The overall view of the Hosted VoIP industry is not unlike the aspirin aisle at the supermarket: lots of choices that all seem the same. [see photo below] How do you get the attention of the channel partner or the customer amid that noise?
Every booth at every trade show says the same thing. Many even have similar colors. How does a customer or agent distinguish?
What would you say is the greatest mistake that marketers are making today? In INC magazine, Seth Godin responds: "The big mistake is thinking that their job is to spend money to get attention. If they think that that is what their job is, they will never ever succeed in marketing."
Marketers love to point at Apple as the great marketing company. Truth is Apple baked marketing into product design. They made what people wanted and would talk about. How often has that happened in our sector?
Dropbox grew by "the network effect--understand that what actually spreads are ideas that are better when they spread. Think about the first person with a fax machine. What exactly did he or she do with it? A fax machine is worthless if no one else you know has a fax machine," remarked Godin. The more people that signed up for Dropbox, the better for you - more users to share with, more free space. (It's also how SmartBox is going to market.)
IM/chat apps since AOL have always been about getting your friends on the same platform. How much fun would Facebook be with only 1 million users - unless you knew 250 of them? It's all Network Effect.
In VoIP, the providers tend to think it is about price. It isn't. Rarely is the business impact explained to the buyer in a demonstrative way that is then provided to the buyer. Even Tiffani Bova agrees with me that it is about business outcomes.
We talk about automating everything, but the truth is that blinking clock on the VCR is emblematic of the user. They won't take the time to figure out how to use it. So cheaper isn't the answer. Customer Experience is the answer.
The portals suck. The videos are grainy and take too long to view. (Short user attention span. They call in to ask instead of Googling it and finding out themselves. People are lazy.)
Customer Experience will produce word-of-mouth, which is the viral sensation all marketers strive for. UX (user experience) is what will garner attention. Not paid ads.
Facebook advertisers are having a heck of a time getting in front of their fans due to Zuckerberg's changing of Organic Reach. Everything will have to be paid. But paid posts may not justify themselves. It goes back to relevant content about the customer that she will share. That's the way to go.
In VoIP, like data backup, do we need one more me-too company to come along and sign up a bunch of partners? Probably not. What we need are the current ones to start Positioning themselves in a meaningful way to the market segment that they are most relevant too.
The problem with that is that marketers are more likely looking to win an Addy award, not really successfully position their company in the market. And most CEOs are still thinking about the millions, instead of being realistic enough to understand that 30K billing accounts is a healthy business.
As Seth states, the old thinking is really tough to shake. Go Big. Advertise to everyone. When really it is about curating a tribe. Taking a Position and speaking with (not to) those that will listen and engage. That is ultimately what you want.
When I write posts about not chasing millions, it throws people off, but look at the reality of numbers. M5 sold to Shoretel with 2000 (2K) customers. USLEC only had 25K before Paetec acquired them. 8x8 has 31,473 business customers. So no one needs 100K. And it is easier to market narrowly rather than to everyone.