The spectrum of service offerings from telecom companies and internet service providers, especially on the B2B side, are getting broader exponentially. Profit margins from traditional bread-and-butter services are thinning, while the lines between telecom companies and technology vendors are blurring.
Now that the cloud and virtualisation era is upon us, telcos and ISPs are cashing in on their subscriber bases. They have started offering managed services, Software as a Service, and Infrastructure as a Service solutions. Whether by reselling, white labeling third party solutions, or developing their own products, telcos and ISPs are already a major player in the technology market.
But new opportunities means new challenges, particularly for the marketers in these companies.
Consumer loyalty is not a significant plus point where telco and ISP offerings are concerned, since the business model they traditionally use is a purely transactional one. Even with re-contract campaign mechanisms in place, the ‘leaky bucket’ customer acquisition model somehow makes sense for high-volume, commodity products like mobile subscription or broadband services.
But when it comes to enterprise products, economies of scale is not significant enough to adopt the same strategy. Not to mention, enterprise sales cycles are longer and prospects need constant nurturing before conversion.
B2B telco and ISP marketers now have to re-evaluate their strategy – not only to generate new leads, but to nurture these leads through the procurement funnel, as well as support, upsell and cross-sell even after the deal is closed.
Telcos and ISPs, in general, don’t have a problem with brand recognition. For the B2C side of their business, everyone under the sun is a prospect, and based on their market share, many are existing customers.
Unfortunately, that awareness does not translate well when they offer enterprise products and solutions. In most cases, business customers do not relate telcos and ISPs with B2B solution providers. In addition, due to the nature of the service provider business, telcos often face negative sentiments, especially in social media, which affects their B2B brand reputation.
The only way a telco or ISP can make a mark in the B2B space is to position themselves as a thought leader, or trusted advisor, through a robust content marketing strategy framework.
Implementing a content strategy is not an easy task for any organisation. But telcos and ISPs find it especially challenging to put on a content publisher’s hat. In the highly transactional arena of B2C, buyers consider the likes of uptime and quality of service to make purchase decisions. Telco and ISP marketers, therefore, have never had to invest in thought leadership, or build a name as trusted advisors, in any specific industry verticals.
Content is a whole new ballgame for them, and the learning curve is steep. But there is no easy way out.
Like any other industry, telcos and ISPs tend to hire marketers with telco or ISP work experience. And this human resource echo chamber worked well for decades, for obvious reasons.
But when a complete new set of products, prospect profiles, and sales cycles comes into the mix, it’s natural to hit some stumbling blocks. Even when upper management and marketing leaders come up with a bulletproof strategy, B2B telco and ISP marketing plans fail miserably without an agile team of marketers who are willing to learn and adapt quickly.
To even come close to replicating their B2C success in the B2B arena, telco and ISP marketers are going to need more than strategising. They need a fundamental shift in mindset, along with a grasp of what makes a provider attractive and trustworthy to businesses.