8x8 has hit $100 million in annual revenue, making them one of the top 3 Hosted VoIP providers in the US. I had a chance to interview Debbie Jo Severin, Chief Marketing Officer of 8x8 this week.
My first question was about what kinds of marketing 8x8 does. (I didn't know that the Packet8 brand was no longer in use.)
Severin replied, "First, we no longer market or use the Packet8 brand. Packet8 was a sub-brand created by 8x8 to market our residential and early business service offerings. In 2009, we eliminated the Packet8 brand, shifted our focus to the SMB market and began marketing our business services as 8x8 cloud-based business communication services.
RAD: Packet8 was a big sponsor at ITEXPO and on the TMC communities for a while.
Severin: "We have worked with TMC for a number of years. Today, we sponsor two hosted/cloud-based contact center communities and advertise with them. We employ additional marketing programs including:"
- Brand advertising: We have advertised in the Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine for 4-5 years. You can find us there with a full-page ad. We have sponsored outdoor and radio advertising in the San Francisco Bay Area. We also sponsor online banner ads with the likes of TechCrunch and Google.
- Direct Response: We do a lot of online direct response. So, you'll see us in various pay-per-click sites with the largest being Google.
- Content Syndication Sponsorships: As with many companies in the tech sector, we participate in various content syndication programs where our services are promoted.
RAD: That's a good variety of tactics. Recently, I noticed that 8x8 has Enterprise sales people. In what way is your marketing to enterprise accounts different than to the small business space?
Severin: "Well, the Enterprise space has a much longer sales cycle. Typically, it begins as a project that is approved for the fiscal year under the direction of the CIO or IT Manager. In this case, the key stakeholders are likely doing research on their communication and collaboration options months before deployment and have very specific objectives and pain points to address. They may even issue an RFP to the short list. So, since we need to be in the "conversation" early during the research stages, we've approached this in 3 ways:
- Content Syndication and content relevant sponsorships. In this case, we have developed content or sponsored content that might appeal more to the mid-market business segment (e.g., papers that might address ROI for hosted solutions versus Premise alternatives).
- Engaged in CIO Forums where 150-200 CIOs come who have been identified as having a budget and project that would align with sponsors like 8x8. I liken it to a type of business "speed dating".
- Work with Channel Partners who already have relationships and are engaged with the mid-market and enterprise businesses. They are extended feet-on-the street. We launched a very compelling Channel Program that bridges up-front compensation with on-going residuals. It is quite lucrative and bridges the transition that is occurring for VARs who are used to up-front payments for premise/box sales. We think our program helps minimize their cash-flow risks as they adopt cloud-based services.
RAD: Are marketing and sales separate departments or one umbrella?
Severin: "Marketing and Sales are closely aligned. However, Marketing and Sales are organizationally under different executives."
RAD: What would you attribute the growth in business revenue year-over-year "Revenue from business customers increased 44% year over year to $22.8 million."?
Severin: "8x8 has a very reliable and scalable service that has been proven in the market. We are currently the largest provider (in terms of number of seats) for hosted-PBX business services. The service is robust, feature rich, at a great price, from a company that is focused on the customer and execution. Our recent purchase of Contactual further expands our reach with a hosted Contact Center service, bringing a full-range of services of our small-to-medium sized business customers."
"The market is becoming more comfortable with cloud-based services and the technology has come a long way in the last 5-8 years. So, we think we're just at the beginning of the adoption."
RAD: At $100M and over 200K seats, 8x8 is one of the largest Hosted PBX providers in the US. Most of the thousand VoIP companies are sub-$10M. Who gets more credit: marketing, direct sales or your Channel?
Severin: "Our channel isn't big enough yet to get the credit for where we are. But, we expect they are key to where we're going. As to the question of credit, I would say it goes to everyone at 8x8. We have a strong Engineering team with 79 patents. They have developed a great service that customers appreciate. We have a Customer Support organization and Network Operations team who help our customers and provide reliable service. Great Marketing and Sales can't make a company grow if you can't deliver on your promises."
RAD: Thank you for your time. I appreciate it.
Next up is an interview with a Master Agent and a sub-agent who sell 8x8.