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Close-Up with Mehmet Balos, CMO, Genband

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Genband (www.genband.com), a global supplier of Internet protocol (IP) communications solutions, has experienced strong growth largely through acquisitions, including buying the switching division of Tekelec in 2007 and Nortel's carrier VoIP and application solutions business this year. Both acquisitions were of entities much larger than Genband itself and helped push its revenue from $5 million six years ago to pro forma sales (considering the mid-year acquisition) of $800 million. Another result has been a marketing challenge for the company's CMO, Mehmet Balos: making the Plano, Texas-based company better known to its audiences, including a vast new array of direct customers as well as channel partners.

CMO Close-up: Explain something of Genband's acquisitions.

Balos: Tekelec's switching division was four times bigger than us when we bought it, and we integrated it into Genband in less than a year. We did a couple of other smaller acquisitions following that and then bid on Nortel's VoIP business right after it filed for bankruptcy protection. June 1, 2010, was our first day as a combined entity, with Genband growing from 500 employees to 3,000, and with offices in 80 countries.

CMO Close-up: How did this affect your go-to-market strategy?

Balos: Before Nortel, we mainly were selling directly in North America, and outside the U.S. through channel partners such as Ericcson and Alcatel. But with the Nortel acquisition, this has changed. We went from about 30% direct sales to 85% now. For that you need to build a brand; but in our case we're far from a household word. In addition, there are maybe 80 to 100 decision-makers in each company we need to reach out to, so our marketing campaigns are generally very focused.

CMO Close-up: Tell us a little of your marketing strategy?

Balos: We created our new ad campaign to build our brand. Since we are the core of many telephone service providers' solutions, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and British Telecom, we wanted something like the “Intel Inside” campaign. That's why we came up with our “Look Closer” campaign, meaning if one of our customers or end-users takes a closer look at normal telephony or mobile networks, Genband is in almost everything you see.

We'll also exhibit at major trade shows, such as Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this February, or CTIA in Orlando in March, to meet with key customers, partners and analysts. We also stage customer visits through road shows. We'll take some of our subject matter experts and educate customers on how we can solve some of their issues. Since we have a lot of international customers, these events are good opportunities for us to meet in private rooms to let them know what is happening. For our sophisticated systems, face-to-face is extremely important. That's why we have more than 240 salespeople around the globe.

CMO Close-up: What did you do with internal marketing following the Nortel deal?

Balos: Our employees are our brand ambassadors. When we closed on Nortel June 1, we had a major employee event connecting corporate headquarters to all key locations, with a celebration presentation from our CEO, Charlie Vogt. Then we flew senior management to London to welcome our European sales and marketing staffs. We then came back to Dallas and did this for our Americas division, involving North, Central and South America. We did the same in Hong Kong for that area, including Australia and New Zealand. Through all this, we reached out to almost 2,000 employees in three weeks.

CMO Close-up: Your strong outreach to analysts seems a little unusual for a private company. Can you tell us more?

Balos: Yes, it's more normal with public companies. But we repeatedly see and educate trade analysts because they're very influential in customer decisions. We even provide them with our quarterly numbers. In September we brought 53 of the top analysts and trade media to our headquarters for a company overview since the Nortel acquisition. We also put together a very credible customer panel that included AT&T and Verizon.

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