Of the many arduous tasks involved in starting a business, the process of choosing a name is often one of the most difficult. And picking a name is just the beginning. That name becomes the basis for a whole range of collateral including a logo, website, style guide, and more. These assets are not only time consuming to create, they can also be costly to implement. So, it’s understandable that a company would only want to go down that road once.
But businesses evolve quickly, particularly in their earliest stages. One of the keys to success is recognizing when to pivot – or rebrand – in accordance with the evolution of the company’s fundamental attributes.
That’s what we experienced at redIQ.
In 2013, we launched our data management and valuation platform to serve commercial real estate clients. Named “ResiModel,” our company offered a standardized financial projection model for analyzing and evaluating residential multifamily transactions. The model provided a valuable tool for acquisitions teams, investment sales brokers and other professionals involved in multifamily investment.
As we grew we rolled out several features in addition to the financial model, most notably an automated way of extracting the valuable data contained in property rent rolls, which can otherwise require a dauntingly time-consuming manual process.
Multifamily rent rolls are composed of important financial data for investors, including tenant rosters, rent payments, lease expiration dates, and concessions. They can be dozens of pages long and include information about hundreds of tenants’ rent payments and lease details, but there’s no standard way of compiling and sharing this critical information.
Three rebranding takeaways
1. Plan and budget for a definitive and clean-cut rebrand
Obviously rebranded companies need a new look and feel, which includes messaging and logo. Approach the process as if you are starting a new company and budget for its launch with a new website, business cards and marketing collateral.
We worked to ensure that all of our new collateral communicated our core functionality in a consistent and succinct manner.
2. Minimize the potential loss of brand equity
The purpose of our rebrand was to better communicate our core value proposition, but it was inevitable that rebranding would trigger some loss of brand equity. Naturally we also wanted to assuage the fears of existing clients who really liked the services they were getting.
We had a coordinated strategy for letting all existing and prospective customers, influencers and the marketplace at large know about our new name and the story around it. Anticipating the needs of these stakeholders upfront enabled us to proactively address questions before they turned into issues.
3. Don’t leave your investors in the dark
Effective rebranding requires a coordinated communications strategy aimed not just to employees and customers, but also to investors.
A start-up’s investors count on the ability of company leadership to read and fulfill the market’s needs. Ideal investors look to entrepreneurs to pinpoint a strategy, and recognize when that strategy and brand may need to evolve.
redIQ’s investors gave us a lot of feedback during the rebranding process, and played a critical role in helping us hone a new direction and even choose our new name.
The standardization of this data makes through our add-on feature made analysis much easier, and rent roll extraction — initially one of our “add-on” features — quickly became our core service offering.
Content with their existing Excel models but ecstatic with our data-standardizing platform, the industry was telling us something. The presence of “model” within our name became a hindrance with potential clients who had their own modeling solution, while the “resi” portion of our original name effectively confined us to the commercial real estate industry’s residential segments. Our name had boxed us in! Clearly, a rebrand was in order.
After an intensive selection process with input from investors and other stakeholders, we rebranded to “redIQ” in 2016. The “red” stands for “Real Estate Data” and the “IQ” is intelligence. The redIQ name communicates our real value proposition: helping real estate professionals understand their data so they can make more informed decisions. It also enables future growth by not limiting our company to the residential sector of real estate.
It’s also useful to remember that a decision to rebrand doesn’t necessarily have to occur during a start-up’s earliest years.
While the redIQ rebranding commenced within about three years of founding, the process can occur at any time in a company’s history. In 2014, for example, CMO Magazine cited a name-change decision by ePrize, a 14-year-old company that “connected consumers to brands via contests and sweepstakes.”
In response to market trends, ePrize CEO Matt Wise said the company decided to change its name to HelloWorld when “we realized that our brand promise was to connect consumers with brands, and that could be done in many ways, not only via contests and sweepstakes.” Much like our own observation at redIQ, Mr. Wise and his team had determined that their original name had been “restricting us in evolving and expanding the business.”
At redIQ, results of our brand pivot have been encouraging. In 2015, an average of about 300 rent rolls were being put through our system per month. In the last completed month — September 2017 — more than 5,839 rent rolls were entered into our platform. We quadrupled revenues last year, and we’re growing fast.
Whether original or new, all brands should reflect a company’s core services, while supporting future growth objectives. We’re confident that our rebranding achieves these goals, and hope that our story will help others in our position approach this corporate inflection point with some additional strategic vision.