Is Social Media Marketing “Worth It” for Your Technology Firm?

August 19th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Is Social Media Marketing “Worth It” for Your Technology Firm?)

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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Finding Success Through Professional Development

July 9th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Finding Success Through Professional Development)

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 post below, Derek Alden Elder of member company Salient Federal Solutions explains how professional development is essential for success.


Today’s government, industry, civilian, and institutional professional leadership all agree on one thing: Professional development is vital to success. Yet it is becoming harder each and every day to find time for it. This is driven by many factors. The most obvious, of course, is the continual reduction in force to accommodate todays lower cost requirements. These strong economic and political headwinds demand we make a difference.

With less people doing more work it is impossible to ignore the implications to the remaining forces’ availability to support seemingly non-essential requirements, such as further developing their applicable capabilities through professional development, training, and education. We must have a relentless commitment to our customers, colleagues and our communities. Salient Federal Solutions believes that a viable solution exists which will mitigate this issue and we use it today.

In a rapidly changing environment, infusing current work requirements into the training our warfighters receive today is essential to increasing effectiveness within an experiential modality while also serving the trainee by assisting with the execution of their deliverables and concurrently advancing their knowledge base. Salient plans a custom approach to every requirement so it can and is being done today. We understand that success is dependent upon our situational approach and customized execution on each task – getting warfighters what they need and when they need it. Minimizing time spent while maximizing output to current requirements while broadening knowledge base will determine effectiveness and thus define return on investment of training to leadership. Although counter to most industry culture, this is the only viable path to solving the growing work/train/time issue we all experience in these leaner times.

Whether it be professional, technical, or personal development it is essential for the end user to insist upon their workload being infused to the exercises associated with our learning process, but similarly, we need to drive this approach from the top down as the leading providers to the education and training industry. This change can only be achieved if we stand together behind one simple truth; developing our workforce is vital to future success and it cannot be accomplished without fundamental changes to the approach most take today. If our workplace has become more efficient and lean then so must we with something as important this.


If you’re interested in professional development, get involved with NVTC! Attend an event for opportunities to see and be seen by industry leaders; join a committee to meet potential clients, build relationships, and learn about trends; and check out NVTC’s many other resources.

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How To Be Strategic With Your IT Hiring

June 18th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off on How To Be Strategic With Your IT Hiring)

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 below post, Marc Berman of member company Vector Technical Resources shares strategic steps for managers when hiring an IT staff.


Hiring tech talent can be a serious challenge for many organizations. Depending upon where your company is located, you may be competing with shinier, flashier tech
companies that can offer massive salaries, on-site gym memberships, free daycare, and other perks. Conversely, you may be operating in a rural area where new IT talent is hard to come by.

The (somewhat) good news is that no matter where you are or what your organization does, you are not alone. The Technology Councils of North America conducted a survey in 2013 that found nearly 70% of participating executives believe there is a shortage of quality tech talent in the marketplace. They feel that “all the good ones are taken,” and it can be difficult to attract and hire the right people.

Making Strong IT Hiring Decisions

This climate can lead companies to make poor IT hiring decisions. Hiring managers may feel pressured to jump on the first candidate with the appropriate skill set. But even if an IT candidate’s skills match up with your needs, there are other things to consider before making an offer.

Here are some tips to help you make strategic IT hiring decisions:

  1. Documented Work – An IT candidate can claim certain skills and accomplishments, and it may be possible to glean their expertise from an interview, but it is important to get documentation of previous projects.
  2. Look for Broad Experience – Specialization can be beneficial for certain positions, but more often than not, your organization will depend upon IT pros with a broad knowledge base. When someone focuses narrowly on one specific skill, it can lead them to be less effective at solving large problems.
  3. Match Personality with Company Culture – Employees must be happy in order to do their jobs well, and if the culture of the organization isn’t a good fit, your new hire won’t feel comfortable or happy. For example, individuals with a laid-back attitude and work history in casual environments may feel stifled in a workplace with a more rigid corporate structure.  Be sure to take personality and your company culture into consideration before making an offer.
  4. Don’t Make a Panic Hire – Making a fast hiring decision out of sheer panic rarely turns out well. If the position is so critical that it must be filled immediately, it’s worth it to take a breath and move deliberately, because a bad hire will ultimately force you back into a desperate situation. Never hire for an IT position after one interview.  Always conduct a phone screen first. This can help narrow the field before you potentially waste your time and the candidate’s time on an in-person interview.
  5. Include the Team – If an IT professional will be reporting to three managers, include all three managers in the hiring process. It is important that everyone gets a sense of a candidate’s personality and work style, so that they can feel comfortable bringing that individual on board.

 

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The Importance of Research to Brand Differentiation to Tech Firms

May 29th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off on The Importance of Research to Brand Differentiation to Tech Firms)

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 below post, Elizabeth Harr of member company Hinge explains how research is an essential element for tech firms in differentiating their brand.


Technology firms go to great lengths not to reinvent the wheel when developing new ideas. Staying on top of industry trends and tools keeps them from wasting time and money developing last year’s products or services. Tech firms live and die based on the quality of their research, of how in-tune they are with competitor’s capabilities. But even as technology providers differentiate their products and services, they often forget to differentiate themselves. And in the struggle to understand the competition lies the risk of blending in with the competition.

But if your firm is looking to grow, blending in is not the way to go. Our research shows a strong correlation between brand differentiation and growth. In fact, high growth firms are three times as likely to have a strong differentiator than firms with average growth.

So what makes a differentiator strong? Three things:

  1. It must be true. You can’t just make it up. Well, you could. But if you don’t practice what you preach—if you don’t deliver what you promise how you promise—you’re going to hurt your brand and your business.
  2. It must matter to your clients. More than just setting you apart, your differentiator must be important to your clients. You can boast having the best kickball team in the state, but if it’s not serving your clients’ interests, you can’t count on your differentiator gaining much traction.
  3. It must be supportable. So your differentiator is true and it matters to your customers, but you can’t prove it. That’s a problem. If it’s not quantifiable in some way, it can be difficult to communicate it to your clients. This is particularly tricky with “soft” differentiators like commitment to clients. A good rule of thumb is to avoid differentiators that everyone claims. Things like customers coming first or having the best team in the business are both hard to prove and everyone claims these. If everyone’s has (or at least claims) a particular focus, it can’t set you apart.

Discovering Your Differentiator

There are two ways to approach brand differentiation. You can uncover what you’re currently doing that sets you apart and play to that strength, or you can look for customer needs that are currently not addressed by the marketplace. Find out what your customers value and how you can rise to the occasion. Take a long hard look at the marketplace. Ask questions. Is there no one providing both of a couple of services that seem like a natural pairing? Is no one focused on a particular region, industry, or process?


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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Engaging Your Total Enterprise: Planning Strategically to Propel Forward

May 27th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off on Engaging Your Total Enterprise: Planning Strategically to Propel Forward)

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 part three of her Engaging Your Total Enterprise Series, Board member Marta Wilson of Transformation Systems Inc. explains how a strategic plan can create impeccable decision-maker skills


How are you sure you’re moving forward in the right direction? Where’s the compass? Where’s the plan? One great misconception about strategic planning is that it sets in stone a course for the long haul. For those of us in the business of nimble, responsive strategic plans, the very idea seems linear, stale before it’s done—rote. I’m thinking of a word, and that word is “boring.”

Wordle: Strategic Plan

By contrast, a strategic plan can create impeccable decision makers. That’s because a successful plan puts everybody at work in the same place. In other words, a plan creates nexus. Everyone’s work is connected by common understandings. All the right people have all the right information to make all the best decisions that move everybody forward—one person, one decision at a time.

A strategic plan isn’t so much a piece of paper as a shift in mind. It moves responsibility for a company out of the hands of a few executives and into the hands—and heads—of everybody working the plan. For success, a strategic plan is a daily awareness. It’s simple. A strategic plan is what makes sure that the vessel leaves the hands of the manufacturer and is handed over to crew for passage to bolder destinations. Each person relies on his or her own power for many key decisions and knows when to turn to leadership for guidance with larger, collective changes.

A strategic plan is the best way—whether sailing is smooth or rough—for you to be involved in every decision without being in the way. The plan is a robust mechanism that keeps you from exerting a dampening influence on your teams. When you step out using a strategic plan you can count on unleashing the full power of your organization’s talent. Once a strategy is planned and in place, your only remaining challenge is stepping back, listening, and being humbled by the brilliance you find working for you.

How is this done? The well-crafted strategic plan isn’t complicated, although its development can take some time. The goal is clarity, and the process is energizing. What you have, in the end, is a shared understanding that becomes a familiar reference point. It’s used as a sure-fire way for each person to move forward independently without creating chaos or downward drag. This plan becomes the filter for sifting out meaning from all the noise among the rush of daily priorities.

A strategic plan doesn’t start on a blank sheet of paper. It builds on the organizational assessment that precedes it. Discoveries from the assessment are integral to how the business works and shares information—and also for the quality of information you have for keeping executive-level decisions in tune with what your people are doing. It also removes impediments to decision-making, because everybody knows the parameters for choices and the end goal that drives them.

Rapid response is possible no matter how large or far-flung your enterprise, and strategic planning is the key to rapid response, empowering everybody working ably within their spheres to be poised to make decisions quickly and in synch with everybody else.

All too often, though there is a plan, one no one takes it seriously as it sits in a three-ring notebook on an executive’s shelf. Having watched, over the years, the impact of a well-honed strategic plan on a business endeavor, I find it a shame that people slog to work to be part audience, part player in a poorly tuned, cacophonous symphony. It doesn’t matter if there is a skilled conductor— or executive—if there’s no sheet music from which to play. Just like an orchestra with its various instrumental sections, there are various subgroups within your enterprise. It’s natural for subsystems habitually to act independently and, all too often, at cross-purposes. But strategic plans are the integrating factor. They carry your leadership to the level of the individual instrument. They drill down into roles and responsibilities— and performance measures. Execution becomes smooth. There is little waste of effort and little reason for decision-making angst. Your team is finally working in unison, empowered to implement the daring decisions needed for triumph. Only with strategic planning can you get the musical score squared away so that you, as conductor, can restore order— enterprise integrity—among all the various parts of the ensemble.

A focus on the strategic plan typifies a skillful orchestral conductor who, amid the dynamic, ongoing flow of the music, can sense when the woodwinds are too soft, or the brass section too loud, and can guide the delicate adjustments that put the performance back into balance. When people in your group find themselves at that kind of nexus, there’s one way for you to be sure they can act with full ownership of the wellbeing of the organization: make sure they are fluent in the strategic plan and involved full force in the creative dialogue. Remember to keep everybody at the nexus: fully informed and informing decisions.

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Building Relationships: Developing the Relationship

April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off on Building Relationships: Developing the Relationship)

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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Lead Generation Technology Forum: How to Maximize Your Pipeline

April 14th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Business Development, Marketing & Sales | Committees | Events - (Comments Off on Lead Generation Technology Forum: How to Maximize Your Pipeline)

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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When Vision is Not Enough

March 18th, 2014 | Posted by Allison Gilmore in Member Blog Posts - (Comments Off on When Vision is Not Enough)

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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