c3PR Builds Brand, Attracts Acquisition Prospects for dB Control

When dB Control was founded in 1990 it was recognized as a “rising star” in the microwave and defense industries by Defense Electronics Magazine. Years later, dB Control still had the reputation of a designer of high-power products for niche markets, when in reality the company had started manufacturing sizable quantities of  microwave amplifiers, radar transmitters and power supplies for major defense contractors such as Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, and for the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force.

In 2002, dB Control retained c3PR to change this perception. The first article the agency placed about the company in US Tech described how dB Control’s traveling wave amplifiers (TWTAs) were incorporated into all unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). As “drones” were new and interesting to US Tech’s broad audience, the article generated enough attention to demonstrate that there was indeed commercial market potential for dB Control’s products. Since the new orders that resulted from this article brought manufacturing to full capacity, c3PR was asked to “slow down” on promotion efforts.

PR Campaign Results Increase Awareness and Sales

dB Control expanded its facilities in 2007 and c3PR was on hand to launch a PR campaign to help the company stand out as a major manufacturer and ultimately make it an attractive candidate for acquisition.

That same year, Veteran Marketer Steven Olson joined dB Control to support these efforts. In December, dB Control announced the largest total defense contract win ($7.8M) in its history.

Olson worked with c3PR on a methodical two-year plan to publicize dB Control’s reputation as a major manufacturer and increase awareness of its core technology – Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers (TWTAs) – as an extremely reliable high-power source. Considering that the company’s competitors had much larger budgets and that many in the industry thought solid state amplifiers (a competing technology) would eventually replace TWTAs, the campaign would have to rely on savvy strategies and creativity to change those opinions. To increase awareness of dB Control, in 2008 Olson and c3PR:

  • Landed local and national coverage about dB Control’s corporate responsibility and contract wins, as well as placing an opinion piece by CEO Joe Hajduk that officially kicked-off the company’s campaign as TWTA-technology evangelists.
  • Unveiled a state-of-the-art suite of new ECM transmitters using TWT technology
  • Produced and promoted the first case study describing dB Control’s first commercial TWT amplifiers used for airborne radar mapping applications
  • Successfully submitted VP Meppalli Shandas as a candidate for induction into the AOC Electronic Warfare Technology Hall of Fame

The following year, dB Control went from an occasional article to landing repeated coverage by the industry’s most influential publications, including the Journal of Electronic Defense, Microwaves & RF, Microwave Product Digest, Military Embedded Systems and US Tech. Prominent industry editors such as Jack Browne and John Knowles began to echo dB Control’s message that there was a strong market for TWTAs. The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal profiled the company in a front-page article, “Low-key approach to high-powered success dB Control” and named dB Control as one of the 70 fastest growing private companies in Silicon Valley for 2009.

Despite the recession, dB Control’s sales grew from $18 million to more than $25.5 million in 2009 – the largest annual increase in the company’s history. In February 2010 the company was purchased by HEICO Corporation. Chairman and CEO Laurans A. Mendelson said in a news release (Feb. 17, 2010) that the acquisition was “. . . an example of our continuing strategy to acquire profitable, well-managed businesses. dB Control is a unique company which offers HEICO more participation in a growing part of both U.S. and non-U.S. defense budgets as defense agencies rely more on high power radar and electronic warfare systems. We believe that dB Control’s strong position in these growing markets, combined with its high technology capabilities, should provide for additional growth.”

Thanks in part to the support and marketing expertise of Steven Olson, and the strong campaign waged by c3PR, dB Control’s founders achieved their dream of selling their “garage start-up” to a major corporation. HEICO also benefitted, as their stock price rose more than 10 percent a week after the acquisition.