Earlier this week, Calix conducted a virtual multi-day marketing session for its broadband service providers. A follow-up to its in-person session that was successfully conducted in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, Calix’s ConneXions conferences over the past several years are a best-in-class primer and model for how to execute a well-thought-out event for channel partners.

With headquarters based in Silicon Valley, Calix is a cloud, software platforms, systems and services company focused on communications service providers. The company recently reported Q3 2021 revenues of $172.23 million, up 14.43% over Q3 2020. The bulk of Calix’s customers are relatively small broadband service providers (BSPs) with 250,000 or fewer subscribers. This detail about Calix’s core customer set is vital as it provides ample rationalization about why “turn-key” marketing is indispensable for its overall mission.

This particular three-day virtual session focused on these topics: marketing, engineering and operations, and customer support. Technical training was also provided at the end of the first two days, an unabashed necessity given the plethora of hardware and service offering announcements that Calix has unveiled over the past few weeks. While it’s impossible to recap everything discussed during this event, I’ll let brevity prevail and focus on the notable areas that jumped out at me.

Circles of Success sessions set the benchmark for Calix’s channel partners to strive for

One of the more remarkable aspects of ConneXions conferences is that the sessions have an intense “learning by doing” orientation. ConneXions’ “Circle of Success” sessions unite Calix customers to share best practices and user recommendations. While Calix may facilitate the presentations, the participants propell this event element. Topics that were explored during these sessions focused on marketing acquisition strategies, proven customer retention stratagems, KPI reporting (delivered by the Calix Support Cloud), network architecture considerations, and (most important in my view), understanding how to provide the ultimate Wi-Fi experience to customers using Calix’s Gigaspire, U6 and U5 router solutions.

During the opening session, an excellent “best practices” example came from Calix partner Nate Palmer, Vice President of Marketing at CentraCom. This telecommunications company services the central, north and western portions of Utah. Palmer made a compelling case for how CentraCom has been able to brand Calix solutions to add a personal touch to its subscriber base to improve Net Promoter Scores (NPS), repair and build customer loyalty and enhance its overall competitiveness.

Additional “Circles of Success” presentations were conducted by Triangle Communications and Jade Communications, with similar stories of how Calix’s solutions have been able to streamline and optimize their marketing engagements with subscribers. The consistency and constancy of these partners’ presentations speak well of Calix’s overall go-to-market strategy that focuses on customization. One size generally doesn’t fit all in the broadband space, and Calix’s partners know that.

The potential for “Managed Wi-Fi” to smack down the direct-to-consumer threat

Last week, Calix launched a new capability for its broadband support providers that could be a game-changer that enhances the value proposition of “managed Wi-Fi” for subscribers.

Specifically, Calix now arms its BSPs with the ability to measure an overall “experience” score via its CommandIQ app, which allows subscribers to manage and control every facet of a subscriber’s connected home experience.

Why is this so important? This new “experience” score actuates Calix’s vision that explicit quantified data can convince subscribers to upgrade their broadband speeds and wireless equipment for the ultimate no-compromise connectivity experience in the home. This capability will have enormous appeal for even the smallest BSP to win against traditional direct-to-consumer competitors such as Netgear, Eero and Plume.

It’s important to know that this capability is only possible because it’s enabled by the Calix Support Cloud and allows the BSP to comprehend the entirety of the subscriber experience, from the subscriber’s actual premises to access edge. This offering has vast implications for homes and small businesses because it provides insights that reduce technician deployments, increase customer “first call” resolution rate and detect new cross-selling opportunities.

Kudos to the Calix marketing team for partnering with comedian Gerry Dee

While I don’t usually don’t comment on the specific entertainment personalities that a company utilizes to promote its brand, I’ll make an exception with Calix’s engagement with comedian Gerry Dee, with who the company announced a marketing relationship with last September.

A comedian who reminds one of the late great character actor Charles Grodin and Ty Burrell’s nerdish fatherly figure on the smash hit Modern Family; Dee is the perfect personality to provide understated commentary on the challenges that families confront every day in their connected homes. Calix’s selection of Gerry Dee is brilliant, in my view, as customers don’t want to be talked down to.

More than just a spokesperson, Calix has produced multiple humorous spots that speak to the challenges 21st-century families face and how Calix can make the wireless lifestyle in today’s households safer, more productive, reliable and secure. I suspect this is the beginning of a long-term relationship because Dee does a great job capturing the joys (and frustrations) of today’s connected lifestyle in the home. Drollness wins.

A few closing thoughts

One of the things that struck me during the opening keynote was Calix CMO Matt Collins’ introspective comments on the state of the communications industry. Noting that marketing is a considerable challenge with every participant in the communications space, Collins was transparent in commenting that the aggregate industry has among the lowest Net Promoter Scores in the technology space. That kind of humility is rare in the tech space, and Calix knows that much more work must be done to improve subscriber satisfaction and create upsell opportunities for BSPs.

Robust, safe and fail-safe home wireless connectivity has been far too elusive for many homeowners and small businesses. At the same time, technology “ingredients” like WiFi 6 (and more recently Wi-Fi 6E) and mesh networking promise to unlock the potential of new usage models in an immersive manner without compromising security. As I noted last week, the recent infrastructure legislation passed last week has a significant broadband component that should create additional tailwinds for the overall communications space.

Events like ConneXions underscore Calix’s commitment to the BSP community by helping them grow the value of their customer engagements and deliver an exceptional customer experience. As noted at the beginning of this article, most of Calix’s BSP customers are modest and do not enjoy copious marketing resources. Vital “turn-key” marketing programs are a critical and necessary element of Calix’s commitment to its partners. This latest ConneXions event is positive proof that the company’s mission continues unabated.

Mark Vena is the President and Principal Analyst at SmartTech Research based in Silicon Valley. As a technology industry veteran for over 25 years, Mark covers many consumer tech topics, including PCs, smartphones, smart home, connected health, security, PC and console gaming, and streaming entertainment solutions. Mark has held senior marketing and business leadership positions at Compaq, Dell, Alienware, Synaptics, Sling Media and Neato Robotics. Mark has appeared on CNBC, NBC News, ABC News, Business Today, The Discovery Channel and other media outlets. Mark’s analysis and commentary have appeared on Forbes.com and other well-known business news and research sites. His comments about the consumer tech space have repeatedly appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, TechNewsWorld and other news publications.



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