Taking Stock – Eloqua, HostingCon, ClickSoftware, Meridian Associates

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SMB Research is overdue in producing another one of our occasional, but irregular, “round-the-horn” Taking Stock pieces.   The waiting is over, and the summer be damned: there is stuff going on.  We can’t bring ourselves to watch the Red Sox every night, or Olympics‘ synchronized diving or synchronized swimming any night.  It’s raining too much to go to the beach.  So SMB Research is out of excuses.   Read, enjoy, and comment.   This Taking Stock talks about Eloqua, HostingCon, SoftLayer, ClickSoftware, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce‘s 2012 Small Business of the Year, and New England Network Associates.  For a Taking Stock primer, see “SMB Research debuts…’Taking Stock’

Eloqua (ELOQ) IPOs today at $11.50 per share. Eloqua - Revenue Performance Management This is a revenue performance management vendor serving the midmarket-to-larger enterprises with aspirations for the SMB.  This vendor has been making steady penetration with its solution to help manage more complex marketing activity streams, with particular traction in the technology, financial services, entertainment, manufacturing, business services, and telecommunications verticals. Eloqua had revenues of $71.3M in 2011, and is on pace to exceed that in 2012.

HostingCon 2012

Wandering around HostingCon last week, I was not sure what to expect, this being my first attendance at this particular event.  This show turned out to be a pleasant surprise, with the conference organizers putting together a strong series of session presentations, together with a fairly interesting set of exhibitors.

 What really strikes me about this industry is that it is fracturing and shifting, while parts of the industry are commoditizing at the same time.  There are thousands of commoditized shared-server web hosting resellers and vendors.  There are the shared- , dedicated-, and hybrid-server hosting companies, data center operators, cloud service providers, as well as other categories.  While the customer base is struggling with the Software-as-a-Service – Cloud – Hosting conversation, the sellside seems to be wrestling a bit at the same time with how to manage and describe the shifting sands that constitute the various segments of the hosting industry today.  In some cases, it takes some discussion to even agree on what vendors are competing together in which categories or sectors.

Are the server hosting companies “cloud” vendors, or are they “hosting” companies?  Which shared-server, dedicated server, and hybrid server hosting providers are “cloud” vendors?

With so much seeming hypercompetitiveness in the hosting industry, it is fascinating to me to see some sectors taking a particular kind of indifference to their customer bases.  Or is this just a phenomenon of a vendor, becoming commoditized, treating its customers as a commodity?

One hosting customer spoke about spending $15K with their cloud services provider, but never hearing from the provider.   Another web hosting industry consolidator, making perhaps their largest acquisition to-date of a brand name hosting firm (full disclosure: I am a customer of the hosting firm), has yet to make any public confirmation of the acquisition, and neither the consolidator or the hosting firm has made any direct communication with the customer base.  Stealth strategies like this almost inevitably only lead to more questions about what it is that the hosting vendor does not want the market to know.  Treating customers like the commodity that vendor has become usually eventually results in some backlash from the customer base when the customer base discovers their collective leverage and/or alternative service providers that are more open and transparent.

One of the highlights for me from HostingCon was to sit in on SoftLayer‘s Simon West‘s tight, engaging presentation on “Branding and Positioning in the Hosting Industry“.  Simon’s presentation could just as well have been titled “Branding and Positioning” as it had a lot more to say on these topics than on the hosting industry.  Reassessing your messaging?  Developing a messaging and branding strategy for the first time?  Simon talks in a terrific way, with examples, about the importance of finding your identity, making your marketing message a narrative, and keeping it authentic.

Amid some higher profile earnings releases, mobile workforce automation vendor ClickSoftware last week  announced their 2Q12 results.  Total revenues for the second quarter ended June 30, 2012, were up a healthy 9% (new software license revenue up 4%).  While ClickSoftware has revised slightly downward their guidance for 2012, they are are till projecting that full year revenue will be in the range of $98 to $103M, which would be an increase of some 13% to 18% from 2011.

2012 Small Business of the Year

Congratulations to Meridian Associates, the 2012 Small Business of the Year, as judged and awarded by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.   Additional honorees include Ace Ticket, Boloco, Cakes for Occasions, Fox RPM Corp, Life is good, Nexcelom Bioscience LLC, SCVNGR, Seniorlink, and Veson Nautical.

 Microsoft Server 2012 Essentials

Great to catch up with Foxboro, MA’s own New England Network Associates Dan Lapp recently to talk about Microsoft Windows Small Business Server Essentials – I mean, Windows Server 2012 Essentials.  You can’t talk to Dan without learning something you didn’t know.  If you are a MA-based small business looking for server and desktop support, New England Network Associates is worth checking out.

Coming Events

Coming up: Amazon Web Services‘ first customer and partner conference, November 27-29, 2012, Las Vegas. Register here.

Access International‘s 2012 User Group Conference will be held August 13-15 at the Fairmont Battery Wharf hotel in Boston.   Access, based in Cambridge, focuses its solution, ENTERPRISE® v7.2, for more complex social service organizations: health and human services, museum and cultural, public broadcasting, and United Way.