Are you nourishing your brand? Or smothering it?

I married an English gardener. She's part artist, part scientist, part gentle guide and part tough taskmaster.

Over the years I've progressed step by step as her assistant. After hauling bag after bag of dark, pungent mulch to the flowerbeds I eventually was taught how and when to prune and clip and weed and deadhead.

I'm learning that each plant and flower requires its own particular amount of water, sunlight and space to thrive.

But it's only very recently that I've started to really appreciate how much the gardening process requires careful planning, exquisite patience and keen intuition.

Could these simple truths about gardening be applied to the business products and services we invent and launch and nurture?

Do you sit by your own business garden with a lovely cup of tea thinking that the brands you've created will grow on their own accord? Will other new brands in the marketplace (or even your company's other brands) take over the space your brand needs to grow?

How do you clip and weed and deadhead your brand? How and when should you give your brand more space to grow? How do you free up your brand's roots?

Simply put, when and how should you reinvent your brand?

Here are three simple steps inspired by my wife's flourishing English garden:

Step #1. Guide your brand

• Watch your brand and its surroundings carefully for the expected and the unexpected.

• Is the sun still shining on your brand space?

• In the fast-paced world we live in the smallest changes can often have profound effects. Has a new product changed consumer expectations in your category? Has the zeitgeist shifted so what was once trendy is now stale?

Step #2. Become your brand's tough taskmaster

• Don't hesitate to cut back and trim your brand so it can grow.

• A little bit of growth each year could be masking an approach that's really choking off your brand's oxygen.

• Is it time to re-examine your promises and results?

Step #3. Combine brand science with brand art

• Have you given your team the permission to experiment and the protocols to tinker and invent?

• Do your brand's roots have plenty of room to spread out? Have you dug deep and made sure that the roots of your connection to your customers have room to evolve.

• Is it time to listen to your customers and prospects again?

Photo Credit: flickr/Ivy Dawned