This content is part of the Essential Guide: IT channel sales and marketing strategy for the digital era

A four-step rebranding process for channel partners

The fast-moving IT market could leave your channel partner brand out of date. Here are four tips to update your image.

In a market where nothing stays the same, it might be time to consider the rebranding process.

If you are like most IT solutions providers, your business looks a lot different than it did just five years ago. You may be offering new services or delivering them differently as managed or cloud offerings. You may be targeting a different set of customers or specializing in a new vertical market. You may have acquired another company or your overall value proposition may have changed.

But what about your brand identity? Has your brand changed to reflect your business as it is today?

Among the top reasons to consider rebranding your evolving IT practice:

If you haven't thought about the rebranding process, maybe you should. Start by asking yourself these questions: Is your brand still relevant? Is it believable? Can you stand behind it? More importantly, can you defend it?

If your answer to these questions is not a resounding yes, then it's time to roll up your sleeves and rebrand.

Don't just do it, think through it

However, before you order new stationery, it's important to understand what branding is, and more importantly, what it isn't. Your brand isn't a logo. It's not a tagline. It's not a cool ad campaign. Your brand is a promise. It's something you live every day. It needs to be defendable. And, it needs to articulate the experience a customer would have when they engage with your company.

Not sure where to start? Here are four easy steps you can take to build a brand identity with purpose.

1. Discover what makes you different

If you look at the websites of companies in our industry -- both solutions providers and vendors -- all of them say, "We are the leading (or most innovative or best) IT provider." But what does that mean exactly?

To find out what makes you different, you need only ask your customers a few simple questions:

  • Who from our company do you rely on most and why?
  • What is the one thing we provide you that no one else can?
  • What can we do better?

Their answers may surprise and delight you. Expand your panel to also include your employees, suppliers or strategic partners. This exercise, also known as a brand audit, is best conducted by a third party, such as a consultant or freelancer, who is more likely to get unvarnished answers. It's important to get the real answer and not the one they think you want to hear.

2. Articulate why you are in business

It's fairly easy to explain what you do and how you do it, but it's more difficult to explain why you do it. Why are you in business? Why do customers need your offerings? Why should customers engage you?

Has your brand changed to reflect your business as it is today?

The results of your brand audit should help you to answer these questions. Then you can succinctly articulate your brand promise -- why you are here and what you offer your customers exclusively.

Remember to use simple language that your customers can connect with and understand; avoid jargon or useless words. Here's an example from a solutions provider that Agency Ingram Micro recently helped with its rebranding initiative: "We believe every person should have the freedom to work however, whenever and wherever they choose." It's clear and something a business leader, and technologist alike, can buy into.

3. Communicate consistently

Once you have discovered your brand promise, you need to make sure it is communicated consistently. Take an inventory of all the touch points -- internally and externally -- that your customers or prospective ones might see. Don't overlook things like invoices and the way the receptionist answers the phone -- those things matter too. Encourage your employees to learn your brand promise and personalize their elevator pitch. Don't worry about saying the same thing over and over: it takes the average person no less than 26 times of hearing something for them to remember it.

4. Use storytelling for greater impact

Deliver your brand promise in an impactful way through storytelling. Storytelling typically is in the form of a customer case study. Showing how you helped your customer enables others to can see how you can help them. Be sure to include why your customer engaged you. That will reinforce your brand promise -- why you are here and what your purpose is.

Following this rebranding process can re-energize your brand to reflect the changes in your business and clearly differentiate your company from the rest.

About the author:
Jennifer Anaya is vice president of marketing for Ingram Micro North America. In this role, she is responsible for directing the activities of Ingram Micro's marketing organizations across the United States and Canada.

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