VoIP Vendors Going After Truly Small Businesses


Like the energy that exists within an atom, eventually liberated by Einstein and The Manhattan Project, there is almost unimaginable potential for VoIP sales locked in very small organizations. There has, of course, long been a focus on small and medium-size businesses (SMBs). The truth is, however, that most of the attention has been paid to companies on the large side of the SMB equation-the "Ms," so to speak.


The 10- or 20-employee and under crowd is a particularly difficult nut to crack. These companies need an amount of TLC that traditionally is not justified by the revenue an individual win would generate. These companies generally have no IT folks on staff and the people who are there are busy trying to do their legal, medical or other totally non-telecom-related jobs. Exploring what they consider to be the hazy frontiers of telephone service is about the last thing they will spend time doing. The questions posed in this Web Conferencing Solutions piece, which deal with questions that were answered for those at medium or large organizations a half-decade ago, shows how behind the times, from a telecom perspective, small organizations are.


The products now are in place to go after this segment more agressively. VoIP Planet describes how 8x8 is approaching this market. It is squeezing out the techie terms, simplifying the presentation generally, and being very upfront with the advantages the product offers. It's also offering a free hour tutorial and helping customers position the product for their needs. Last month, Aastra and 8x8 agreed to sell products at Office Depot, with Aastra providing the 6755i Virtual Office IP phone and 8x8 contributing the virtual hosting.

VoIP service provider Speakeasy-owned by Best Buy, another retailer that deals extensively with the smallest of small businesses -- this month launched a campaign designed to drive home how much can be saved with a switch to VoIP. The campaign offers a Starbucks gift card as a way of suggesting that cutting free office coffee is not as effective a way to deal with the recession as switching to VoIP. The message campaign takes aim at five statements that it says are VoIP myths: It doesn't save much money, it's too complex, the sound quality isn't as good as traditional phone service, it's a hassle to set up and manage, and it really is aimed at large companies.