One of the first things you must do when you launch a business is develop and market your own unique company brand. As the business evolves and grows, its present state may not accurately reflect the brand you built when you started. When this happens, you might need to rebrand.

"A rebrand is a large undertaking regardless of [company] size, so it's not for every business," said Nina Brakel-Schutt, branding expert at digital asset management company Widen Enterprises. "A small business might consider a rebrand if it changes its business model, product or service offering, or if it merges with another small business in the same industry, but now has a broader offering."

Before you make a decision about rebranding, it's important to consider the cost and ROI of such a drastic change, as well as any potential marketplace confusion that might arise because of the change, Brakel-Schutt said. If you do decide to take the plunge and rebrand your business, you'll go through three key phases: identify, articulate and act. [Rebranding Lessons from Tribe Hummus]

Identify. Determine your objectives for the rebrand. Why are you doing it, and what do you hope to gain as a result? To help with this process, Brakel-Schutt advised speaking with your employees, customers and business partners for research. Ask them what they think of your company as it stands, where they see you going in the future and how your proposed rebrand reflects those views. This feedback can help you determine your positioning, value proposition and messaging in the next phase.

Articulate. Define and tell your story. Figure out how to express your unique value and the reasons stakeholders and customers should want to associate with you. If you don't define yourself, someone else will, Brakel-Schutt said — and that can create confusion.

"You need to clearly and consistently communicate your philosophy, position and approach as a business," she said. "Get at the emotion behind who you are. [Share] why you do what you do, not just what you do."

Act. All the research and planning you've just done will be useless if you don't act on that work. Think of your new logo and name (if applicable), and create some communications standards around the look, feel and tone of your updated brand. From there, you can create the core marketing materials to represent your business in the marketplace.

Of these three steps, the most important one is taking action, Brakel-Schutt said.

"If you don't actually do something with your research and messaging, there is no face to your updated brand," she told Business News Daily. "Make sure you have an action plan in writing and a project manager to own and oversee that portion of the rebrand, to keep things on track and moving."

Throughout the rebranding process, keep your customers in the loop as much as possible. Brakel-Schutt recommended informing close, loyal customers about your potential name/logo change and having them weigh in. There's no better way to start telling your updated story than by bringing people into the mix early on, she said.

When you officially complete your rebrand, use it as an opportunity to re-engage with prospects and customers.

"Celebrate it by having an open house at your office or out somewhere," Brakel-Schutt said. "Include your most important stakeholders and encourage them to be your brand ambassadors."

Finally, follow up with your employees, customers and partners six months to a year after the rebrand to see if your brand has meaning and if your message is resonating.

"Make adjustments as needed and keep going forward," Brakel-Schutt said.

Originally published on Business News Daily