Leveraging the strongest IPO ever of an e-services firm in October of 1999, the Breakaway Solutions account team at PAN Communications began an aggressive campaign to establish brand recognition for the FSP (Full Service Provider) model and Breakaway Solutions’ unique offerings within the crowded and popular ASP space in early 2000. The FSP model incorporates strategy, implementation and hosting to provide a complete solution and one-stop shop to its customers, as opposed to a customer using a number of different outsourced vendors. Supported by a vocal and satisfied Breakaway Solutions’ customer base, the public relations team carved a distinct niche among IT trade magazines and business press within the ASP industry for the FSP model
CHALLENGE OR OPPORTUNITY:
In early 2000 the market was saturated with start-ups claiming to be ASPs, over 400 existed to service a market that by 2004 will reach $24 billion, according to Gartner Group research. Breakaway Solutions needed to differentiate itself from the glut of ASPs popping up weekly and establish a strong brand presence with the trade media. Offering a unique business model, including strategy, implementation and hosting for mid-market enterprises, Breakaway Solutions was limited by its market perception as a pure-play ASP. To better define its service offering, Breakaway Solutions coined the term Full Service Provider, and the “Think, Build, Operate” methodology. The challenge the PAN account team faced was to brand this term with IT reporters regularly covering the ASP space, and to distinguish the term FSP from the multitude of acronyms emerging within the marketplace.
- Position Breakaway Solutions CEO Gordon Brooks as the visionary behind the FSP model.
- Use Customers to tell the FSP story.
- Position key executives as leaders of each unique business unit within the FSP model. (strategy, development and hosting)
- Gain analyst buy-in of the FSP model, and create a high-profile speaking program at industry events.
- Announce additional offerings that strengthen the “Full Service Provider” message.
The PAN Communications team assaulted the IT trades with the Breakaway Solutions FSP messaging through a core media relations effort (Appendix A), consisting of leveraging key customer wins for case studies within targeted publications, creating news on a weekly basis, granting open access to key executives and offering comment and “expert opinion” in regards to competitor announcements.
A key to the success of FSP was positioning Gordon Brooks, CEO of the company as a leader of the movement within the business press. By securing stand-alone coverage and features on Brooks in business press like Upside, Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily and Fortune Small Business (Appendix B) PAN established immediate credibility for its lead spokesperson.
In press releases, FSP customer testimonials referred to the benefits of the “Think, Build, Operate” methodology, often commenting on how traditional e-services or ASPs provided inaccurate and incomplete service. PAN found success offering these “customer wins” as exclusives to IT beat reporters for stand-alone coverage. This included coverage of Breakaway Solutions implementations for customers like, PressAcess in [email protected] Week, PressureSource.com, Emetra, Starcite and AviationX in InformationWeek; and eRisks.com in CRN.(Appendix C) All customers and Breakaway Solutions representatives speaking to the media were coached on clearly disseminating the FSP model and explaining its benefits. The one-to-one attention given to the beat reporters and our willingness to provide them with timely, newsworthy stories on a regular basis lead to strong working relationships.
To fully realize the press opportunities for each individual offering within the FSP model (strategy, development and hosting) PAN conducted regular outreach to both ASP as well as e-services and systems integration reporters/editors. By hitting multiple targets at the IT trades PAN multiplied the volume of coverage of the FSP model.
By pitching each part of the FSP model independently we tripled the press opportunities. For example, within the “Strategy” division of the FSP model, PAN worked with e-services and outsourcing reporters to gain significant coverage of the “outsourced CIO” program. Simultaneously, PAN conducted outreach on behalf of the ASP Group to the specific ASP beat writes. As a result, the ASP group was well represented in both planned ASP features and stand-alone articles, as it appeared in the October 2, 2000 issue of [email protected] Week. (Appendix D) Remaining true to the branding project, all representatives would clearly communicate the compounded ability of the FSP model as a whole. Therefore, all Breakaway Solutions’ spokespeople were trained to discuss the other elements of FSP, and how all three came together to benefit the customer.
To capitalize on the numerous announcements made weekly within the e-services/ASP space, PAN kept a close watch on competitors and offered expert opinion on competitor news. For example, when USWeb/ CKS and Whitman Hart created marchFirst, Gordon Brooks was quoted in Upside, Dow Jones, Reuters, CBSMarketwatch and C/Net.
PAN also worked diligently to establish brand recognition through other channels. Gaining analyst buy-in to the FSP model was an important factor, and ultimately resulted in inclusion of FSP within reports from Internet Research Group, Forrester, Meta Group and Summit Strategies. In addition, PAN worked closely with leading trade shows to further position Breakaway executives as expert sources to the media. To name a few, Breakaway Solutions was a featured speaker at events such as Fall Internet World, iEC, ASP Summit and ASPCON.
Specifically, for Fall Internet World, The PAN team conceived and organized the first-ever CEO FSP Panel with conference organizer P.J. Kennedy. The event was moderated by Jupiter and included representatives from XUMA, Jamcracker and Breakaway Solutions.
At the beginning of the year 2000, the term Full Service Provider was foreign to the IT Community. Through the efforts of PAN Communications, at the end of the year 2000, FSP was referenced by press, analysts and the IT industry, and Breakaway Solutions was seen as the leader in the sector and a creator of a unique and substantial business model. So much so, a number of Breakaway Solutions competitors adopted the term FSP and employed the Breakaway Solutions business model to increase revenue and diversify their offerings.
The media themselves validated the business model in year-end awards and accolades. Gordon Brooks and Breakaway Solutions were recognized in the CRN Top 25, CRN e- Stars, Smart Partner Smart 50 and a lead-profile in the VARBusiness 500. (Appendix E) At the end of the year 2000, Breakaway Solutions was the largest FSP according to revenue, had performed over 250 implementations.