Success delivering IP voice to SMBs begins with asking the right questions. If you are thinking about what sales strategies to use or what channels, you’d only be half right, said Gary Kim, editor in chief of IP Business magazine.
“If you don’t answer the strategic question, the others don’t matter,” said Kim, who will lead today’s session, “Ask the Right Questions: Successfully Deploying IP Voice to the SMB,” with panelists Chris Reese, president of i3 Networks, and Sam Kumar, president, MicroTech-Tel.
The strategic question is whether your segment will be viable in the next 24 months. “Assuming, you have an answer to that question, then you can ask, what do you do tactically,” Kim said.
Unfortunately, he said, most service providers can’t answer the question. “Nobody’s come up with an answer except don’t be in the consumer space,” he said. The bigger question is what is the prospect for VoIP services in the SMB and enterprise spaces? What prospects are there for independent VoIP providers given that they are being squeezed by telcos on one end and cablecos on the other?
“Its more than Vonage,” Kim said, referring to the beleaguered pure-play VoIP company. “How many customers are there to be gotten?”
Independent VoIP providers will struggle in 2008, Kim predicted, but it wont be because of the economy, but due to competition from cable. “When Comcast and Time Warner Cable get into the market, what will happen to the independent VoIP providers and the CLECs?” Kim asked. Already, he said, field force vendors serving independents have reported a dropoff in business as a result of the efforts by the cablecos to sell VoIP.
He said some CLECs dont think cable’s entry into the VoIP market will affect them. “Thats true initially,” he said. “Cable will chase small business first, so the CLEC enterprise customers are safe.”
Achieving success with VoIP in the SMB market is a bit of a gray area, Kim said. “It will be a couple of years before we know if there will be successful models among independent CLECs,” he said, noting that CLECs have a habit of buying growth. “When that stops, we’ll see what works and what doesnt.”