CenturyLink: Channel Fuels Revenue, Sales Growth

CenturyLink's Channel Alliance partners are bucking the flat revenue trend, generating both revenue and sales growth year-over-year compared to the first three quarters of 2011, CenturyLink executives revealed Thursday at the company's 2012 Alliance Expo in Denver.

Chris Ancell, CenturyLink's Business Markets Group president, said that partners fueled a 2.3 percent revenue growth and a 6 percent sales growth year-over-year. And that's growth that Ancell said he and CenturyLink believe will continue into 2012.

While overall revenue is flat and partners are driving an increase within the partner program, CenturyLink also saw revenue for its strategic products group, which includes MPLS, private lines, hosting and other offerings, jump between 5 percent and 6 percent.

Partners are driving sales and revenue by retaining customers and lowering churn, which Ancell said continues to drop.

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"It's very hard to grow revenue if you're not maintaining the base," he said.

Along with retention, partners are charged with driving new customers as well, customers that have yet to leverage any CenturyLink offerings.

CenturyLink and its partners are coming off of a whirlwind 2011 which saw the Monroe, La.-based telecom giant acquire and merge with long-time communications player Qwest, a $24 billion deal that took nearly a year to complete, and the acquisition of cloud computing player Savvis, a roughly $2.5 billion deal that closed in July, just three months after the Qwest merger closed.

"The focus on 2012 is to shift the revenue trajectory into higher growth," Ancell said, adding that CenturyLink is now a 7 percent market share player, meaning there is tremendous growth opportunity.

Blake Wetzel, vice president of CenturyLink's Channel Alliance, said 2011 was about "building the engine" in the carrier's channel program. "We started a lot of things," he said, noting that new programs were brought in, two mergers closed, the support structure was augmented and other undertakings.

CenturyLink also launched its data center program in which it built an ecosystem of data centers to enable itself and partners to grab a slice of the roughly 1,000 carrier-neutral data centers across the U.S. So far, CenturyLink has 140 of those data centers and 24 more builds are in progress, Wetzel said.

"We now have strategic relationships," he said.

Wetzel said the investment in capital expenditures also increased by 31 percent from 2010 to 2011 and more than 25 percent of that came from partners.

Wetzel said if 2011 was about gearing up, 2012 will be about execution.

In 2012 CenturyLink will continue integration, improve teaming with operations, expand product offerings, continue to ease doing business for partners, improve its approach for higher impact opportunities, work closer with the network team and launch new creative incentives, Wetzel said.

In 2011, Wetzel said, CenturyLink's Business Markets Group saw 3 percent growth. In 2012, he said the minimum should be 5 percent, but should reach 7 percent; but his personal goal is to hit 10 percent growth in 2012.

"This is a powerful channel," he said. "We've embraced it and we're going to continue to embrace it every day … We will continue to invest in the channel and grow the channel."