Growth Companies Benefit From Final Crowdfunding Rules

December 8th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Alex Castelli of NVTC member CohnReznick shares how the SEC’s adoption of new crowdfunding rules could be a game changer for growth-focused businesses and investors.


The SEC’s adoption of new crowdfunding rules could be a game changer for growth-focused businesses and investors

On Oct. 30, 2015, the SEC approved final rules that permit companies to offer and sell securities through crowdfunding. The new rules provide another capital raising option for growth-oriented companies and offer additional options for investors who want to get in on the ground floor of in what could be a very successful business.

Benefits to Companies and Investors

Some of the key benefits of the SEC’s rules permitting crowdfunding or, simply put, the ability of companies to raise capital from the general public through the Internet are listed below.

  • Early-stage and growth companies that may be unable or unwilling to raise capital from institutional or private investors have access to another source of capital.
  • By offering and selling equity in their company through the Internet, companies gain a wider and more efficient distribution of the offering to a larger audience when compared to traditional sources.
  • Using the Internet to offer and sell securities should decrease the cost of capital
  • Non-accredited individual investors, previously excluded from equity crowdfunding investments, are now invited to become investors with certain limitations.
  • Investors have a level of protection since companies raising capital through crowdfunding will be required to utilize funding portals or registered broker dealers and will have certain disclosure requirements to investors. Additionally, funding portals that wish to participate in the crowdfunding process as an intermediary will be required to register with the SEC and become a member of FINRA.

Launching Your Crowdfunding Campaign

Even if you are a tremendously successful owner or executive, a successful crowdfunding effort will require expert marketing surrounding your efforts to raise funds. You and the members of your management team will assume the responsibility of formulating a marketing campaign to create interest in your offering. You’ll need a good story to tell investors complete with business plans, financial statements and projections.

In the crowd, you’ll be competing for investment dollars with other companies so you need to engage in strategies to elevate your offering over all others. Earning the trust and confidence of investors can lead to a successful offering. Consider activities that could strengthen your relationships with clients, customers, and even vendors. These relationships may help to support a successful crowdfunding campaign and could represent your future investors.

To launch your crowdfunding campaign, you’ll be using the services of an SEC registered broker/dealer or SEC registered crowdfunding platform or funding portal. Each will probably offer different services and fee structures. Once your customers, clients, and vendors have invested in your business, you may want to reach out to a broader base of potential investors. Getting your offer in front of the right investors will be critical to achieving your capital raising goals.

As a private company, you may not be accustomed to sharing operational and financial information publically. A successful crowdfunding campaign may require additional transparency if you are to build trust and confidence in prospective investors. If you are not comfortable sharing company information with the world, you may want to explore a more proprietary method of raising capital.

Once you have executed a successful crowdfunding campaign, you will need to have a plan on how you will continue to communicate to your new investors. How much information are you willing to share? Which rights to information will investors have? Consider creating an investor-only section on your company’s website where you can post periodic information about your company’s progress, financial results, etc. Transparency is the key if you want to keep your investors informed and hungry to make additional investment in the future.

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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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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, David K. Shepherd of LMI shares six strategies for reducing loss from data breaches. Check out previous blogs from LMI on a business-driven approach to IT decision-making and three business-friendly strategies to increase the value of enterprise architecture.


David Shepherd

David Shepherd, senior consultant and member of the Systems Development Group at LMI.

It’s no secret that data breaches are on the rise. These security rifts cost U.S. organizations an average of $195 per protected personal data record lost or stolen, with total costs averaging more than $5.8 million per organization breached. What may be surprising is that well-intentioned employees could be putting your data at risk..

How? To meet deadlines and collaboration requirements, employees skirt security rules protecting confidential documents by using personal email addresses and free file sharing services. Focused on completing tasks, they are unaware of the risks.

MeriTalk research shows that nearly 50 percent of federal agency security breaches are caused by security noncompliance. Forrester data reveals that the top reason for breaches (36 percent of companies surveyed) is inadvertent use of data without clear knowledge of polices. The problem is exacerbated by the proliferation of mobile devices that connect to cellular and Wi-Fi networks and upload data to the cloud.

Why do users bypass security? They take these risks to complete tasks within tight deadlines. They recognize this isn’t the “right” way to share documents, but feel they have no other options. Common complaints:

“Due to mail server size limitations, I cannot send a large file to my client.”

“Neither my client nor my company has a file-sharing tool.”

Balancing data protection and productivity

Increasing the number of security rules will not decrease employee data losses. The following six recommendations can help organizations balance the need for data protection, policy clarity, and productivity.

1) Understand employee needs when setting security policies

Engage users so you understand their day-to-day work and why they bypass security. Anonymous surveys and best practice initiatives are helpful tools. Consider granting amnesty to ensure you fully understand the problem. If your employees are using Dropbox, Box, or Google Docs, they are saying they need better storage and collaboration tools.

2) Conduct consistent, regular staff training at all levels

PricewaterhouseCoopers research reveals that most businesses invest only up to $400 per employee per year on cybersecurity training. The big exception is financial institutions, which typically spend $2,500 per employee each year. Employee training must be ongoing and pervasive—not an annual ritual. It must also include executives who are more likely to have data on multiple devices.

3) Provide a secure, flexible, and easy-to-use file-sharing tool

Employees started using cloud storage because providers offered free services with easy-to-use interfaces. These companies also offer enterprise versions, which include customizable interfaces, meet government security standards, and may even be branded with your organizational identity. Nearly all providers offer trials.

4) Deal with mobility

Organizations need to update mobile device policies to address both organization- and employee-owned devices. Solutions need to protect organization data while meeting security and employee usability needs.

5) Invest in effective prevention

Be proactive. Prior to a damaging event, security budgets are slim. After a breach, organizations can’t spend money fast enough. An event’s root cause is often due to problems with an organization’s processes. Hastily spending money on new tools won’t necessarily fix the root cause.

6) Consider suggesting tools, even if you can’t endorse their use

If an organization can’t provide a file-sharing tool, consider suggesting employees use a particular service. Wouldn’t it be better to monitor a single service closely, rather than attempting to monitor them all? If a bad breach occurs, the organization could immediately inform users and take corrective actions.

Our pristine networks are vulnerable to dedicated employees who are trying to do great work and meet impossible deadlines. If we don’t provide secure, capable tools, they will find another way. We can continue to fight against them, or we can investigate their needs, accept the challenges, and work to meet those needs while still ensuring security.


David K. Shepherd is a senior consultant in LMI’s Systems Development Group and has 25 years of experience as an information technology (IT) service management and security professional. He has designed, developed, managed, and maintained enterprise quality websites and applications for federal clients. He also advises clients on IT infrastructure issues, effective use of tools and techniques, and security engineering. He can be reached at dshepherd@lmi.org.

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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. In the third of a five part series on “Building Relationships,” Matthew Falls of BusinessUSA shares his insights on utilizing your research to connect with potential customers.


You’ve identified the companies, agencies and program offices that are most likely to use your product or service. You have read their most recent press releases and blog entries. You also know the names of the leadership team, program managers and contracting officers for those programs. You’ve connected with them on social media networks. You also know those companies most likely to fit with your core competencies.

If you don’t know this information, you probably have not done enough research and it is best to find out this information. It will provide the basis for starting your matthewseries3relationship with a company, program office, or a prime contractor.

There’s an event next week. Perhaps it’s an Industry Day, a program office is giving a seminar, there’s a networking event sponsored by a trade association or economic development agency, or perhaps you’ve identified a key contact and you want to set up a meeting. Maybe you are attending a trade show or industry event.

Do some research. Who is sponsoring? What programs or panel discussions are being offered? Can you contribute? Call the organization and ask how you can help with the event. Your research on the organization can tell you what programs they like to offer, what its membership does. Think about putting on a program for them in the future. This will better connect you to the organization and they will see you as a resource. Becoming a resource to them gives the organization the confidence to introduce you to an opportunity.

Focus on your goals for this event. Do you want leads, an introduction to someone, or just to build your brand? You’re not going to close a sale, so relax. You can take the time to nurture a relationship. Set performance metrics, i.e., I expect to have x substantial conversations that lead to an opportunity, I expect to collect x business cards, etc. Setting metrics allows you to objectively evaluate your performance and the usefulness of the event. Evaluating each event provides the information needed to make the most of your time, to focus on those events and organizations that provide the most value for you.

The SWOT analysis you did earlier has given you the information and strategic focus needed to craft a statement about your organization, what it does best and why the listener should care. People will want to know what you or your organization does and you need to have a clear vision that ties into your goals for this event.

When you meet that first person, pay attention to them. Look them in the eye, shake hands firmly and show an interest in their business card and what their position is in the organization. Figure out what concerns the person you’re speaking with; have a genuine interest in what they are doing. Ask about recent press releases, new initiatives they may be engaged in, talk about what they hope to get out of this event.

Make the focus on them. Don’t forget the human element of relationships. It is very important to understand what is possible and what the person that you are speaking with is capable of doing; if not, you’re wasting your time. The more you focus on the other person, the faster you will have the information to make a determination about this person.

The other person will ask about your business. Because you spent the time focusing on the other person in this conversation, you now have the information needed to craft your response around how your company’s product or service can be a benefit to the company. Talk about next steps. Leave the conversation with an action item. Write it on the back of their business card when you get a chance. Tell them that you will respond to them the next day.

If you get so lucky as to uncover a potential need and opportunity, try to learn who will influence the solution and the decision-making process. People connect to their colleagues on LinkedIn and some of them will be influential in the requirements development and selection process. Visit each of those buying influence’s LinkedIn profiles and pay close attention to whether they are linked to any of your competitors. If so, then that’s a red flag.

Sometimes there really is no connection to the person; you cannot provide what they need. Ask for a referral, do they know anyone who has a need for your product or service? If so, ask for a specific email introduction to their contact referencing the point of interest as an action item for this conversation. Write the contact’s name and point of interest on the back of the business card.

The event is over and you have a handful of business cards. Hopefully you wrote the action items on the back of the cards. Review the event. How did you perform against your goals? Be objective about the event. Perhaps you didn’t get many cards because you didn’t do the research versus the event not being a good fit for you. Maybe you didn’t get enough cards because you took too much time with a person. That’s good if it leads to a concrete opportunity, or a substantial conversation that moves the relationship forward. Keeping performance metrics allows to objectively evaluate the event, your preparation and your pitch.

Add the cards, points of interest and action items into your contact database and assign tasks for follow up. Always follow up when you say you will. It goes to your credibility, reliability and reputation for being able to deliver. These are some of the most important aspects in a good relationship and to gain the confidence of people who might be able to help you in the future.

At this point you have a few people who are connected to the opportunities that you’ve highlighted in your SWOT analysis. It’s time to cultivate these relationships, bring value to your contacts, assuring that they see you and your company as a valuable resource in their network.

Perhaps you don’t have a business development staff to make these contacts or your company is not located in Washington, DC if you sell to the federal government. Maybe you want to penetrate a different industry sector, line of business or another agency to win larger chunks of business.

Consider forming an advisory board comprised of very high-profile individuals who will open doors and act as advocates for your company. A properly constructed advisory board, whose sole purpose is to drive revenue, can turbo-charge your business development and harvest the value in your company.


Matthew Falls works for the federal initiative BusinessUSA, focusing on outreach to the state and local partners and the business community.  He collaborates with state and local economic development organizations to feature their program content on BusinessUSA and to introduce BusinessUSA as a resource to small businesses. 

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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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about.me – Your Online Business Card

August 1st, 2012 | Posted by Andrew Bates in Social Media Committee - (Comments Off)

Paper business cards are becoming a thing of the past.  Most of us still hand them out as well as receive them, but where do they go?  Do you enter all of those details into your contact lists, or do those cards end up in a stack with others that will never see the light of day again?  The truth is that many people do not refer to them after meeting someone new.  Frequently these cards even end up in the trash before the day is over.

Now it has become increasingly important to provide a simple method to give your new contacts a way to find your information without digging through that dusty stack hidden in their desks.  LinkedIn is still one of the best ways for professionals to keep track of fellow business associates, but there must be more than one way to find each other online.

What if you had a simple online business card that represents your experience and value without all the issues when we meet someone new?  about.me has the answer.  This site is a free way to meet these needs without all the hassle.   about.me allows you to provide your details in a single page that can become your online business card.

In a matter of minutes, anyone can create an about.me page. It can communicate your value as well as a bit of your personality which really sets you apart from others.  The site also allows you to build a custom about.me page that can even include your name as part of the web address (like mine for instance: about.me/AndrewBates).  And, since I built my page a few years ago, I’ve found that other business professionals can find my page and details with a quick search in Google.

Some quick tips to get the most out of your about.me page:

Keep it simple – That is the point.  Less is more.  This differentiates about.me from all other personal websites.  Include only the amount of text required to show your value.

Show some personality – You can add any image as your background, much like the wallpaper on your desktop.  Using a picture of yourself will help others remember you, and it is a great opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd.  LinkedIn is the right environment for all of your professional details; about.me gives you the opportunity to be less formal.

Link it to your other profiles and sites – about.me features include the ability to link your page to other URLs including your website, twitter and LinkedIn.  This can help others find any and all of your profiles.  “Social SEO” / social media optimization builds a web of your profiles online allowing others to find you more easily.

Promote your profile – Get it out there.  Mention it to your new contacts.  Put the link in your email signature.  Make sure your about.me URL is prominent on all of your other social profiles as well.

About.me is free, easy and fun.  There a number of examples on the site that can give you inspiration.  Please let me know what you think.  Comment on this post and include the link to your new profile!

andrewbatesThis post was written on August, 1 2012 by Andrew Bates, the director of online marketing at Hinge Marketing in Reston, Va. He is responsible for managing all of Hinge’s digital marketing strategies and services. These services include search engine optimization, social media, paid search and media advertising, email lead generation as well as comprehensive web analytics. Bates has developed custom online marketing and social media programs for organizations that include Chevron, the American Cancer Society, DuPont and Rosetta Stone. A self-described super geek entrepreneur, Bates helped create and lead two Washington, D.C. area design and marketing firms, both acquired by industry giants. He has been an active member of NVTC for 10 years, serving on multiple committees.

 

 

 

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