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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This week on NVTC’s blog, Innovation Health CEO Dave Notari shares how health IT has made serious progress, closing communication and care gaps.


The healthcare industry hasn’t traditionally been known as an early adopter when it comes to implementing the latest technology – as folks in the heart of the Northern Virginia technology community know all too well. But over the past few years we’ve made some serious progress.

Dave Notari

Dave Notari

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law there’s been a dramatic national up-tick in the use of personal health technology (think Fitbit!), as well as technology designed to help consumers navigate the healthcare system and make better choices on behalf of their families.

When technology is implemented within a progressive and proactive health care management model, we start to close communication and care gaps, reduce medical errors and encourage healthy habits. Northern Virginia is a hub of tech innovation, and technology is poised to improve the health care experience for residents in three very important ways over the next few years.

Improving Health Literacy

In early 2015 a Kaiser Family Foundation survey [1] found that there were 11 million newly insured adults as of December 2014. For some, it may have been their first experience with enrolling for health coverage and having to learn a wide array of health and health benefits terms. Health care language can be difficult to understand, and with high deductible health plans (HDHP)s  on the rise, understanding coverage needs and what is available in-network is more vital than ever before. With the right consumer tools and simpler language, health providers and businesses can make health information clearer to consumers, aid decision-making, and ensure that they are informed and able to choose the plan that works best for them and their family.

Many of us expect that buying and selecting our health plan should be as easy as buying a pair of shoes—as insurers begin to implement this type of technology we can expect that to become more of a reality.

Improving the Quality of Care

When it comes to improving the overall quality of Northern Virginia healthcare, technology provides opportunities for better coordination and collaboration among key stakeholders.  Our health care system today is characterized by fragmentation, inefficiency and waste. In addition, it’s not as convenient or connected as it could be. Deploying technology to connect hospitals, physicians and providers would transform the way healthcare is currently delivered and provide numerous benefits to NOVA consumers.

Take, for example, someone who needs to see a specialist. Before electronic health records (EHRs) and technology that allows doctors to electronically share patient health information were available a Primary Care Physician (PCP) would have to fax the patient’s chart to a specialist, the patient or doctor would have to call to ensure the information arrived, and if it did not the patient would have to rely on her memory to recount for the doctor her entire medical history. Today, doctors using EHRs and health information exchange technology have the ability to seamlessly coordinate their patients’ care and share critical patient data, which lessens the hassle factor for patients. Additionally, certain technologies can even allow patients to review their own secure personal health records, pinpoint in-network doctors and facilities, get cost-saving pop-up alerts and use digital ID cards for all of their check-ups and appointments.

Beyond making patient health records more accessible, technology can also help identify patients who may be at risk of certain conditions or those with potential gaps in care so doctors can act to prevent complications.

Lowering Costs

Technology has the ability to help consumers understand the cost of services before they are actually accessed—something I personally found useful a few months ago when my son was in need of a CT scan. My wife was referred to a doctor, and like most moms was going off of the doctor’s recommendation without any insight into places she could have the CT performed or what the cost would be at different facilities. This is pretty common. Using a health care payment estimator tool I was able to find all of the different care sites and costs in a five-mile radius of our home.  The result? My son received a CT scan for $250 rather than the doctor’s recommended site which was $600. Since I have a HDHP, I saved an additional outlay of $350—all thanks to technology!

It is safe to assume that technology is going to transform the healthcare space. By continuing to look for and implement new technologies and solutions we have the ability to improve patient and employer education, improve health outcomes, and save money on health costs.

[1] Rachel Garfield, Katherine Young, Adults who Remained Uninsured at the End of 2014, (The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2015), Issue Brief

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10 Keys to Small Business Teaming

April 20th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Jim McCarthy of member company AOC Key Solutions shares how small businesses can gain a market foothold, offset vulnerabilities, obtain site knowledge, open doors to a larger key personnel pool, or spread risks and bid costs through teaming. McCarthy provides ten keys to developing contracting relationships.


Instances of the “lone wolf” pursuit of a government contract by a single prime contractor are vanishing. Today, multi-company teaming arrangements are more the rule than the exception. Companies now team to gain a market foothold, offset vulnerabilities, obtain site knowledge, open doors to a larger key personnel pool, or spread risks and bid costs.

For small businesses (SBs) especially, a teaming arrangement may be the most viable strategy for growth and prosperity. Too often, however, despite best efforts, SBs fail to land on a team. Or worse perhaps, lacking leverage as they cut deals with the prime that are just empty promises. What is a SB to do?

Try these 10 keys to small business teaming:

  1. Isolate on a primary need of the agency. This requires diligent research and early market intelligence.
  2. Establish a relationship with the customer with the need. Persistence and patience are paramount to gain face time.
  3. Get smarter about the need than anyone. Invest time and energy to do your homework.
  4. Devise and package a solution to meet the need. Solve the problem. Provide the features of your plan, but be sure to focus on customer benefits. Test-drive your plan with the customer.
  5. Hit the streets to spark interest. Contact every potential prime interested in the opportunity. For bait, tell the prime that you alone have the solution to the customer’s pain.
  6. Set the hook. Forecast how you can earn the prime N number of evaluation points by solving the customer’s problem. Be bold yet credible.
  7. Gain leverage. Hint at your solution — but give details only in exchange for a place on the team. But not just any place. Insist on precise terms in writing — a set scope of work (“swim lane”) with a guaranteed level of effort contingent upon contract award to your prime. Be prepared to walk. If one prime will not play ball, go to another.
  8. Offer something else value-added. Deliver a subject matter expert to help with the proposal. At no cost, prepare 100 percent compliant proposal text for your swim lane. Cover your own B&P costs. Participate for free on color review teams. Offer a candidate key person for bidding. Fund your transition costs if the team is successful.
  9. Sign your deal. Not just a handshake, but get the terms and conditions in writing. Execute non-disclosure agreements and non-competes.
  10. Deliver. Don’t forget to circle back to your original customer to inform him/her that you will be delivering your solution as part of [name of prime contractor]‘s powerful team. Then meet your commitments just as you would expect the prime to meet its promises.

There is no free lunch. Give something of value to get something of value. Appeal to the best competitive instincts of the primes. Deliver what counts: as a team member present additional evaluation points that make the difference in winning. In so doing, not only do you meet a primary need of the government, but you earn (and deserve) a legitimate place at the team table.


Jim McCarthy is the founder and principal of AOC Key Solutions, a proposal consulting firm dedicated to helping companies win government contracts. Mr. McCarthy’s career spans over 30 years of proposal development, market strategy, and oral presentation coaching to federal contractors. Learn more at www.aockeysolutions.com

For more information on what NVTC has to offer for small businesses and entrepreneurs, check out the NVTC Small Business and Entrepreneur Committee. The committee hosts various programs, including a yearly teaming and contracting event for small companies interested in government contracting. At the event, small businesses can discuss partnering or subcontracting with large companies and meet with government agencies and their small business offices from the federal, state and local level about how to do business with them. 

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Notes from the Silicon Valley Cybersecurity Summit: Part 2

September 30th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Research & Communications shares her insights below.


While the policy panel discussion at the summer’s Silicon Valley Cyber Security Summit pointed out the many challenges of governments trying to deal with the cyber threat, the second ‘Next Generation’ panel was all about the shortage of qualified talent to deal with the problem.

The good news – cyber presents a great career opportunity! As in, the industry needs lots of help. Now. The not so good news is that 40 percent of open IT security jobs in 2015 will be vacant. There simply aren’t enough qualified people to fill them. Technologies such as new threat intelligence and attack remediation products will continue to advance. That will help automate intervention, but there is still a need for people to skillfully apply them, and for others to create them in the first place in the face of a never-ending game of new threats. One speaker said that, as of only a couple of years ago, a new malware was detected every 15 seconds. Now two new malwares are detected every one second! The speakers expected that pace to accelerate exponentially.

There are a growing number of formal university programs in this area, but I was very surprised to hear that only 12 percent of computer science majors are female, and that population has been steadily shrinking for two decades. A marginal percent of those study cyber. So we’ve got a challenge with public engagement in the issue, an inadequate talent pool, and almost half of the student population not thinking about the problem.

Of course not all software learning is in the classroom and talented hackers do emerge. That is why General Keith Alexander [former head of U.S. CyberCommand] went to least year’s Black Hat Conference – while unconventional, he knew this is a place to find badly needed talent. There are also several incubator initiatives like  Virginia’s Mach37, and many startups are trying to get off the ground.

Another challenge is that CEOs don’t fundamentally understand the complex cyber problem, so they delegate the task to the CIO. [This reminds me of similar dispositions toward Disaster Readiness and Business Continuity Planning pre-9/11]. Cyber threat is another form of business risk and should be planned for as such. One speaker mentioned that there is expert consensus, even from VCs who are scrupulous about how money is spent, that for a $100 million IT budget, 5-15 percent should be spent on security. While panelists noted cyber threat is a top discussion point for many corporate boards, there is uncertainty about what to actually do to prepare.

This is a tough issue all the way around. One speaker suggested repositioning the brand message to what regular folk will respond to – protecting our national treasures, homes and quality of life, critical infrastructure and national security. Nick Shevelyov, Chief Security Officer of Silicon Valley Bank, summarized the issue: ‘the technology that empowers us also imperils us.” I’m hoping more of us come to understand that and step up.


Contributed by Kathy Stershic, Principal Consultant, Dialog Research & Communications

kstershic@dialogrc.com

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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, Elizabeth Harr of member company Hinge Marketing shares five reasons social media impacts your business in a measurable way.


With numerous social media platforms to keep track of — each their own little world with a specific set of participation standards — it’s no wonder that many marketers are asking “is this worth it?” Between the tweets, shares, status updates, pins and likes, maintaining a strong social media presence can be time consuming and confusing. Social Media Examiner’s latest industry report revealed that marketers spend a minimum of six hours per week on their social media accounts — nearly an entire day’s work.

It’s understandable that you’d want to see measurable impact from your technology firm’s social media marketing if you’re putting in all that effort. social-media-tree-icon
Perhaps the easiest way to answer the question of “is this worth it?” is to look to your clients. How are they researching their technology needs? What factors are they considering when making a purchasing decision? Where are they looking? More often than not, your buyers are starting with a basic online search, glancing through the first page of results, and checking out their options from there.

Combined with a well-rounded digital marketing strategy, social media can add the extra boost your technology firm needs to get you on that first page of search engine results. Once prospective buyers find you, social media can play a role in closing the sale. And to really drive home exactly why social media marketing is “worth it,” here’s a list of benefits that can help improve your bottom line.

5 Ways Social Media Marketing Benefits Your Technology Firm 

It Boosts Your Search Engine Rankings

Your buyers aren’t likely to look past that first page of results. Luckily, a strong social media presence can help your technology firm be one of the first options they see. Having more backlinks to your website helps to improve your ranking and social media is the perfect platform to share those links and increase your search engine optimization.

It Increases Referral Traffic

Thanks to Google Analytics, you can see exactly what types of posts on which social media platforms are driving traffic to your site. Learn from your results and focus on the types of posts that are generating the most visitors.

It Helps Establish Your Brand

When a prospective buyer finds your website, they’re probably going to poke around to see if your priorities and personality match their own. Social media is a great way for potential clients to get to “know” your technology firm. The information you share can help position you as a trusted authority in your field.

It Can Build Your Contacts List

You can use your social media accounts to promote premium content that drives visitors to your website. In order to download the content, ask visitors to enter in some basic contact information to build up your email lists. Sticking to requiring nothing more than a name and email address will help increase your conversions for the content.

It Can Be a Great Promotional Tool

Promoting offers on social media requires you to walk a fine line. Your followers don’t want to see an excess of promotional content, but you can still publicize offers as long as they’re mixed in with predominantly informational content.

Though the time commitment of social media marketing might seem overwhelming to your technology firm at times, employing it as part of your digital marketing strategy can help you acquire new clients. Between increasing your online visibility, driving traffic to your website and establishing your credibility in the industry, social media is, without a doubt, “worth it.”

Check out Hinge’s free Social Media Guide for tips on increasing your social media footprint.


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 Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.

 

 

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Building Relationships: Developing the Relationship

April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

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 four of a five part series on “Building Relationships,” Matthew Falls of BusinessUSA shares his insights on maintaining relationships with customers.


You’ve done whatever follow-up resulted from your conversation and it’s time to make the follow up call, or set the meeting. Again, prepare: research beyond the web site, set the agenda and focus beforehand with your contact. This is very important – it moves the conversation forward, lays the stage for the expected action items and demonstrates respect for the other person in that you are prepared for the call and do not intend to waste their time.

Dig deeper – look behind what’s in front of you – talk to multiple people – find out the real story, not just what’s on the web site. Look for ways to bring more value to meetings. Think beyond the meeting to your ultimate goals for this relationship. Focus on the person that you’re speaking with, the action item and how you can help this person.

If you are focusing on the other person and their needs, you can be patient and let the conversation progress naturally. trustSharpen your customer conversation skills. Ask about their interests, what’s important to them. It’s very important to cultivate the human side of relationships to get beyond the standard speech.

You can find out what they are willing to do and capable of doing, by listening to throwaway comments or venting, especially those made in frustration, they exhibit true feelings not stated. Cultivating the human side of relationships develops the trust that makes your contact feel comfortable enough to reveal such information, indicating pain points that your solution can solve.

Your goal is to come away from this first call with points of pain. It’s important to be aware of where you are in the process versus where you want to be and figure out how to advance to next stage – bring in an idea that adds value to them. Each conversation should build on the previous conversation; if you are having the same conversation, they are not ready.

There may not be any apparent points of pain. That’s ok. Keep the conversation going with contacts by looking at them and their business as a whole and send them information, interesting items, bits of news. Become a resource to them. Over time they may introduce you to opportunities, or pain points may be revealed. Your relationships should also give you intelligence about upcoming opportunities.

If you are a federal contractor or sub-contractor, bringing business to the prime obviously will make them see you as a resource and an ideal teaming partner. With contracting trends indicating that 1 of 4 contracts are multiple award vehicles, teaming decisions are often made before the Statement of Work is issued, so developing and expanding teaming relationships become critical to the success of the company.

Many contracts result from being on a team. Not just any team though, the right team. You also want to make your company desirable to the right team. A strategic advisor focused on generating revenue can assess your company, help you determine your core competencies, develop strategies to get on the right team and negotiate a teaming agreement that brings value to all team members.

All of this great research and preparation won’t deliver results if you can’t deliver the message to the customer. Take the time to practice so that you will be more confident in the moment. Anticipate how the call will play out and do some role playing.

Use the seasons analogy to guide the building of your relationships – plant the seed – introduce yourself – nurture the relationship – become a resource to them, send information, make introductions, etc. – harvest the seeds – if you have nurtured the relationship, the harvest time becomes apparent – enjoy the fruits – take the time to enjoy your success – start to think about new opportunities.


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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When Vision is Not Enough

March 18th, 2014 | Posted by Allison Gilmore in Member Blog Posts - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Research & Communications shares her insights below.


A clear organizational vision is vital to moving your people in the same direction to meet strategic goals. Attaining a vision supposes a lot of things going right along your journey, or at least being somewhat in your control – but what happens when inconvenient realities make things go, well, differently?

Many of today’s leaders simply lack the time, bandwidth or vantage point to think beyond the near term. Yet never-ending change makes it increasingly important to examine macro forces that can impact your customers’ environments, and to prepare yourself for flexible decision-making in an unexpected future.

Scenario planning is a powerful but often overlooked tool in strategic planning. Scenarios don’t define the most likely future – they map uncertainties and explore alternative futures, so you are better prepared for both.

While employed by organizations as large as Royal Dutch Shell, the World Bank and the Military, even smaller to mid-sized businesses can incorporate at least some foundational work into their planning efforts.

The biggest premise in scenario planning is don’t assume the future will closely mirror the present. [Consider the unanticipated changes that resulted from the 1970s oil shock, the ripple effects of the 9/11 attacks or even the recent Target data breach.] Start outside-in. Invest in truly understanding your customer’s world – what are they planning for? What external forces must they anticipate or react to? Such forces can be the root of opportunities, surprises, or unforeseen crises.

Then shift to inside-out thinking to assess the implications of those external forces on your core business practices, organizational capacity, culture and current strategies. Develop a set of plausible ‘what if’ scenarios grounded in your customers’ contextual environment. Explore postures such as…

  • Does our current [intended] strategy hold up in each scenario? What are our strengths and weaknesses in each situation?
  • In 3 years, will there still be a fit between what we do and the customer environment?
  • Who or what kind of businesses will be successful in each scenario?
  • Can we be reasonably sure a certain change will occur? What could the outcome of that change be on our customers?  And what then is truly uncertain? What should we do or not do in each scenario?

Brainstorm, be creative, and stretch your thinking. A recent customer of mine reacted to our example scenarios as “mind bending” for the entrenched organizational culture. Generate options and test them against your scenarios. You can use a variety of tools – from team brainstorming workshops to highly structured analytical modeling.

Remember this is about plausibility, not prediction. But with this more informed perspective, you can design a strategic roadmap with enough flexibility to navigate unexpected turns. Then go for it.

For further reading: http://hbr.org/2013/05/living-in-the-futures/ar/1


Contributed by Kathy Stershic, Principal Consultant, Dialog Research & Communications

www.dialogrc.com, kstershic@dialogrc.com

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