This week on NVTC’s blog, Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Research and Communications introduces her 8 part series of principles for responsible data stewardship to help guide behavioral change that will preserve customer good will and trust.


An Introduction.

At what may be the dawn of a radical new era of technologically-driven marketing capability, I have been wondering – is enough ever going to be enough for the people being marketed to? People love their apps. They love online shopping. They love free stuff. They love connecting digitally to their friends and family 24-7. Even the growing stream of data breaches doesn’t seem to have much of a behavior-changing effect.

But the game is accelerating. Predictive intent, always the brass ring of marketing, is becoming ever-more precise, thanks to unprecedented analytics capabilities, Big Data, and soon-to-be connected everything. We may be heading toward something like on-demand lizard-brain manipulation — with marketing suggesting what people are going to want to buy before they are consciously aware of it themselves — with greater and greater accuracy on the timing of when a desire will manifest. That’s a future vision I don’t think many people understand.

So I thought I’d pose a simple question. Dialog recently conducted a study in which respondents were asked how they’d like marketers to behave in a predictive analytics world, mining data from the places the respondents digitally engage – willingly or not, knowingly or not. Respondents ranged in age from 30 to late 60s. They were male and female. They were all Americans, except for one subject of Her Majesty. Most have a college degree, a few have a Master’s, and a few work (or worked) in marketing-related jobs. They all willingly and regularly participate in the digital economy. And they all sense a lack of control over data about themselves.

One of the things that most struck me was that people have a general, vague awareness that ‘they’ are tracking everything about us. But less clear is who ‘they’ are or what’s being done with the data. Although I asked for gut reactions, what I got instead from the great majority were thoughtful, detailed and impassioned responses. Clearly this topic pushes a button. There is a growing undercurrent of discomfort. A general discomfort will get quickly channeled to any particular brand that pushes too far. Several respondents expressed (unprompted) anger at particular brands they felt disrespect their relationship. Given the huge investment required to build positive brand reputation, active customer anger should be every marketer’s (and CEO’s) nightmare.

The patterns that emerged from all of the respondents’ feedback were clear. It’s time to change behaviors. A lot of them. In the interest of something actionable, Dialog will offer NVTC members over the next few weeks a series of 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship to help guide behavioral change that will preserve customer good will and trust. I request and welcome thoughts and feedback to further this important discussion.

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Is It Time for Your Technology Firm to Rebrand?

August 26th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Elizabeth Harr of Hinge Marketing discusses 12 signs that it’s time for your technology company to rebrand.


Your technology firm’s brand is your most valuable asset. But many firms don’t make effective use of their brand or — worse — don’t have a well-developed brand in the first place.

To begin, let’s discuss just what your technology firm’s brand is all about. Branding is a large concept, but can be broken down into a fairly simple and digestible equation:

Your brand = Your reputation x Your visibility

Your brand is the totality of how your audience sees, talks about, and experiences your firm. This combines everything from your firm’s visual branding—like your logo and web design—to each idea, strategy and interaction you use to connect with prospects and clients.

Yet having a strong brand isn’t just about making your firm more recognizable to potential clients. In addition, a well-developed brand can help your technology firm accomplish the following:

  • Attract clients more easily by generating more qualified leads and closing more sales
  • Attract potential future business partners
  • Command higher fees than competitors with weaker branding
  • Attract top talent to work at your firm
  • Set a higher standard for the daily operational performance of your firm

But despite all these advantages, if you’re like many technology firms, you’ve probably been able to grow without having a well thought out brand development strategy. Your growth has come fairly naturally, thanks to your referral network and the acquisition of a few major contracts.

However, this passive strategy is rarely sustainable over time. To continue growing or to accelerate your growth, it’s time to start making your firm’s brand work for you.

12 Signs It’s Time for Your Technology Firm to Rebrand

If you think your technology firm may be ready for a rebrand, but you aren’t quite sure, here are 12 questions you can ask yourself to help make your decision:

Are you getting fewer leads than in the past?

When your leads begin decreasing, it may be a good sign that your brand is no longer resonating with prospects. Rebranding can help your firm appeal to your audiences.

Are you entering a new market?

Entering into a new market is the perfect time to start fresh with a new brand. You can reestablish the strength of your brand alongside your new competitors.

Are you introducing new services?

When your firm goes through a significant change, you want to make sure your brand still reflects your firm’s new focus. If it doesn’t, it may be the perfect time for a rebrand.

Has your firm’s growth slowed or stopped?

This could be an indicator that it’s time to switch things up with a stronger and more carefully developed brand that clearly communicates your expertise and capabilities.

Have new competitors entered the marketplace?

A changing marketplace and new competition may mean your current branding will no longer do the trick. Undergoing a rebrand can help you stand up to changing demands.

Does your visual brand look tired compared to the competition?

If all of your competitors have moved forward with a strengthened brand, you don’t want to be left behind. Your firm’s visual branding elements (like your name, logo, tagline, and colors) communicate your brand and should be reviewed periodically for updates and consistency.

Do you struggle to describe how your firm is different?

Having a specialty or something to differentiate your firm from the competition is an important part of connecting with your target audience. A well thought out brand is the first step is portraying what makes your firm special.

Are you losing a higher percentage of competitive bid situations than in the past?

This is a strong indicator that it’s time to make a change. Measuring your current success against past victories can provide valuable insight into how your firm is continuing to grow.

Has your firm changed significantly since you last adjusted your brand?

Growth and change are inevitable—just make sure your brand continues to grow and evolve along with your firm.

Are you struggling to attract top talent?

In order to be a top technology firm, you need to have top talent working for you. If a weak brand is keeping your firm from attracting top employees, it might be time to rebrand.

Have your clients changed considerably?

You originally developed your brand with a specific client base in mind. And now those clients have changed. Their challenges and needs might have changed — and they may be searching for service providers differently. Your firm’s brand should change with them.

Are you trying to figure out how to take your firm to the next level?

If you’ve been asking yourself how you can accelerate your firm’s growth or reach the next level of your potential, a fresh rebranding could be the right place to get started.

If you nodded along to questions on this list, then you have your answer: it’s time for a rebrand. While it may initially be a challenge to get your firm executives and decision makers on board for your rebrand, an honest assessment and clear-cut plan can help overcome any initial internal reluctance. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but the benefits of rebranding will be well worth it.


Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of The Visible Expert, Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.

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Bitcoin: What are the U.S. Tax Implications?

May 26th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

Although many critics are already considering Bitcoin irrelevant or even dead, technology behind Bitcoin is here to stay. This week on NVTC’s blog, John Calanog of member company CohnReznick LLP discusses the basic U.S. tax implications of using the Bitcoin currency.


In my first blog on the subject, I described Bitcoin and its increasing popularity as an alternative currency.  As the digital currency is becoming more and more prevalent in the marketplace, and for those already exchanging Bitcoins, the following article discusses the basic U.S. tax implications of using the currency. Although there may also be Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) and Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) compliance requirements, that is not covered in this blog.

What is the U.S. Taxation?

On March 25, 2014, the IRS released guidance in Notice 2014-21 explaining that Bitcoin would be treated as “property” and not as “currency” for federal income tax purposes.  From a practical standpoint, this means that gains and losses on the disposition of Bitcoin will not be treated as “exchange gain or loss” and will not be ordinary in character.  This is bad news for investors who hold depreciated Bitcoin and were hoping to take exchange losses as ordinary losses. However, it is good news for investors who hold appreciated Bitcoin and prefer capital gains treatment.

For those holding Bitcoin for sale in a trade or business (i.e., for “miners”  [1] and “dealers”), income resulting from the sale of such Bitcoin may be taxed as ordinary income.  However, for most investors who merely “trade” in Bitcoin, gains or losses will likely be capital and not ordinary.

From a tax compliance standpoint, the taxpayer has the burden of keeping a record of their tax basis in the Bitcoin and determining the fair market value of the Bitcoin at the time they seek to sell or otherwise dispose of it.  Fortunately, most exchanges and e-wallets have been implementing tools that enable customers to receive the needed documentation.  Still, users without any obtainable records should seek professional tax advice as they are likely going to need to estimate their tax liability from the records they do have on file.

Virtual Currency as Net Earnings from Self-Employment

A taxpayer who receives virtual currency, such as Bitcoin, as payment for services has gross income equal to the fair market value (“FMV”) of the currency, in U.S. dollars, as of the date of receipt.

Moreover, an independent contractor who receives virtual currency for performing services has self-employment income.  The amount of the income is the FMV of the currency, in U.S. dollars, as of the date of receipt.

If a taxpayer’s “mining” of virtual currency is a trade or business and is not undertaken as an employee, the net earnings from self-employment from that activity is treated as self-employment income.

Additional Tax Considerations

There may also be filing FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, (FBAR) or Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) reporting requirements.  However, that is beyond the scope of this blog.

Conclusion

Bitcoin has only been around for six years (since 2009) and many critics are already considering it irrelevant or even dead.  However, such pessimism is missing the point.  The technology behind Bitcoin is here to stay.  And that technology is likely to become more significant as developers create new and improved versions.

With the IRS issuing a Notice to give guidance for the tax treatment of this means of exchange suggests that Bitcoin is a real and lasting phenomenon. Technology companies and others using the Internet will need to deal with it in the future.  Our monetary system was not originally designed for the internet or for globalized trading.  This is where Bitcoin comes in – as a truly globalized currency.

_________________________________________________________________________________

The content of this article is intended to provide a general commentary on the subject.  Please seek the advice of a tax professional regarding your specific circumstances.

John Calanog, CPA, is a Tax Manager with CohnReznick LLP and is a member of the Firm’s Technology Industry Practice.  John’s experiences over the last fifteen years include U.S. tax compliance and consulting for C Corporations, S Corporations, Partnerships, and high net worth individuals who operate businesses in a wide variety of industries and taxing jurisdictions.  Contact John at john.calanog@cohnreznick.com. Follow CohnReznick’s Technology Practice on Twitter via @CR_TechInd


[1]Mining is the verification process of running mathematical operations on digital data in order to validate transactions and provide the requisite security for the public ledger of the Bitcoin network. The speed at which you mine is measured in hashes per second.

The Bitcoin network compensates “miners” for their effort by releasing Bitcoin to those who contribute the needed computational power. This comes in the form of both newly issued coin and from the transaction fees included in the transactions they validate when mining. The more computing power that is contributed, the greater their share of the reward.

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This week on NVTC’s blog, John Calanog of member company CohnReznick LLP  offers an overview of Bitcoin in the first of two blog posts on the subject.


Despite the fact that there are nearly 14 million Bitcoins in circulation, most people are not using this newest form of currency. In fact, the vast majority of the population has never even heard of Bitcoin. But that is changing – and changing quickly.

This article – the first of two on this subject – offers an overview of Bitcoin. The second article will analyze a number of U.S. tax implications related to the usage of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin: A Virtual Currency

Bitcoin is, quite simply, a virtual currency. It is a digital representation of money that can be used to purchase goods and services like cash. But Bitcoin differs from cash in that it is not backed by any bank or nation, is unregulated, and has no formal organizational structure behind it. Instead, Bitcoin is supported entirely by a peer-to-peer (“P2P”) network of individuals who manage balances and transactions on their own. Bitcoin functions as an online payment platform with reduced fees when compared to other online payment forms.

In the past few years, Bitcoin values have fluctuated $247 per Bitcoin to over $1,000. As of publication of this article, the 14 million Bitcoins in circulation are worth nearly $3.5 billion.

How Does Bitcoin Work?

To create a digital currency with no centralized organization backing the transactions, Bitcoin was designed so that its users verify and complete transactions. This is done through Bitcoin’s “blockchain,” which is essentially a chronological log of every confirmed transaction that occurs between Bitcoin addresses. Using cryptography, Bitcoin creates mathematical proofs and records to secure the blockchain and safeguard a user’s transaction. These proofs are verified by users who have software that processes (“mines”) the blocks that are part of the blockchain.

The Bitcoin system transmits transactions to the network almost immediately and verifies them within the hour. The mining process helps to create the ledger of payments with Bitcoins. This also helps to ensure that double spending, or a user’s attempt to send the same Bitcoins to two people simultaneously, is prevented.  In this way, users contribute directly to Bitcoin, supporting the currency’s well-being.

Bitcoin in the Marketplace

Because Bitcoin technology is extremely complex, use of Bitcoin was originally limited to those with software expertise and a unique interest in alternative currencies. As the currency has become more widely accepted, an ecosystem of service providers has developed to facilitate transactions. Now, just about anyone can participate, even those without a technical understanding of the currency.  The ecosystem is still evolving and now includes retailers, payment processors, banks, e-wallet companies, trading solutions, and currency exchanges.

Some very well-known companies are among those that support Bitcoins. They include Microsoft, Dell, Overstock.com, Virgin Galactic, Sacramento Kings of the NBA, Amazon.com, Reddit, Expedia.com, PayPal, eBay, Tesla, Etsy Vendors, and Time, Inc. Even some professional services firms, including law firms and accounting firms, now accept Bitcoin.

How Does a Business Do Business Using Bitcoins?

To accept Bitcoins as payment, a business sets up a merchant account with a Bitcoin exchange.  From there, the business can issue invoices and receive payments in Bitcoins, convert them to dollars (or local currency), and then transfer them to its bank account.

If the business is not interested in converting Bitcoins to local currency, it can hold on to its Bitcoins and trade them. The business can register for a free online e-wallet, such as Blockchain.info. It can then give anyone its Bitcoin e-wallet address, and customers can remit Bitcoins as payment. The business has the ability to send its Bitcoins to any other e-wallets across the globe.

Bitcoin Exchanges

There are numerous Bitcoin exchanges on the web. They enable customers to convert physical currency into Bitcoins and vice versa. Increasingly, exchanges are offering a greater number of services including a range of both fiat (i.e., face value currency) and crypto-currencies, as well as various trading tools.

Bitcoin exchanges have fallen under scrutiny as one of the world’s first Bitcoin exchanges, Mt. Gox, mysteriously lost 850,000 Bitcoins. This left the exchange insolvent and many customers out-of-pocket. Many Bitcoin traders have since become wary of these exchanges, yet the exchanges continue to thrive. Four of today’s major Bitcoin exchanges include Coinbase, Bitstamp, BTC-e and Cryptsy. In January of this year, Coinbase launched the first regulated Bitcoin Exchange in the U.S in an effort to add stability to the Bitcoin ecosystem.

Looking Ahead

It appears that Bitcoin is a real and lasting game-changer. It has globalized currency with capabilities beyond our current monetary system. CohnReznick looks forward to monitoring the future impact of Bitcoin, and other virtual currencies, on businesses and the financial markets.

_________________________________________________________________________________

The content of this article is intended to provide a general commentary on the subject.  Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

John Calanog, CPA, is a Tax Manager with CohnReznick LLP and is a member of the Firm’s Technology Industry Practice.  John’s experiences over the last fifteen years include U.S. tax compliance and consulting for C Corporations, S Corporations, Partnerships, and high net worth individuals who operate businesses in a wide variety of industries and taxing jurisdictions.  Contact John at john.calanog@cohnreznick.com. Follow CohnReznick’s Technology Practice on Twitter via @CR_TechInd

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NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, the NVTC Digital Strategy Committee writes about the group’s recent event on digital strategy and public safety, featuring Fairfax City Fire Department Chief Richard R. Bowers, and how it revealed several very interesting and useful challenges for the NOVA business community.


The Northern Virginia Technology Council’s (NVTC) Digital Strategy Committee (#nvtcdigstrat) recent event regarding Digital Strategy and Public Safety, featuring Richard R. Bowers – Chief, Fairfax Fire Department – revealed several very interesting and useful challenges for the NOVA business community.Not least of which was the current challenges around focused, resourced digital strategy planning across the County constituent agencies, and among local jurisdictions.Many targeted capabilities and improvements in “front-end” digital tools, outreach and engagement, plus initiatives on the “back-end” to handle system-specific data and information management are certainly underway, but information-sharing among the public safety stakeholders – businesses, government and the public – remains a strategic planning, governance and education hurdle to address. In other words, a B2G2C digital strategy challenge.NVTC Digital Strategy with Fairfax Fire Chief Richard Bowers

“Simplicity” was a key concept – that seems hard to maintain in the first responder settings, particularly with the profusion of both new technology equipment and situational data. Chief Bowers illustrated the challenge with local EMS responders – on route or on scene -having to quickly use and interact with at least 5 separate kinds of equipment:

  • EPCR (Electronic Patient Care Reporting)
  • CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch)
  • MDC (Mobile Data Computers)
  • NCR (National Capital Region) Patient Tracking System
  • Mobile Phones, iPads and Radios

The variety of interfaces, variety of data granulation, variety of authentication methods – it all adds up to what can be a burdensome expectation on responders, which creates higher risk in areas of data quality and security, process coordination and mission efficiency. This hinders, therefore, the ability of the entire responder community to deliver optimal outcomes – in spite of the number and types of technologies available and in use.

Furthermore, as the technologies available to both the responders and the public become more pervasive, easy to operate and use – for collecting or contributing incident reporting, sensory feedback and overall situational awareness data – it’s simply too difficult to add these inputs to the mix in a way that avoids information overload, or worse, information degradation or errors. There’s no common information architecture that anticipates a proliferation of device inputs, mobile and social channels.

A standard “dashboard” visualization service for use in the field, to quickly access the various systems and growing information sources, was also mentioned as a highly-desirable capability – particularly a dashboard to sensitive systems and protected information in a BYOD environment – i.e. on personal cellphones or tablets. A related need surfaced above the actual dashboard of the response vehicles and fire engines – actually having “heads up” display on the windshield of incident information, particularly GPS and route data.

Fairfax 2015 Police and Fire Games

The Committee was also briefed on the upcoming World Police and Fire Games, coming to Fairfax County at the end of June this year (2015). It’s anticipated that over 12,000 athletes and family/guests (over 30,000 in all) will attend the games, and that Fairfax County will experience tremendous global attention, regional pride and local economic benefit from hosting the event. Over 2000 volunteer slots remain open, along with many sponsorship opportunities for businesses, organizations or individuals. The Fairfax 2015 Games Website maintains all information for athletes and all other participants, from local accommodations and event venues, to a robust social community and online marketplace.

The NVTC Digital Strategy Committee looks forward to more collaboration sessions with the Northern Virginia public safety and First Responder community, and will continue to support information-sharing about B2G2C digital strategies.

Thanks to the NVTC event sponsors, speakers, coordinators and volunteers, including:

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On April 10, the NVTC Business Development, Marketing and Sales Committee held an event entitled “Lead Generation Technology Forum: How to Maximize Your Pipeline.” The event featured a distinguished panel of industry experts and end users, and offered ways to utilize automated marketing and lead generation solutions. John Beveridge, a vice chair of the committee, shares insights from the event below.


The business buying process has changed: a recent study by the Corporate Executive Board found that the average business buyer completes 57 percent of her sales process before ever contacting a salesperson. The NVTC Business Development, Marketing and Sales Committee recently held an event to help business deal with this new business reality.

Marketing executives from Deltek and Sonatype, along with industry representatives from Marketo and Vocus shared their thoughts and experiences on using marketing automation technologies to fill their pipelines and nurture their leads through the customer acquisition process.

The panel shared several insights with the audience:

  • Digital marketing is a process, not a product. Companies starting out with lead generation technology will need to transform their approach. You may need to reconfigure your team’s skills and learn new technologies to successfully implement a digital marketing process.
  • Prior to starting a digital marketing program, it’s important to know who you want to reach and to make sure you have the technology tools to accomplish your mission.
  • Digital, or inbound, marketing is based on the premise of attraction. It matches the modern buying process by providing potential buyers with educational content as they perform pre-purchase research.
  • One of the primary advantages of digital marketing is that it provides intelligence on your lead’s behaviors, which empowers sales people with information to make their outreaches more meaningful to buyers.
  • Digital marketing simplifies the marketing process by automating tasks like email marketing, lead nurturing and lead scoring.
  • Educational content like blogs, whitepapers, eBooks, webinars and videos are the fuel that runs lead generation technology. Companies considering digital marketing need to create high-quality content that educates their audiences and helps move them to a buying decision.
  • Digital marketing software lets companies measure every element of their lead generation process and optimize their process based on marketplace feedback.

Interesting in learning more about lead generation technology and other business development issues? Become a member of the NVTC Business Development, Marketing and Sales Committee.

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