- Richard M. Williams
Challenge: Creating a New Market Category
In an increasingly congested marketplace, it becomes more and more difficult to ensure your company is getting its message across to all audiences. Unfortunately, a superior product alone is not enough to capture market share or help your company differentiate itself from the competition. Winning over the industry requires a comprehensive plan that effectively communicates the distinctive and unmatched value of your company’s product and the undeniable need for it in the marketplace. In fact, it requires you to start redefining the market by your company’s strengths, and not settling for the standard metrics that may already be in place. Quite a challenge, for sure.
The benefits, however, certainly warrant the challenge. Companies that are looking to capitalize on new markets have unique opportunities to define, shape and lead in these emerging areas. Successfully creating a new market category is an effective means of raising industry awareness of both your company and your products, as well as establishing you as a thought leader. It also enables you to create new opportunities for communicating your message at industry conferences and events and contribute to relevant publications. Perhaps more importantly, it also opens the door to potential partnerships and new business relationships.
In 2006, Connect2 Communications was faced with addressing this challenge on behalf of one of its clients, Hatteras Networks, a successful provider of Ethernet over copper solutions. Hatteras had introduced the concept of Access Class Ethernet in 2002 and was instrumental in the development of Ethernet standards and related organizations. As service providers began rolling out Ethernet over copper solutions to business customers in 2005, other start-ups entered the market and began to “steal the debate” on what was required for Ethernet-based access services. Hatteras realized it needed a way to differentiate itself from competitors.
Connect2 Communications understood that, for Hatteras, it wasn’t just a matter of thinking of new press release topics or pitching new media outlets. Connect2 Communications needed to help Hatteras clearly define its strengths and build a new market category based upon those strengths – ultimately allowing the company to assert market leadership in this new category.
Messaging, Strategies and Tactics
With these thoughts in mind, Connect2 helped Hatteras Networks develop a fully integrated public relations/marketing campaign to communicate the distinctive and unmatched value of its product and the undeniable need for it in the marketplace. They came up with the new market category of “Mid-Band Ethernet,” focusing on what made the company successful – service capabilities and true carrier-class delivery, not simple throughput as defined by the industry’s standards.
Connect2 Communications also devised a strategy that would articulate the benefits of Mid-Band Ethernet to three key audiences – industry analysts, service providers and businesses. Before launching the plan, Connect2 conducted extensive research on the three main audiences that included detailed discussions with business customers regarding their Ethernet requirements and what services they were using. Next, Connect2 approached industry analysts to understand exactly what was happening within the Ethernet services market and how Mid-Band Ethernet would fit in. The last stage in the research phase involved conversations with Hatteras’ service provider customers to learn what they and other carriers wanted to do with the copper networks that were already in place.
After analyzing this research, Connect2 launched the market creation campaign. The plan included:
Seeding the concept of Mid-Band Ethernet with key industry influencers as they began to track the Ethernet over copper market
Providing real-world deployment challenges faced by service provider customers, highlighting how Mid-Band Ethernet opportunities required full Ethernet switching to solve, not simply address carrier pain points
Expanding applications for Mid-Band Ethernet to include carrier deployments in support of wireless and cell tower backhaul
Consistently using Mid-Band Ethernet as synonymous with Ethernet over copper in press releases, press interviews and presentations
Labeling any customer deployment of Hatteras’ solutions as a Mid-Band Ethernet deployment
Securing speaking opportunities and major industry publication bylines that would give Hatteras Networks a platform from which to convey the Mid-Band Ethernet message
Within six months, four leading analyst firms were tracking Mid-Band Ethernet as a market segment. In 2007, the mainstream trade press embraced the term and three Tier 1 trade publications (Telephony, Telecommunications and xchange Magazine) now regularly feature Mid-Band Ethernet as a category on their editorial calendars. Members of the press regularly refer to Ethernet over copper as Mid-Band Ethernet when discussing the market and leading industry conferences regularly list Mid-Band Ethernet as a market category.
Two major carrier deployments further validated the Mid-Band Ethernet market and Hatteras’ rightful place as the market leader. In 2006, BellSouth standardized on Hatteras Networks’ Ethernet Service edge platform to deliver its Ethernet service over copper, enabling BellSouth to move its business outside its normal customer base. In 2007, XO Communications deployed the Hatteras platform to expand the reach of its Ethernet Services footprint in 60 metropolitan markets, the largest Mid-Band Ethernet deployment in the world. XO now enables businesses at copper-fed locations to take advantage of Ethernet services previously only available at buildings connected by fiber.
Most importantly, Hatteras Networks is the recognized industry and thought leader in the Mid-Band Ethernet market. With Connect2’s comprehensive public relations and marketing plan, Hatteras Networks not only made Mid-Band Ethernet accepted industry vernacular, it also successfully demonstrated the relevance of Mid-Band Ethernet to all types and sizes of carriers – from the worlds largest incumbents and national CLEC’s to small, independent rural carriers – helping the company expand its customer base.