article

SOAP BOX


The Telecom Service SMBs Really Want




By Dan Baldwin

LETS FACE IT TELECOM

sales in todays war-weary economy isnt that much fun. Sure theres quite a bit of buzz within the channel about hosted and equipment-based VoIP sales finally picking up with SMBs. But its not like business owners are getting our numbers out of the Yellow Pages and inviting us to lunch to hear all about it. The last really fun telecom service I think I sold was flat-rate audio conference calling. Now there was a service that changed the way a lot of small businesses did business. But even that thrill was extinguished quickly by the wet rags that insisted on giving away audio conferencing for free. (Isnt that always the way things go?)

So whats a telecom distributor to do about selling something to SMBs that is both highmargin and not boring. Yes, I know Im supposed to be excited about selling VoIP and I promise I will muster up the requisite enthusiasm at least four days a week, but cant I have at least one day a week where I sell something fun? Re-enter marketing as a high-margin service for businesses.

Now I know what youre thinking, Dan, you crazy, middle-aged fool, we know where youre going here, but we promised after the phone card fiasco that wed never venture down that telecom services as marketing path again. Really, never again? Never ever? Cmon. This time itll be more fun and a lot more profitable. I promise.

Since the beginning of the telecom industry, someone has been making money off telecom services as marketing services. Here is a quick timeline as best as I can remember anyway.

  • 1876 – Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone and becomes rich.
  • 1877 – Someone else invents the Yellow Pages and becomes filthy, stinking rich.
  • 1994 – Promotional phone cards are invented and sold to small businesses as a sure fire way to get new customers.
  • 1995 – Promotional phone card idea doesnt work. The guy who said it would is sent to prison.
  • 2000 – Someone invents pay per click as the Yellow Pages killer.
  • 2001 – Google turns pay per click into the real deal and gets half of all the money on the planet.
  • 2005 – Phone card guy gets paroled. Supports himself with Googles pay per click Adwords program.
  • 2006 – SMBs burn out on pay per click and Adword-type Yellow Page replacement programs. Look for better SMB marketing.
  • 2007 – [Insert your name here] gets filthy, stinking rich showing SMBs telecom services that improve marketing.

So, what are the Top Telecom Services as Marketing Services? To better understand the list below, you need to allow for the proper definition of telecom, as in, systems used in transmitting messages over a distance electronically. It sounds like marketing to me.

1. Fixed, Flat-Rate Audio Conferencing.

The only reason every business in the United States doesnt use the free audio conferencing every day is that the dial-in numbers and PINs usually change with every call. Any business likely would subscribe to a flatrate audio conference service for their weekly sales meetings alone if the dial-in numbers and PINs were the same every week. Margin opportunity: Buy the PINs for a flat monthly rate, mark them up 100 percent and theyre still affordable to the SMB.

2. SPAM-Compliant E-mail Newsletter Services. Consider the four audiences that with which every business is trying to communicate: customers, prospects, employees and vendors. Sure, its fun to jack up their phone bills by making them try to call each member of each group individually, but theres decent money to be made in selling SPAM-compliant e-mail newsletter services so the SMB can instantly and legally communicate with all audiences via e-mail. Margin opportunity: It is usually a flat-rate monthly service that can be bought wholesale at 5 cents per e-mail address stored monthly and retailed at 10 cents per month.

3. Video and Audio Capture and Distribution Services.

Many small business owners follow sports on the Web as much as through TV or newspapers so they know that audio and video are taking over Web sites that want to retain traffic. How long will it be until theyre looking to add audio and video to their own Web sites? Most business owners still believe doing their own Internet TV commercial is cost-prohibitive. Its not. Margin opportunity: A savvy telecom agent can deliver all the voice and video content service his top 20 business clients can use for less than $100 per month and then resell the services at 10 times that much.

4. Web Hosting Services.

Check the Web site the prospect is using for his or her business. The Internet Web site was supposed to both centralize and unify communications. So why do many small business owners use their Web site like a glorified but static business card? Want to show small business owners how much they can do with VoIP? Show them first what youll do for them (for almost free) with their Web site. Ninetyfive percent of what most businesses need to be done with their Web sites can be done by a 10th grade high-school student, but the majority of small businesses have yet to achieve even this reachable vision of centralized and unified communications. Margin opportunity: Same as No. 3 above.

5. Lead-Capture Services.

Just as many telecom companies sold off their Yellow Pages divisions back when profits were fat across all product lines, the same telecom companies will get back into the 2006 version of the telecom Yellow Pages service, which is online. How do you do it? Open up any local Yellow Pages. Make a list of those professions spending the most on ads. Call the owners and say, Would you give me half of what you spend on Yellow Page ads each month if I can get you twice the business? At the appointment, show them how a direct mail piece that drives targeted prospects to a Web video and a toll-free number costs less than the Yellow Pages, drives in more revenue and is easier to track. Margin opportunity: The cost of driving in quality leads to a dentist this way is miniscule in comparison to the cost of a teenagers braces.

THE BOTTOM LINE?

T1s and DS3s are boring. Video and Internet marketing is interesting. Tell your prospects and customers youll provide for and show them how to use highly effective telecom services as marketing tools at next-to-no cost if theyll pay the normal (high-margin) rate on their telecom network services that they order through you.

Dan Baldwin is an advanced user and distributor of many telecom service as marketing services. When hes not fooling around with video, hes president of Telecom Association Inc. contact Dan by visiting www.telecomassociation.com.

Links
Telecom Association Inc. www.telecomassociation.com


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