E-Channel: Helps Small Businesses

Posted: 01/2001 Helps Small Businesses
By Josh Long

Value-added resellers (VARs) who work with small to medium-sized businesses
could gain an additional mousetrap to lure customers–TeleBright. com Inc.

With a revenue-sharing program that targets agents, the Maryland-based
TeleBright. com (, a
portal for telecommunications services, befriends VARs and other communications
representatives, such as phone installation companies, to promote its business,
which compares telecommunications services online.

VARs working in the telephone and networking industry may recommend
TeleBright. com’s services to find businesses a customized plan from dozens of
service providers, says Kristie Hughes, TeleBright. com’s vice president of

The company features local and long- distance services, T1 lines, DSL, web
hosting, wireless and Internet dial-up.

"People are able to offer even greater end-to-end solutions for their
customers," Hughes says of the agent program. "It does not stop with
the phone system. Customers want to be able to have one-stop shopping." CEO Chet Thaker spent a decade at the helm of IntelliSales
Corp. (–a
company that developed support systems to enable customers to find a viable
telecommunications plan–before he founded in November 1999.

The telecom veteran noticed that larger service providers were not focused on
attracting plans that met the needs of small to medium-sized businesses, Hughes
says. " was born out of that idea."

By 2004, the online sales of telecommunications products and services could
reach $47 billion, according to the Massachusetts-based Forrester Research Inc.

Despite the shake-up of the dot coms, Hughes says securing multiple
distribution channels in a niche targeting small to medium-sized businesses will
secure a future for the company.

Hughes insists’s agent program is an important channel
offline, in additional to the company’s co-branding and private-label
partnerships online.

The agreements enable partners to use’s back office to provide
businesses with a means to compare and shop for telecom services. The partners
may either feature a website that promotes their own image in a private-label
agreement, or enter a co-branding deal, in which both company logos are

In September, signed an agreement with NBC Internet Inc.’s (,
a virtual business partner that provides small and growing businesses solutions
such as start-up kits, financing services and free business directory listings. executives said the agreement marked "the first strategic
alliance between a major small-business portal and an outsourcer of telecom
comparison-shopping technology."

Hughes says a key to boosting Internet transactions will hinge, in part, on
developing relationships with companies that bundle services and also partner
with organizations that aggregate resources and retain a large customer base.

Typically, whether shoppers have accessed the service directly
or through a partner, customers reviewing the telecom services have visited a
new portal and entered their personal information in order to buy voice and data

But the customer experience and the ways businesses promote online products
and services are evolving. partners and member organizations with whom they have aligned
can use the information the company provides as a more integrated application,
Hughes explains.

By consolidating the information, partners may increase a customer’s comfort
level, and ultimately, the likelihood of a purchase.

"The integration is so tight, the customer feels like they are never
leaving," Hughes says.

Hughes says is moving toward this model, where the company
will function as an ASP.

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