10 Steps to Defining a Change Management Strategy

Define a Change Management Strategy – Describing and Documenting the change desired

It’s sometimes much clearer to understand that change is necessary than it is to actually define it, and these 10 critical steps will help you define a change management strategy, to get to that point, and beyond. It is necessary to understand a few fundamentals, describe them and discuss widely to get a consensus, without which the change will never get off the ground. A business case for the change must be created to put the change in terms that show where the problem lies, why the change is required and why there not just a favourable but compelling business case. The objective of following these 10 steps is to get to a point where this business case can be signed off and the change is accepted as not just necessary but committed to as part of your defining your change management strategy. 

 

1) Define, delineate and agree on the business case for the change that you believe is needed. Your business case must clearly state the drivers of the change.

In order to this, we must arrive at clarity as to what it is that needs to change or that would be changing if the business case were to be signed off. To do this, clarity needs to exist as to what the current state is, what the gaps are in the status quo and the impact of those gaps. It should be possible to answer why these create disadvantages, pain and constraints plus explain what opportunities are to be gained from their remediation.

2) Terms of Reference

In defining these problems, gaps and deficits there should be a common understanding of what the problem is, its dimensions in terms of impact, risk and opportunity cost. There should be clarity amongst all those who are affected by it, what the problem statement is and the terms in which this is stated should be recognised and agreed to by all relevant parties.

For this to be as useful as it can, it must fulsomely explain why the change is sought and why the business needs to change in this way. A good change manager can help you position the answers to this questions in terms of benefits for the impacted classes of stakeholders and help to adequately communicate what the change will mean for people’s day to day job, which will be a primary concern, and if not communicated properly, can lead to a high level of resistance to change. People tend to resist change and so a big part of the 10 steps to define a change management strategy ensures this message is considered fully from the outset to facilitate the right conversations and get participation from everyone.

 

3) Target Operating Model Ambition

The third step of the 10 steps to defining your change management strategy is one of the most challenging. It’s easier to say what you don’t want but is it enough to say you want something that does not do what your current state does? It’s obviously not. The definition is driven by what you need to be able to do and how and defines the target operating model.

Almost as much as a problem statement needs to have a common language of expression, the future desired statement should have a common language of hope and ambition. This requires detailed discussion, clarity and documentation on what success would be, from the outset, tracking changes and deviations from it minutely, as well as the reason for the variation. This will change often as the project advances but as the way clears, so the solution clarifies. As the solution clarifies, it should be easier to know and express what successful change would look like.

Defining a change managemet strategy and Culture as part of Ecosystems

 

The dimensions of change will tend to describe metrics most people will recognise as project parameters but only a few can be defined at the outset because the others, like budget, necessarily depend on the other dimensions of change, and then, of course, the scope, which will be discussed further below. 

  • Business Change = The objectives derived from the problem statement and desired state statements.
    • The business change objectives may lead to clarity on the technology, IT and tools + architecture and other technical changes that are needed to support the business change
    • Technology Architecture Model Change
    • Structural Objectives
    • Physical Change objectives
  • Human Change – attitudes, processes, operations, relationships, layers, functional lines of business, roles and responsibilities, communications and handoffs
    • Human change objectives and the change strategy
    • Behaviours to be modified, in which areas and why, and what it will mean for functional architecture, lines of business, leadership, process designs and roles and responsibilities. Attitudinal changes require a clear core strategy to achieve these changes, especially if restructuring is involved, because as discussed in this blog, people resist change, and quite understandably so.
  • Organisational Change – Business Model, supplier, stakeholder, communication channels

At the early stages it is possible that pragmatically time and budget objectives may be set provisionally but without clarity and agreement and cost estimates on the agreed objectives, it is certainly very difficult to define the other dimensions of change but they will need to be at some point. 

  • Time Objectives
  • Budget Objectives
  • Quality Objectives defined by agreed KPIs. 

Key Performance Metrics (KPIs) will be established to measure these objectives, which must be tracked and monitored with issues raised when any of these falls short.

Required or Desired

As the 10 steps to defining your change management strategy progress, it is necessary to ask frequently and repeatedly as the changes are whether the change is required, i.e. absolutely necessary, pivotal and a is a priority or desired – strong reasons to have it but is not a deal-breaker. Change requirements, when built should be annotated in this respect and should keep this assignment as the high-level changes are decomposed. This question considers the implications and risks of not changing from both the business and human change perspectives.

As the change is being defined, and the operating model ambitions are conceived, it is necessary to understand if and where there is a need for behavioural, attitudinal and capability change with relation to the current state.  These gaps must be clearly identified and described under the human/people change element of defining the change. If you would like some help with defining a change management strategy at pace, get in contact.

4) Scope of Change

With clarity on the objectives, it may be time to prioritise them and create an outline of what needs to change. Even in large scale transformations, some things do not stay the same, not least for continuity but also because sometimes it is judged more pragmatic to maintain the status quo if it can continue to function in the to-be state. This will be the scope of change.

It will need to be defined against the following elements:

    • Business Architecture
    • System and Technical Architecture
    • Organisational Change Design and Functional Operational and People

5) Dependencies

Once there is clarity on all the objectives, and they are prioritised, It’s now possible to flesh out the dependencies and conflicts from the objectives. This refers to trying to understand and visualise the order of works, critical to workstreams and phasing and prioritising the works within phases too.

6) Risks and Assumptions 

These latter conflicts, as well as the dependencies, will drive the initial risks and assumptions of the change program and it is very important to be as detailed as possible as these stages and also extremely diligent in capturing them.

7) Pre- Business Case sign off Time Estimates and Initial Resourcing Estimates

The estimates worked out prior to the business case being signed off and the plan encountering the enemy – reality – can be subject to wild levels of change and adjustment. The time and cost metrics can be extremely unstable at this phase of the process. It makes sense to get professional help to get these and set a reasonable and realistic degree of tolerance. The more teams and specialities are required, and the more complex and in depth the transformation, the greater the order of magnitude by which the time and cost may increase.

8) Implementation Team Plan and Methodology Considerations

It is absolutely necessary to consider which change models might be employed. The more human/people change objectives and organisation transformation objectives, the more important it will be to not only have a clear methodology view for planning, implementation and delivery from a project perspective but also from a change perspectives. Two very effective and popular change methodologies are:

PM methodologies are Prince 2 and PMI models. Delivery Methodologies vary but Agile methodologies are extremely effective, although waterfall models have remained popular.

9) Sponsor and Governance Model Proposals

Change sponsors are crucial and large scale transformations are likely to have several sponsors. If the business case is signed off, the program will require stringent governance by people who will be accountable for the program and will appoint the program manager or project manager to have responsibility for delivering the project.

10) Business Case Sign Off

If you have gotten to this stage without help,  it is now time to decide the ‘who’ on the implementation side – will you use inhouse resources or partner with a coach or Program management/ implementation partners? 

Now is the time to decide the best way to proceed and who will help to realise the vision of the change that was enshrined in the business case, right at the start. On the basis of the above, it can then be decided if there is the risk appetite, budget and bandwidth in the organisation to undertake this change. 

If the business case has been produced for defining a change management strategy, then it will be a very well-articulated case for the change that explains all that needs to be changed, the drivers and the reasons why the change is required and there is a common language describing both the problem and the required solution, along with the KPIs. It is very important that the sponsors are identified with the impact of the change on them and their role in bringing forth the change is.

If the sign off is received, it will be time to validate the estimates and create formal change artefacts to get things moving.

The Project Management Structure for Change Management

Project Management Structure for Change Management

Change is delivered through a change project or programme of works, so that project management provides a structure for change management. It’s managed through project or programme management structure but tends to require additional protocols to manage the people side of change if the risks and impacts to people are high. There are many good reasons to undertake business change and you will know better than anybody as a leader in your business how urgent the need for change is.

Whatever approaches are used to manage the project, whether Agile or Waterfall models, each of which has their esteemed places in the process, project or programme management are a change management methodology that enables change leaders and business leaders to implement their change agenda in a way that is open, transparent, measurable and trackable.

Change management is about finding the best way to guide your organisation and put it into the best state to predispose it to drive and realise value through its activities. 

Organisational change is the backdrop to change management and a Project management structure allows us to define parallel and phased workstreams that let us create a parcel of deliveries that constitute the relevant change. There is an overarching piece about what the change strategy is. 

The Business Case for Change and how a Project Management Structure helps

Business cases and organisational objectives must be linked to both the project management methods and the change management strategy at as granular a level as can be managed. Isolating the state changes and transitions required to go from the as-is organisation to the to-be or target organisation is the work of Target Operating Models and Business Transition workstreams and very often the people management processes remit end up here. What’s true is that Change Management seeks to find the most effective way to get to the most satisfactory and sustainable outcome for people and cannot always just focus on the efficiency of that process because it is can be like asymmetrical warfare. A Project Management structure for change management is an attempt to streamline the process and create a measure of efficiency.

So what are all the different things that may need to be different? Well, people, process, operations, technology, tools, functions, organisation design, ways of working, roles and responsibilities, relationships with internal and external suppliers and vendors – any and all of these and more may need to change. All while the organisation and its activities cannot stand still! It’s clear that change will affect ways and modes of working, terms of reference and most challenging of all, behaviours.

If change management provides the vision for reframing the organisation, Project Management must focus on building on the components of that change, however, the main characteristic of change management is that people are central to success. How these two are aligned and reconciled is through the Business Transition Function. It’s necessary to define and measure milestones. The objectives of the change define the milestones and the project management process helps to propel, align and measure it but will tend to be focused on the technicalities of meeting the milestones. This is why Business Transition as a discipline is the absolute linchpin of both successful change management and project management. Business Transition recognises the people change element of the change landscape and endeavours to put people change at the center of the process. A Business Transition PM can focus and champion the people and participation side of change and should be an integral piece of the change management puzzle.   

Project Management structure to Change Management

 

The effective integration of change management principles into project management protocols depends on reconciling the human element of the change through every step of the project.  

For Change to Succeed, it Must be People-oriented

A top tip for change and project management success is to start with people and prioritise activities related to them and plan around selling and persuasive behaviour to encourage the adoption of the change. Have dedicated processes across the workstream that provides a touchpoint for the user and other impacted stakeholders community. Given the sums spent on business transformation, it is rash not to do so. But I can tell you companies make this mistake every day. 

They make this mistake and they miss valuable inputs and lessons, and engagement that ultimately leads to small errors and faults or colossal failures. Failures are like fault lines; they may not show up on the day the project is delivered or even closed but you start getting people taking time off with illness or stress, or they leave, and brand reputation is impacted. New changes, and there are always more, end up having a multiplier effect on these existing issues.

Mergers and Acquisitions or new technology or regulatory requirements, drive changes in the banking sector for example, but regardless of the sector, these types of changes will throw up significant people challenges. Sustainable Benefits realisation is dependent on people-oriented change, notwithstanding the project management structure adopted. Sustainability is relevant the project may seem to be a success if you deliver the new tech for example but if you then face low levels of adoptions, face the expense of keeping legacy systems and ineffective people as a result, not having breached budget and time does not make it any less a failure than if you had. And the costs are not negligible, not just in the terms outlined above but in cold hard cash.

Leading Organisational Change Management

Successfully Leading Organisation Change Management

Successfully leading organisational change management is about vision and blending strategic brand imperatives with business objectives and benefits realisation. In order to improve performance competitive positioning and benefit from technological advancements with the potential to transform the business opportunities, behaviours, capabilities and innovation attitudes and enablement in the organisation that is to be changed.

Leading organisational transformation as an entrepreneur, CEO/COO or Director must focus on finding a team of external partners who can take the vision and run with it so that the transformation answers a customer-focused, brand-aligned, people-centred objectives, that would be in line with technology and the best fit for the organisational purpose and business’ short to long term objectives.

Successfully Leading Organisational Change

Challenges of Leading Organisational Change

There are many risks and challenges in starting, running and embedding change as in house project. Leading organisational change management does require many moving parts. A few challenges are listed below.

–  Sadly, sometimes, even leaders with vision and the drive to bring the requisite change to bear on the business’s fortunes lack methodology, structure and the systems thinking required to implement change successfully.

–  It’s often very difficult to run transformation programmes within the organisation itself with no independent and outside teams to bring industry best practice and ideas to what is a hefty problem, in an area potentially fraught with conflict and plenty of opportunities to fail.

–  The truth is that the risk appetite necessary to lead organisational change management programmes to help achieve the business’s urgent objectives is quite tough to gain consensus for. It’s also a challenge to maintain motivation over the time it actually takes to implement the requisite change.

– Leading organisational change is dependent on the ability to re-envision several different parts of the organisation in parallel and the business change and planning skills to bring those changes to fruition. Every manager, dependent on their operational discipline, will hold vastly different views on the content, process and structure of an effective change strategy to lead organisational change.

–  A common problem is recognising that managing change is fundamentally different from just managing a project and requires knowledge of and mastery of a range of skills specifically around managing people change, team dynamics; while risk management is built-in, it does not always extend to readiness and embedding new process practices and roles and responsibilities.

– HR might focus on compensation and perhaps training but not necessarily what it takes to make staff feel empowered to lead innovations and part of the transformation which regards to what will make their jobs easier, faster and more effective, especially in the absence of knowledge of industry trends or best practice. Heads of operations and finance may argue the toss about adjusting financial metrics versus new productivity tools with little consideration of what these might mean for the overall operating models.

It’s clear to see that leading organisational change would be fraught with difficulty for the leaders of business because too many different levels of vision planning, strategy, implementation and processes for measurement need to be considered. This is why it makes sense to get help in translating and implementing the vision while the leader remains the final arbiter and guardian of that vision.

 

Project Management and Business Change Delivery

Change Partners can help lead organisational change management

External partners can help to realise clarity and determine the art of the possible with the objectives and requirements while identifying logical sequences and synergies that can be found, and address and remediate the problems outlined above.

Somebody needs to sustain the love and purpose of the organisation and use that to galvanise things when the going gets tough and snarled up during he transformation and the conflict in priorities threaten to halt things, with the chaos caused by the conflicting priorities of different leaders who want what is best for their department, functions and line of business. Only the leader can sustain a holistic across-the-board view of how things need to fit and work together for the sake of the business, its customers and its investors, all at the same time.

If as a leader, you have a strong, bold view of what the transformation should be and do, systemically and sustainably, its necessary that this remains intact and things are not allowed to descend into chaos. To achieve this, a story needs to be told, consistently, constantly, indefatigably and clearly. The CEO or directors leading organisational change have to be the storyteller, They need to keep that story going to get the transformation done and most importantly to know when the goal has been achieved or be able to tell when there are gaps in the planned implementation and its impact o lack thereof.

The job of the leader of the transformation within an organisation is to empower people to go away and make that story real and breathe, keep the faith and focus to realise the transformative benefits envisaged at the start.

You, leader, recognise the necessity of transformative action, systemic change and reinventing the business, its people and its processes. Translating these into a business transformation strategy and plan and portfolio of changes is a job a separate team should do under your direction. The world’s largest organisations recognise this and there is a need for small to medium size businesses not already in this mindset to adopt it. Make it a priority to find delivery and implementation partners who understand and have experience of all the areas that need to be juggled and that can provide a clear and shared framework and methodology for running a transformation programme and who will deliver a roadmap that clearly shows the activities, roles and responsibilities that should be represented in parallel and consecutive sequences to achieve the transformation desired by an ambitious company.

Effective Business Transformation Strategy

Business Transformation Strategy and Process that Deliver

You’re an entrepreneur, the CEO or Director in a  company whose success defines yours but the writing’s on the wall and you need an effective business transformation strategy and process that will deliver all the benefits and objectives your business would thrive with. Business Transformation may be overdue because technology is no longer fit for purpose and business processes are holding together with sellotape. You need to make some changes – small or wholesale – but it needs to be soon and you need as close to a guarantee as you can get that the business transformation will be successful.

With the number of failed transformation projects that one hears about, a certain amount of wariness is warranted, especially as these reports seem to involve from some of the biggest names in the business. To decide how to develop an effective business transformation strategy and process, start with the below.

 

What is Business Transformation and why would any Businesses and the People who Lead Them Need to Undertake a Business Transformation?

Business transformation, which is that it is the process of making changes to the business operations and processes of the business in order to achieve common business objectives that may boil down to efficiencies and improvements.

Changes in regulatory, operational, market/marketing and even political environments trigger business transformation. Businesses generally undertake transformations to alleviate or eliminate organisational pain or to make transitional gains, improvements or revolutions in the business process, the technological landscape and create competitive advantage through capability, insights or the ability to harness and deploy these in the company.

 

Successful Business Transformation must be linked to Customer Experience and Brand Strategy

 

Successful Business Transformation

What makes a successful business transformation process and implementation. Successful business Transformation is procedural magic that can be applied to a failing business/business unit/function. It is magic when business transformation strategy is based on a true and clear demonstration and understanding of the root causes of what is going wrong, why and where the business or people are not delivering on investments or meeting expectations. It is magic when it is planned and structured within a robust change management methodology. It is powerful when people and their requirements are not treated as an afterthought as part of that process.

It’s magic when the brand is not forgotten and the strategies for the brand are revamped or what is existing if still relevant is intertwined into the business transformation strategy? It’s magic when a focus and objective of the transformation is explicitly to improve or at least preserve a customer experience that is demonstrably effective and excellence – relying on the brand imperatives here can help to make this happen.

It can seem to work like magic indeed if the work is done with honesty and traceability with regards to the drivers of the transformation, grasping the root causes and addressing them with vision, all tools and technology and that can be adopted with the resources available.

An effective business transformation strategy ensures and tracks that objectives should be based on root cause analyses of existing risks, issues, failures and gaps in capability or in the market. Business Strategy founded on and focused on business and objectives and that keeps those objectives top of mind and must be traceable to gaps, opportunities, pain risks and issues.

Transformations fail when they become political, back covering exercises that are unmoored from the principles, issues and people that matter for the organisation. Knowing your business transformation purpose, understanding the process and identifying the triggers and elements are the key to successfully delivering the transformation that meets business objectives.

 

Business Transformation Strategy

The Role of Change, Remaining Dynamic and Relevant

Change is constant and in the current business environment, seems to come at an ever-faster pace and greater magnitudes. An effective business transformation strategy can help create the capability to absorb these changes and thrive. Building in capability for and adaptability to coming change is a legitimate reason for transformation, to allow rapid assimilation of new ideas and paradigms and ability to allow extend or extensibility of organisation to incorporate, deploy or take advantage of change as it comes. It’s critical to be able to change, to adopt change and have the resilience to adapt as change unfolds, however it can create anxiety, analysis paralysis and inertia so it makes sense to remember that businesses that stay successful are the ones that resist the inertia and understand the change they need to make. Many leaders do know this but the next steps are not as clear.

Business Transformation as a concept and in practice addresses the change, change management, design and implementation and deployment of processes as well as people necessary to change the functions, operations, people, technology, systems, software and operating models of either the entire company or a line of business or business unit within an organisation that renders it more responsive, efficient and measurably improved and able to make the gains required in its environment. The business transformation strategy and the business transformation process are both dependent on the size, scope and scale of the change needed and its drivers.

 

Change Management

Change Management is central to the attainment of transformation, and technology change tends to be a core and enabling part of any transformation. Having an effective business transformation strategy is a crucial driver of success.

If you want to launch a new brand, change your brand, change your products, services or positioning, or recover from reputational damage – all of these are strong triggers for transformation,  to help your business be more competitive and try to capture more of the market.

It’s very common to have to rethink how the organisation delivers its products and services to the market and how effectively communication, collaboration ad conflict resolution are addressed within a system and does away with bottlenecks, blockers, risks and issues. Businesses Process Reengineering, Business Architecture Re-Design, Target Operating Model Change, Business Process Design and Customer Experience Remodel are all areas that transformation will address and its wide-ranging nature makes Delivery Management and Implementation Management key to success. Change Management processes are graduated into sub-projects addressing separate business functions, systems and people and integration elements.

 

 

Business Transformation that is reliant on good people

Transformation Elements

Several separate or overlapping stages of the following, planned and executed in logical phases through implementation and delivery including validation constitute the components of transformation, which would tend to happen over a significant period of time.

  • Review of areas of pain, points of failure, opportunities for improvement or integration of capabilities or consolidation of functions and roles, within the business and technology
  • Restructuring of functions and operations
  • Portfolio reorganisation and business architecture change
  • Technology and platforms transformation with systems and software development, integrations and migrations of data and roles
  • Operating Models review, development and standardisation plus logical and systems integrations and readiness constructs for people, (geo) locations, roles and responsibilities – validations and embedding.
  • Business Architecture – who does what, why and when and decision structure and hierarchies
  • People change – attitudinal., competencies, management of resistance to change, restructuring, training and knowledge transfer, roles and responsibilities and hand offs and provision of clarity plus training on technology platforms that enable the role and facilitate all functions ad handoffs.

 

 

Transformation at a glance

 

 

The Change Management Process

Transformation must be accomplished within a change management context – there are several accepted and effective models, notable amongst them are Kotters 8 Step Model or Lewin’s Freeze Models, (affectionately named by moi, Kotters Step Change and Lewin’s Ice Model). They aren’t perfect and need adaptation and experience but change models are necessary for achieving change because organisations are dynamic and are run by people. They help manage people’s attitude and resistance to change. It will not help you get sensitive, sincere and empathetic people on board to help manage this process, but knowledge of the process shows how you how important it is to bring people on board who can build consensus, who can manage with emotional intelligence and have personal integrity, character and flexibility in their nature.

Change Management exercises that are successful are run by people who can ensure that employees at every level understand the impetus for change, can work to influence stakeholders and work out trade-offs that may need to be made intra departmentally or for people whose roles are changing or being demised.

 

 

Change Management Proess in Transformation

 

 

 

Roles in Change Management and Business Transformation – A rough guide

Running a business transformation process is extremely complex and needs great people, structure, governance and clarity of objectives, priorities and decision hierarchies and responsibilities.

Portfolio, Programme and project managers who are qualified to create business cases, and formulate multi-level plans for benefits realisations, effort, duration and budget information, establish with sponsors and stakeholder the immutable objectives of the transformation and schedule for delivering it. They direct the creation of system architecture and business architecture documents and project initiation documentation that can drive the graduated change processes that need to occur and attendant artefacts.

Systems, business and data analysts to review the As-Is position and plot the full To- Be journey cognizant of breaks, dependencies and track and report on emergent risks and issues, with a range of considerations, from the user experiences to customer experience in mind on a full end to end basis.

Developers, Technical Architects, Systems Designers, Testers and DevOps teams will drive the creation and manifestation of the technological landscape vision and capability

Business Architecture and Organisational Design Teams would review the As-Is business processes and ways of working to identify areas for improvement and what needs to change as well  who would direct and support the functions

Implementation and Change Delivery to schedule, plan, resource and organise the implementation phases and work with technical and operational readiness teams to test, validate and iterate changes at all levels.

 

 

Change Manangement the right way

 

Operating Model Change and Operational Readiness Teams work with change delivery to plan and deploy phases and embedding with feedback loops and incident management for capturing operational risks, issues, failures to return to the development or execution process and re-deploy under control and relevant methodologies.

Project Teams ad PMO to determine the drivers for the change and primary areas of engagement and establish decision-makers in these spheres, track and manage the processes overall and track and measure benefits realisation and ensure that new competencies are exercised and new ways of working, technology ad processes are adopted with offline and emergency structures in place.

Executive Committee, Programme Board and the Steering Committee plus Design Authority and Sponsors lead the governance to maintain clarity, direction and momentum on the transformation across a plethora of issues, considerations and decisions and ensure the right interventions are made by the right people in a timely manner. They help to ensure the business transformation strategy stays on track to deliver stated benefits, part of which may require, in consultation with experts in other teams, consideration of emerging technologies that would further the case of the transformation. From digital transformation opportunities, within the organisation and outside it, e.g.  cloud computing and migration from legacy systems to Big Data and Machine Learning and DevOps and putting a technology team in place who know and understand the business inside out with business champions and representatives who are in the process every step of the way to share insights on how the new tech might work in situ and if this creates any new requirements for end-user computing or opportunities for removing those.

 

Transformation Strategy Link to Brand and Customer Experience

Strong and excellent business transformation strategy is differentiated by a focus on the brand purpose and promise and Customer Experience. The two go hand in hand and a focus on one creates opportunities for promoting and improving the other. Having been party to transformations run by other organisations, I can say that this almost never features in any transformations. The customer experience just isn’t on the radar. This is because the transformation strategy wholly ignores brand purpose and strategy. At the heart of brand strategy, is what the business should mean in attachment terms to the target audience, therefore remembering this, and aligning to brand imperatives creates a stronger chance of delivering a successful transformation that can deliver better CX and operations that will ultimately serve the brand better. An effective business transformation strategy will serve every aspect of your business.

Culture and Brand Standards are usually the roles and competencies missing, guardians of brand standards, purpose and overall organisational mission that drives culture and innovation.

How to Design a Business Logo

Logo Design in 23 steps from Holistic Brand Experts

We often get questions about how to design a business logo and have written about how to design a business logo in response. Logos should be like leaders – powerful, aspirational, striking and hugely ambitious, and as holistic brand experts, we know that learning how to design a business logo as part of your company’s branding is possible if you apply the requisite elements of the logo design process and accept that although a great idea is an asset in creating a memorable logo, much more is required. It’s hard work!

Just as your sense of smell plays a big part in your desire for and appreciation of food, the steps to design a business logo is dependent on several factors, not just a great idea, or great design skills. You don’t just see it, you feel it. Strong logo design is almost as a much a science as much as it is an art which is why there are some rules and best practices for the process.

A fabulously designed, lush logo very rarely just springs from a vacuum and to properly understand how to design a business logo, you need to understand and follow the process.

As holistic brand experts, we follow an in-depth process. We want to know about you -your business vision and aspirations and include steps that take into account considerations around running a successful project and convening effective teams.  It is rarely a solo task but it is always a rewarding one and also fundamental to the design of a great logo. Many companies do not expect it, but the ideas and questions raised in a good process can contribute positively to the brand and business overall.

The Holistic Brand Experts Process

When considering how to design a business logo for your company’s branding, it’s helpful to know that good logo design has a life cycle and that the elements of logo design revolve around the brand backstory, personality, architecture, culture and psychology. This is one reason why many companies will use a logo design agency to manage and deploy this process.

For any work on a company’s branding, it really does matter that some initial foundation and discovery work is undertaken to find out what the company does and how. Because of our holistic brand approach, in our view, it’s indispensable to seek insights on these. Sometimes, businesses are looking for a unifying brand for a stable of sub-brands, so there is an existing brand architecture to take account of; or it may just be one large entity based on a super product that has a name that already means something in the market. Whatever it is, the brand backstory, what the company does and why, requires careful consideration when you are thinking about how to design a business logo.

Logos in or out of the context of the brand, and the audience’s familiarity with a brand, have wholly different emotional weights and power, yet the work and thought that goes into the aesthetic is very valuable and must be approached correctly.

If you want to understand how to design a business logo, it helps to understand that there are several approaches to creating great logos and great guidelines for logo design as well as tests to help optimise the chances of getting to the one that is right.

Creating logos, brand and marketing collateral, as much as any other part of marketing, should have a focus on best practice. Our best practice is based not just on our experience and the intuition you develop through several creative processes but also on The Laws of Branding, per Al and Laura Ries. More of that below.

Creativity is not a linear process and that’s part of its power, but finding and depicting that perfect logo – perfect for your company, for who your company is in the world – is the result of a series of processes carried out with structure, great feedback and validation loops and the driving and framing document – The Brand Manifesto. This encapsulates the brand’s purpose, occupied or aspirational positioning, target audience segments, habits and personas, the brand values, personality and promise, and is a key deliverable in branding design.

I always remind clients that everything should start with the brand strategy and that’s the main impetus behind our holistic brand strategy that is premised on discovering, designing and transforming from the inside out. Designing a logo is absolutely no exception. Some designers will start putting abstracts down based on nebulous ideas but we believe that inspiration for branding should have a foundation in the brand ideals, and what is at the heart of the business. This is the heart we seek to express graphically, and it should drive how you design a business logo.

The ethos described above is why if you choose to go down the route of getting help, you should seek out holistic brand experts.

Helpful guidelines on how to design a logo

How to design a logo is one of the most frequent questions we are asked. We are happy to share the answers and the tips that we use as holistic brand experts . There are quite a few of them but using them will help to design a stunning logo and help complete some significant strategic work into the bargain!

Holistic Brand Experts - brand is end to end and logo is never solo

Discovery

1. Brand strategy should drive all of your visual and verbal identity work. Think of branding as BRAND+design. The brand comes first. What is your brand, who are they in the world, what do they stand for, who they stand for, and whose love and attachment are they aiming for? Know that before you start.

With a brand strategy to underpin, drive and give credibility and pedigree to any marketing collateral, including a logo, and with that strategy agreed, we have a core part of the brief in place for ideation to begin.

2) As part of the above process, we isolate the brand’s purpose to determine fit and harmony with primary brand ideas.

3) Brand purpose is the first stage but then we must learn or ascribe, at least foundationally, a brand personality. This will have ramifications for the logo style in many ways – shapes and fonts, for example. Purpose and personality provide a framework for ‘fit’ and traceability to the logo and whether it represents or conflicts with these ideas

4) Start to flesh out a brief. This is a core part of how to design a logo. From the brand deep dive, the brand’s positive difference or uniqueness should be understood, especially as it relates to positioning and designers should be considering in the background, all the ways they could capture the essence of the brand as it is uncovered.

5) The existing visual identity landscape, however disparate and diffuse within the company’s branding, are helpful for collating initial signals – current logos and symbols – preferred styles, shapes and colours, even as generalities, g and things the owner or staff are attached to. It’s also instructive to understand any reasoning behind ‘sacred cows’ in terms of what they don’t want to change or want to live on in some form.

6) Determine which LogoModels appeal. Sometimes when clients approach us, they already have an idea if they want a Wordmark/Logotype, perhaps just their name, emblazoned on a plain background for example or an image intertwined with text or symbol-based logo model.

Many have a hybrid in mind because they want their name attached but once the brief is fleshed out, initial ideas may start to crumble and this is why it’s so important to do the research and deep dive and fully flesh out the creative brief.

Preparation

7) Know your target market and what they are likely to be attracted to.  It’s valuable information  to know who they are, what they like  and might become attached to. This  information could be easily incorporated into not  just the logo but any other collateral that may be put together for the company’s branding.

8) Icon Trajectory Discipline. This is about knowledge, expectations and understanding the effect that time and performance has on a resonant brand. Apple was Apple before it became ‘the Apple’ and Nike was Nike before the became the ‘the swoosh’. Having an emblem with the name did allow these companies to be recognisable as icons yes, but this took decades. It’s important that when building new brands this is understood and companies don’t imagine they can leapfrog into icon just by having the right configuration of emblem and word play. It’s iequally mportant to think long term in choosing your logotype or emblem because changing it may be problematic in the future if your brand’s strategy is sustainable and the brand is successful. It’s important to take things step by step.

9) Don’t expect a smooth or linear process. It very often is not smooth, and it is NEVER linear. You may need to repeat several steps.

Research

10) What does the competition look like?  Like all strategic work, which branding is, it’s so important to know what your rivals are doing so you can gauge uniqueness and reinforce your positioning. The other thing is that quite easy to unconsciously ‘channel’ brand ideas that have made an impact on one into your own creative work and it’s important to avoid this unconscious channelling and if that’s not possible, at least to catch it. There are two schools of thought – you could look at these in advance to avoid this, but some believe it’s more likely that you might unconsciously copy if this is used beforehand. As an agency, as part of our research, someone in our team would do this work and ensure we are steered away from any potential conflicts. On top of that, we will still do a peer review exercise at the end of the ideation process just as a doublecheck.

11) Understand perceptual tendencies and shape and colour rules. Logotypes do come in an array of shapes and sizes and they can come in an infinite panoply of possibilities but not all shapes have the same value in terms of ‘stickiness’, appeal or recallability. Horizontal shapes are easier on the eyes. Legibility is critical and this consideration trumps almost everything else. There’s power in the name and how that is rendered is important but there must a balance between reflecting a brand’s attributes and choosing a font face that is legible.

Teams

12) It’s a team event – many more heads are better than one especially when it comes to capturing the brand essence.

13) Stakeholder Involvement – ensure that all the right people in the organisation are involved in the process. Whoever you will need sign off from must be included. How to design a logo is not nearly as important as how to get it signed off sometimes, if there is a difference of opinion!

14) Building a team spirit and culture quickly Creating teams to deliver something in a short space of time requires a specific and special skill of building high performing teams in artificial conditions sometimes but it’s necessary to do this. Ideation is about the freedom and ability to experiment and reframe ideas. It’s also about courage and communication and it is only good practice to foster an environment where everyone can share ideas open and constructively. If budget allows, consider bringing onboard holistic brand experts.

Execution

15) Brainstorm!!! This can involve frenetic energy or calm paced conversation, it really depends on the team, but ideas must be recorded and collected, and consensus must be pinned down and homed in on. The outcomes of the process may breach some of the rules. While this can help to open minds and enable people to understand the options they have, it can lead to a sort of paralysis too as the options suddenly open a vista of possibilities.

16) Rejection is a key part of the ideation and brainstorming process. It’s just as important to know what is desired as much as what is not

17) Review key themes, reiterate some of the guidelines and decide how they can be reconciled or make a decision to carry on regardless

18)Apply the following guidelines to emergent themes

19) Rule of shapes – distinctive shapes are registered and retained by your brain far quicker and with more facility, and so shapes will need to be discussed and shortlisted. Trademarks as much as possibl should be paired with the name. As a shortcut, once established, the trademark may be sufficient but  your logotype should include both components for recallability.

20) The rule of colours – Colours affect emotion, attention and attachment and really can attract or repel and therefore it’s important to know your market. If you are in a hotly contested space, your brand and logo colour is warfare and should be chosen carefully and strategically. Primary colours are generally better and they are all perceived differently.

21) The rule of contextualised text – how does any text on the logo hit? Can configuration changes alter impact and power?

22) More Brainstorming! Remember, it’s not a linear process.

23) Create a shortlist. The initial design brief encapsulates criteria and a list of requirements for the logo which can be validated and discounted in this process.

Testing

24) The mono and colour test. Check all ideas in black and white, colour and greyscale with colour.

25) Ubiquity and collateral applicability tests. Once a consensus develops around an idea, don’t be afraid to parlay it into all the different forms and applications within which that logo will need to exist and be reproduced.

26) Produce representations as cheaply and quickly as possible of the shortlisted ideas so they can be visualised and discussed. It’s important in this process to try all possible permutations. Sometimes the one discounted in theory makes the strongest impression when fully rendered.

27) Testing – this is a broad process and none of the categories is necessarily mutually exclusive as a measure of iteration is necessary.

a) Temporal and trend tests – will the components and the whole stand the test of time. It might look super trendy, but does it lend itself to being updated and refined as time goes on while keeping the primary elements stable?

b) Recallability tests. A key function of brand marketing is to effect recallability of your brand. Visual branding naturally is fundamental to this, so while testing, this is one of the measures that should be tracked.

 

Cross Reference, Fit and Validation

Holistic brand experts put great store in cross-referencing to brand ideals and personality fit and validation.

28) Brand soul reference – do the candidates, reflect and support the brand ideas and values?

29) Brand Personality Fit – explicitly check that the candidate logos match the brand personality and voice/affect

30) Marketing Testing – Audience Research. The tests above can be done both internally, to arrive at the final choices but during audience tests, some should be repeated. Target responses are extremely valuable if you can afford outreach to them.

31) Post the testing process, it’s time to choose the final candidates and throw everything at it to really bring it life.

32) Produce the final candidate again across all channels, variants and applications

33) Finalise the logo

37) Masterfile management – create and collate master data for all file formats. Create master files for all formats and get them signed off from the primary decision-makers.

Hopefully, this is a useful resource that will help you create a logo and be knowledgeable about the process if you are embarking on and thinking about being part of a process to create a stunning logo. Remember that meaning to anchor your logo is critical to relatability, longevity and that comes from within the minds, purpose, dreams and culture of the business. If you can uncover this, it will go a long way to ensuring what you create is relevant, now and in the future.

 

#designalogo #brandlogo #logobrand #branding #rebranding #designagency #consutingagency #logo

The Brand Naming Process

The Business and Brand Naming  Conundrum – Top Tips to Start you Off

I will go through these briefly but here’s the thing – the brand naming process should be seen as part of the larger exercise of Brand Development. Sometimes this process and the analyses involved in it gives rise to insights that can help to develop a suitable name, and before you ask, YES!! Names matter. As stated above, having the right brand name can help with brand building.

A hundred years ago, it may have been sufficient to just append any old name to your creation or startup, but the whole package matters these days, especially with more and more large and startups companies undertaking the brand development process. Simply put, to compete, all aspects of a brand, not least , brand naming, matter.

The Naming Process – in the background

Now, to  Brand naming. A marketing God, (perhaps THE definitive Marketing God, actually), Al Ries along with Jack Trout and his daughter, Laura Ries, determined ways to categorise marketing challenges in order create rules for developing solutions in the space for building a brand in some systematic way. There is no doubt that huge amounts of creativity are required to create great ideas within some structural frameworks and improve productivity. These rules in themselves, encapsulate the fundamentals and essence of the pursuit of great branding. There is an argument that the name of the brand is actually in itself the brand, i.e. the name is the brand. Personally, I find this a little simplistic BUT it is crucial at the start and there is no denying that once established, it’s very difficult to argue that Coke by any other name is still Coke, so you can see what the argument is based on. So, the name matters.

Brand naming process

 

Brand building is about positioning and highlighting uniqueness. Uniqueness or per Godin – positive good, helps to position your product and therefore brand at the start and the name is part of the establishment. Establishment = leading in a category + owning a word in the mind of your target segment.

To put it another way:

Positioning = owning a category that is > or equal to a word + resonance of the word you own in a customer’s mind + the belief that that word means everything they need it to mean in terms of all the benefits desired or believed.

The name you choose then, for good or ill, and it really can be and has been both, become irretrievably enmeshed with a target customer’s belief system and their attachment and advocacy will spring from that. Ries argues that over time, your unique idea disappears. Your positive good can be diluted, duplicated and even replaced so that the only reason people stick with your offering is the difference between your brand name and that of your market rivals. I would argue that it goes beyond just the name as a word, but what that name has grown to mean, signify and project so you can see that the name is one that can be flexed in this way, with other things remaining equal. Ries also agrees that it’s the perception of the name. This is the ultimate goal, after all, of brand building.

Rules to live by – Top 9 Rules for Business and Brand Naming and Ideas

The rules below are some that we use at  Iconify, for brand naming, some based on ideas from Ries, Trout and others, as well as our own experience and best practice

Rule 1. A new and unique offering should ideally have a new and unique name.

Rule 2. It should be short and snappy and easy to remember but be unique

Rule 3. If you already have an established company, avoid line extended names which are often meaningless, uninspired and lack resonance in a different category.

Rule 4: Use unusual words and spellings advisedly but do not automatically rule them out if a story can be built around it, especially if it meets the tests of rules 1,2 and 3.

Rule 5. Global audiences versus local markets – when it comes to what is easy to spell, pronounce and what is unique and unforgettable, consider who you are targeting. With increasing globalisation, these tests yield different answers than they may have even 10 years ago.

Rule 6. Create a shortlist

Rule 7. Test these names with existing and potential clients. Do some proper primary research and get feedback on the names.

Rule 8. Test initially in isolation – just the name but not without an offering context – make sure people know what the product/service/company is and does

Rule 9. Test again with at least an initial branding design context.

 

Great, you’re done. Your brand has a name that shows its face and personality to the world and reflects its vision. You’ve successfully completed a critical piece of your business’s branding!

 

#brandnaming #branding #brandname #brandexperience #findaname #brandexperts

A name that fits gives your brand a face as part of brand building

The Secret Story of Fit, High Quality Software

How to get Fit, High Quality Software

As your business grows and evolves, you will likely need to enhance, transform or replace your existing software, and there is a secret to fit, high quality software and applications and finding a  fantastic software development company. If you are like many of the leaders responsible for procuring the right software consultancy and software project management, you may balk at the task, as it is fraught with risk, not least to your brand. Horror stories of trashed systems, overruns and overspend or a combination, mostly as a result of poor software project managent, emanate from the biggest names in the industry for work done in sectors as critical as healthcare and government. As there are myriad considerations, it is often useful to focus on the aptitudes, attitudes and motivations of the people to whom you would entrust such an important deliverable as Fit Software – software that is fit for purpose, actually solves existing and anticipated problems and delivers high value.

‘Good code’

The attributes of good software and the code that goes into it, have been written about ad infinitum, not least in the brilliant and incisive article by Zachary Goldberg, which even questions what is meant by ‘good code’. Software has a life cycle, rules, algorithms and systems which help. However, ‘fit software’, i.e. software that will encompass the core attributes of well written programs but most importantly, that is fit for your company, fit for your processes and people and therefore supremely fit for purpose, has a crucial dependency. This dependency and a primary dimension to good code is of course, the software engineers, developers, programmers and coders (terms hereafter used interchangeably!), and this is primary secret to getting fit, high quality software and build a great software development company.

The best software engineers are at heart, artists who entered into their craft with a desire to do and create great things and transform the world around them. They are the ultimate dreamers and hopers. Traditional stereotypes suggest purely nerdy types, tethered to reality and constrained by parameters and algorithms, being detailed oriented and concerned with algorithms. Like all stereotypes, some of that is true, but in fact software engineers are also people that need to have and hold a big picture idea in their heads and hearts in order to fully extend and apply the detail they treasure. They are steady and systematic, even seeming to slow their heart rate much like a sharpshooter does before taking aim, as they painstakingly debug code in it often in high pressure, fast paced environments.

Take the first step to fit software

Get the right people with the right aptitudes and attitude  to code fit software.

Artistry

The right software consultancy will know that great software developers are creators of reality through their code and must care and understand your business purpose, so they can take a story, decompose then rebuild it to create stories of greater power and myriad applications.

Like artists, they make something out of nothing, like linguists, they manipulate language, patterns and ideas through the use of engineering practices, tools and structures and integration with other technologies, filtering a spectrum of possibilities through the prism of the technical limitations to create fit software.

A factor that keeps them connected to their first love is solving big problems as elegantly as possible. Linear or  non-linear approaches matter far less than fit and capability or structured software project management. Their ability to deliver both for their clients and users is their greatest driver. Many of the best coders would work for free, so relentless and fierce are they in the pursuit of the possibilities they create, and the right software consultancy harnesses this passion. Like an author, they know the building blocks and characters but are often surprised by what the characters flowing from their fingertips eventually choose to do and they never know exactly how the story will end, except that it must support, enable and integrate as fully as possible with the story of their clients and if possible elevate it. This is at the heart of good coders and the right software consultancy knows and understand that this is the secret of fit, high quality software  and applications.

 

the secret of fit high quality software and applications from the right software consultancy iand software development company in London, using the best software project management practices

 

Star Quality

Im many  a software development company, programmers cannot program as they would like to, to effect the explosion of tiny ideas into planetary brilliance because this instinct and freedom are often lost in the frenzy of projects. They can similarly be constrained by the vision of business case owners or just time, whilst trying to write fit software.

Nevertheless, to get fit software, look for  the  software  development company with experienced programmers who still have dreams in their eyes, who listen well and believe, whatever they have achieved, that there are better ideas than they have been able to implement, who still believe that their best art, their best code, is still ahead of them. Look for the ones who want to dive into what your business is and who will walk with you on your journey to determine what your business needs. Choose the ones who will work with you to distil high quality requirements with business, technical and people integration facets. Yes, they’ll be obsessed with performance and be concerned with efficacy and coverage and logic but as storytellers ultimately, this is because they want to hit you between the eyes with the beauty, sleekness and seamlessness of their application.

 

Adhering to methodologies that prioritise teamwork, and enable collaboration, the finest programmers have beautiful minds that synthesise the simplest solutions and execute them elegantly. Their world view allows them to be less judgmental and more patient and optimistic – optimism deriving from readiness to try new things to get a solution. It comes from inside, the willingness to feel the pain and code anyway, to be aware the picture may not be complete but create anyway, the special ability to conceive at the same time, multiple ways to see and solve a problem and create concepts to prove it. These are the people you will want building the fit software that your business needs to scale, transform and continue your story into the future, and we ensure they are served and enabled by strong software project management, and a software  development company that have the experience working with the best.

Excellent CX as Reputation Management Strategy

Why Strategic Customer Experience is a Gift for Reputation Management 

While studying for my first degree, the theme of better customer service (not customer experience yet!) was a recurring theme, concerning earning customer loyalty and market share, although not so much explicitly in the context of reputation management. There was a massive upsurge in the 90s of paying lip service to customer service as a competitive vehicle. That ethos seems to have waned considerably as service seems to be decaying in places we used to expect it, and yet it’s never been more important.

These days, the focus goes, rightly, beyond customer service to consider the entire Customer Experience, how the customer or client of your business experiences all of the elements that make up your brand at every stage of any transaction with your company. These transactions accrue into positive building blocks for favourable brand reputation and strategic reputation management. Identifying all the touchpoints your customer can possibly have with your brand, products and staff and having a strategy for influencing and planning how every interaction is handled is the very essence of it. I think of CX as CXE – Customer Experience and Engagement because the opportunity for engagement, to get information, feedback and ideas from the customer are where the magic really happens.

Why Leaders show care about Client and Customer Experience

We build brands to differentiate but also to build a reputation, against which hopefully a premium can be applied and repeat custom and advocacy can be extracted. The brand sets itself up, makes a promise, delivers it, delights and builds and reinforces a reputation for quality, reliability and other great things. More than ever the opportunities that lie in fostering and nurturing great customer experiences should not be squandered. With more choice than ever available to customers in some domains, CX is ever more relevant and the thinking behind how CX is implemented can make it transformational. It can make it a gift for reputation management.

Transactional to Transformational Thinking – the value of CX

Transactional thinking would limit the scope of CX. Clients and customers when purchasing are not purely acting on calculated algorithms for buying into an offering. There is a great deal going on in hearts as well as minds. However, viewed logically, the purest person to person service element, usually post a purchase or immediately preceding it, and generally as an aid to that sale, actually occurs quite deep within the relationship/purchase funnel. The added value is in everything else leading up to the sale, and after that, you ideally want to exercise some influence over. You want to have the privilege and access of speaking into the spaces either side because when you factor in desirable brand love and loyalty, it’s instructive that conversion does not end with the person who has bought, as they can help you convert others. This is the power of favourable reputation and an opportunity for reputation management.

 

why cusomer experience is a priority for business leaders

The goal of CX is delight – attract, engage, nurture and delight

Putting CX at the heart of Projects

Leaders and staff should have a clear view of their roles and responsibilities in sustainably and successfully delivering customer experience (CX), but it should be ultimately driven by brand strategy. CX can be the arbiter of your brand values and perception. Bearing out and translating the purpose and the values the business espouses through CX buttresses and validates your customers’ perception of your business. Reputation Management starts here. Credit is gained and credibility advanced that indemnifies a brand in terms of sustainable brand reputation and reputation management. Now, it’s been my experience through numerous Change Programmes, that there is generally limited consideration of the programme’s risks and impact to the brand and the business’ ability to consistently meet customer and clients’ expectations. This is because they are often driven entirely by internal, operational factors, external triggers tend to be obligations to and duress from regulators and monitors but I believe customer experience is an equally legitimate driver. Reputation Management is not something that’s only addressed in the event of an adverse event, like savings, reputations must be shored up against rainy days.

I think this should change. Even when it isn’t the causal factor for a programme, it absolutely should be part of the standards and metrics by which that programme is deemed a success. It, therefore, follows that demonstrable improvements to the processes and operating models delivering high-quality customer experience, or at the very least, strong evidence that it is not put at risk or degraded, should form a primary part of the business case.

If projects were incepted with an eye on the customer and transformation focused on making things better for customers and staff, that is if PEOPLE were actually valued and central to the impetus for projects, very possibly, less oversight might be needed as businesses would be policing themselves according to their own stated purpose and values. Hmm!

So…..where is the problem? What could go wrong? Ahhhh, yes. Of course.

When there is no visible commitment to those stated values.What an indictment that is on the way we do business – it means that whenever a customer’s experience of your brand fails to bear out your values, you may be seen as only paying lip service, as inauthentic. The worst of it, of course, is that your customers can see and sense the disconnect. Of course, they can, they get it a sense of it through the entire experience! That’s it – the whole point.  If you are talking about customer experience but not really considering satisfaction of customers and motivation of those who deliver the services that form the experience, you are just paying lip service to customer experience, much the same as people did in the 90s. And your customers can tell!

Reputation Management - Secure your brand's reputation through exceptional customer experienceCX Matters

If you don’t think this matters, I give you Aldi and Lidl. If the leading supermarkets were listening, they would have known and acted on the customer data that Aldi and Lidl have exploited, as Tesco have only just recently started to do hence this update to the blog. It’s taken several years to mount this offensive, but apart from anything else, the customer experience at Tesco was obviously not sufficient to sustain the custom of those with an option to go elsewhere. Tesco’s reputation has also suffered considerably in the past decade an effort to refocus on customer needs might have aided their reputation management. As it was, it appeared to make them more vulnerable to incursions by the challengers.

Other sectors are not exempt. The banking sector sees challenger banks popping up. I give you Tide and Monzo, reported to have deep satisfaction amongst customers. They are starting with a commitment to the customer experience and meeting needs that the existing banks do not, even though they say they want to. It’s amazing when you think about it.

So, dear business case owners, sponsors, C-suite people, transformation programmes should not lead to a deterioration in staff morale and customers’ perception of the brand. Therefore, business strategy and change should absolutely have dependencies on your business brand imperatives and benefits realisation must be within the context of meeting or exceeding customer brand expectations. Even if it is not the causal factor for the programme, it should be in there somewhere! There should be, on every programme board and Steering Committee and Executive Committee etc., somebody who has responsibility for Brand Standards and CX. There, I have just created that brand new role. Feel free to use it because it’s critical, now more than ever, to focus more on people – both in and out – and ultimately serve your brand better.

12 Vital Considerations to Jumpstart Positioning Strategy

  1. An End to End Story

Key positioning strategy considerations help highlight a radical truth’ your entire business is a story. To own your position, you need to define it then decide how it is translated into actions across your business end to end, so you can own your story. In owning your story, you have a chance to own your position. Why? Because your story is what your audience believes is the reason why they allow you to be part of theirs. Because defining your story is based on knowing why you exist and why others in that space are of no consequence because only you deliver x-y-z- ­(fill in the blanks) but in that gap must live concepts to create brand love and loyalty.

When you say one thing about your brand and do another in your transactions, your brand and therefore your position begin to be eroded. This is the point of knowing the relevant positioning strategy  considerations – what it is, how you achieve  it, claim it and reinforce it .

We will briefly discuss the thought process of brand positioning below but this truth should be internalised for those tools to lead to an effective strategy.

 

Positioning Strategy Considerations

Your entire business is a story – ensure it is YOU telling it!

2. Perception Persistence

So, if your entire business is a story, anchored by the perceptions of your brand and the efficacy with which the values publicly espoused are actually embedded and evinced by the way your business is run, the perception and the position of your brand cannot be sustained if your processes compromise any of the above. Therefore, we believe that owning your position is the sum of all the stories your organisation creates both at brand and business level. This belief underpins everything we suggest and do in implementing positioning strategy.

3. A note on ‘Uniqueness’

Discovering ‘uniqueness’ and comparison to competitors in the current conditions are critical positioning strategy considerations. Company culture, communication and conviction must coalesce around the agreed positioning principles and a long term view is critical. Quick note about ‘uniqueness’. Last week, I met with a marketing expert who argued, that USPs may not need to exist and that what really matters is ‘remarkability’, a la Godin. This is a good and relevant point. There are very few brand new or completely unique ideas BUT the ways, methods, embellishments and channels with which and through which deliver your offering, as well as the inimitable heart and purpose of the business that may derive from you, the leader/owner/entrepreneur, can impart uniqueness. Being ‘remarkable’ is not sufficient if it does not meet the other tests of resonance, part of which is that you are given emotional and relational reasons to choose one offering above another. More on that another time.

 

Remarkability is not always sufficient

4. Perception Persistence

Your product in a competitive landscape will not reach the heights your business needs it to without a deliberate, structured and clear positioning strategy. This would have as its objective to create an ownable position in the mind of your segment and all the steps required to do so.

5. Research and Analytics

A market positioning strategy is built on business data and seeks to compose the precise chain of words to balance concepts of differentiation, distinction, and similarity in a unified brand-narrative. It is a long-term effort to solidify the identity of a company, and its products or services, in a unique space within the minds of the target audience. It is an organized attempt for a brand to set itself apart from the crowd and influence the way their target audience perceives them. There is value in this process because it allows the maximisation of the segment and creates clarity on unmet needs.

6.  A territory to own – the story YOU tell

Creating the impetus for your prospective customers to carve out a position for your product in their minds, hearts and consciousness requires that messaging targeted at them hold meaning, reward and a heightened desire for the kind of fulfillment they would derive from your product or service offering. Words have meaning as well as power, so the sequence of the words that will create the right triggers and parse the correct connotations should be researched.  The ultimate objective is to differentiate and create a perception that the product meets wants and needs your prospect might knowingly or unknowingly possess. This may be the most important positioning strategy consideration, especially in a very crowded marketplace.

7. Positioning Strategy Successes

Positioning strategy has several dimensions, rooted in competitive research and analytics. Many of the biggest positioning successes of the past 50 years have done well by repositioning the competition so effectively that the only option for the ‘anti-whatever the marketer sought to marginalise’, has been the very product being marketed. This required really understanding the competitive landscape of the product.

 

 

Apple arguably repositioned all other mobile phones, relegating them to just ‘functional’ communication devices, Airbnb repositioned short term vacation accommodation to ‘just rooms’ by promoting the experiential ‘live there’ philosophy of Airbnb. Starbucks repositioned other coffee shops by making them ‘just coffee shops’ where Starbucks became a way of life, lifestyle choice and haven. Their coffee famously doesn’t always make the top grade according to taste tests, but their target audience aren’t just going for the coffee. This is the power of positioning even in a pure commodity segment, like coffee.

8. Pitching from Power

Your company’s positioning strategy considerations should include how you will be differentiated and compete in a market, thus, what position you will pitch from. It helps you isolate gaps that you can exploit to compete more effectively. Therefore consider the businesses occupying spaces in those broad areas.

Pitching from Power

Pitching from Power

9. Leading in a segment

Your business needs to choose a few key areas upon which to focus where your leadership or uniqueness in a feature, idea or benefit can be demonstrated.

10. Content Strength in Consumer Context

Consider your offering strengths, weakness and difference where possible in the context of the customers’ needs and the strength, weaknesses and attributes of competitors

11. Innovation as Strategy

The example companies above were able to separate themselves effectively and compellingly from their competitors through not just innovative products, in the case of Apple, but innovative strategies – reimagining and representing that category to meet other needs beyond the purely fucnctional. They went from resolving a pain point to creating a gain flashpoint and creating delight through benefits the customer had never anticipated but now cannot live without.

So as well as the following dimensions, we should consider innovation as not just a separate dimension but a possible sub dimension within other categories

12. Dimension X – Attribute Analysis that allows Synthesis of Positioning Gold

The following are dimensions upon which your positioning strategy research and planning should focus to help to collect insights that will help positioning:

  • Brand Positioning
  • Product Positioning
  • Competitive Positioning
  • Competitive Pricing Position
  • Positioning MESSAGE
  • Quality Positioning

The dimensions that a brand should focus on in their positioning strategy considerations can be driven by what type of brand they are.

Graham Robertson identifies 4 core strengths that people developing an offering or seeking to position an offering should identify as their primary strength, in order to determine what type of strategy to adopt and so, for example, experience driven brands might tend not to focus too much on the cost dimension of positioning.

 

Misunderstood brands signal oblique and incoherent positioning are often a result of never attempting to own a position or identify the people for whom your product should be a first choice. You find them, communicate appropriately and then, they see you!

Positioning  strategy considerations  are complex, and  targeting and positioning takes time and commitment but is very much worth the investment to set your brand apart in your audience’s perception. This is an opportunity to show the needs and wants that only your offering can meet in a particular way. Defining your business’ purpose and identity provides a psychological hook for target customers about how your business can meet their specific needs. It allows you to make a promise that emotionally as well as rationally connects you to your audience.

Internal Customer Brand Engagement #Part 2

With CX ever more important, recognising the potential of your staff in mobilising a brand experience that is aligned to business goals means that the customer experience journey must begin with internal customer brand engagement, i.e. with your staff. Getting your staff to be brand whisperers, avid advocates and a fundamental part of your brand power is so important for building and sustaining a resonant brand that internal brand engagement should form a core component of your company’s brand strategy.

It may seem possible to ignore it now, but in the long term, those who will win will require brand authenticity which will be carried through a strong image. If this falls at the employee front lines, it will create havoc for sustaining brand image and therefore the equity in your brand. Established brands already do some of this and may worry about it less because they can throw hundred of millions a year at advertising. Businesses without the resources or inclination to do this must focus on cultivating brand loyalty from within the business itself.

As discussed in part 1, your employees are more than just stakeholders, they are your people, they are the also members of your tribe. And they are powerful. They really see what your business is about and are a part of weaving whatever magic external stakeholders see. They are also more forgiving when things go wrong, if they feel part of things, and valued. They will fight for your ideals and they can show the appreciation and commitment on behalf of your business that elicits brand love and loyalty. It is important never to lose sight of this or seem to treat them with contempt or disregard. When people feel they are valued, especially in the workplace, they are more productive and loyal.

As discussed in Part 1, if, as internal customers, they do not buy the brand, if as internal customers they do not believe in your proposition, if they do not help your business play your position, they cannot sell the brand, they cannot influence people to buy into your proposition and certainly will not act to defend your position. You need to give them the tools.

The first part of that is to win them over, like you would and should, your customers. Win them and keep them. They need to stay engaged in order to help achieve the business objectives and correctly portray and reinforce the brand’s image. They are the one factor of continuity in the customer experience and CX chain that cannot be replaced.

Achieving all of the foregoing naturally must be backed by strong values-led policies and practices. What often happens is that for HR purposes, how to give as well as get the most out of people as individuals are often not considered holistically. Many such initiatives are HR Driven – read regulation and legislation driven,  meaning the approach is often focusing on covering the back, understandably, of the employer. It starts and ends with HR requirements and risk management protocols. These are crucial but they are not everything – it means that the talk is on point but the walk is or maybe non-existent, with and cognitive dissonance setting in straightaway.

The faultlines crack open and the cracks get wider daily until the experience your customers are led to expect bear no resemblance to what actually happens to them when they engage with your brand. This is a huge shame and an avoidable one. There needs to be an additional approach with your internal customer at the center of the process to help to propel brand engagement that can impact growth.

Internal Brand Engagement - Retain, Inspire, DeployBelow, we broadly explore some key considerations for internal brand engagement.

 

Engaging your Precious People

  1. Know what your people ‘look’ like, what they value and understand and endorse their world view. Then find them, recruit them, train them, reinforce, nurture and retrain them. Always keep in mind how critical your staff are to the overall CX.
  2. Find the leaders and give them the right tools. Identify those who prefer not to lead and expose, refine and utilise their strengths meaningfully and visibly. Lead them all fully, accountably, honestly, transparently and respectfully. Make your people proud and empowered keepers of your brand values and approaches and make sure that this maps to the regulations on how they work. An integrated approach is required and should also have as participants, HR, Marketing and Legal, with parties that are focused on the internal Brand engagement.
  3. Have a clear and transparent risk and exception framework for when things do not go to plan. Build and maintain trust but be watchful for those who are no longer feeling engaged or involved and ensure there is a plan in place for remedying situations like these. Understanding what is causing apathy or stress may help businesses isolate early on where something is not working well in the business, but having and showing a sincere interest in the employee will influence and help optimise the process you adopt for this process.
  4. Prioritise people. If and when a transformation is required for the organisation, the impact on people, their comfort, confidence and security must be considered as a high priority when putting options in play and when choosing and implementing a new operating model, implementing new business systems and platforms. How will a new system affect their working lives, how does it change their ability to give the best experience to the customer?
  5. Have a customer-centric orientation in your organisation. Prioritise CX. Be outward-looking, not insular. Let people understand and believe the importance of the customer and the organisation’s wish to truly serve them and reward them by keeping the brand’s promises.
  6. Employees must be made to feel included and valued and an internal brand engagement framework should be considered as part of any (CX) Customer Experience Remodel.

There is plenty of evidence that positive work cultures where people feel safe and valued and able to grow to make them more valuable to the business in all kinds of ways. If the future for brands who want to be icons lies in customer engagement and optimised CX, it makes infinite sense to begin and maintain a process of internal customer brand engagement.

The Internal Customer makes CX successfulEvery team member should feel important, valuable and feel they have the capability to perform their role and be happy to have responsibility for doing so.

So, what’s stopping you turning your people into firebrands for your brand? Treat them like they want to be treated. Long term success depends on it.

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