Make More Bucks Through Vertical and Affinity Marketing

Given that four vertical industries were estimated to account for more than 50 percent of all corporate spending on telecommunications services in 2003, agents should be all ears for the session, Marketing Tips: On Target: Vertical and Affinity Marketing. Last year, Insight Research predicted that the financial, insurance, wholesale trade and real estate industries in the United States would account for 68.5 percent of corporate telecommunications expenditures by the end of 2003. The number spent by U.S. businesses as a whole is forecast to grow to $243 billion by 2008, Insight analysts wrote.

Attend this session to get in on the action. Greg Griffiths, vice president of marketing for New Edge Networks; Jamison Shefts, president and CEO, Access2Go; and Rick Hazen, director of IT- Infrastructure for Circle K, all will be on hand to talk with agents about the importance of targeting vertical and affinity markets.

For Griffiths, the session will be a time to emphasize two main points: that vertical markets represent a lucrative opportunity for agents, resellers and carriers; and that New Edge helps those marketers develop effective campaigns to penetrate vertical markets.

The hottest vertical market segment today is retailers, Griffiths says. Theyre buying a lot of broadband. New Edge helps agents by creating profiles of particular industries, containing information such as how and why they buy telecommunications services. If you know how they buy, then you have an idea of who you need to approach with that message, he says.

Penetrating vertical and affinity markets is only as difficult as you make it. Griffiths notes the work might seem hard at first, but if agents commit to pursuing these verticals and do some up-front work, they will reap the rewards. The big benefit is, once youve penetrated the market and sold one of these, its so much easier to go to the other retailer down the street, explain what you did for their competition, and its a snowball effect, he says. And thats the real benefit of vertical marketing. Now, all of a sudden, you have a product thats tailor-made for somebody. And, in the retail world, more than any other segment, for example, they have to keep up with competition. So business really accelerates.

In the retail world, telecom agents traditionally have focused on a companys phone bill. Griffiths sees opportunity with the point of sale (PoS) system. A broadband line now facilitates credit and debit card transactions, and smart agents, Griffiths says, are working with the middlemen who typically have gotten paid every time a credit card is swiped. Griffiths wants to help agents look at potential partnerships with hardware PoS vendors, software vendors and more.

Meanwhile, Access2Gos Shefts comes at the discussion from the viewpoint of a telecom reseller that maintains a subagent network. Access2Go sells wholesale to retail within banking and health care, but largely stays away from education because it doesnt net a lot of money.

Im a salesperson so Im going to hit everything from a sales perspective, Shefts says of the session. He explains that it is crucial for agents to offer strong back-office support because you can sell anything but if you dont support it…youre only as good as your weakest link.

He adds that once agents get into a vertical market, they always partner with someone, from the PBX supplier to the router supplier. Youre a piece of the puzzle, but youre not the whole puzzle, he says. Access2Go strategically entered markets by riding the coattails of well-established PBX companies, he says, relying on their good reputations to help build relationships. Access2Go then earned referrals and became more established. Now small companies are hoping to penetrate markets with Access2Gos help, Shefts says.

Over time the pendulum changes and moves a little, he muses.

Shefts, Griffiths and Circle Ks Hazen also will use the session to field questions from agents. Hazen, as an end user, will help agents understand their value to direct customers.

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