Our recent corporate and product rebrand from RentPro to Tilt Property Software has been well received but one question keeps popping up in conversations. Why did we need to rebrand? Many people thought the original brand was just fine. To understand why it wasn’t working for us, and why we decided to change, let’s step right back to the start of our story.
Like most companies, our journey started out in quite a different time and place. In 2004 when Diarmid and Brian established the business, we worked on bespoke web application software projects, anything from e-commerce websites to complex back-office management systems. One of those projects was for a local letting agent here in Northern Ireland, and at the time it was “just another project”. Then a second letting agency saw it and wanted it too. Then another, and another, and quickly we realised we had a product on our hands. That original small-scale project bears little resemblance to the products we now offer, but that was the basis of our business.
It was great that we accidentally discovered our first product, but the downside of that was that it didn’t have a name so we had to quickly pluck one from the air – RentPro. Admittedly that was a much easier task in the fledgling property management software world of the early 2000s. Our original company’s name, K-Point Internet Solutions, didn’t exactly trip off the tongue either, but we weren’t thinking about that at the outset. RentPro just evolved over the next few years till its success prompted us to set up its own separate company, RentPro Limited. No obvious problem so far – a company called RentPro with a single product called RentPro dealing with property rentals – simple! But wait…
The property market saw a seismic shift (read “catastrophe”) in 2008 with the UK housing market crashing at rates never seen before. While the private rental sector expanded, the nation’s estate agents bore the brunt of the drop-off in house sales. Many of them turned their attention to rentals, but since their backgrounds were in property sales they naturally kept their toes in that pool awaiting the market recovery. For a couple of years we kept our focus on residential lettings management, but as more estate agents started using our lettings package they voiced their requirements for a software solution to deal with both sales and lettings. Our second product was born, but what to call it?
We settled on the name ShowHouse, software to help letting and estate agents excel and manage their sales and lettings portfolios with ease. It would have been a great name for a product dealing exclusively with the sale of new properties, but its features in relation to residential lettings management was lost in the title. That only became evident in hindsight. There was an understandable perception that it was property sales software only, and we found it was completely overlooked by the very agents for which it was designed, those doing both lettings and sales. We also lost count of the number of variations of the product name we have heard along the way – “I’m trialling your Showcase software”, “can you tell me more about your Showhome”… I think we even started calling it other names ourselves!
With the company called RentPro and a well-established product of the same name, sometimes prospective customers just didn’t see past that brand. Indeed, many were unaware that we even had other products. By now we had a third software product for the social housing sector, focussed primarily on the requirements of housing associations in the Republic of Ireland. Website visitors were naturally drawn to the RentPro name and we became increasingly aware that the other products weren’t getting a fair chance. That identity issue wasn’t going to be easy to fix. We didn’t want to just make a snap decision but we knew we had to change it sooner or later.
It eventually got to the point where every conversation we had on the phone, at trade shows and exhibitions, and any networking event was being prefaced with an apology for the confusion about which product may be right for that agency. And that’s the conversations we were able to have – we had an uneasy feeling that enquiries were being missed altogether. After one explanation too many it was crunch time!
In early 2018 we engaged with Invest NI, Northern Ireland’s regional economic development agency, and through a close partnership with Belfast-based Morrow Communications we devised the new corporate and product brands and successfully rolled these out in March 2019.
For our existing customers looking in from the outside, the rebrand of the company and products may have seemed unnecessary, but in the few months since its launch it has made our conversations with prospective customers much easier and clearer. We now have a fresh, new, exciting brand which is strong and versatile enough for us to build upon in the years to come.
Co-founder of the company, Diarmid is the product lead on the Elevate product, but is also heavily involved in the technical design of all Tilt products.