Did EarthLink Goof on Branding?

Peter : On Rad's Radar?
| Peter Radizeski of RAD-INFO, Inc. talking telecom, Cloud, VoIP, CLEC, and The Channel.

Did EarthLink Goof on Branding?

nen-eln_logo.pngYesterday when I was speaking to a client, I mentioned that new Edge Networks merged with Deltacom to become EarthLink Business. The confused look on his face was not unexpected. Again this morning when discussing the new name, EarthLink is linked to consumer dial-up in the marketplace. How does that translate into a B2B Brand?

Back in the day, Mindspring and EarthLink were excellent marketing companies. But in 2005, in the dark days of Muni Wi-Fi, EarthLink lost its marketing edge.

Maybe it was the beat down from the MSO's over broadband access, coupled with the browbeating of dealing with ILEC's on wholesale DSL in the post-Brand-X era. Either way, EarthLink flubbed the marketing ball in Muni Wi-Fi. At the time, Sky Dayton was CEO of Helio, the MVNO partnership ELNK had with SK Telecom. I understand billing platform issues, but ELNK dial-up users should have been targeted for bundles that just never happened.

For example, Helio cellphones with wi-fi for access on the Muni Wi-Fi with some form of broadband combo (Wi-Fi, DSl, Cable, 2.5G) and of course dial-up back-up service.  Gadgets were trialed, but the project was battered. As I understand it, internal silo thinking coupled with silo quotas killed any attempt at bundling.

Needless to say, EarthLink's brand has taken some punches. In fact, that was what made me go HUH?! when it was announced that the new CLEC would be named EarthLink Business.

You think dial-up, but would you think MPLS or Fat Pipe from ELNK? I don't think so. In fact, I think they goofed.

The announcement mentions that they are an MSP now. How so? You were a CLEC combined with a fiber player. Where did the MSP come from?  I honestly thought that they were just jealous that Megapath-Covad got so much press this year. Megapath launched as an MSLEC (which I also think is a misnomer because just doing managed router and some network monitoring does not an MSP make).

Plus Managed Services is such a buzz term now - a garbage can term for so many things. Not exactly a branding term. (Well, MSLEC was a shot at blue ocean strategy).

In the managed services offering, you don't offer firewall, security, IDS, or any of the other truly upscale managed security offerings. While you mention taking over IT staff roles, what role is that exactly? ELNK is just doing monitoring at the edge. This can be done via alarm notifications.

Anyway, ELNK had a chance here to pull off a Verizon. That is, create a new brand around two properties that were not exceptional. New Edge was taking a back seat to Megapath in 2010. And Deltacom is a failure. All that fiber and the best that Deltacom could do was sell cheap T1's on price. Waste opportunity. (And I won't even get into how Deltacom  screwed the Channel!)

Here's another Goof: keeping the Delatcom management team in place. If you couldn't get it done before the acquisition, how will you get it done now? It goes with the thinking that what got you here, won't get you there. But this seems like the Muni thinking all over again. And ELNK doesn't have a lot of room for mistakes.

Here's what I would have done: rename it something new. I would have had a launch party. The Managed Services product would have been front and center. Video interviews explaining the new name and the MSP approach. I would have had a few partners interviewed about the coming changes.

On top of that, I would have rolled out a lit building list to my channel with pricing for Ethernet and big bandwidth promotions for 1Q2011. Because, as I explain in my new book about Lit Building Sales Plans, lit buildings is where the most profit is. And the key to the acquisition of Deltacom is figuring out how to maximize the profit off that fiber network.
Lastly, I would have had a sales script and marketing collateral for agents and direct sales to go back to all current and previous customers to (a) explain the name change; and (b) upsell the MSP.

That probably seemed like it made too much sense, so they went the easy route and called it EarthLink Business with the Deltacom management in place.  But, Rolla, if you want to talk, give me a ring.

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