Virtual brand builder Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2010

When Chris Dalton co-founded Acquity Group LLC in 2001, it was during the aftermath of the dot-com crash and some people thought he was crazy to launch a new IT consultancy firm.

Dalton defied the naysayers. He understood that CEOs sought practical ways to use the Internet as a business channel and recognized where others had gone awry. He incorporated highly tailored and creative integrated technology solutions, providing values to organizations by meeting specific business goals.

“I knew that if we put together the right kind of consultancy, based on what defunct dot-coms had not done, we couldn’t lose,” Dalton says.

Nine years later, Dalton, the company’s president and CEO, has silenced the critics. Acquity Group has been on a growth tear, posting a compound annual growth rate of 60 percent and employing more than 300 people.

Winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in the services category, Smart Business spoke with Dalton about how to use technology to define a brand and transform a business.

Q. How important is defining an organization’s digital brand?

A. We look at the technology revolution and evolution as very similar to when television and radio began to grow in that organizations need to embrace this channel and get the message out about what their brand represents. That may be in the quality of information that you’re conveying to constituents about the products that you offer or about the ways you’re going to engage with them.

The consumer right now has a demand for a certain caliber of service. Your brand needs to represent all the value that’s going to come from your organization. If you have a true customer-centric relationship via the Internet then your brand is going to be morphed and shaped and evolved in many different ways because virtually you can touch anyone in the world and reach them with your brand.

Q. What’s your approach to educating CEOs on how the practical use of technology can be transformational?

A. We have to be receptive to the fact that everyone’s learning. The most valuable part of our dialogue is giving real-world examples of what other clients are doing, how they’re using technology to reach their customers, engage their customers and transform their brand. In that dialogue, once you begin to bring real-world examples to apply and the results they’re driving, that helps with a transformation. It takes a person who is not sure they get it but says, ‘What is Twitter and how can I use that in my business?’

The largest brands out there — Motorola, GM, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble — want to reach their customers, engage with them and find the right medium that holds the most value to bringing that customer over and educating them about the quality of their brand. We explain to CEOs that they must begin to think they can use technology as a means to differentiate themselves.

[See the video below where Dalton talks about building your brand] 

Q. Does that help you foster strong, long-standing relationships?

A. Relationships are the most important part of our business. If I’m a strategic adviser, I need to be a resource that brings value to your business. I need to come in and bring some insight, challenge your team and show them the realm of opportunity and potential. We don’t need to have the biggest project. Instead, we need a string of projects where each time we deliver we create value and help the business transform.

How to reach: Acquity Group LLC, http://www.acquitygroup.com/

Recognizing entrepreneurial excellence

The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® awards recognize the men and women who put everything on the line to turn ideas into viable enterprises. Now in its 24th year, the awards honor those who build the market-leading companies that make our communities, our country and, indeed, the world a better place.

Being a recipient of this prestigious business award means you’re at the top of your game and puts you in the company of such entrepreneurs as Tom Adams of Rosetta Stone, Michael Dell of Dell Inc. and Pierre Omidyar of eBay Inc.

An Entrepreneur Of The Year® nominee must be an owner/manager of a private or public company with primary responsibility for the recent performance of the company and an active member of top management. The nominee’s company must be at least two years old.

Successful entrepreneurs, whether company founders or current leaders, have a knack for taking businesses to the next level. They employ creative ways to find the capital and resources they need to reach their goals as well as build and grow businesses.

If this sounds like you, consider applying to be a 2010 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year®.

Nominations are now being accepted and are available at www.ey.com/us/eoy, for downloadable forms or electronic submissions or by calling (800) 755-AWARD.