opened ourselves up to a wider scope of people."

Pursley used a multifaceted approach to get the word out, incorporating Facebook, Twitter and emails, running television commercials for three months, holding a ribbon cutting and hosting chamber of commerce events. Now, says Pursley, patients and the general public seem to have a better understanding of chiropractic care and what else his clinic does, and few even remember the business' old name. Re-branding is not an easy process, he says, but it starts with figuring out where you're heading and choosing an appropriate name based on the direction you want to take.

Karen Post, branding diva and author of "Brand Turnaround," says business owners must keep their message consistent across various marketing materials, and the overall message and "look" must be distinct from others in your field. This helps customers remember your brand, and helps you communicate what's unique about your brand and company.

Beacon Health Center, previously called SEMO-NASV, changed its name and direction in March 2011. According to president and CEO Tammy Gwaltney, the re-branding started as an internal decision to change their name because they were expanding services. The clinic, known for handling forensics for child and adult victims of sexual violence, began offering primary health care and counseling services for the general public.

"Part of the reason for expanding our services to the public was because we were getting that request. People were really looking for, particularly in Benton and the Bootheel area, access to more walk-in clinics for general health care needs," says Gwaltney. SEMO-NASV began to deliver, and Gwaltney says the name no longer fit what they were doing. "We liked the use of the name 'Beacon.' We always try to be a beacon of light and hope, a place people can turn to when they're in need," says Gwaltney, whether that need is counseling for grief and anxiety, or they're physically not feeling well. "We have a really positive name for a place where people can come when they need help for any darkness in their life."

It's also important to evaluate your brand "touch points," notes Post. How does your marketing message come in contact with -- or touch -- your customers? Many small businesses reach customers through postcards, fliers, letterhead, banners, brochures and other marketing materials. While online marketing efforts like social media and search engine optimization can be effective tools for reaching customers, don't overlook the continued importance of traditional branding tools. Printed materials such as postcards, letterhead and business cards are still a prime way for small businesses to communicate with customers and offer that lasting brand impression.

As a not-for-profit, Gwaltney says Beacon doesn't have much of a marketing budget, so they focused their re-branding efforts on sending letters to people they've worked with over the years, going door-to-door to let people know who they are and what they do, and giving presentations to local organizations. Beacon also created a new website and Facebook page to solidify their message. And, as always, word-of-mouth has been effective, says Gwaltney.

ARA Content contributed to this report.

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