The Evolution of Rebranding Oneself

5 years ago Total 360 Photography was born out of my frustration with the vast majority of real estate photography on the MLS, which sucked big time, and still does. At the time we were looking for a new home and wasted huge amounts of time going to listed homes and discovering that the photos we saw on MLS didn’t even come close to representing the layout or essence of the home. I knew then that there was an opportunity for me to make a difference.

The business idea and the drive were there, but I needed a name, and an identity. Much research later I decided to brand the company as if it was larger than just me. If I could make the brand about more than me I thought I could grow the business and eventually sell it once it had gained some legs. I was looking to help my clients with a total solution, eventually providing photography, video, aerials, feature sheets, and every other graphics or marketing service a realtor would ever need.

Having just learned how to create 360 degree virtual tours, Total 360 Photography was born. It became clear from the onset however that having 360 in the company name made it difficult for my clients to distinguish who was who. It turned out that there were a few other interiors photography services in the area with 360 in their name.

5 years in, my skill level and reputation had grown to the point where I was working 12 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week for months on end. I had made a real difference in the quality of the photos on the MLS but trying to be a total solution to all my client’s needs was wearing thin. I felt battered and bruised by the demanding schedule and constant strain on my time. I knew it was time for a major change.

After hiring a great business coach it became clear that I needed to rebrand myself and leave the old Total 360 behind. It was time to start doing business on a completely different level.

In order to rebrand I knew I had to take my skills to the highest level possible before finding my ideal clients. Working with my business coach we discovered who those clients were, and how best to market to them, but that’s a blog for another day.

 

There is no sense in rebranding oneself if you’re not going to do something different.

 

Just changing your logo and website domain name because you’re tired of it won’t cut it, you need to make a significant change in how you do business before a rebranding can be effective. Your brand isn’t just your name, it’s everything you do in business and how you interact with your current and potential clients.

Again working with my business coach we developed systems that would greatly assist the transition to building the new brand. When the opportunity to work with Mike Kelley, one of North America’s premiere architectural and interiors photographers came along, I knew I had to jump on it. We share many of the same values, artistic skills, and extreme eye for the smallest details. Once I applied the skills learned from Mike and my business coach it was time to be known as “that guy” in this part of the world.

So now what was I going to rebrand my company to? Total 360 Photography was about providing a complete real estate marketing solution but removed me from the brand. Even though I had contract photographers working for me, every client dealt with me directly and most had trouble even remembering my company name. I often tried to send a contract photographer instead of me, but clients were insisting that I do the shoot myself.

I determined that my ideal clients weren’t always real estate agents but were architects, construction and renovation companies, interior designers, hotels, restaurants, and corporate businesses that used my services as well. Focusing only on the core skills that I really enjoyed, I knew I wanted to offer my clients only the best in Architectural, Interiors, and Commercial photography. Doing the quick and dirty, cheap real estate shoots that were often requested just wasn’t going to cut if for me.

Adding services that supported the new brand and dropping services that were no longer in line with the new brand was vital. Creating a new price that was more in line with the skills and value that I bring to my clients was crucial to the overall plan. Higher pricing in some areas also meant I would be spending more focused time providing the high quality service that I enjoyed. That had the extra bonus of eliminating clients that weren’t fully appreciative of the value that I bring to their business.

It became clear that like the vast majority of professional photographers, the brand had to be my name. The downside being that it wasn’t a company that I could easily sell when I’m ready to retire from business, something to seriously consider when you decide on a company name and branding strategy.

It was easy to apply for a business name change with the government name registry. Of course ‘Carsten Arnold Photography’ wasn’t taken and I had my approval within a day. This approval was needed to make the necessary changes to my bank account and credit card.

I considered hiring some of my local graphic design contacts to create the new logo but it was suggested to consider 99designs.ca, a web based service where designers from around the world create your designs in a competition based approach. Within 2 weeks I had 17 designers create 277 logo designs based on my criteria for about $500. You simply can’t get that from one single designer.

Now the website was another issue. I already had a great website created in WordPress with a really professional looking template. The company I use for my SEO work recommended I build an entirely new website instead of repurposing the one I had. Something about templates that aren’t SEO friendly according to them. My research showed that was the case for many templates however the one I used was very modern, mobile friendly, and guaranteed SEO friendly.

It was much simpler, faster and cheaper to repurpose an existing website and use a new logo, change the wording here and there, update my SEO to reflect the changes, and redirect the old domain name to the new one. For me it was about $2500 cheaper than building a new website from scratch. Don’t discount having a company who specializes in building websites however, my background includes digital media so it was fairly easy for me.

At one time I considered Photoshelter and SmugMug, two great platforms made just for photographers who offered some compelling reasons to move my site over to them. Being able to sell my prints online and have them delivered around the world was certainly interesting. After deciding to repurpose my existing site I purchased a WordPress plugin to sell my fine art prints on my own website.

The accounting side of things was fairly easy for me but might be a hassle for some. I called my accountant and he set it all up. If you do your own accounting, rebranding may be more of an issue. I highly recommend getting some help in this area.

Changing social media accounts can be a bit of a hassle. Facebook allows you to change the company name if you use one for your business. Changing the custom URL you created on Facebook may be an issue, I kept mine the same for now. With Twitter and Instagram it was also easy to change the username on the account and my @name. This can be confusing for your followers though.

Communicating all this to my client base was important. They needed to know what was going on and why. Once I made the decision to rebrand I casually mentioned it to select clients while on various assignments to gauge their interest and even get their advice. A week before making the changes I announced it to all my clients via email. Telling them why you’re making the change and how it will benefit them is important.

So was it worth all the effort? I’ve changed how I do business, who I do business with, and have become significantly better at delivering some of the best photography of my career. It was challenging and time consuming but ultimately I feel it will have been worth the effort to have my brand and the vision I have for my business in alignment. Time will tell if I am right.

 

 

Carsten Arnold
carsten@carstenarnold.com