Monday, September 26, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
As I walked around the exhibit hall and the breakout sessions I kept coming back to two main thoughts: this industry is converging around a handful of opportunities and each opportunity remains largely up for grabs.
- Consumers are not the main focus of most exhibitors at IT Expo but leading players like Skype and magicJack had a presence. The main questions in this space remain unanswered: What will home phone service become over the next five years? How completely will mobile phones take it over? Will it morph, through video, into a feature of TVs?
- Cloud-based unified communications service for small to medium-sized businesses seems to be the primary opportunity focus of exhibitors and attendees. As a general strategy this seems to make sense: SMBs are numerous, fragmented, and always looking for a competitive edge. But, again, some of the main questions remain unanswered: Who is going to cut through the clutter and develop a credible SMB solution-provider brand? Who is going to make it easiest for SMBs to gain real value from a new communications solution? Is anyone going to innovate a killer app/feature that will capture the imagination of SMBs?
- Enterprise and government markets are a focus of a number of exhibitors and attendees but, at least to this observer, with a couple exceptions there wasn’t much innovation or energy around this opportunity. Perhaps the infrastructure and scale expectations of enterprises and governments – and their typically-long sales cycles – scare off innovators looking to prove marketability in months instead of years.
I think that the door is now wide open for someone to do what Vonage and magicJack did for consumer VoIP – make it simple, accessible, and omnipresent – for SMB cloud-based unified communications. My guess (hope) is that the company that does it will, like Vonage and magicJack, be a new player rather than a well-known brand. They will approach businesses in their language – meaning the messaging will be about growing your business, retaining your customers, and making your team more productive rather than about the technology itself. They will offer a solution that is fully assembled and ready-to-use rather than something that requires upfront customization and plug-ins. And they will offer a mobile user experience that is as powerful, if not more, than what is available in the office. And if they can add a “secret sauce”, something their solution does which is different and cool, then they could break out from a dense pack of aspiring service providers.
I have an idea of who just might do it . . .
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Matt Bramson, who manages global marketing and sales for InPhonex, has a passion for commercializing novel ideas. In his 20-year career, Matt has focused on taking groundbreaking technology products to market, using creative strategies and overcoming odds.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Teletrunk is a SIP-compliant service can provide a Jazinga phone system, or any phone system, with local and toll-free numbers in 75 countries and offers flexible usage options including unlimited calling. If you currently own a Jazinga phone system or are considering getting one, contact InPhonex for a quote for service.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
- Your phone number won’t change – no impact.
- The way your employees use the new service won’t change – no impact.
- The experience your customers have when they call your business won’t change – no impact.
- The new service won’t provide any new tools or information for your business – no impact.
The only real impact from switching providers was to be a lower monthly bill. And we treated “no impact” as a major selling point!
Believe it or not, most telecom companies and their salespeople still tout the “benefit” of no impact when switching service providers.Well, Televate is much different. Your phone number won’t change and your bill will likely go down but aside from that the impact is considerable:
- The way your employees communicate and collaborate will change radically and immediately – huge impact.
- Your employees’ ability to be reachable and productive outside the office will change drastically – huge impact.
- The experience your customers will have when they call your business will be transformed – huge impact.
- The tools and information your business will have to manage customers and maximize business performance will be elevated – huge impact.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
The big talk at CTIA is the pending acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T. Most of the discussion is about the impact on consumer choice, hardware suppliers, and wireless technologies. But there’s another dimension. T-Mobile has a robust set of programs for channel partners, resellers, affiliates, and retailers. What will happen to those programs and the participants? If AT&T’s past approach is any indication then it is likely that many will be consolidated into AT&T programs, some will be discontinued, and many participants will be groomed out. “Groomed out” is a euphemism for “left out”. It should be clear that if your business currently generates significant revenue from selling telecommunications services that industry consolidation is probably not a good thing. You’ll have fewer options of services to sell; customers will have fewer choices to navigate; carriers will have fewer competitors so commissions are likely to decline; and product and service innovation is likely to slow. So what should you do? Wake up and smell the coffee!Continue to sell telecom service if you must but see it for what it is – a means to an end. That end is the applications that users run over those telecom services. Leading consumer applications are largely free and advertising-supported and the ones that cost money are sold directly through app stores (if I can use that term generically and not get sued [http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-apple-amazon-20110323,0,5609580.story]) controlled by the dominant players. But business applications – particularly applications for small and medium-sized businesses – represent a massive and available opportunity. If you currently sell T-Mobile devices and services to businesspeople and businesses then you should immediately begin investigating applications, like InPhonex’s Televate, that you could start offering to your customers. That way if in a few months you get a “Dear John” letter from AT&T it won’t be such a blow.
I spent this afternoon walking around CTIA. It’s a big show – hundreds of booths ranging from a half-acre dedicated to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab to small booths offering rhinestone-studded phone covers. But what struck me was how few exhibitors were focused on businesses – businesses that don’t sell mobile phones or services that is. It seems that Apple’s “enterprise strategy” of viewing businesses as just groups of consumers has become the conventional wisdom. I couldn’t find any exhibitors touting devices and applications that help businesses outside of telecom solve problems, improve employee productivity, or satisfy customers.My initial response when I realized this was discouragement. I had hoped to see the latest and greatest innovative mobile business tools. But then I realized what an opportunity this is. The mobile industry is focused on creating amazing devices, faster networks, and easier-to-use operating systems, browsers, and media players. But they’re leaving it to companies like InPhonex to offer the mobile business applications desired by accountants, contractors, dentists, lawyers, retailers, and other businesses large and small. They’re willing to lay the foundation upon which we can deliver high-margin mobile business applications. I can hardly wait to see how great Televate will look on a Galaxy Tab.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Feature-Rich Televate Business Phone System from InPhonex Gives SMBs Powerful, Cloud-Based Business Communications
Now Generally Available, Service Offers Hosted PBX / IVR / CRM Combo with Full Functionality via Desktop and Mobile Interfaces
MIAMI -- To enhance collaboration and communications for small and medium-sized businesses, InPhonex today announced the general availability of Televate, a cloud-based telephony system that combines the business-communications capabilities of a hosted PBX, hosted IVR and hosted CRM.
Televate, to be sold through channel partners, is designed to help SMBs appear larger than they actually are and ramp up productivity to compete more effectively.
The service works anywhere inside or outside the office, enabling SMBs to support global operations and customer bases. Unlike other cloud-based telephony solutions, Televate empowers every employee with full call-center functionality, including CRM integration, content-rich screen pops, and caller and customer history.
Features of Televate include:
- A cloud-based core application – a business phone system with multiple virtual extensions, so users can access the entire system online anytime from anywhere.
- A desktop application that creates a single company database to manage all inbound and outbound contacts.
- A mobile application that delivers complete communication and collaboration capabilities.
- Support for multiple phones, including InPhonex Plug & Ring desk and conference phones, as well as Android smart phones.
- Local and toll-free phone numbers that are activated instantly and can be used for phone and fax. Unlimited calling and faxing are supported in North America, and toll-free or local main company numbers are available in 75 countries.
- All traditional PBX functions, including voice mail, e-mail delivery, advanced call management, auto receptionist and company directory for every user on the system.
- Integration with leading business and social applications, including Salesforce.com, SAP, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
- One low monthly price, with no setup fees or contracts. Users can be added any time.
"Televate answers the question, 'What does a small business need to really elevate its capabilities for competitive gain?' " said Matt Bramson, Chief Marketing Officer of InPhonex. "We have learned that a phone system alone isn't enough. Televate puts the phone system at the heart of a set of valuable tools, including full call-center functionality for every member of a small-business team."
The Televate offering stems from a strategic agreement between InPhonex and Ringio in which the Ringio cloud-based rich-calling application is fully integrated with the InPhonex platform to create a complete solution for business users and tremendous opportunity for channel partners.
InPhonex is seeking additional channel partners to market Televate. Benefits of working with InPhonex include ability to expand market opportunity, close sales quickly, increase revenue immediately, and manage customers' phone systems from anywhere. Information about becoming a channel partner can be found at http://business.inphonex.com/channelpartners/.
For more information about Televate, please visit http://business.inphonex.com/.
InPhonex provides channel partners and service-provider customers with an agile suite of carrier-grade telephony services for SMBs, enterprises and residential customers. Leveraging its flexible telephony platform, InPhonex provides channel-focused offerings including Televate, a complete cloud-based managed telephony system for SMBs; Teletrunk, an IP phone system for enterprises and SMBs; and Telecall, a replacement service for residential phone lines. Miami-based InPhonex also develops custom solutions sold directly to established service providers. For more information, visit www.inphonex.com.
Friday, February 4, 2011
Thursday, February 3, 2011
I spent the day today at IT Expo at the Miami Beach (just across town from our headquarters) and here are some observations and thoughts.
Concern About the Channel
More than one person today has asked me my opinion on the future of the channel, meaning the telecom agent channel. The concern is that channel programs appear to (again) be threatened with major carriers, like – most recently – Verizon, dramatically shortening the list of products the channel can sell and others – like AT&T – insisting that agents bundle mobile phones and plans into sales to qualify for commissions, looking to push the channel in ways that may not be beneficial to its health. But the more profound threat – and to me the more interesting one – is whether the decided shift to complex, cloud-delivered solutions is one to which the channel will successfully adapt.
There is no question that the stereotypical telecom agent – who knocks on doors, learns what a company buys today, and returns tomorrow with several quotes for comparable service for less – faces a challenging transformation. Those that will thrive, in my view, are the agents and agencies that understand their customers – and perhaps are vertical or even niche-focused – and that view the glass as at least half full. Yes, it’s true that the old way of doing business is going away but the new way actually offers tremendous opportunity. Instead of selling Internet access for perhaps $20 per user per month you can sell hosted applications that could amount to $100 per user or more. Agents that spend the next year clinging to the old way will fail. Those that embrace the new opportunities can prosper.
Knowing your customers and having a narrow focus could be a real key. Here are a couple interesting examples. Did you know that in the US alone there are 350,000 dentist offices? Focusing on just dentists – by developing a suite of applications that meets their specific needs – could result in a huge business. If you assembled a bundle of hosted applications – PBX, CRM/Practice Management, HIPAA-compliant storage/backup, and a few other apps – you could offer dentists a differentiated choice to the generic offerings of the leading telco providers. And if 10% of all dentist offices became your customer for $500 each per month that would be a $200 million business. It’s just an example – but it does illustrate that there are types of opportunity available today that didn’t exist a few years ago.
Clouds, Clouds Everywhere
Walking the exhibit hall floor it is clear that “cloud” is a term that is nearly-universally embraced – in the industry. Most booths and collateral display the term prominently. The challenge with this – and any industry-darling buzzword – is to make it relevant to customers. “Cloud”, in my view, has a ways to go on that front. The real benefits of cloud-based application delivery depends on customers changing how they operate too. A business that still runs mostly conventional installed software and stores much of their data locally is not going to fully benefit from the potential of the cloud. How many businesses are really ready for a cloud-centric methodology? Who will educate them to the wisdom of this approach? The answer is likely circular: whoever does will be successful at selling them a bunch of cloud-based services.Now I’m off to Startup Camp – one of my favorite features of IT Expo.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Matt Bramson, InPhonex Chief Marketing Officer Keynote Speaker at ChannelSolutions 2011 in New York on 1/25/2011
I am looking forward to being the keynote speaker at ChannelSolutions in New York next week. This all-day conference should be extremely worthwhile. Unlike a lot of other conferences this one promises to be refreshingly tactical. It is billed as an ”event [which] will bring experienced providers and sales partners together, sharing their insights on what works, what does not work, and why.” During the course of the day we will hear from more than a dozen providers of innovative business services. There is still time to register at http://channelsolutionstoday.eventbrite.com/
For my keynote I plan to establish a tactical tone at the outset. I believe strongly that 2011 and 2012 are going to be momentous for the business telecommunications marketplace. The next 24 months will be pivotal in determining the landscape for years to come – especially for cloud-based service providers and service distributors. Why do I say that?
I entered the telecom industry as a serial entrepreneur on the heels of the Telecom Act of 1996. I decided telecom was the wave to catch so I jumped on board what looked to be a promising ride: Craig McCaw’s Nextlink. The last 15 years have taught me how to read the currents, winds, and tides. Some are widely recognized like the transition to packetized voice, increased broadband penetration, the growth of wireless and smartphones, and the advent of the cloud-based service model. What makes the next 24 months so promising is that other forces are beginning to have a major impact. Here are three that need to be understood and mastered:
- Customers are changing. They are increasingly comfortable with the idea that they must provide certain key elements of business solutions like adequate, high-quality bandwidth, a reasonably-well-engineered LAN, and an ability to quickly master user interfaces. Expectations like LAN assessments, on-site installation and training, and provider-performed moves, adds, and changes are diminishing – fast. The same people that have learned how to setup a PC or two, a wireless LAN and printers, and a NAS at home are gaining the confidence to do the same thing at work.
- Services and service providers are changing. The fastest-growing business telecom service providers don’t have their own network or dozens of data centers or armies of field technicians or even large sales forces. What they have are services that solve important business problems and the ability to sell and deliver those services. Services are changing too. The cloud-based model provides efficient means to deliver specialized solutions. The old model presented major obstacles to creating a solution for a single type of business – the emerging model makes it possible and even preferable. And the large business telecom provider orthodoxy of never crossing the demarc has never been as crippling for them as it will be over the next 24 months.
- Sales is changing (and needs to more and faster). Since about 1990 – the advent of the AT&T/MCI split-screen ads – telecom sales has been about making and proving one claim: a comparable service at a lower price. Telecom “salespeople” simply needed to find out what a business was buying and how much they were paying. Then they offered an equivalent service at a lower price and, a decent percentage of the time, they got a new customer. Most still practice the same approach. The large business telecom providers seem more or less convinced that this “sales” approach doesn’t urgently need to change. They just need to keep putting products and pricing in the hands of their “salespeople” that allow them to keep on keeping on. But the game has changed – and will continue to – right under their noses. It’s like the story of the boy who rode his bike across the border everyday – the guards would search him and find nothing – because he was smuggling bicycles. Telecom salespeople couldn’t/wouldn’t sell solutions so now they don’t – they sell bandwidth and other basic, commodity services that enable others to sell solutions on top. They’re selling the essentially the same stuff as they were 15 years ago only it’s not the solution anymore – and many seem just as blind to it as those border guards were.