Our company just went through some tough times. We ran out of funds, laid off 90% of staff, and lost a large portion of market share to new competitors. We feel that we have bad public sentiment amongst key stakeholders and we'd like to turn that around. We just received more funding, and our plans include re-branding and re-launching the app, doing a little bit of damage control, and fully pivoting our business model. We are looking for guidance into how to go about doing this in a strategic and planned out manner. Also, we are looking for an expert in the field who we could work with.
First of all I want to give you a lot of credit for what you are doing. One of the great things about being a business owner is that the successes are truly your own, but the downside is that the failures are too. Going through the tough times can be emotionally and physically exhausting.
To get started with, well, getting started, you need to first deal with the past crud and work to rebuild the business' reputation and trust. Too often businesses attempt to start fresh under a new identity without addressing the baggage and ultimately they are not successful because the air has not been cleared. Think about any major company that has had a PR nightmare whether it be tainted food, tampered packaging or a mechanical error. What do they do? They publicly admit they messed up and expressed their plan to ensure it doesn't happen again.
Now for you, I am not saying to alert the media. Simply start with your stakeholders. Reach out to those you feel you have wronged. Invite them to coffee or lunch, talk through the problems and get their input as to what and how you can improve during this next phase. As you build up trust, your network expands organically, and as you clear that air, those former foes now feel that they are playing a part in your new endeavor. Once you start to rebuild that reputation the re-branding and re-launching is easy.
Everyone makes mistakes. It is how they are dealt with that makes the lasting impression, and frankly, people in business want to help others with their business.
Good on you for not giving up!!
I actually developed and managed a re-brand for a radio station in Canada and while they didn't face a particularly negative brand perception, they were a heritage brand who were needing to change their 'old and grey' perception to a focus on being the affluent, intelligent, professional station of the market. To do this there was obviously a level of design re-branding and content changes, but we achieved results mostly through our partnerships. The strategy I put together utilised our existing (and built new) opportunities to gain brand exposure with our new target audience. Basically making sure we were front and centre at everything they were at (so they couldn't ignore us) and making sure that exposure was always a positive and professional experience. This organically changed our brand perception and simultaneously built trust as they started to view as naturally part of 'their world', and it wasn't long before they were contacting us looking for advertising opportunities.
In your case, given the added negative perception, I also agree with what Kari outlined about taking ownership of any past mistakes and reaching out to wronged stakeholders. Adding to her point about asking for their input, also be very clear about what you have learnt from the experience and what you are already doing to ensure these mistakes don't repeat themselves. If you have managed to secure new funding, then I'm guessing you have already started to do this. :-)
Another element that can help is 'fresh blood', by bringing in a new face this also subtly reinforces your commitment to change and improvement. Again, as you are looking for someone to partner with I'm guessing you are already aware of this.
It would be great to chat more (free of charge for the initial call), as I'm currently looking for new opportunities to work with startups and small businesses to help them solve engagement problems. My strengths lie in partnerships and stakeholder engagement and my background is a 10 year career in communications, media and internal engagement and development across Australia, Canada, the UK and Japan. If you are still looking for a potential strategy partner it would be great to hear more about your app and the specific challenges you are facing.
If you have already found someone then I wish you all the best and remember that while the reinvention process can be tough, it can also result in creating stronger partnerships and a more profitable business. As they say, it's the tough times that tend to bring people together so stay strong!
Too many businesses give up so it's great to hear that you are up and going again.
I recommend spending a lot of time on comms. Reach out to existing/current customers and stakeholders and be as transparent (about the past & future plans) as you can to help build trust and hopefully mend relationships.
The best example of that in the marketplace to date is Buffer. They are a little crazy as they are a fully open startup but I admire what they are doing and even taking 10% of their approach can prove wonders for any venture (new or old).
Next, I would focus on surveying those customers to really show that you listening and want to build something even better than before.
Following on from that work with your team to incorporate customer feedback. Then look at your persona's and marketing channels for early exposure.
Be careful not to go overboard here - Good marketing and exposure can be achieved without having high acquisition costs. Testing is your friend and allows you to double down on what works and to drop what doesn't.
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to reach out.
I suspect that I am going to offer a novel and likely controversial reply. Since you have lost 90% of market share and are in a newly competitive space, I recommend that you search for a unique and valuable position in the marketplace first. You certainly should apologize and make right to the degree that you can those that you have wronged but that does not necessarily mean they will or should be your customers in the future. I recommend that you talk to the 10% who are still with you and uncover or reconfirm a struggle that you can solve for them. If you do, I then recommend that you look at the the 90% to identify likely candidates for this new solution. The key for startups is to find a problem worth solving and then solve it in a way that helps a large enough market who are wiling to pay enough money for it to make a profitable business (and/or one you can sell). If you do this well, are empathetic and curious, your "brand" will begin to develop organically. I am happy to talk further if this short introduction is interesting to you as there is much more to this that you should look at internally first around Core Values, Purpose, etc. The long term aim is to find the intersection of your Passion and Purpose, what you do well and what customers want and value. Your brand is a by product of this. I have written a short blog post to possibly help you to start this process. https://catalystgrowthadvisors.com/2018/06/07/how-to-design-a-solution-that-your-best-customers-want-and-value/
I have been coordinating succesful rebranding launches for the last 30 years, from 500s to small size brands.
After though times, your team morale should be very low. This is te moment to create a charismatic brand, that will motivate your internal and external stakeholders. The launche needs content, and leverage results. Let's transform your potential into real call to action.
I am quite excited to have a call on this pressing matter.