Sprint Targets SMB Customers to Help Stem Falling Sales

NEWS ANALYSIS: Sprint, the No. 3 carrier, focuses on business users as a way to gain new customers and grow revenue as it tries to avoid slipping to fourth place.

Sprint Small Business B

Sprint is in trouble. Customers are abandoning the nation's third-largest carrier in droves. Efforts to grow by swallowing T-Mobile have been rebuffed. While the company has plenty of support from its new owners in Japan, much of its recent history has been a story of dysfunction.

What's worse, other CEOs are taunting the hapless company, effectively kicking virtual sand in its face. It seems a pretty safe bet that its smaller competitor, T-Mobile, is about to surpass Sprint in total customers served.

The question is no longer about how long Sprint can stay in the third position, but rather whether the company can remain a relevant force in the wireless industry.

To try to reverse the current trend, Sprint is adopting a response made famous by baseball great Willie Keeler, who explained his success at the plate by saying he would "Hit 'em where they ain't." In the wireless carrier business, this means occupying a market segment that doesn't include T-Mobile, and which may not be particularly well served by bigger rivals AT&T and Verizon.

That market segment is small and midsize businesses, especially businesses that are attracting a lot of younger workers, mainly millennials. To do this, Sprint is launching the Sprint Business brand again.

Sprint is trying to attract businesses by getting the interest of managers who realize that getting the best effort from employees newly out of college is to try to appeal to them by revising the way their companies work. As Sprint puts it, the idea is to embrace new ways of work.

Part of Sprint's strategy is the creation of a "Future of Work" Website that explores topics such as why people go to work, how they interact and how employees become empowered within the corporation.

According to Sprint's senior marketing manager for business, Julie Goulding, part of the effort is to create a new philosophy of presenting services that are enabled by Sprint's technologies, including wireless and wireline communications. "You're going to see new proof points coming from Sprint and how customers will keep employees engaged," she said.

Goulding said that the focus will be on solutions, not specifically on technology. "The focus will be on the human element," she said. "There will be less of tech talk than you see from carriers in general." She said that the new marketing campaign will focus on business decision-makers who need ideas on how to keep employees engaged.

But what Sprint isn't saying may be equally important. There does not appear to be much new in the way of products, for example. There also seems to be nothing in the announced plans in regards to more competitive rates or lower prices.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...