Hosted PBX Provider Vocalocity Launches Promotional Contest

Winning video entry will win some SMB a free VoIP phone system worth more than $10 K.

By Adam Stone | Posted Jun 28, 2010
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Want $10,000 worth of VoIP equipment and services for free? Atlanta-based Vocalocity will hand it over…if you win the contest.

A VoIP service provider to the SMB market, Vocalocity just launched a novel marketing effort, a social media-based competition asking customers and potential users to voice their thoughts on the benefits of VoIP.

"We want people to show us why they need our phone system," said Executive Vice President and General Manager David Politis. "We’ve said any small business owner can enter this contest and the winner gets a phone system and phone service for a year."

The idea for a video contest grew out of the company’s experiences in reaching out via a range of potential media. "We did a number of video testimonials with our customers and we found that potential customers reacted much more strongly to video than to white papers or case studies or anything that was in text. It’s just a more engaging medium," Politis.

From July 14 to August 1, small businesses can submit videos ranging from 30 seconds to two minutes showing how Vocalocity can help improve their businesses. Submissions go to vocalocity.com/contest and Vocalocity will then post entries to YouTube.

Participants get a 25 percent break on their VoIP service just for entering, and the company hopes for as many as 150 entries, Politis said.

The contest is in keeping with Vocalocity’s overall market strategy, which stresses self-selection among potential contacts. Just as contestants identify themselves as would-be buyers, the company’s outreach typically extends toward possible customers who have said via B2B web sites that they are interested in VoIP.

"We are not going to cold-call people and show them why they need a phone system. We want to wait until they understand that they need to make a change, and then show them there is a hassle-free alternative to what they have now," Politis said. "Every person we talk to already has in effect said: I am looking for a new phone system, please contact me."

The strategy has won "thousands" of small business customers with an average size of 7.5 users, Politis said, noting that only provider 8x8 is bigger, with approximately 20,000 users.

Founded in 2003 as B2C VoIP play Zivva, the company acquired Vocalocity in 2006 and changes its name, establishing at the same time its present strategy of reaching out to SMBs with 50 or fewer seats.

In subsequent years Vocalocity has met with many of the same challenges facing other VoIP providers in the small-business market.

Foremost among these has been the pressure to provide high service levels to small businesses that may lack the technical expertise to tackle issues on their own. "That level of support is the thing the mom-and-pop hosted PBX companies can’t offer. That’s why there have been a lot of competitors who have come and gone," Politis said.

Vocalocity throws people at the problem, specifically people based in its headquarters city of Atlanta.

"You always get a human being and they are here in the U.S.," Politis said. "We don’t run call center drones. These are educated, intelligent people who want to help. The worst thing you can expect from our support people is a southern accent."

The company also has invested in processes and systems to ensure its support is seamless. Politis points to its sophisticated ticketing system to capture customer information. "Everything is recorded when we deal with the customer, so that the next person doesn’t have to start from scratch."

Finally, the company makes available to customers its top tech people when the need calls for higher-level help. "This is a technical product, unfortunately, and at some point you do need a high-level technical person to troubleshoot and walk you through things," Politis said. "That has been a differentiator for us."

Get past concerns about support, and still there remains the bane of many VoIP providers: Sheer inertia.

"If someone has had a phone system in place for 20 years, their business process may be built around that phone system, around doing things a certain way. So you need to get them over that hump where things like voicemail are going to work a little differently," Politis said.

"Usually what gets people there is showing them our user interface, showing them how they can manage it themselves and not have that guy who comes out every two weeks to create a new auto-attendant. That hassle-free message resonates with business owners."

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