We recently rebranded our software package from AIMcrm to Marketing Optimizer. Rebranding an established product is time-consuming, and risky. Before we made any changes we looked at the investment that would be needed for the software rebranding, and the return we would get from our investment.

Beginning the software rebranding process.

The process of determining that we needed to rebrand started when I met with my marketing manager to go over the previous quarter’s sales numbers. They were low, and the reason for the low sales wasn’t obvious. We were generating ‘good’ leads, in that they were generally interested in our product and many went as far as to sit through a lengthy demonstration of the software. For some reason, though, they were choosing to go with software from companies that we don’t really believe are our competitors: salesforce.com, zoho.com, sugarcrm.com, etc… Even though we could provide them with what they wanted, it still felt as though few of our leads were well qualified.

It didn’t take long to realize the problem.

It didn’t matter how well we describe our product to our prospective clients, or how clearly they understand its functionality, because as long as it carried the moniker of AIMcrm our advertising will always generate leads that want CRM software. At the end of the sales process the prospects were choosing to purchase software products that truly were CRM software products, which our software is not (not really).

We offer CRM as a feature of our software, but our software is truly a marketing analytics and automation suite that includes functionality for sales people to work the leads within the system. Even that functionality shouldn’t really be described as CRM, but would more accurately be described as ‘sales Lead management’.

Why did we ever put CRM in the name?

Good question, and one with a simple answer.

  1. The CRM market was/is growing quickly, and grabbing even a small piece of it would make the software a great success.
  2. People know what CRM is, and they search for it.
  3. We were going to evolve the software over time into a more complete CRM product that included the other marketing features as a way to differentiate.

Why did this fail?

One simple reason: the software didn’t evolve into a more complete CRM product. Our client’s needs and our in-house needs required us to naturally evolve the features in such a way that the product became an incredible combination of many marketing data tracking features and full-fledged marketing automation features using the tracked data for automated decision-making. The CRM side of the software features didn’t grow much at all. Almost all the development was focused on tracking, filtering, and automating.

How we decided on the new brand.

I happened to stumble on two articles that had great influence on my decision that we really needed to pivot away from CRM and rebrand the software. The first was an interview with Max Hoat, the founder of LiveStream.com, and the man behind one of the more famous rebrandings in recent history. He successfully rebranded Mogulus into the well-recognized LiveStream.com brand, and spoke about the process here.

The second is a blog post by Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOmoz and a thought leader in the Internet marketing industry. He wrote an article on domain name selection here. The important piece of this post for me was this:

When someone hears about your domain name for the first time, they should be able to instantly and accurately guess at the type of content that might be found there. That’s why I love domain names like Hotmail.com, CareerBuilder.com, AutoTrader.com and WebMD.com. Domains like Monster.com, Amazon.com and Zillow.com (whom I usually praise) required far more branding because of their un-intuitive names.

This rang true for me, and it immediately narrowed my choices to those that described the software in such a way that our market would understand what the software was and its intended use.

We had no idea how to describe the product in a domain name.

Was it marketing automation? Was it web analytics? Lead management? We knew that we couldn’t choose any single feature of the software as the brand. That would make all the other features in the system seem like bundled add-ons. We knew from experience that the more features of the software our client’s use, the better the improvements in their marketing results, so we didn’t want to make the software appear that it has a singular core feature. The combination of features working together is what makes it special.

Deciding on a descriptive name was an extremely difficult process. Maybe it was hard for me because I coded much of the software personally (my development team deserves much credit also). Maybe it was difficult for me because I had been describing and pitching the product for years, and couldn’t think outside my own habits. I don’t know what caused the blockage, but it was there, and it was long-lasting.

Then I had a conversation with Joel Harvey at Conversion Sciences, and we were going over analytics and strategy for a mutual client. We talked about some of the software that he uses as his tools, and ways that we could integrate some of the data that those tools provide (specifically A/B and Multivariate testing) into AIMcrm and associate that data with the sales cycle (and therefore revenue).

So I told him that I would add those features to the software, and a few days later it was done. I quickly realized that this feature made possible the integration with almost every A/B testing and landing page optimization software on the market. Combine that with the phone tracking system that integrates with essentially every web analytics software on the market, and you have a system that tracks the entire pre-conversion process and associates it with the sales process. We are taking all this data and using it as part of a more holistic marketing optimization process.

And there it was! Marketing Optimizer.Marketing Optimizer

I check to see if domain names are available all the time, as I’m sure many entrepreneurs and web marketers do. I didn’t believe that I had turned the world upside-down with this domain name, I just thought it was a good fit. I typed the domain name (www.marketingoptimizer.com) into my browser, and saw that it was for sale. I immediately called the owner to for the asking price and he responded promptly. As more time passed (we are talking hours and days, not weeks and months) I began to feel more optimistic about the domain and its fit with our product and business as a whole.

It wasn’t long and I became convinced that this was the perfect domain for the product. It was long and a tiny bit ambiguous (marketing optimization isn’t clearly defined to most people), but it was also descriptive of the product, and a clear complement to our consultation business. It was always tricky to try to shoehorn in a CRM software product to SEO and marketing consultation clients, but asking them to implement Marketing Optimizer makes perfect sense.

So I negotiated a price and purchased the domain. Before the domain was even in my registrar account I had my entire team going through existing marketing material and changing the brand. We updated the website; we updated all the advertisements… It actually turned out to be less work than I originally thought it would be. There are still some technical issues that need to be resolved, but none pressing.

Our hope is that when our market reaches out to us to learn more about the product, that they do it with expectations that they will learn about a product that seeks to optimize their marketing, and that we never again have anyone telling us that they just need ‘something to keep track of their contacts’. We also expect that the people looking for this product will also be in the market for consultation.

I’ll update everyone soon to let you know how it’s going with the new brand. I look forward to community feedback on the new logo, domain name, and overall brand. Let us know what you think.