Rebranding a SaaS startup

4 min read
Adam Lunn
  •  Feb 9, 2017
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In a fast-paced SaaS startup, branding is crucial for establishing an identity within a crowded marketplace. It helps to build a relationship with your customers, and it’s a great way of showing who you are and the product/service you’re offering.

So, what if you’ve built a successful brand… and you realize you need to change everything about it?

Cue mass panic.

That’s exactly what we did in 2016 when we rebranded our company from Receiptful to Conversio—with only 1 designer on a team of 14.

Why rebrand?

Some history: Back in 2014, Receiptful was born. Our goal was to help ecommerce store owners replace their default receipts with receipts that looked better, as well as add incentives like discount coupons and refer-a-friend links to help increase customer lifetime value.

As the company grew, we started to add lots of new features, such as abandoned cart emails, newsletters, and even search and recommendations widgets.

But we had a problem. We offered a whole range of marketing tools for ecommerce stores, but our company name still kept us firmly in the receipt business. Our brand no longer reflected our values.

Our name defined the tools we provided.

We had to change, so in 2016 we rebranded as Conversio. Here’s how we did it.

Step 1: Determining our core values

Whether you can see it, all brands have a strong list of core values behind them.

Related: How to discover your team’s core values

These core values are designed to help define a company both internally and externally:

  • How your team lives and breathes everything about your product
  • How customers view and interact with you

Back in 2015, while our entire team met up for a retreat, we decided it was time to create our own values:

  1. Honesty — we’re always honest with our customers and ourselves
  2. Passion — we love what what we do and show that in our product
  3. Independence — we’re decision- and location-independent; we run our business in our own way
  4. Curiosity — we’re always trying out new things and ways of helping our customers
  5. Rebellion — we’re never afraid to take big leaps

After aligning ourselves to these values, we started to see changes in the way we worked. We questioned ourselves more and tried to come up with better and more unique solutions to problems.

These values are integral to our company, so they were a great starting point for redefining our brand.

Step 2: The name

As a small startup, our brand and name are vital to our recognition within a crowded marketplace.

We’d had great success with our original name (Receiptful) because the name made it clear that we offered supercharged receipts for ecommerce stores.

When we expanded our range of products, that name just didn’t work any more. We needed a name that aligned with our target market, helped to inform customers of the services we offered, and was easy to remember.

“Company names should be memorable, informative, and aligned with a target market.”

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We started the renaming process by asking the team to help come up with suggestions about a new name and why they felt it worked. We created a spreadsheet and wrote down the names, along with the reasoning behind each one.

After a few rounds of ideas and deliberating, we narrowed down our choices to Conversio.

Step 3: Take a step back

After choosing a name, the designer in me wanted to start doodling immediately—we crave the ability to show how something looks and feels.

But I didn’t.

“Sometimes the best way forward is to take a step back.”

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I decided to get to the core of our new name—what it meant for us as a company and for our customers. In Latin, the word Conversio means “a turning round, revolving, revolution.”

Let’s break that down into its 3 parts:

  1. A turning around
  2. Revolving
  3. Revolution

Each part of the definition looks the same, but they can mean very different things. I grabbed some synonyms for each of the definitions in order to help collect some keywords about our new name.

  1. A turning around — Adapt, Adjust, Customize, Reshape, Tweak, Vary
  2. Revolving — Rotate, Roll, Spin, Turn Around, Twist
  3. Revolution — Shift, Transform, Cycle, Orbit, Change

What words mattered most to us and our customers? I landed on Adapt, Customize, Turn Around, Shift, Transform, Change.

These were the most important words for us because they symbolized exactly what we wanted to achieve for our customers: to transform and change their ecommerce marketing, with adaptable and customizable software that would help shift more products and help turn around to become more successful.

All of this seemed like a simple word exercise, but it really helped us—as a company—focus on who we are and how we want to be seen. And it eventually helped us come up with a simple tagline: Conversio: Sell More. Do Less.

Step 4: Get the crayons out

Now that we had the name and the beginnings of what that meant for us and our customers, I started to think about how the brand should look and feel. I found the best way to start was to look at what our competitors were doing.

I wanted to get a sense of how our competitors were communicating within a similar customer base, what seemed to work well, and what could be improved upon. It helped me clarify those important customer touch points and remain firmly within our target market—with the added simplicity and friendly tone we like convey to our customers.

“You don’t have to be better than your competitors. Just be different.”

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Once I knew all that, I looked solely at the word conversio. What do we think about when we hear it?

For me, it all boiled down to converting or changing something from one thing into another. So, I started to play with ideas around symbolizing conversions and changing, and I found that arrows play a crucial role in graphically representing how something changes from one thing to another (take a recycling logo, for example).

I needed to get my crayons out as soon as possible, so next I looked at colors and the psychology behind why certain colors work for certain brands. Taking some of our synonyms from before, I found that green was the most useful color for us. It feels positive, helps convey growth and trust, and it’s generally associated with stability and wealth.

Lastly, I needed to find a font.

Related: Designers’ favorite typefaces

With our old Receiptful logo, it was hard to read the company name when the logo was small. The old font was hand-drawn and then vectorized, so it also meant that the brand always felt a little disjointed from the UI it was placed upon.

I then had 3 goals with a font choice:

  • Make it stand out
  • Make it work at all sizes
  • Make it feel part of the UI of the app and website

I eventually went with Poppins, a bold, Swiss style font that works well at different sizes.

Now I just had to put it all together. Simple, right? Well, this part of the process took weeks—trying lots of different layouts and positions.


Step 5: Present to your team

So, confession time…

I did all of this work without telling anyone on my team that I was doing it.

“But why, Adam?”

I’m glad you asked.

If you communicate with your team on a chat platform like Slack, you may have noticed that opinions and thoughts can come thick and fast when you’re proposing something, and it can be hard to focus on something when the topic of conversation can quickly change.

“Being open and honest with your customers is good branding.”

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So I decided to build a presentation. A few reasons why:

  1. Presentations help everyone focus on their own time on one specific topic
  2. Presentations keep the conversation relevant, as everyone is on the same page after reading
  3. Presentations help convey a sense of excitement around a rebrand
  4. Presentations let me use even more animated GIFs in content

When I sent the presentation to the team, it not only helped keep our conversations relevant and precise, but it really brought everyone on board with the rebrand. Plus, it didn’t just feel like a designer playing with paint in the corner.

More importantly, though, this also laid the foundation for Adii Pienaar (Conversio founder) to create his own slide deck that laid out our new business strategy, aptly titled Breaking Bad (you can learn more here).

The goal with the rebranding and new Breaking Bad strategy was to better align everything we were saying, thinking, and doing to our core values.

In announcing our new brand to the public, Adii said:

“The monetary or marketing success of our rebrand is however very much a byproduct of us doing something very simple: Do Things. Tell Others.”

So if you’re thinking about rebranding or just improving your existing branding in an effort to level-up your business, here are a couple of things to consider:

Should you rebrand?

Designers love redesigns and rebrands because… new, shiny objects. More often than not, complete overhauls aren’t necessaryTwitter Logo and incremental, iterative changes are a better option. What helped us decide to rebrand:

  1. Our brand confused our customers because there was a gap between what the brand suggested and the product offered. This created a lot of friction for us in explaining our product value to new customers, which hindered our business goals.
  2. Our brand had not evolved and grown at the same pace as the team itself. It felt a little stale in the way that it didn’t represent our core values and most passionate ideas anymore.
  3. We also discussed keeping our existing name and just redesigning everything about ourselves: the product, our website, the logo, and all of our messaging. We didn’t feel that this would’ve given us the desired outcome, but from a cost-benefit perspective this was a good discussion for us to have.

How could you improve your brand?

This is something we’re clear about: our brand can’t just be about the things we design and say; our brand is about what we do and the types of humans we are in our everyday actions.

“A brand should be a visual representation of a business’s core values.”

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We’ve experienced that when our actions align perfectly with every aspect of our business (sales, marketing, customer support, product development, etc.). We start building authentic and powerful relationships with both prospective and existing customers.

The simplest way to think about improving your brand, then, is to continuously keep everything about your brand and activities in close alignment.Twitter Logo Think about your core values and most passionate ideas.

Are you living and communicating those things in every customer interaction? How does your marketing website’s messaging compare to your conversations with customers on sales calls or in answering support tickets? If there’s a big difference in these things, then that’s the best place to refine your branding.

Similarly, how does the new product feature release compare with your help documentation? Is it obvious that you put your heart and soul into designing a beautiful new feature, but that the help documentation almost seems like a sloppy afterthought? What does this say about your brand?

Before we got to the point of releasing and leveraging our new brand, the rebranding process helped us clarify and define the things that were most important to us, as well as the things that will drive us forward.

Today Conversio is a better company for that.

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