E-Steel forges new direction with name change

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Seeking refuge from the recession andfailsafe from the faltering steel industry, E-Steel Corp. has changed its name to NewView Technologies and is repositioning itself as a marketer of software to industries ranging from automotive to consumer packaged goods.

The company’s b-to-b steel exchange—launched in 1999 and once one of the highest-profile e-hubs—will remain open, though its role will be secondary to software, said Michael S. Levin, CEO of New York-based NewView.

Levin said that NewView’s former name name did not reflect its new capabilities to serve many industries. "E-Steel was a great name except for two things—‘E’ and ‘steel,’" he said. "Today, we have opportunities that go beyond exchanges for vertical markets."

Levin conceded a recession is a tough time to recast a company from a branding perspective.

"Our name change comes at a lull in people’s interest levels," he said. "This is going to turn out to be one of those overnight, five-year success stories."

Indeed, the company’s changes come as the steel industry is undergoing its toughest period since at least the early 1980s, putting survival atop its priority list and e-trading initiatives, at least for now, far below.

Hard times for steelmakers

America’s best-known steel companies are reeling from cheap foreign imports, rising costs and dwindling domestic demand.

Two of the nation’s largest steelmakers, Bethlehem Steel Corp. and LTV Corp., have sought bankruptcy protection. Meanwhile, Bethlehem, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, USX Co. and two unidentified steel companies are reportedly in merger talks.

Levin said the industry’s woes did not prompt NewView’s changes. "We knew from early on it would be tough selling the steel industry on anything, given their cutbacks," he said.

Levin said NewView, which has been winning big non-steel clients, including Ford Motor Co., is already well positioned to serve many different industries. Nearly 80% of its revenue now comes from software sales, with fees associated with its exchange bringing in the rest, he said.

Marketing challenge

The company faces a daunting task, not only in terms of competing on the crowded supply chain software front, but also in marketing effectively to a disparate audience, said Glenn Gow, president-CEO of Crimson Consulting Group Inc., a Los Altos, Calif.-based e-commerce marketing consultancy.

"I suspect they knew the steel industry very well, and now they’re trying to break into other industries," he said. "And that’s very hard to do for any small company."

One of NewView’s biggest challenges is creating a sales and marketing team that understands and can approach multiple vertical industries, Gow said.

"You need not only a sales organization that understands a market, but a marketing team that knows how to go after it and support the infrastructure."

Sales force adjustment

Levin said NewView has let most of its steel-centric salespeople go and hired reps with broader expertise. "A year ago, most of our salespeople were focused on steel," he said. "Today, it’s purely an IT sales force with a sub-specialty in supply chains."

He said the company’s software, which targets reseller markets in raw materials, provides it with a niche to distinguish itself from bigger competitors.

Another big challenge for NewView will be to get broad exposure for its name, although it has no set advertising plans.

"Our advertising budget is a direct function of our direct sales force," Levin said. "It’s not like the heady days of 1999."

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