(NOVEMBER 21, 2005) - Standing out in a crowd is a tough thing for privately held companies to do. It’s tough, but not impossible.
Light Reading editors and Heavy Reading analysts have looked at the entries in the Leading Lights Award category for Best Marketing, Private Company, and, while doing so, we’ve found some interesting examples of companies that have really differentiated themselves through powerful marketing programs.
As was the case last year, when we debuted these awards, the finalists were chosen by our panel because they most clearly identified what they do, and have been consistently recognized as doing it.
Our judges considered all aspects of marketing: how each company identified its customer base, how its product is positioned, how it’s finding customers, how it’s branding itself, and yes, how the company has gotten its message out to press and analysts. Even with limited budgets, lack of Wall Street visibility, and often times obscure technologies, some private companies have managed to stand out without embarrassing themselves.
The winner in this and all other Leading Lights Award categories will be announced at our Awards Dinner after The Light Reading Telecom Investment Conference in New York City on December 14.
Here are the five selections for Best Marketing, Private Company, listed in alphabetical order:
Expedient Data Centers:
Pittsburgh-based service provider Expedient isn’t wringing its hands because businesses need to be educated about its Ethernet services. Instead, the company has taken a novel and memorable approach by highlighting “The Seven Deadly Sins” of traditional Internet services.
By doing so, the carrier has taught its customers a thing or two while standing out amongst sound-alike alternative service providers. (See Ethernet Goes Wide at Supercomm.) Whether a business was “lusting” for faster connections, a “glutton” for a more reliable service, or full of “wrath” when its Internet hookup failed, Expedient’s clever campaign managed to get its attention while carefully guiding it to consider buying Ethernet over TDM.
In one promotion the company ran, potential customers were encouraged to “give into temptation” and visit a Website that explained the products in more detail, with the hope of winning two free months of service.
Expedient can’t be as big as an RBOC, but with a slick, somewhat risqué campaign, it accomplishes its main goal of setting itself apart from traditional carriers.
You’d think it would be easy to market a winning product, but there are plenty of companies that have good technology and, for whatever reason, are all thumbs when it comes to getting the word out. Isilon Systems doesn’t have that problem. The company says it is the leader in clustered storage. And it says it over and over again to the point that it’s pretty hard to ignore. And, you know what? A lot of people have looked at its technology and are inclined to agree.
Byte and Switch recently gave the company quite a pat on the back. “Not only does Isilon use less hardware to add capacity, it makes all that storage easier to add and manage than anything on offer from bigger players,” the publication wrote, while putting Isilon on its Top Ten Private Companies list. That’s high praise and we’re convince that Isilon’s message matches its moxie - and vice versa.
Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF):
Since 2003, the MEF has always been hard at work on defining carrier Ethernet and making it a worldwide standard. But this year, the MEF made huge strides in accomplishing its objective - and it kept its name in the press consistently all year long. (See MEF Absorbs EFMA.)
In April, Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe and MEF president and chief marketing officer Nan Chen launched the MEF’s Carrier Ethernet Certification program, which defined carrier Ethernet to equipment vendors. (See MEF Sets ‘Carrier Ethernet’ Bar.) Then, in October, the MEF kicked off the second phase of the certification campaign with a carrier certification process, which cleared the air even more about what carrier Ethernet is and how it can be implemented. (See MEF Adds Carrier Certification.) And, yes, it has done a good job of building suspense as well, as the group’s contest entry notes that the first set of “Carrier Ethernet Certified” service providers will be announced during the first quarter of 2006.
Though it’s an industry association and not a vendor or service provider, the MEF deserves a huge amount of credit for how it has used the combined might of its members to advance its cause and to make itself heard, a feat that, amazingly, not that many industry groups have success at doing.
NetCentrex is a VOIP infrastructure company, but the company’s positioning is all about IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystems) and triple play - the two things that carriers are locked on to help them survive and thrive in the future. The company’s positioning of its IPlay3 Consortium as a key industry partnership program has added to that pro-carrier message. (See Olivier Hersent.)
Rather than taking the “my box is better” approach, the company - on Webinars, in press interviews, and at conferences - is always seen touting what carriers can do to with an IMS architecture and how carriers can improve their bottom line with triple-play services.
The company’s results back up its bark. (See NetCentrex Wins Customers.) With more than 2 million Class 5 VOIP lines in service, the venture-backed firm says its customers are currently activating 5,000 VOIP lines a day. (See Fastweb Reaches 10M Calls.)
The fact that competitors call Unstrung up to complain about Tropos’s 200-plus customer list are a solid indicator that the company has done something right in marketing this year. (See Tropos Pairs With HP, Bags $15M.) The firm has made itself the startup to beat in the metro-mesh space. And, even as bigger and stronger companies are waking up to the wireless LAN mesh market, Tropos isn’t standing still. (See Cisco Plots Mesh.) As part of the startup’s newly-minted partnership program, Tropos says it will work with development partners and solutions partners so it can develop new hardware and dedicated services for carriers. (See Tropos Gets With the Program.)
The Staff 2005, Light Reading www.lightreading.com