Dave Lewis, managing director of VantagePoint, a customer-led growth advisory firm on expanding your brand and team without losing customers
How does a well respected specialist expand the team without harming the company's reputation?
The key is for the business owner/specialist to have a level of maturity. Owners of small businesses should hire people who offer better or different qualities and who can add value to the customer experience in ways that you cannot. My advice is to introduce people alongside you when seeing customers. This is what we call trust transference.
Add skills that add value to the business, in areas where you don't have expertise and then have staff ride shotgun with you as that trust in the new person builds over time. It does take time and maturity to say: "I want to hire someone who can show me up." But it is building the brand in a more transferable and leverageable way.
How does a well known brand approach the risk of launching a new product?
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First the business has to check if the new product is on-trend. Is there a movement towards that new offer? Great brands have built trust with customers, they have listened to customers and gained insights on how to be more ideal. There are certain products that brands just should not launch for fear of stretching the brand experience too far. For instance can you imagine Disney launching a horror movie? This would break the Disney brand for its target market customers given their brand is all about making people happy.
Companies should recognise what customers would like you to do and build on that, extend off that in order to offer them fresh new experiences that are on-brand.
Sometimes businesses will launch a totally new brand so it doesn't muddy the waters of their main brand. Air New Zealand for instance did not want the name Air New Zealand to be associated with a budget airline so it launched Freedom Air as its low cost brand between 1995 - 2008. As the business owner you have got to understand where your brand is trusted to go before it breaks the customer experience.
Can a highly respected brand go wrong with a new product choice?
Yes, if The French Cafe introduced a range of supermarket ready meals, that would be wrong for their brand. The French Cafe is all about the total experience, the ambience, the staff the setting and the fine cuisine. If all of a sudden you bring the food to me wrapped in plastic and twithout that experience, it's a step too far. Customers trust you to do what is best for the brand. Mother Earth, the muesli bar brand for instance would be trusted to do fruit bars, nuts and dried fruits but would not necessarily be trusted to do a yoghurt range because it's a wet chilled product. It's about understanding how the customer sees where your brand can go.
Can a small brand take a risk on a new product if it is really something great?
Yes, if you have launched something that is remarkable, that is different. Not enough SMEs dare to be different or dare to innovate and change the status quo in their industry.
If your brand can identify an unmet need or a problem that your clients have then you can create a niche that opens up new growth for your brand. The right people will seek you out if you do remarkeable things right. Cookie Time's Michael Mayell took his bite size cookies to a new target market within corporates and sold his cookies in Christmas tubs. He just thought entrepreneurially about how to take his product to people and in doing so solve a Christmas gift problem for customers and solve a seasonal soft trading time for Cookie Time. He also launched another brand, One Square Meal, a "better for you" bar for a balanced meal on the go. It was a completely different core promise from the Cookie Time cookie so merited a new brand.