Last week we met with Sheldon Laube, Chair and CEO of CenterBeam, in Manhattan’s May Rose restaurant. He explained that the problem with PC vendors (as well as many other marketers aiming at SOHOs) is that they just market particular products instead of selling complete “solutions”.
CenterBeam's subscription-based computing model was definitely invented to sell a solution rather than just technology. For one monthly price, CenterBeam provides SOHOs with a complete technology infrastructure - PCs, tech support, high-speed Internet access, software backups, and more.
To deflect customer concerns over CenterBeam’s standard 3-year client contract, the company offers a guarantee, "if for any reason you're not satisfied with our service you can break the contract".
Kirstin Burke, CenterBeam’s Director Marketing Communications told us how the Company gets their solution-oriented message out to the small biz marketplace through integrated campaigns in a wide variety of media including email, direct mail, banner ads, print, radio, and seminars.
The company has rolled out these campaigns in a targeted fashion to local marketplaces. Burke explained, "In rolling out markets several at a time over the past six months, we have really tried to blast into the local markets. Radio - to date - has been the most effective. Seminars, I believe, will be a very important part of our mix. We have held several already - and in this I include regional (smaller) events, where there is ample opportunity to spend one-on-one time with potential customers.”
As expected, Burke told us that the least effective method to date has been banner ads. "We tested several campaigns, and I simply don't believe banner ads are where it's at. For Web presence, we will be looking much more at sponsorship opportunities, or at very targeted sites on which to advertise in the future."
She also said that CenterBeam offers three different types of freebies:
1. Value-added services -- this would include such extras as a $500 Buy-Back, 3-months of free service, or a free site survey (offered at the Web site in exchange for users’ contact info).
2. Tchochkes – CenterBeam has tested a Leatherman multi-purpose tool, and are just now beginning to test a "sharper image-ish" flashlight, as well as t-shirts, etc.
3. Educational resources - CenterBeam is currently offering a technology guide co-produced with Inc. Magazine (a.k.a. white paper). SOHOs are very interested in something that - while not tied to a CenterBeam service per se - will help educate them on business issues that impact them.
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