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Ellen Muraskin

Senior Editor Ellen Muraskin has been writing about telecom and IT since 1993. Most recently, she served as editor of Restaurant Technology Magazine, a technology supplement to Nation's Restaurant News.

Untapped Channel Potential in App-to-Person SMS

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Ellen Muraskin**Editor's Note: Voxox's Tristan Barnum will be a featured panelist in the session, "Top Cloud Techs to Add to Your Portfolio," Sept. 16, at Cloud Partners, a Channel Partners event, in Boston. Click here to learn more and to register.**

Agents and resellers: Want another suggestion for moving out of your voice and data comfort zone? Think about selling SMS services to businesses and organizations. Not core buckets of text messages, and certainly not the onesies and twosies (OK, tensies) kids send each other, but something just a little more ambitious, and therefore more profitable: integrating SMS messaging into applications that your clients already use, or providing them with the interface they need to send them en masse, themselves.

Say, for example, local schools form a big part of your client base. Your schools run attendance apps. When students don't show up in the morning and are marked as absent, this app automatically texts their parents. 

This suggestion comes out of a conversation I recently had with Tristan Barnum, CMO of Voxox, a CLEC-based provider of hosted VoIP and virtual PBX that offers a wider range of communications services than most, including A2P (application-to-person) SMS messaging.

Voxox's Tristan Barnum"SMS is an undertapped product for the channel. Those who have added it to their product catalog have done very well with it," says Barnum. "What we have at Voxox is an API that makes it very easy for companies to send bulk or even individual SMS messages programmatically." 

For an example, she suggests an airline that needs to send out notifications of gate changes or flight delays, or, in a two-way case, a charity that invites a list of previous donors to respond to relief efforts with a return message.

Voxox's SMS offering starts at 20,000 messages per month, and according to Barnum, is typically an add-on to a hosted PBX account. But it doesn't need to be. Like SIP trunking or wholesale unified communications services or business voice, SMS messaging can also work as a standalone sale. It's particularly profitable, she says, for resellers who have developers on staff: They can also sell the added service of building that little connector between the attendance software, say, and Voxox's "fairly stupid," in Barnum's words, SMS API. 

"You pass in a couple of variables: Here are the numbers to call, and here is the message to send. Go. We of course have some restrictions about the types of messages – we don't put up with spam – but the API is a simple tool. Any reseller who can write a couple lines of PHP now has this very powerful tool that's of tremendous value to businesses, whether they're hospitals, retail, in education, or government."

Consider utility commissions that tell Californians when is a good or bad day or time to run their washing machines.

"That's the kind of thing we used to get robocalls for," says Barnum. "Now that can be done via text messaging, which is generally better received than a robocall." She says that domestically, SMS messages also costs less than robocalls, work on all mobile phones, and remain available for reference days later. Texts also command attention more successfully than emails.

Resellers make a 15-to-20 percent margin on SMS services, as they do with other Voxox products. Barnum points out that as a CLEC – doing business as Telcentris, a core telco that needn't buy phone numbers or pay for connection fees, like Skype does – Voxox can offer extremely competitive rates for off-net voice, both for full B2B UCaaS and its consumer app.

For the past year, Voxox also has been offering its Cloud Phone virtual PBX through the reseller channel. Packaged in tiers for up to two, five or 10 users, it comes with an especially mobile-centric setup and interface. You enter one mobile-phone number and company name to start with your own new business number, with a default text-to-speech spoken greeting till you record one yourself. To add additional users, you simply press an invite button and enter a second mobile number. The service sends invitees an SMS, they respond via tap, and through a mobile name entry they become new extensions to your virtual PBX. Faxing, conferencing, SMS receipt, unified messaging and voicemail transcription included. No operator assistance or new phones required.  

Cloud Phone also can be directly purchased and set up through a typical online interface and credit card, although VoxOx will imbed this functionality in agents' own sites for their own branding and pricing. The company reports that it does the majority of its business sales through approximately 10 master agent partners, including Sandler Partners, WTG, MicroCorp, and TBI.  Voxox works with more than 150 direct subagents as well.

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