Differentiating a Data Center Provider in an Increasingly Crowded Marketplace – A Q&A with Mark Freeman
As digital services and applications increase in importance and popularity, the need for data center space to house them also increases. With data center capacity in exceptionally high demand, providers are ramping up construction and acquisitions to meet the needs of their customers. But this demand is also multiplying the competition as new players enter a growing market. And this growth and rising competition isn’t expected to taper off any time soon.
In an incredibly competitive and crowded marketplace, it can be difficult for companies to differentiate themselves from their rivals. This is a challenge that’s exacerbated in the data center industry, where purchasing decisions can be based on geography and availability. To differentiate a data center company in the minds of prospective customers, it’s important to listen to the industry, identify what’s most important to prospects and clearly communicate how the company is uniquely qualified to meet those needs.
With Vantage Data Centers in the midst of a massive expansion that involves the construction and acquisition of new data centers on multiple continents, Vice President of Marketing Mark Freeman led the company’s rebranding and repositioning as it evolved from a regional data center provider to a rapidly growing, global hyperscale partner. This involved conducting extensive market research, identifying Vantage’s key differentiators in the marketplace, and the development of a new corporate website for the company.
We recently sat down with Mark to discuss some of the findings from that industry and market research – including what the company identified to be the most important characteristics that customers are looking for in their data center providers. During our conversation, we talked about differentiating a data center company in a crowded marketplace, how the company’s growth necessitated a change in its brand and positioning, and the new corporate website that Vantage recently launched. Here is what he had to say:
Data Centers Today (DCT): You recently led Vantage through the development of a new web presence. Why was now the time to launch a new website? Why is this such an exciting time for Vantage? What does the new corporate web presence mean for the future of the company?
Mark Freeman: I joined Vantage Data Centers a little more than two years ago. At that time, the company was the biggest player in Silicon Valley and operated a build-to-suit data center campus in Quincy, Washington. We were also developing the first facility on our 146+MW Northern Virginia campus.
If you fast-forward to today, Vantage is an entirely different company. We have grown from 60-70 employees to about 400 employees. We now have operational facilities or campuses under development on two continents and in 12 different markets. Our growth has been both organic and through acquisition. In less than two years, we have completed four acquisitions – all of which were international, including Canada, Europe and the UK.
At the same time, our offering has evolved. Our team took an in-depth look at how we provide the scalability, reliability and operational excellence that our customers expect from us. We’ve standardized our campus model which actually increases flexibility, simplifies configurability and speeds our time to market – all while aligning with the sustainability goals of our customers.
With our unprecedented growth, it was time to reposition the company from a regional, west coast data center provider to a global leader in hyperscale data center campuses.
This was a significant undertaking that included primary and secondary research, various internal and external stakeholder interviews, marketing audits and an employee survey. Ultimately, we developed new positioning, new messaging and a new visual identity to present the new Vantage Data Centers to the world.
DCT: Part of any web project is identifying the key audiences for your company and the topics or trends that resonate most with them – which often means conducting a lot of industry research. What kinds of companies are data center providers like Vantage looking to work with?
Mark Freeman: The buyer’s journey for a service like ours involves many different stakeholders – from site selection to facilities, operations, IT, network and procurement. We developed buyer personas for each to identify challenges these individuals are trying to solve and the solution we offer to meet their needs.
We created an information architecture to start a dialogue with a prospect. We didn’t want to start that conversation with a Vantage product or service, but rather a conversation focused on what the prospect is challenged with – maybe he or she is trying to consolidate assets, looking for new or additional capacity in a new or existing market, or even evaluating a build, buy or lease decision. Our goal was to create a site architecture that was engaging and meaningful, not one that immediately requested a web visitor to take a tour, while that is still an option with one click. But to me, it’s like asking someone to marry you without first dating.
DCT: What are the things that large hyperscalers are looking for in their data center partners? What information did you feel they would want to know right away?
Mark Freeman: Our journey includes an overview of our services, features and ultimately our locations with detailed specs. Along the journey, we offer curated content to help that web visitor dive deeper into different topics if he or she is inclined. We offer different forms of content and resources, from PDF downloads to videos – all based on the need of that particular web visitor.
DCT: Vantage has an incredible roster of experienced, industry veterans. How important was it to highlight the team at Vantage? What steps did you take to ensure that their knowledge, skills, experience and abilities were highlighted on the site?
Mark Freeman: Vantage has a stellar executive and leadership team, and a team that is continuing to expand to support our accelerated global growth. Regardless of the type of business you’re in, people are people. And people want to do business with people they like and trust.
It was critical for us to highlight our leaders and showcase their specific accomplishments, both past and present. Not only does it lend credibility to our team, but it also personalizes the user’s experience knowing who they will be engaging with at Vantage.
DCT: There are many data center companies that provide data center space that is reliable and secure. How much of a challenge was it to differentiate Vantage in this marketplace? What did you identify as the key characteristics or offerings that differentiated Vantage from other data center providers?
Mark Freeman: Based on the data and findings from our research, we learned that this is a relationship business, and our teams are highly respected. We learned that transparency is valued – in the data center, and even more so, in our relationships. And we also learned that standardization is seen as a positive, yet customers still want the flexibility to customize.
We used that knowledge to develop a new positioning statement, as well as a new mantra – READY – which captures the spirit of the brand and is the consistent theme of the new Vantage story.
It’s such a great mantra that fits Vantage perfectly. It’s aspirational, yet authentic, and takes many different meanings. For example, Vantage is READY to join our customers at the planning table, helping them forecast capacity needs well into the future. We’re READY to make IT our customers’ competitive advantage. We’re READY to configure spaces, scale up our commitment and give customers the confidence, and time, to take their business to the next level.
Ultimately, we wanted to communicate with our customers that we’re READY to be their partner to help them change the world.
To discover Vantage’s new website, please click HERE.
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