Launching a new brand is exciting because it sets the stage for what is to come, and helps the business to tell its story.
It gives your target market an understanding of what you bring to the table and how that separates you from everyone else.
But it requires meticulous planning and diligence, as the founders of ActionCoach in South Africa explain.
When Harry Welby-Cooke and Pieter Scholtz launched ActionCoach in South Africa in 2007, they faced a major challenge: The brand was internationally recognised as the biggest global business coaching firm and one of the top franchises in the world, but was unheard of locally.
Another issue was that business coaching itself was a foreign concept in South Africa at the time.
“We launched an unknown brand in an unfamiliar sector just before the global recession started in 2008,” says Harry Welby-Cooke, co-founder and master franchisor of ActionCoach in South Africa.
Launching a brand in a new territory requires more than most people realise.
But highlighting what makes you different, then clarifying and simplifying the promise your brand offers customers, can positively influence how people define the business.
Being number one
“Despite all the challenges, we had one very important element in our favour,” says Pieter Scholtz, who co-launched the brand with Welby-Cooke.
“ActionCoach was the global number one coaching company. As a fan of Jack Welch, I remembered him saying, Be number one or number two.
“When you’re number four or five in a market, when number one sneezes, you get pneumonia. When you’re number one, you control your destiny.’”
That’s the reason the business partners chose a top brand, and it had a major impact on their success in the local market. Having both worked for very well branded companies – like Standard Bank and Cadbury Schweppes – they knew all about the value that would come from the consistency a leading brand offers.
Making a first impression
They also knew that their prospects – both franchisees and prospective customers – would form an impression of the company the first time they engaged with the brand. The first step they took was to appear at trade shows.
Over a period of two years and nine franchise expos, they used the opportunity to take charge and ensure every impression was one they wanted to make.
They also advertised in print media to build brand awareness.
But once the downturn took hold, they weren’t selling enough franchises and leads declined.
Adding PR magic to the mix
“We agreed we were in the business for the long haul, and that educating the market would take time,” says Scholtz. “That’s when we added public relations to our marketing mix with two goals in mind: Inform the market and heighten trust in the brand.”
They took on a PR firm in 2009 and the franchise has achieved compound growth of 25% every year since.
The company’s long-term strategy to educate the market about business coaching and about ActionCoach in particular has paid off well. “Five years ago no-one knew who we were,” says Welby-Cooke.
“Today, people tell us they see the brand everywhere. So don’t expect instant reward; a PR strategy pays off in the long-term, but the advantages are more permanent.”
Their PR strategy has also helped keep competitors at bay by enabling them to own the sector.
“Other players are unable to compete with the scale, time and effort we have devoted to building the brand,” he adds.