Take a moment and think about some of the biggest global brands you know. What do all those brands have in common? Most likely they represent a high standard of product quality and customer satisfaction.
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have an advertising budget to match these mega brands, but I bet you’d like your brand to be memorable — like the examples that just popped into your head — and be associated with great service and customer satisfaction.
Something else those brands likely have in common is that they aren’t limited in their scope. To put it another way, a successful brand doesn’t burden the company it represents but provides a vehicle for unlimited growth opportunities.
Now that so much IT business is moving to the cloud, and with remote monitoring and management (RMM) technologies allowing IT companies to perform a majority of IT services without leaving their offices, IT solution providers can grow well beyond their local region and initial services. The downside is that their competitors have the same opportunities, which means everyone must work harder to stand out. For example, instead of using traditional classifications like “value-added reseller," many channel companies differentiate themselves by using labels such as “technology solution providers” or “managed service providers.”
While it is important to figure out where your company fits in the spectrum of IT channel businesses, focusing solely on an industry label may be overshadowing a larger branding challenge — your company name.
The Drawbacks of Classic IT Company Naming Conventions
Regardless of whether your company bills itself as a VAR, MSP, or one of the many other popular terms, it’s likely your company’s name includes one or more of the following:
- Terms that describe some — but not all — of what you do like “computer” or “network”
- IT jargon that non-techies might not understand like “cloud” or “integrated”
- Something that could limit your growth, like a geographical region
Having these elements in your company name could be hurting your business. If potential customers see “computers” in your name but they’re having a problem with off-site backup or a firewall, they may not realize you offer related services and dismiss you in favor of a competitor. Similarly, if they don’t understand or have reservations about any of the words in your name, you could lose business that way, too — before you even have a chance to deliver your sales pitch.
Headquartered in Harlan, Iowa, Heartland Technology Solutions (HTS) was a classic example of the geographical naming convention. If you’re the only IT company in your region to use this tactic, it’s not a big deal, but the fact that more than 4,000 other Midwest companies have “Heartland” in their name gives a clue about this MSP’s situation.
Should You Change Your Name?
It could be argued that if you don’t have a name that sets you apart, you should think about changing it so it can carry your brand forward. It worked for technology consulting firm Accenture in 2001, formerly Andersen Consulting, which shed its former accounting firm name. But, could the same strategy work for an MSP?
One of the biggest challenges with creating a new business name is that many of the best names (and domains) have already been taken. It’s also expensive in terms of time, money, and effort. So, can it work for a small-to-medium-size MSP? Heartland Technology Solutions’ transition to OXEN Technology suggests that it can, and other MSPs should take note.
Choose A Name That Describes — and Differentiates — Your Company
Founded in 1985, HTS had undergone many big changes over the years, including acquiring four companies and transitioning from break-fix to managed services. One thing the company continued to struggle with, however, was distinguishing its brand from other channel IT companies.
The MSP wanted a name that wasn’t overly used but still represented its Midwestern business values, heritage, and financial strength. “We’re not about selling something new and shiny just because we can; we’re about making life simple for our clients,” said Bob Gentzler, who took over as president of HTS in early January 2015.
Three descriptive words that consistently came up in conversations about what made HTS special were: strong, trusted, and simple. From there, HTS began looking for something that would embody each of its core traits, and it landed on the name OXEN. “Not only do oxen exemplify these traits, they work closely with one another to get the job done,” said Gentzler. “Also, there are only three other Midwest companies with oxen in their name — and none of them are IT companies — which makes it much easier to distinguish our company and build our brand.”
Make Your Decision, Then Pay Attention to Feedback and Metrics
After agreeing on the new name, OXEN Technology, the MSP did an internal launch, reviewing its decision with key vendors at a company retreat followed by a full public rebranding and a new website (www.oxen.tech) shortly afterward. Since the launch, Gentzler said it has sparked a lot of conversations with clients and prospects and has given his company an opportunity to explain and reiterate its core values and differentiators.
After the rebranding, OXEN experienced 50-percent revenue growth in managed services sales within a year. It’s hard to say definitively what percent of that growth happened as a result of the MSP’s brand overhaul rather than other changes it made, such as changing its BDR offering and sales model. Two things are certain, however. First, no detectable negative repercussion resulted from changing its name. And, second, separating itself from 4,000-plus “Heartland” companies didn’t hurt, either.
Richard Delahaye is Senior Director of Marketing for Barracuda MSP, where he manages the company's global marketing strategy. Richard has 15 years of experience in high tech B2B marketing with a track record of spearheading innovative campaigns.
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