Over the past three weeks I have had the opportunity to attend the Skype sessions at the eBay-Skype Developers Conference, to meet with and/or interview several Skype Software Business Solution Partners (product reviews forthcoming), and to spend a day at eBay Live – especially in the exhibit area.
Out in the blogosphere, especially via posts from the mesh 2007 and Enterprise 2.0 conferences, we have also seen a few observations about how social networking tools and, in particular, Skype, are penetrating the small enterprise market. The combination of these activities has helped bring into clearer focus what it takes to be a successful Skype Business Solution Partner, not from a technology perspective, but rather an approach to building a sustainable business.
First and foremost – bring along some experience in a vertical market or solution:
- Unyte has been providing desktop sharing services for several years;
- Real Allusion brings expertise in graphic enhancement and animation to Crazy Talk
- The OnState team brings over twenty years’ experience in developing successful Call Center solutions to its OnState ACD product,
- VAPPS brings carrier grade conferencing technology and experience to HighSpeedConferencing.com
- The Convenos team brings several years’ experience in building virtual meeting solutions
- Evoca had been developing a call recording, messaging and transcription web service business around any telephony service for academics, media companies and political campaigns
Second: Be prepared to be a persistent, patient pioneer.
- The Unyte story, initially presented here in an interview with Unyte’s CTO, Gershon Goren , but also articulated so well by Unyte’s CEO Lou Guercia at the Skype “Concepts to Cash” presentation, describes how the Unyte developer team had to work with Skype personnel as both the API set and the developer program evolved over the past two plus years.
- But I also heard about how incorporating Skype into Evoca’s product offering required supportive assistance from Skype personnel to bring on board the first web service involving Skype.
- The OnState ACD solution required patience until Skype could offer full call transfer capability; in the interim they built a Skype chat solution accessible from any website.
The evolution to the current Skype Software Developer Program removes some of the obstacles encountered by these pioneers; on the other hand they have been trail blazers contributing towards what is offered today.
- But the most important advice comes from Dick Schiferli at Pamela: “Nurture your Skype relationship and maintain an appropriate level of engagement by building good lines of two-way communication with Skype”.
- And don’t forget about Skype Software certification whose goal is to provide standards for quality assuance. As of July 2, Skype Software Certification will be required to become a Skype Partner.
Third: Ensure you have a value add product or service, not simply a feature
As an example consider Call Recording: Three partner products involve Call Recording: Pamela, Skylook and Evoca. In addition, Skype offers its own voice mail service but it’s simply that – voice mail with no PC access via MP3 files or other enhancements.
However, when you dig deeper you will find that call recording is a feature within each of these products/services. It is the value add proposition incorporating the call recording feature that differentiates each of the offerings. For instance:
- Pamela offers (MP3) call recording/voice mail as one feature of a set of personal assistant utilities that enhance your overall Skype experience;
- Skylook logs call recordings/voice mails into Outlook for individual PC archival purposes, integrated along with archiving of chat messages and call history within Outlook. In fact, with Skylook, you can manage all your Skype real time communications activity from Outlook and leave the Skype client in the System Tray
- Evoca offers online archiving with web access and RSS feeds for website, weblog and podcast reference along with transcription and translation services but no voice mail service.
And if you investigate the respective pricing models for each, you will find they represent various approaches to providing business-driven value-add.
Fourth: follow Lou’s Rules. From Lou Guercia’s presentation at the “Concepts to Cash” seminar:
- Rule #1: Develop a product that you’d like to use with Skype .. Something that enhances the user experience.
- Rule #2: Don’t forget Rule #1 (when you get into the actual development cycle)
- Rule #3: Keep It Simple Stupid (make implementation and operation intuitive)
- Rule #4: Offer free and paid solutions
- Rule #5: (not stated but implicit in his presentation) Bring your solution to Skype’s global user base in a way that requires no (or minimal) real-time tech support
Fifth: Use Web 2.0 tools and social networking to build your customer base:
While traditional SMB marketing programs will certainly bring results, a profitable business model for selling Skype Partner software involves leveraging Web 2.0 tools wherever feasible. Social networking has become a key business tool:
- From Alec Saunders’ Enterprise 2.0 Reflections: We’re onto something BIG!:
… the business of being an enterprise solution provider just got a lot harder. Over and over we heard repeated that the young bring their own networks and applications to business. And because these are mostly web based applications, not much can be done to contain them. Within a short period of time, we should expect millions upon millions of GMail, Facebook, and Skype users within every enterprise globally.
- Unyte grew its registered user base from 250,000 to 500,000 in six months simply through the visibility provided by Skype Extras
- “Staff increasingly dictating the corporate IT agenda”. This forum entry is consistent with a story I heard while having lunch at eBay Live about a Fortune 500 company that blocked Skype internally but all their field agents use Skype to communicate externally.
- Obtain third party reviews, especially in the blogosphere.
And from several comments heard at the developer conference:
- Employees start using Skype and bring it into the business
- Skype becomes a key communications tool for building business presence worldwide for small to medium businesses
- Business investigates Skype Business Partner Solution and adopts one or more solutions
- According to Unyte, each license drives four more Skype user registrations as the product infiltrates the business’s best practices
Skype’s introduction into (initially small-medium) businesses via products such as Convenos, Unyte and OnState is demonstrating that Skype Partner Solutions will be a primary driver for building the Skype user base going forward. When you hear of 100 license sales for Unyte and 200 to 400 license deals for Convenos, and leverage those into additional Skype user registrations, you start to recognize that business solutions incorporating Skype will become a key differentiator for Skype from other VoIP players and a key driver of new user adoption in what is becoming an otherwise very competitive market space.
Tags: Skype, Skype Software Developer Program, Pamela, Skylook, Unyte, Convenos, OnState, HighSpeedConferencing.com, VAPPS, Skype Extras, Evoca, Real Allusion, Crazy Talk, mesh07, Enterprise 2.0, SaundersLog, Alec Saunders
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