Evolution is inevitable. If your company is operating the same way today as it did when it was first launched, then you are stagnant, which means you are losing business. Change is very important. Whether it is a complete overhaul or a few adjustments, every company can stand a bit of improvement, says Michael Silverstein, a consumer and retail expert with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm. "Even awkward first steps toward improvement are highly regarded by consumers."
Seattle's Best Coffee, part of the Starbucks family, revitalized its business and its 40-year-old brand earlier this year as part of its new strategic direction. The company is rapidly expanding its diverse distribution with a goal of establishing 100,000 places—from Burger King to Alaska Airlines—where people can enjoy a freshly-brewed cup of its premium coffee. Within six months, the company increased ten-fold from 3,000 to 30,000 distribution points that include company operated stores, franchised businesses, retailers, grocers, restaurant chains, and food service locations, such as college campuses.
What lessons can entrepreneurs gain from Seattle's Best Coffee when it comes to revamping their brand or business model? Here are a few suggestions to consider before diving in.
1. Be Ready for Change
Revamping your business requires shifting your thinking and being ready, willing and able to let go of things you felt were perfect, which may no longer be the case. A first step is to be open to changing or adjusting the way you do business and you have to be prepared to act immediately. For Seattle's Best Coffee, it all began one afternoon last summer with a conversation between Michelle Gass, president of Seattle's Best Coffee, and Howard Schultz, CEO, president, and founder of Starbucks Corporation. Starbucks and all its brands of coffee in total have less than a 10 percent share of the brewed coffee market in the United States. "We saw an opportunity to grow the Seattle's Best Coffee brand and to approach the coffee category very differently…in every phase of our business—partnerships, retail, and packaged goods," says Gass.
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2. Determine Your Mission
Revamping your business involves taking stock of your company's strengths and weaknesses—what's the total picture not just a snapshot view. Before you embark on any type of product, brand or company change, Gass says to bear in mind two things: 1) be clear about what problem are you trying to solve, and 2) make it a mission project.
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3. Talk to People
Ask your customers, employees, business partners and industry experts their opinion about your company—it's products, services, and brand. Find out what they like and don't like. How hard is it to do business with your company? What would they suggest; do you need a little revamping or a major overhaul? Have you clearly communicated your positioning? Do you have good price value? Where do you rate in terms of customer satisfaction and brand differentiation? Your market research, both qualitative and quantitative will be able to help you answer some of these questions, says Silverstein, who also is the author of Women Want More: How to Capture Your Share of the World's Largest, Fastest-Growing Market.
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4. Measure Your Total Market
That is the most important thing you can do as a business owner, Silverstein says. "Many companies measure a narrow representation of what their market is." He cites for example, in targeting its soft drink, Coca-Cola measured its share of colas; meanwhile, Pepsi was watching Aquafina and buying SoBe, Gatorade and Tropicana. The real measurement for both companies is their market share of beverages, Silverstein adds. A good approach is to devote ongoing study in two arenas, within your industry and outside it. How has the market changed in your industry? Is your product or service still relevant? That's the moneymaking question.
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5. Research the Competition and Seek Allies
In the case of Seattle's Best Coffee, market research unearthed a very important discovery. "The coffee category had gotten very complex and cluttered—lots of names and lots of geographies consumers can't even pronounce," says Gass. How could Seattle's Best Coffee evolve to be more relevant? The company's new purpose or mission became to make its premium coffee simple and easily accessible.
The company expanded its distribution points by fostering new relationships with retailers and solidifying exciting agreements with companies, including Subway Restaurants, AMC Theaters, Border's Bookstores, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
The company created a new brand identity that evokes optimism and fun. A new logo maintains the name and the color red while adding such symbols as a drop of coffee, a cup, and a red semi-circle representing a smile enclosed by a silver circle conveying a silver lining.
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6. Rethink Your Customer Base
Part of revamping your business may involve targeting your product or brand to appeal to customers outside your niche demographic, versus introducing new products or lines to boost business. Appealing to a wider customer base can make up for less business by existing customers. Readily available for decades at specialty coffee cafes, kiosks, and food service locations, Seattle's Best Coffee added to its roster fast-food restaurants and movie theaters.
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7. Improve Your Product Availability
There are rapid shifts in channels, Silverstein says. A mono channel player may not see in their data that they are losing share to a changing market. Don't limit your business to just one distribution channel. This also means making your service or product more compatible to online availability. Gass says exploring new channels for doing business is just as effective as coming up with an entirely new business idea. If your product or service can be utilized in a novel manner, this could lead to increased revenue as well as added value for your customers.
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8. Determine Suitable Solutions
Here is where many people get stuck. Do not hesitate. Move forward. Once you have received a set of suggestions and you have figured out where the key issues are in your business, realistically study them to determine what adjustments will best suit your business. Do you need to repackage and reposition your brand? Do you need to identify new distribution channels? Or do you need to streamline processes? The overall goal is to respond with change, advises Silverstein. Analyze what expenses are to be incurred in implementing such change. Zero in on what will save customers money and/or offer the best product value. Identify what improvements are more likely to bring in new customers.
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9. Create an Action Plan
Put down on paper what's wrong, how do you want to fix it, and what is your timeline for implementing that change? Specify the role of every individual team member in accomplishing that change. Engage in dialog back and forth. Do you have the diagnostic right? Do you have all of the facts on the table that you need to make informed decisions? Are management and workers on board with the changes? Once you have created an action plan, periodically discuss where you are, what did you get right, and where do you need to make adjustments, says Silverstein. Track what works and what doesn't work.
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10. Communicate Clearly and Effectively
Whether its evolution or revolution, if you are going to change, you have to tell the story why, says Gass. Communicate in a way that reflects your brand. "Rather than send out a press release saying that we have a new business strategy, we did a fun video (that can found on Youtube) for internal employees and external stakeholders, where we took over Starbucks headquarters and turned it into Seattle's Best Coffee building for a day," Gass explains.
"Change can be hard but you have to be willing to be bold and to be different," says Gass. "You have to have the conviction that you are in it for the long haul."
Along the way to revamping your business, you may make some mistakes. That is part of the process. Silverstein says the key is to accelerate through the mistakes, realize them and adjust them until you get it right.
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