First of all, lets be clear. When we’re talking about Mature Brands here, we are discussing brands and their lifecycle. We are not talking about products or services aimed at the demographic of baby boomers to seniors or somewhere in between those groups. We’re talking about Mature Brands that have an established presence in the market and have had for some period of time. While many brands that fit this description continue to experience increased growth, many eventually experience lower or decreasing growth rates.

Fortunately there are many warning signs and indicators that a Mature Brand might be headed towards a period of slower growth. If you or your colleagues fallback to any of these five statements, take heed: you could be headed for a downturn.

1. “Hey, I know these people.” Your product or service exists for a reason (at least you hope so) and solves a need. Your business was founded on that idea and you delivered on that promise. The result was that you built a strong audience. They love you, you love them, and that’s all a very good thing. But it’s the same audience you’ve always had. The problem is that the audience might not be big enough for you to sustain the growth you need.

Chances are that you have offerings that would benefit additional audiences, but your current messaging doesn’t resonate or connect with these audiences that are outside of your core. They might talk differently or congregate in places that are foreign to you and where your message is looked at with an upturned brow because … it … doesn’t … quite … fit.

Problem: You message has not evolved.
Solution: Research audiences to talk the talk that resonates.

2. “It works – they won’t leave.” Everything changes, if ever so subtly. In fact, the change might only be apparent over time, completely unnoticeable from day to day. Until suddenly everything is different.

This happens frequently in technology, where the cost of change and a new implementation is too high for the returns gained. That is until a new competitor comes along and disrupts the market, or an existing player makes a change and the payoff is suddenly worth it.

If you haven’t kept one eye on the competition and another on your customers’ needs, you could quickly be fighting a battle against time to stop the hemorrhaging of lost customers.

The good news is that you have a relationship. The bad news is that it’s damaged. However, when you can repair that relationship and make good, often you’ll win those customers back for your efforts. But don’t dare let it happen again.

Problem: Product development is lagging.
Solution: Make sure that your product development follows your customers’ needs and gets out in front of the competition—and tell your story.

3. “We are who we are.” When social media first burst onto the scene, many companies didn’t see the value. The yellow pages were all they did and all they needed. Or business directories. Or trade shows—or any other method of contacting companies that was also used to hock buggy whips in days gone bye.

The problem? These things all still work. Maybe. However, their audiences are often shrinking or at the very least, limiting. That means that you are limited to that shrinking audience. You don’t have the easy flexibility and scalability that today’s modern marketing affords. And you need that flexibility to maintain growth.

Take a long hard look to see where your current audience is having conversations. Are they on Facebook? Are they in forums? The fact that they’re having conversations about your type of products or service without a sales person involved is a big change. Beyond that, where is your next audience having conversations? Because to maintain growth you’ll have to grab that next audience as they come into the market. Hint: chances are they won’t come through the yellow pages like the last one did. In fact, we’ll almost guarantee it.

Problem: Your go-to-market strategies don’t reflect current best practices for flexibility and scalability.
Solution: Follow your audience to where they are and scout out your next one before the current one ages out.

4. “If we get a meeting or talk to customers, we can close the deal.” Congratulations! That’s truly great news and speaks volumes about your sales ability. The problem is that if talking to a customer is the first step in your selling process you’ll be left out of the vast majority of deals. Why? Because talking to a sales person is likely fifth on the list of the customer’s buying process, if it’s that high. And they don’t give diddlysquat about your sales process. They’ll never hear your story and likely won’t care. They’ll buy from your competitors that sell the way they want to buy.

Modern selling more than likely involves the Internet in some shape or form. In fact, one study found that “81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying.” It might be searching through keywords. It might be by asking questions on social media and forums. It might be word of mouth. But numerous studies have shown that they are well down the road in the sales process before they want to engage a sales person. Ask yourself and your colleagues this: do we have enough content and information available in a self-serve fashion that can move a prospect ¾ of the way to a purchase if required?

If you don’t have information to lead them to you, you won’t be considered or make any short list to be considered.

Problem: Lack of awareness in the market.
Solution: Make sure that you have content and information that answers questions and guides customers through their buying process. Remember that your sales process is your internal process. Realize that customers are in charge – and that this isn’t negotiable.

5. “Yes, I do have shirts older than this design, why?” Visual appearances mean a lot. We wouldn’t go as far as to say they mean everything, but they do give cues as to how an organization sees themselves, much like how our outward personal appearance does the same. Right or wrong, it affects perception. It goes in cycles and right now it is coming back to an era where visual appearance is important to the audience. The “avocado” appliance was cool at one time – but it automatically places you in an era other than right now. That’s one issue.

A second issue is that your visual appearance is often telling of how you regard technology and the market. For example, a dated website without mobile-friendly images and functionality can immediately turn off a visitor, never mind the penalties from major search engines for doing the same. It’s a mobile world and you have to be ready to participate in it.

Also to be considered, people consume and learn information in different manners and preferred channels. For years whitepapers ruled the Internet. More recently eBooks and videos have taken prominence and have their own dedicated fans. Make sure that you have content that’s formatted for the way your audience in the way that they want to learn.

That doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon a look, name or identity that makes your brand unique. What it means is that you have to bring visual cues and language nuances to where your audience is now, or in some cases, wants to go.

Problem: Design and messaging are dated.
Solution: Evolve your look and language to the times.

Takeaways and Next Steps

Being a Mature Brand is a positive. Most importantly, you already have an audience. But audiences need care and feeding in order to grow and thrive, just like your business. If any of the statements above look familiar – or you’ve said them yourself, you’re not alone. These are just a few of the many critical signs out there. Understanding the problem is one thing; executing the solution is another. We’re experts at helping brands restore their image, reinvigorate their audience, and discover new growth.

Our process starts by helping you walk through the five gates that typically restrain brands: Positioning, Offering, Audience, Message, and Delivery. Opening these gates will help your brand stay young and continue growing.

When you begin to view these gates as opportunities it becomes easier to find focus and re-energize your brand. Mature is more about a state of mind than the age of your brand. If you are ready, we can help you start thinking like a start-up again—and never stop.

For more information about the Wilson Rebranding process, download a complementary copy of Five Gates here. We would love to walk you through it and keep you ahead of the curve.