Having doubled in size annually for the past three years—and liking that growth rate, but realizing it’s difficult to sustain, organically, once you reach a certain size—Atlanta, Ga.-based Vocalocity has set about reinventing its business.
Specifically, Vocalocity has redesigned its partner program to increase the size and horsepower of the engine that brings in new business.
“We think partnering is the way to [keep up that growth rate], but we’ve got to do it right,” vice president for business development Steven Byrd told Enterprise VoIPplanet in a recent interview.
“We’re investing in a lot of areas to help make our partners more self sufficient,” Byrd continued. “We’re also building out a lot of things from a support perspective for our partners, as well as technology that’s going to enable them to do stuff they’ve never been able to do before.”
Item number one in the technology context is a development toolkit that will let partners easily build custom plug-in applications, both for their own business processes and to offer their customers.
“This lets them do basic things” Byrd said—”for example, in a CRM integration, they can do screen pops based on Caller ID, or whatever. But there’s also some pretty advanced things they can do in terms of polling external data sources, pulling those together with internal data sources, like a CRM system, and get a more holistic view of customers they may be working with—and do that on an automated basis.”
While this kind of functionality has been familiar in the enterprise for years, its equivalent simply hasn’t existing in the SMB marketplace, Byrd pointed out.
“We’re pretty excited about this because it’s something that really isn’t available in our space today. A number of companies have built integrations to some of the contact management or CRM applications, but they’re very much a canned, API-type link that you can’t do the type of customization with that we’re going to let our partners do with our toolkit,” he said.
The folks at Vocalocity realize that not all partners are going to leap at this type of opportunity. Writing application plug-ins is just not everybody’s cup of tea.
The solution: “We’re building some plug-ins ourselves that will provide some out-of-the-box functionality, like an integration with Outlook, SalesForce.com—a number of leading software applications,” Byrd explained. When they’re done they will have an entire catalog of plug-ins available to their partners—a sort of IP communications App Shop.
Of Vocalocity’s 400 to 450 partners, some are more active—productive, from the company’s point of view—some less so. “We’ve got some that are real productive, that we’re talking to just about every day, and there are others we may only communicate with once a quarter,” depending on a number of factors, including what their main line of business is.
“That’s why we’re increasing our investment in infrastructure to support our partners,” Byrd said. “We’re building some advanced portals where we can allow them access to information very, very quickly—all the selling tools they may need, and things of that nature.”
For the low-volume partners, those who don’t choose to learn the nuances of selling and positioning the company’s services, Vocalocity has created cooperative selling programs, in which the partners essentially turn sales leads over to the sizable in-house sales team, yet generate a significant revenue flow for themselves.
“But for those that do want to invest and build a business around our applications,” Byrd said, “we’ve got a pretty rich opportunity for them, in that the more they invest and the more business they do with us, the more money they make.”
The final piece of the partner program re-tooling is the creation of a certified support program. This will be built around online training and customer support tools that can lead partner to full support certification status. “We’ve got a number of partners who are interested in doing that –ones that probably already are supporting other applications or services,” he said.
“Trying to build ongoing recurring services revenue is very important to most people in this space. So we built a program to let them work hand in hand with our support operations—and do just that,” Byrd concluded.