Barry Shevlin spends a lot of time talking to customers to find out what they like and don’t like about his business. It was in one of these discussions that Shevlin confirmed his longtime suspicions that his company’s name, Network Liquidators, was costing him business.
“They said, ‘We just weren’t comfortable buying new equipment from a liquidator,” says Shevlin, founder and CEO of Oldsmar-based Vology Data Systems.
After losing several deals because of branding, Shevlin realized that as distributor of new and pre-owned telecommunications equipment, the company needed to eliminate the negative label of “liquidator” and find a new name that could help it excel with more IT services.
Smart Business spoke with Shevlin about the keys to rebranding and how it’s benefited the $72 million business.
Obtain outside help. We made the decision in October 2009 and we really didn’t know how to go about that, so we hired a firm to help us. … They helped us go through a process to help us come up with a new name, Vology.
If we’d tried to go about doing the name change ourselves, it would have had a very different outcome. I think the smartest thing we did as part of the process was engage Schifino Lee to help us, because they do that for a living. We sell hardware for a living or IT products and services for a living. We’re not experts on naming and branding. So getting to someone who knows more about that than you do was definitely the right move for us.
Be open-minded. Their initial list was hundreds. They gave us a final list of nine; Vology was one of nine. They [Schifino Lee] recommended it and our initial reaction was, ‘Well, let’s keep going.’
The first time they presented it to us, it just didn’t feel right, but it turned out to have one characteristic that was very interesting. The name grew on every one of us over the subsequent week. That apparently is the trait of a really good name.
Build enthusiasm. A lot of people were partial to the old name; that’s what they knew us as. Now 100 percent of the people here recognize it was the right decision, but that wasn’t the case day one.
The idea was to get the employees involved in the process a little bit. So we told our employees about six weeks before we told our customers, and we kind of made a big deal about it. Every week we gave them an idea of what we were doing. We unveiled the name one week and the logo the next week and tried to build some excitement up around it.
Communicate change to customers. The customer piece is something we’re still struggling with. There are still some people who know us as Network Liquidators and haven’t adopted the name change yet, but it’s only been a year. Over time, I’m sure we’ll get through that.
[It’s] just constant communication. Right now, we talk to 50,000 customers a month and so [we are] making sure that’s part of every conversation; part of every e-mail is helping to drive the Vology brand as opposed to the Network Liquidators brand.
Embrace improvement. I met with a VP of IT from one of our largest customers about a year ago and they were looking for a vendor to help to do some monitoring and management of the network. His comment to me was, ‘There’s no way I would have brought a proposal from a company called Network Liquidators to our management team.’… So now it opens the door for those opportunities with existing customers, who’ve been part of our evolution.
It goes back to having a continuous improvement philosophy is the best way to go. We kind of look at ourselves and say, ‘We made the decision more than a year ago, and we haven’t revisited it on why we made that decision. It’s probably time to take a look at it again.’ And that results in an awful lot of change, but our culture embraces change, so that’s not something we’re afraid of. I would recommend that approach.
It’s fighting complacency. A lot of people think people are happy with the status quo, and you want to show them ways that it can always be better. That’s what continuous improvement is all about.
How to reach: Vology Data Systems, (888) 486-5649 or www.vds.com