The 5 vital lessons I learned from our rebrand

Changing your business means looking again at your customers and what they need. Here’s what I learned.

James Wood

The 5 vital lessons I learned from our rebrand

When I started the business as Three Little Trees a year ago, it was a part-time web design venture aimed at individuals, groups and tiny little businesses.

But demand meant it quickly grew into a full time job working with companies as big as Amazon, so I needed to take another look at our offering and branding.

Here are the five main truths I discovered:

1. Websites no longer stand alone

Remember Field of Dreams? Remember this bit?

“If you build it, they will come.”
"If you build it, they will come."

This was not written by a marketer. Bewilderingly, the internet doesn’t follow the same rules as magic cornfield ghost baseball. Websites don’t get any passing traffic, so you have to go out there into the digital wilderness and actually promote it. So you have PPC advertising, SEO, content marketing and a whole host of other tricks to get people to your site. Then you have the analytics to measure it. Then you have your CRM to store the data on your leads. Your website is at the heart of a network of online services your business uses to find and win over customers.

So it became clear that offering web design as a stand-alone service wasn’t really helping our customers as well as we wanted to. What was the alternative? Traditionally, the only other option is to go to one of the various flavours of agency, who’ll offer to do your advertising or branding or SEO or blogging for you. But those services are unsurprisingly very expensive and beyond the budgets of most small and medium businesses.

Instead, we focus on giving businesses the power to do these things for themselves. When we build a website, we connect and integrate online services to automate many of the time consuming manual tasks that slow down Marketing teams. We refresh brands to work better online and create best practice templates for white papers, blogs and social media posts so that creating new content becomes a much simpler task. And we build smart features into our sites like landing page generators, which lets marketers create and publish new content and campaigns fast enough to keep ahead of current events.

2. Authentic is the new sexy

Five years ago every agency had a cutsie name. You had 3 Chillies, High Heels & Bananas, Perpendicular Aardvark, Big Kitty Labs and Elephants & Ants (I made one of those up – have a guess at which one). They were all cute and friendly and largely meaningless. In fact it all felt a bit like an in-joke for other marketing people. But after a few years, the novelty has started to wear off and non-marketers (“normal people”) are finding it a bit tiresome.

Customers need to feel that they can relate to the businesses they deal with

I came up with the name Three Little Trees from the three little trees in the park outside my house. Cute and meaningless. So the time had come to change that, too.

Businesses that are successful online now are authentic. They have more down-to-earth names and they present themselves as businesses made out of humans (not in the Soylent Green way). Customers need to feel that they can relate to the businesses they deal with, that they’re on the same page as the people who work there. A move towards a less gimmicky, more approachable brand came high on our list of changes. And it doesn’t hurt to give a hint of what you actually do, either.

3. It’s all about relationships

You don’t want to be working with a one hit wonder. The hit-and-run style of web development, however pretty the design, usually leaves companies with a site they have a limited ability to change and keep secure. When your site is cumbersome to update, your company starts to stagnate online.

Today’s businesses need the tools to be agile on the web, and that means they need an ongoing partner who can equip them with the tools they need to create quickly and effectively.

A partnership approach has another benefit too. Whereas website builds used to take many months and had a significant upfront cost, our approach allows for a much more agile development process. Starting with the simplest effective form of the site, we can get you live in just a few weeks. After that you can keep adding features when circumstances and budget allow, testing them with your audience to help inform your decisions.

4. Relationships are built on transparency

Since we’re talking about relationships, it’s pretty obvious that you can’t build one without trust. And that means being transparent with your customers. The days of huge corporations hiding away in their glass and steel towers and dictating to the little people are, thankfully, receding into the bleak past. Talk to your customers, be frank, be helpful and be honest.

In the B2B world you’ve always got something in common. You’re both businesses trying to become better businesses. We’re starting to share our business challenges and decisions through our blog because the chances are, someone else will be going through the same thing at some point and hopefully our experiences will be helpful.

Everything is open and visible

The same goes for when we’re working on a project with a client. We publish all of the work on a web project on a Trello or Asana board, letting the customer see exactly what needs to be done, who’s working on it and when it’s ready for them to review. We share all of the website assets through a shared folder and we build up briefs and content using collaborative documents that the client can add to whenever they need to. Everything is open and visible.

By building up this spirit of collaboration, we can work faster and we forge a stronger relationship with our customers, one we hope will last long after the initial web build has been completed.

5. Automation can make any business work smarter

Our research showed that most small and medium businesses have disproportionately small Marketing teams. Because marketing is such a data-driven science, marketers can quickly end up spending all their time reporting on what they’re doing rather than working on the next big idea. It’s hard to prove the value of new ideas when you’re spending all of your time setting things up and gathering data.

your employees can actually spend their time on the creative and inventive things that humans are good at

We can automate much of the mundane side of the business so that your employees can actually spend their time on the creative and inventive things that humans are good at. Our automations can handle the posting, recording and transfer of information, zapping things between your business software so that you get the right information in the right places without spending hours on repetitive and error-prone data entry.

When you can add a product to your site, have the sales automatically added to your finance system, the customer added to your CRM, a series of follow-up emails scheduled, an entry added to the weekly report to your boss and a task added for your customer service team to check in on them in a week, all without needing any manual intervention, your Marketing team will suddenly feel they’re super-powered.

You can see the results of our rebrand process at onward.studio

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