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September 10, 2007

BrandingWire: IT the Canadian Way

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This month Steve Woodruff honored me by asking me to participate in BrandingWire's latest challenge.

We are an IT company that does a lot of work for non-profit organizations and financial/accounting clients, but even though business is growing rapidly (We've doubled in size over the last two years), we have a couple of problems.

First, we have some difficulty convincing potential clients that what we do has value with respect to their businesses to the point that they will invest in a contract with us. This means to me that they do not believe our expertise adds any value to them. Whatever strategy we pursue must help us establish ourselves as experts and authorities in our field.

Second, our background is with nonprofit organizations, but we hope to expand beyond that sector. Limiting ourselves to our current industries puts a natural limit on how much we can grow.

(View the details about this assignment.)

We need to start planning for the future now, and we cannot allow short-term problems to get in the way of our long-term view. Thus, my part of this assignment will be primarily focused on the long run. If by the time a business gets started, IT is but an afterthought, we have little chance to overcome the trend in the business world to underbudget and underprepare for IT costs, except after a major IT catastrophe happens within an organization or an industry. Therefore we must target people who are just getting businesses started or who are just getting started themselves in the workplace.

Connect with Canadian entrepreneurial organizations.
Our target market is small to medium sized businesses in our city and surrounding areas. To both prepare future business leaders and establish ourselves as experts in this field, we should hold workshops designed to show the sorts of options startup companies can face, and demonstrate how and under what circumstances hiring a company like ours to provide IT services makes sense.

Sponsor a nonprofit organization that helps develop Canadian youths.
Set up internship and other professional programs to help young Canadians build professional knowledge and expertise. By doing this, we will not only equip young Canadians to establish themselves in the workplace and achieve greater things in their own lives, but we also increase the mean intelligence of the marketplace and ensure those entering the workplace do so with full cognition of the IT challenges the companies they choose to work for can expect to face. Also establish a program to keep in contact with these individuals we've helped, track their progress in their careers, and if necessary, offer a helping hand.

Give guest lectures at one or several local business colleges.
Opportunities for topics include how IT outsourcing can improve the bottom line and help the environment. This is an important step for several reasons. First, of course it will, as the point before, help those entering the workplace come to know what to expect from an IT standpoint. Second, it keeps our company top-of-mind when either IT or green initiatives are started by a company anyone in the audience eventually works for are started.

Start a corporate blog.
This is, in part, an extension of the lectures mentioned above. The blog should expound on how IT services can help reduce the consumption of resources and helps our clients be more environmentally friendly. Doing this is not only good from a PR perspective, but it will appeal to a younger, more environmentally conscious audience. In addition, it positions the company well if and when the Canadian government passes environmental legislation that will be binding on our potential clients. This blog can help us as much as we want. If we want it to be a big part of our strategy, quality and consistency are key.

Whenever the marketplace doesn't think it is worth to pay for IT services, they are either right or they are wrong. If they are wrong, then there is a bit of an education problem that might be exacerbated by how rapidly things change in the industry. To make sure we aren't always chasing our tails, we must not only address the needs of right now, but we must also look to the horizon and start training the leaders of tomorrow to prepare them for the problems they will face. In the end, they will remember and appreciate that we helped them succeed, and one day we will no longer have to worry that clients don't see the value in what we do.

Get more insight about this BrandingWire assignment from the following writers:

Lewis Green

Martin Jelsema

Kevin Dugan

Valeria Maltoni

Steve Woodruff

Drew McLellan

Patrick Schaber

Gavin Heaton

Becky Carroll

Olivier Blanchard

and fellow guest writers:

Matt Dickman

Chris Brown

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Comments

Cam:

That is a very interesting approach. If IT is viewed as table stakes by millenials and future generations who grew up using technology, how can we become top of mind?

Cam,

Good out-of-the-box thinking. Reaching out to entrepreneurs and students is a very good approach to both business development and word of mouth marketing.

Here's an idea, develop strong, business focused case studies for the work you've done with non-profits. Often times working with non-profits means you have to be more creative with ideas and more efficient because they don't have as much monty AND are can be more bureaucratic than public companies (although not always). These case studies could turn working with non-profits into an advantage rather than a dis-advantage.

Cam,

Excellent points. The best way to be perceived as an expert is to behave like one.

And the best way to shift from vendor to partner is to be perceived as a valued expert.

Drew

Cam: Thanks for contributing to this month's BrandingWire collaborative blog event. Your perspective was indeed unique and welcome. I'd just add that looking long-term is advice well-heeded because a company like the one we advised is certainly short-term oriented. Martin

Cam - I like your ideas here.

These audience-targeted activities will have several benefits from a sales and marketing perspective.

And welcome to the BrandingWire fray.

Hey Cam,
Great perspective on targeting groups that cater to people in the early stages of building a business. My guess is that alot of companies aren't utilizing that angle.

-Pat

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