Networking tech firm expands from niche strategy

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Core Communications focuses on direct sales to reach travel, hospitality firms

High-tech conferencing capabilities and guest room Internet access have been two of the hotel industry's emergent focuses-and areas of significant spending-in recent years. In fact, demand created something of a "land grab" by dozens of companies rushing to offer hotels Web and networking services, said David Giannini, chairman-CEO of Dulles, Va.-based Core Communications Corp.

But Core Communications wasn't one of them. "We took the road less traveled," he said. "At the time, being an ISP for hotel guest rooms looked to be a low-profit business that could only succeed with huge footprints. Instead, we focused our efforts on providing networking technologies for hotel conference facilities and exhibition halls."

In fact, that's why Giannini founded Core Communications. As a corporate attorney for Ernst & Young's national tax department, he frequently found conference technologies-and their providers-unacceptable.

"I wanted Core to offer seamless, end-to-end network solutions to hotels, meeting planners and conference centers," he said. "And I wanted the technology and customer service to be nothing less than best of breed."

However, getting the attention of international hotel chains was no simple matter. "You're not going to sell them based on some trade magazine advertising," Giannini said. "We knew to start out that we had to be selective-going for major hotel properties and exhibitions-and to interest them we had to build strong relationships with lots of one-on-one personal attention."

Direct marketing is key

In Giannini's mind, direct sales was the only way to go to market. In fact, the company still hardly conducts any other type of marketing, he said.

Core Communications now services hotels and events in 35 states, with offices in 15 cities. The national sales force, which primarily manages existing accounts, totals 30.

"Our sales pitch is that we provide higher-quality technology and services and generate greater return on investment than our competitors," Giannini said. "And we follow that up by customizing solutions for each client over the long haul, rather than taking the quick, cookie-cutter approach."

Core's client roster includes Hyatt Hotels, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Opryland Hotel, the Pasadena, Calif., a and Rhode Island convention centers and a burgeoning relationship with Starwood Hotels.

The company did finally get involved in providing guest room Internet access once the market matured. In early 2003, Core signed an agreement with Omni Hotels to design, build and manage a wireless guest room network throughout the entire chain in North America. Core also scored guest room business from Hyatt Corp. In total, Core's portfolio now includes more than 15,000 guest rooms and 3 million square feet of conference function space.

The meeting planner market has also been a huge boon to Core, especially as the death of horizontal mega-events has given rise to more niche ones.

"We've handled the networks for many corporate events for the likes of PricewaterhouseCoopers and Cisco Systems," Giannini said. "Meeting planners love our approach because we recognize that now more than ever they are under tremendous pressure to provide value to their clients and event attendees." M

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