Lessons from Evernote: When to Expand Your Brand.

Evernote Is Branching Out.

evernote backpackThe startup and tech blogs were abuzz yesterday with the news of Evernote expanding its brand beyond the digital sphere. The company, that was once a humble productivity and organizational app, now offers physical products. Some of these offerings make sense, like notebooks, a scanner, and Post-It notes, but others, like socks, seem a bit too kitsch to make sense as a business move.

But kitsch or smart, one thing is clear, Evernote did not enter into the product market lightly. Evernote’s CEO Phil Libin plans the company’s moves six years in advance. Libin told the Verge that this year the company is focused on conversion and upselling – “We want to make the transition that this is something worth paying for.”

That’s a great goal, of course, but what people love most about Evernote is it’s ease of use and that it doesn’t cost a lot. This makes it appeal to a wide range of users. How many people will be willing to plunk down $200 for a backpack? Moreover, the Evernote Market seems to define the app’s user rather clearly, with little room for growth. Once the go-to app for broke college students, struggling freelancers or busy parents, Evernote now feels like a lifestyle brand exclusively made for the hipster executive.

Whether or not these choices will prove wise remains to be seen, but there are still a few lessons you can learn from Evernote about how to expand your brand.

Before You Branch Out….

Whether or not to diversify your place in the market, or to take over a new market, is a question almost every startup faces down the line. It’s also a benchmark of a thriving company. Before you expand your brand, consider these questions:

Why?

This question is so simple that it is often overlooked. You need to define the reasons behind your expansion and keep them in line with your overall vision for your company. For Evernote, their reasoning is that they want the people who use their app to spend more money. For you, it might be about outshining the competition, bringing a new idea into the marketplace or adding accessories that will improve an existing product. Whatever your reasons, make sure you know exactly what they are.

Who?

Evernote knows its customers. They are smart people who want to be more productive. Yet, before they jumped into offering physical products, they narrowed their customer base even more. They picked one subset and designed products for them. This can have its drawbacks, as we stated above, but it’s also smart because unless you have an overwhelming amount of funding, you can’t appeal to everyone right out of the gate.

Decide who will be using your new products. Will it be everyone in your current customer base? Will it be a subset of that base? Or will it be an entirely new demographic?

Where?

This is a question that’s already crossed your mind. Where are you going to sell your products? Will it be online or in physical stores? If it’s online, will you sell on your own website or partner with another site?

What?

evernote wallet

Just as you need to define your customer, you need to define your product. Evernote didn’t create just any wallet. It was well thought out, with efficiency, and the customer, in mind.

Evernote thought about other ways in which their customers work and stay productive. They offered new products that help them use these methods in conjunction with their existing product. Their partnership with 3M and the concept of digital Post-It notes is a great example of this. Evernote is creating a productivity ecosystem with many of its new products.

When you decide to expand your brand, consider it an ecosystem. Don’t branch out with completely different products. Make sure everything fits and works together.

When?

Running your own business is exciting. Expanding it is even more exciting. What’s not exciting though, is a failed expansion. Poor timing and bad planning are huge factors in product launch success. Evernote’s Libin thinks six years ahead. The steps to Evernote Market were methodical and strategically timed.

Your business needs to be ready for you to expand your brand. You need to have the customer base, the capital and the team to support it. Don’t get caught up in the excitement and expand before your business is ready.

We’re not sure yet how Evernote’s expansion will play out, but it’s an excellent case study in business growth.

What do you think of Evernote’s new products? Will $85 socks keep you productive?