Howdy there folks – here are the results from my VoIP survey!
Harry Brelsford, CEO, SMB Nation, http://www.smbnation.com
PS – my SBS 2008 book is here!
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SMB VoIP Survey Results
Writers like to play on words as part of their craft. With the winter cold and flu season upon us, I have received numerous meeting cancellations on my schedule because colleagues have “lost their voice.” And that got me thinking. If their voice isn’t working, is their VoIP working in the economic winter storm? That is, how is the VoIP segment of the technology sector holding up in the Great Recession?
So I created a VoIP survey with a twist. Over 260 readers answered a dozen questions about VoIP in the SMB area. Most folks provided contact details in order to be entered into the prize drawing for an Apple iPod giveaway. The winner of the iPod was Bob Pogue, who is now happily listening to his playlist. And what is the twist on this survey? Simply this. In new and emerging technologies, often the most qualified individuals—known as subject matter experts—work in the private sector at ISVs, vendor companies, and the like. So I teamed up with New Global Telcom’s Julie Buchanan and Matt Wilson, and we designed a valuable VoIP survey. I will now present the results and offer analysis.
- What services are you currently providing?
- Networking infrastructure (91.1%)
- Mobility sales, services, support (52.7%)
- VoIP-specific sales, services, support (44.2%)
- Telephony sales, services, and support (35.3%)
- Line of business applications (35.7%)
- Database development/programming/development (32.6%)
- Web hosting (27.5%)
- Host e-mail (26.7%)
Analysis: The above question allowed multiple response because SMB consultants wear multiple hats. The results also show that we are a bunch of computer guys and gals still deeply committed to the local area network/wide area network world. Fair enough—that’s an honorable past, present, and future.
- Are there additional services you plan to add to your portfolio to grow your services in the coming year?
- Yes (66.7%)
- No (33.3%)
Mother of invention time. The interesting thing about challenging times is that it forces you to re-create yourself real quick! So folks are eager to learn about new opportunities and then deliver those opportunities.
- If “yes” to Question 2 (above), what new services are you considering offering in 2009?
- VoIP sales, service, support (56.2%)
- Security (36.6%)
- Telephony sales, services, and support (28.1%)
- Web hosting, hosted services (25.5%)
Talk about VoIP velocity! Earlier I asked how the future for VoIP looks. In Question 3, I believe you have your answer. A solid majority view VoIP as a near-term opportunity.
- What industries are you working with that do not appear to be impacted by today’s economic downturn?
- Medical industries (66%)
- Education (24.1%)
- Property management (21%)
- Energy companies (10.5%)
- Liquor stores or breweries (“recession proof”) (10.5%)
In the current economic climate, some sectors (housing, banking) have been hit much harder than others. In the cover story this issue, you will recall I mention a recent story in the Wall Street Journal that suggested the bright spots are medical and education. Technology is right in the middle between hot and cold (which is a fantastic improvement over the last dip in the Y2K/DotCom era about seven years ago). The results from my VoIP survey mirror the findings of the Wall Street Journal.
- What percentage of your business revenue is from one-time sales?
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>0-20% (63.5%)
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>21-40% (18.5%)
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>41-60% (12.3%)
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>61-80% (3.5%)
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>81-100% (2.3%)
Relationships rock, but I got some explaining to do. Simply stated, the majority of you practice relationship management, and you do not rely on one-time sales (the old “wham bam”). Rather, you are keen on solution selling and, by definition, taking care of the customer and selling into your existing customer base time and time again. Viewed another way, only about 2 percent of respondents rely on one-time sales (ouch!) and have to continuously cultivate customers.
Questions 6 and 7 allowed individual responses about gaining the customer’s attention (“value proposition”) and cost-cutting measures that they, as SMB consultants, are taking (“none”). There were hundreds of responses so I will leave it at that.
8. Given the downturn in the economy, what tactics are you considering to grow revenue?
- Additional services to up-sell current customers (43.9%)
- New marketing/outreach to SMBs in my area (38.6%)
- Vertical marketing to specific industries (17.5%)
Sticking to the knitting. The strongest answer was to sell into your existing accounts. A time-tested BusinessSpeak-ism is that you are typically far more successful selling to your existing client base rather than finding a lot of new customers. This strongly correlates to the relationship response in Question 5 above.
9. Are you familiar with VoIP services?
- Currently offering (30.3%)
- Yes – have read extensively (27.2%)
- Yes – have heard of it (21.5%)
- Currently trialing/testing (18.4%)
- No – not really familiar (2.7%)
The good news is that 98 percent of you are familiar with VoIP and seeking to increase your knowledge or already offering VoIP-related services. But the bad news is that, as of today, just under 1/3 of respondents are “currently” offering VoIP-related services. This suggests lots of headroom and increased opportunities.
10. What is your biggest concern with regard to VoIP services?
- Quality (52.2%)
- Ongoing support and maintenance (30.2%)
- Ease of sale (11.2%)
- Ease of install (6.5%)
Lingering quality concerns, based partly on past experiences and current perceptions, are held by over half of the respondents. I know I have heard my share of voice warbles in conversations, but at our new office space, we use the NGT service over FIBER, and it both ROCKS and TALKS! We have had zero quality concerns.
11. If you do not offer VoIP services but are considering doing so, what is your timeframe?
- Unsure (37.7%)
- 0 – 3 months (22.8%)
- 3 – 6 months (23.5%)
- 6 – 12 months (16.0%)
The above numbers can be interpreted in two ways. First, a solid majority of respondents plan to offer VoIP services in the next 12 months. This aligns with what I am reading—that VoIP is the next wave. Second, just over 1/3 of respondents are unsure if or when they will offer said VoIP services.
12. Why do you think you should pursue VoIP services?
- To generate additional revenue with a model that increases revenue per customer (62.3%)
- To get involved with VoIP since it is delivering attractive costs to customers (57.1%)
- To increase customer retention / reduce loss of customers to converged offerings (47.0%)
- To attract new customers with a new service offering (56.7%)
During good times or bad, it is refreshing to see a keen interest in making money. Multiple responses were allowed and folks communicated that it’s about the money, honey! There is a strong interest in VoIP to deliver more services to customers and avoid customer loss.
In conclusion, I recently had a private conversation with a well-known unified communications author. This gentlemen believes we are just at the start of the voice revolution. I totally concur and the survey supports this positive, forward-looking thinking.
Our most popular poll is upon us, and you can complete it HERE. It’s our annual salary/compensation survey. This is our third year conducting this survey and it will be very interesting to see exactly how people did in 2008 and what their expectation is for 2009.