VISIONS – Magazine of the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce

Since 1862, the Troy Belting & Supply Company has provided products and services to help other industries succeed. In the early days, it furnished local manufacturers, mills, breweries, ironworks factories and horse-and-buggy companies with leather belting, harnesses and other supplies.

Jason W. Smith was named president of the business in January. His grandfather, Ray L. Smith, started as an errand boy in 1922, eventually becoming sales manager and then president in 1948. Jason’s father took over in 1968, and his mother Karen became director in 1997. After nine years as president, Karen now serves as chairman and treasurer.

The company celebrated its 150th anniversary in October with a big announcement. After a century and a half, the company now heads into the future with a new name: Troy Industrial Solutions.

“The new name is the culmination of years of preparation and discussion,” says general manager David R. Barcomb. “It is part of a long-term strategic plan that allows us to bring our name up to date with the products and services we provide for today’s businesses.”

Jason Smith described how the company has grown, developing new divisions to meet growing industrial needs. “Our sales team struggles to explain who we are to new customers who come to us for work that has nothing to do with belting,” he said. “We are a broad industrial solutions provider, and we needed a name that better fits who we are now.”

“This company has made an impact on our region going back to the industrial revolution,” says Steve Banis, director of client strategy at Burst Marketing. Burst  provides marketing support and strategy to Troy Belting as they navigate the waters of re-branding and name change.

SAFEKEEPING THE BRAND

Because local and existing customers know the company and its abilities, Troy Belting needed to preserve that recognizable brand throughout the name-change process.

“When we pull up to a security gate, we  often hear the person say, ‘The people from Troy are here,’” Barcomb said. “Or, if there are problems, they say, ‘Give the people at Troy a call.’ So, we already have that Troy identity, but we couldn’t build a national brand on that one word. We’d be confused with the city and other things. The folks at Burst gave us various derivatives of our existing name, and we chose the ideas we liked best and expanded on them.”

As part of this process, the company began to emphasize “Troy” in their logo, making it the most prominent feature.

“In making this kind of change, if you have brand equity or identity, you have to be sure to retain that,” Banis said. “We didn’t want to lose any momentum built with Troy’s existing brand, and we want to carry that with us as we move forward.”

FIRST STEPS

Companies that are contemplating a brand or name change need to fully understand their customers’ perception of who they are and what they offer.

Because human nature may prevent a customer from telling you the whole truth, many companies go to an outside resource to conduct research through surveys and focus groups.

“The most important question to ask yourself is, What is your highest and best promise that you make to your customers and potential customers?” Banis says.

Burst has learned that one of the biggest mistakes a company can make is to reject the research. “You have to take your ego out of the process,” Banis says. “It can be especially difficult for an entrepreneur or family business owner to step away from his or her own perceptions of the company and listen to feedback that may strike an emotional chord. I’ve seen companies where the owners refuse to believe what the research marketplace or competition says is true, even in the face of the business’ stagnation or declining growth.”

Karen Smith can identify. “You have to remain open to opportunity and change. When our executive management team came to me with the plan to change the name, I was reluctant. We’ve been around a long time, and we’ve been successful. Many of our 67 employees have been here 35 years or more, and I didn’t want to risk alienating them. But when I realized to what degree the company had grown and changed, I had to open my mind to the possibility of changing to a better name — for the good of the company. We are well-known in this area, but as we strived to penetrate new markets, our name was a barrier.”

“In today’s world, marketing is much more personal,” Banis says. “You can’t just say who you are and what you do and expect your customers to pick and choose from your offerings. You need to be more relevant by telling them what your business can do for them specifically. It’s a different mindset in which you identify your customer’s needs, and then align your products and services with those needs.”

“Evolution and change in a company is healthy, and it shows progress,” Jason Smith says. “But change for the sake of change isn’t worth it. There has to be a quantifiable, justifiable reason for what you are doing. We aren’t making this change because we, all of a sudden, decided to have a new name. There was a real reason behind the change, and if that’s the case, changing is a sign of good health.”

November/December 2012