Expanding Beyond the Core
Can you expand beyond your core customer or client base successfully? There is a school of thought that says this is at best a risky proposition and at worst a dirty one, after all you could go out on a limb to reach a new target and totally miss the mark while simultaneously alienating the people you already have. So is it possible, or perhaps the better question is, should you even try? The answer is yes and yes, but you must be smart about the process and understanding.
Who is your core? Well, in many cases a brand is started by core members. These are the people who are passionate about the product, early to adopt the process or product and are very knowledgeable as well. You may find your core audience is also very protective and would prefer to keep the product all to themselves, rather than see it spread out to the masses. These are all things you must be aware of and sensitive to if you are going to reach out beyond the core, because expansion does not mean abandonment.
Identify Brand Truth
As you begin looking at ways to expand beyond your core, you want to start by understanding your brand truth. What is brand truth? Discovering your brand truth is a simple process of asking a few basic questions about the business. For example:
- What is your brand, and what is it not? Understanding this provides you a good idea of not only where your brand is but the extent of where it can go. For example, Victoria’s Secret is a brand associated with women’s lingerie, but not denim jeans. If you want sexy lingerie you will go to Victoria’s Secret but if you want quality denim you might look elsewhere.
- What is the expertise of your brand? Keeping with the Victoria’s Secret example, they are experts in bras and panties, but will never be the leader in outdoor apparel.
- What is your brands iconic status? In other words, what does your brand stand for? Victoria’s Secret is known for women’s sexy underwear, not organic cotton.
Expanding Upon Brand Truth
Discussing the above points may tend to paint the picture of locking a brand into a narrow market, but that is really not the case. By understanding your brand truth, you can get a more concrete map for future and successful growth. It is important to also have a good understanding of how your brand is shaped.
- Product – what you produce
- Personality – how you produce
- Point of View – why you produce
Keeping these three things closely aligned in order to achieve success.
Each company will have to determine what makes sense for expansion. One example of this is the supplier who offered cotton fabrics from India to major fashion houses. They soon expanded into fabrics created of coconut and other items. They attempted to move into lace and embellishments but found that those markets and the manufacturing was too complex, and was not in their area of expertise so they exited that market rapidly.
Defending the Soul of the Brand
Once you have determined your brand and begun to expand, you will find yourself in the position of defending the soul of the brand. People will constantly be coming in and out of your organization and you will need to boil your brand down to a phrase or collection of phrases that will instantly define and communicate your brand. Take the rallying cry of Nike “Just Do It” is a simple idea that guides every step of the process.
Can you grow your brand beyond the core without abandoning the soul of your company? Of course, but you must first understand your brand completely. Simplify your brand to the point that it is fantastically easy to defend and remember that No is your best friend. Say no to anything that is not in line with the brand. Simplicity also makes it easier to say yes!
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