Katy Herr knows customers are the backbone to any company. When she joined Integral Systems as vice president of marketing and communications, she was thrilled to be a position that allowed her to work closely with people while sharing her company’s products. GovCon Executive recently spoke with Katy about her love of marketing, and how things are going at Integral Systems.
GovCon Executive: Could you tell us a little about your background?
Katy Herr: Prior to joining Integral Systems, I spent several years with a large defense contractor in the D.C. area. I joined right after finishing graduate school. It was a great opportunity to work with some fantastic leaders whose leadership styles continue to influence me today. I also had the opportunity to learn the business from multiple perspectives; I spent time doing market intelligence, competitive intelligence, business development operations and even had a chance to do a tour through their Washington Operations Headquarters before I found way into marketing, and communications for what was then their Department of Defense IT business.
What I love about marketing is that it brings together the different components of the business. It combines the customer facing –which I always think is the most important part– and also the business or technical side of explaining your discriminators to your customers in a way that is meaningful and helps them to understand how you can best help them to achieve their mission. I joined Integral Systems about two years ago. It was a terrific opportunity to join an innovative, mid-sized company. As I researched the company, I was amazed to see that a company of Integral Systems’ size was able to offer satellite and terrestrial communications solutions that fit the customer’s need – whether it is a specific point product or a comprehensive satellite ground system.
GovCon Executive: Can you tell us a little about Integral Systems and where it stands in the market?
Katy Herr: We are a 28-year-old company focused on our customers and on innovation. The interesting thing about Integral Systems is that we were founded on the idea of building a better mousetrap. When the founders came together, the satellite ground system was unique to each satellite. They said, ‘This is silly because you are training your staff multiple times. You are investing in new software and a new line of maintenance fees every time you put up a new satellite. What if there was a software technology that spanned multiple satellites? You would only have to install one time; one piece of software would work across a fleet of satellites. You would only have to train your employees on one system. You would only have to maintain one set of systems.’ That’s how Integral Systems was born.
What is terrific about Integral Systems is that that kind of commitment to innovation and efficiency continue to drive the company today. From those four founders we are now a global company of just under 700 employees.
Through evolution and acquisition, we’ve moved from purely command and control systems, to providing a full suite of ground control solutions; everything from advanced signal processing, to remote monitoring of the network to RF interference mitigation and geolocation. We’re a commercial products-based company, so we provide point solutions and we take those products and integrate them into solution sets for specific areas. For example, we take product solutions like our industry-leading Monics carrier monitoring and interference detection system and our satID geolocation system and combine them to offer a comprehensive and robust RF mitigation and geolocation capability. We also have customers that need larger solutions; for example the US Air Force. We are the prime contractor for the Command and Control System – Consolidated program, which is a consolidated control system for several constellations of military satellite communications satellites.
GovCon Executive: From a marketing perspective, how do you approach building and executing a branding strategy?
Katy Herr: Brand is so emotional and it is so personal. It is personal to your customers and it is personal to your employees — who are really your best brand ambassadors. That sounds incredibly touchy-feely and all of those terrible traditional marketing-type words, right? What it means is you really have to understand who you are, who your company is and what your brand promise is to your customer. You have to do your research. What is that commitment that you are making to them?
When I joined Integral Systems, I spent a lot of time talking to people both inside and outside of the company. I spoke with customers, stakeholders, industry partners and employees to understand who we are today, who have we been in the past, and the current perception in the marketplace. We also used third-party researchers to ensure that we had unbiased feedback and a well-rounded perspective. With this data, we started to see some common themes starting to emerge. The most significant theme was that after all of our acquisitions the sum of our pieces was greater than any individual component alone.
Integral Systems operates as a family of companies. The family includes Integral Systems, RT Logic, Newpoint Technologies, SAT Corporation and Lumistar plus our European subsidiary Integral Systems Europe. In doing the research, we heard that there was real value in branding together as a family of companies and that’s what we’ve implemented in this last year in our new advertising and marketing campaign, The Integral Difference. The Integral Difference campaign is designed to express and educate the marketplace about the breadth of capability across the family of companies.
GovCon Executive: How do you see the future of the firm taking shape and how are you helping to build that path? You talked about how the last 10 years have been big for you guys in terms of acquisitions. Where do you see the next 10 years going?
Katy Herr: I really couldn’t be more excited. We’ve taken some bold steps to expand into exciting new adjacent markets over the last year. We closed the acquisition of CVG Inc. and their wholly-owned subsidiary Avtec Systems, Inc. in March of 2010. They are now operating as Integral Systems SATCOM Solutions division within our Products group. The acquisition broadened our customer base and increased our footprint in the satellite communications and unmanned aerial vehicle market.
We also announced that the company is moving into the services arena via our new business group, Integral Systems Service Solutions or IS3, which is very exciting. We are taking our product solutions and bringing those to customers in a combined way so that customers don’t necessarily have to put in the upfront capital investments for those products. They can take them as a service or a subscription-based service. It makes it much more cost effective, especially for newer or smaller operators or end users to get that quality of service. For example, for capabilities like RF interference monitoring, detection and geolocation – rather than investing in that technology themselves, customers can acquire that as a subscription-based service and use it as needed or on demand.
We are also moving into some new market areas; areas like test ranges and unmanned aerial vehicles – or remotely piloted vehicles – and we’re still innovating our products. Even EPOCH IPS, the software upon which the company was founded twenty-eight years ago; we’re continuing to innovate that concept. We recently demonstrated our concept for a next generation of integrated command and control solution that integrates multiple types of third party data and information including space weather, local base weather and broader network health. It even includes a called neighborhood watch so an operator can understand where his or her satellite is in comparison to his neighbor’s satellite — because it can be pretty congested up there in space. We believe that this capability can support improved space situational awareness, which is a concept that is being discussed and debated quite a bit in the community these days.
From a marketing perspective, it is an exciting time. We’re focused on making sure that we are clearly and consistently articulating our message about what we bring to market and how we can help our customers. We are thinking a lot about how we can most effectively communicate both in terms of forums like trade shows and websites, but also in terms of the language and the tone that we use and how can we be most effective in that way.
GovCon Executive: Do you have any hobbies or activities that you enjoy in your spare time?
Katy Herr: What spare time? I’m kidding! Most of my spare time is really spent catching up with family and friends. I do try to step back and decompress a little bit after a crazy workweek and for me that means either stepping outside for a run or popping into a yoga studio. I find it very helpful for somebody to remind me to breathe every so often. I also find cooking therapeutic. However, you cannot leave me alone at a farmers market because I’ll bring home way too much food. I’m not allowed to go on my own anymore.
GovCon Executive: Do you have a favorite type of food to cook?
Katy Herr: You know, I love cooking all types of food. I’ve been exploring Mediterranean cuisine, Greek in particular, over the last month or two.