Marketing and UC

by Dave Michels

It is easy to complain about marketing in this industry, but to be fair it’s a tough task. Both the audience and the subject matter make marketing very difficult.

The audience is hard to target – every organization needs a telecom solution – but the timing likely seems random. Purchasing takes place throughout the year, typically driven by internal needs rather than seasons or events. The enterprise communications platform impacts most employees of a given organization, but the decision makers are relatively few with diverse motivations. Purchase decisions are made infrequently, usually less than twice a decade.

The subject matter is tough too. Few agree on what UC even means. Some start with looking for a phone system, others motivations could be presence, mobility, or video. Most prospects don’t even know what their requirements are until they get up-to-date on current capabilities and possibilities.

The value of UC, or a UC brand, is hard to convey in an ad. So many of the terms are meaningless buzzwords until you dive multiple layers deeper into specific capabilities or situations.

Check out this earlier post on taglines from Enterprise Connect as examples of becoming unique in a crowded, yet ambiguous space.

I would like to give credit where credit is due. First, ShoreTel which consistently out-branded much larger companies over the past few years. Most of that can be attributed to Kevin Gavin, ShoreTel’s CMO 2007-2013. I think there was a collective sigh of relief among competitors as the news of  his departure spread.  He’s no longer in UC as he now holds the CMO position at Talari Networks. Kevin did lots of great ads, created an informative website, and could sniff out prospects from their digital trails like no one else.

Here is my favorite ad of his, circa 2010 (click to enlarge):


The first time I saw this ad was in the airport on arrival for an industry conference. I think it was Freud that said ‘sometimes a prison bar is just a prison bar,’ but some disagree.

Kevin’s replacement has not been named yet.

I am also going to recognize Chris Hummel at Unify for great marketing. Chris was actually hired as the CMO, but the board decided that there was no point in marketing the Siemens Enterprise Communications brand because most campaigns charge by the letter. In lieu of marketing, they changed his title to President and CCO. But Now Chris heads a new brand with a new product coming. Unify also shed its networking division – in many ways Unify is a new firm and its marketing engine is just starting up.

When analysts got a sneak peak at Project Ansible last Spring. I wrote:

“The choreographed announcement of Ansible was impressive. The event not only generated buzz, but goodwill. I realized that what SEN can do is vastly different than what SEN has done, and the show is about to begin.”

Evidently Hummel loves surprises. He kept analysts and consultants focused on the existing product lines during the first day of the briefing event, and after the feeding frenzy was over he dropped Project Ansible on day two. He also managed to keep the new company name, Unify, a secret until the launch event earlier this month. I’m not sure how they did that – they organized everything to change on launch day from business cards to building signage. I received a package the day of the launch that I thought was pretty classy. I re-enacted the unboxing in this video:


One more nod goes to Mitel as its been completely revamping its go-to-market messaging. The firm hired a new CMO, Martyn Etherington, who’s been busy renaming all the products (oh mi) and building a new website optimized for the zero moment of truth (ZMOT). Mitel Marketing is going through some major changes and aligning, for the first time, around the buyer’s journey to UC.

It’s easy for an engineer to dismiss the importance of marketing, but the best solutions don’t have a chance if they can’t even get to the table.