Category Archives: Uncategorized

Are these guys having fun or what?

No, these guys don’t look like they’re having much fun. When we think of the famous California gold rush, it’s easy to conjure images of enterprising adventurers hitching a ride west to pursue vast fortunes. I’m reminded of this romantic hype when I hear so much discussion about the cloud. Only problem is, the cloud by nature is very difficult to make money in unless you have very large economies of scale. Sure, you can scratch away living, but ultimately it becomes commoditized and over-mined. 

The vast majority of the people that went searching for vast fortunes in the hills of Northern California never found them. Sure, they found a few nuggets here and there – enough to keep a tent over their head. On the other hand, the real money was made by the people that took advantage of the implications of the gold rush, not the gold rush itself.  The real money was made by people who sold shovels and whiskey or the trading posts that allowed miners to put food and supplies on credit. 

What are the implications of the cloud and what opportunities do they create for you? A big one is mobility. The cloud allows people to access new applications that were previously cost prohibitive -from any device.  Maybe your cloud strategy should really be all about mobility, fat wireless pipes, and identity management. Video which will become ubiquitous is going to be one of the biggest applications to move increasingly into the cloud in the next couple years. Most enterprises don’t have the shovels or whiskey to make this happen, do you?

http://twitter.com/@convergencesoup

 

ROWE your boat.

rowing_crew

If you’re like me, you’re starting to get a little fatigued with all of the talk about BYOD. Most of us (including your customers) have setup a rule in our brain to automatically right-click-delete any discussion about this fast growing technology opportunity. If you’re officially BYOD’d out, I’d like to suggest you consider another four letter word which I think you’ll be hearing a lot about in the coming years. ROWE, Results Oriented Work Environment is a growing trend that has fascinating repercussions on how your customers spend their IT dollars. 
 
ROWE represents a shift in the relationship employers have with their employees. While, traditionally, companies got the most out of employees by having them in the office, working set hours, and measuring them by what they appear to be doing, ROWE embracing companies throw all of these old-rules out the window and measure their employees by the results they generate. This could mean flexible hours, working from home, unlimited vacation time, and many other concepts that I believe you’ll see more companies embrace to get better results from their teams. Companies that have implemented ROWE are often able to attract better talent without having to pay more money.
 
Do yourself a favor and google ROWE and think about the technology implications. Less real estate, more remote work environments, VPN, telework, mobility, virtual presence, collaboration, video, call accounting, cloud services and even yes, BYOD.. these are all the building blocks of a smooth running ROWE environment. A really clever VAR might start a ROWE consulting practice where you help companies determine whether ROWE makes sense for them. You could help clients develop policies, best practices and business continuity strategies. By partnering with commmercial real estate brokers and business process consultants, you could extend your reach into a very large market.
 
Want to start a ROWE practice? Catalyst Telecom can help, give me a call..

Moneyball and WLAN

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, you know that Oakland’s GM Billy Beane changed the game of baseball by recruiting players based on a different set of metrics than the good ol’ boys club had done for decades.  By putting laser focus on the on-base percentage and slugging percentage (total bases divided by at bats), the 2002 Oakland Athletics were able to field a team that finished first in the American League West despite having only 41M in their strapped budget. They did this by finding “value” players that were often overlooked by the bigger teams because they didn’t fit the traditional profile of a good player.

If you are a VAR and liken your business to a baseball team, you have a lot of marquis players on your roster. Many VAR’s like to focus on the home run specializations: WAN, LAN, Data Center, Storage, Security and VoIP because they can generate the really big deals. Many of these same VAR’s don’t want to sell WLAN because these deals don’t produce substantial dollars. For this reason, I believe Wireless LAN to be the technology equivalent of a sabermetric hidden gem because it has a high on-base percentage. The flood  of customers refreshing their WLAN, the insatiable thirst for wireless bandwidth, and the explosive BYOD movement are all creating unprecedented demand. This means your chances of getting on base are extremely high. Once you’re on base, there’s a hundred other things you can sell that customer once you’ve earned their trust. The deals aren’t as big, but if you’re playing moneyball, you understand that getting on base wins more games in the long run.

Good Selling

Tom

https://twitter.com/convergencesoup

VARketing Hacks

I know many of you are looking creative ideas to ignite your marketing efforts without breaking the bank. I’d like to introduce you to a website called Fiverr. This is essentially an online marketplace for individuals who will do virtually anything for $5. Now I know what you’re thinking, you get what you pay for. Well, my response to that is you’d be surprised. Since these individuals focus on very specific tasks, they generate huge economies of scale, allowing the smallest of marketing budgets to do some really creative things.
 
Below are my top suggestions on how VARs can leverage Fiverr in their marketing efforts.
 
1. Get thousands of twitter followers and/or Facebook “likes”
 
Nothing makes the spidey senses tingle like a twitter or facebook presence with no followers. Fiverr provides a quick way to build a facade of street cred. Mind you, the followers and friends you get will be of zero value to your business since they’re just a random assortment of followers – mostly people who paid the same fiverr specialist $5 to get them 1000+ followers. What this does is allow you to pass the initial sniff test when your real customers and prospects are deciding if you’re really on the social media grid. The bad news is (for you slackers), somebody at your organization is going to have to put weekly effort into keeping your real followers engaged and interested. Fail to do the real work, and you may lose them forever.
 
2. Graphic Design
 
Need a logo or graphic for a new marketing campaign? Fiverr has hundreds of good graphic design people that can literally take your concept and create a logo or graphic (or several) for just $5. I had someone design my convergence soup can logo and was able to pick from three different concepts. Also, there’s many designers who have really cool flash intro’s that can be customized with your brand or message.
 
3. Increase your Google Ranking via Youtube
 
There’s hundreds of people recording very creative, humorous videos (many of which are tasteful) and these people are willing to include your brand in these videos, or more imporantly include a link to your website. The trick is to have someone do a video that is consistent with your theme, goal or solution. As an example, someone juggling a cell phone, tablet and laptop while riding a bike could point people to your website. More important than the immediate traffic, this increases your ranking when people are searching for companies like yours. Other ideas include magic tricks, stunts, spoofs, etc..
 
4. Contacts for Prospecting and Marketing
 
I was surprised to find several people selling all varieties of contact lists. Another one that I thought was interesting was lists of online forums for specific industries. For $5, wouldn’t you like to find out which are the most popular online forums for CIO’s and IT Managers? Or how about a list of all the Linkedin Members who are Open Network status?
 
5. Tedious Marketing Tasks
 
Let’s face it, a lot of marketing activities aren’t glamorous. You can find people on Fiverr (highly rated) that will perform one or two hours of work for $5! Think about time consuming tasks like online research or data entry. There’s a lot of smart, talented people in countries where the dollar is still strong just waiting for you to throw them an Abe Lincoln.
 
So now that you know what $5 can get you, just imagine what $50 or $100 spent on Fiverr could do. Of course, all of these ideas require discretion and good judgement, but I do believe they offer some creative new directions to stretch your marketing dollars in 2012.
 
Cheers,
Tom 
 
Follow Tom Walker on twitter: www.twitter.com/convergencesoup

What’s up, HaaS?

No, not Hoss Cartwright from the hit series, Bonanza. (wow, I’m dating myself.. but then again I did that all through High School) No, I’m talking about Hardware as a Service. More and more, my partners are finding prospects and customers that don’t want to own it, don’t want to lease it.. they just want to rent it and make a monthly payment.

I’ve recently started working with partners to put together these types of financing vehicles and surprisingly, they’re not rocket science. Here’s how it works: A finance company owns the gear and collects money from the end user on a monthly basis. They pay you, the VAR, the markup on a monthly basis so you enjoy the ever so sweet recurring revenue so you can make your Lexus payment. Can the finance company handle financing for services and management over and above the hardware and wrap it into one simple payment? Absofreakinlutely.

While leasing takes a lot of the pain out of purchasing , I believe HaaS can take away some of the negatives of leasing. More and more, customers just want results in their business and are looking at creative ways to do more with less.

Need Catalyst to introduce you to a finance partner who can help you go to market with HaaS? I reckon you best call me..

How to get a Maserati Quattroporte in 3 months.

Maserati Quattroporte

Okay, I probably should have titled this “Instant Business Strategy, Part II”, but that wouldn’t have been as fun.

In the aforementioned recent post, I described a strategy to sell 80+ IP Offices per month yielding $50K in profit every month. Many of you have asked for the details around this strategy so here you go…

Finding Customers:
  • Identify targets. Sign up for Proven Prospects who data-mines UCC filings on past equipment leases
    • Search keywords: avaya, lucent, partner and select geography in timeframe desired (when lease was executed: for instance 72 to 51 months.)
    • You may be able to negotiate a one time purchase of a comprehensive list..?
    • You get 25 points per month free, but you can get more points by inviting others to join (I’ll get 25 points when YOU sign up)
  • Drive targets to a landing page (like the one I mocked up) http://upgrademypartner.weebly.com/
    • Google Adwords: pay for advertising for high volume, low competition phrases (like attached)
      • I found 50 search terms that are “low competition” (inexpensive) yielding a cumulative 606,000 monthly searches. 1% conversion equals 6,060 people visit your website each month
      • Conservatively, 2% (of the 6,060) order equaling 121 orders per month costing perhaps 50 cents each (~$3,000/month)
      • This doesn’t factor in SEO and organic traffic which would be free and build significantly over time. 
      • I’m not a PPC (pay per click) expert so I can’t guarantee the math and conclusions above, but this is what I came up with.
  • Another strategy: Pay someone  $8/hour to wear an official looking maintenance/phone co looking uniform with your logo and Avaya logo. Have them canvas dense retail and small office areas for small businesses with Partner ACS phone systems (probably ~25% to 40%?) Your person hands an official looking envelope 8×11 envelope to the owner. On the outside the envelope says “Partner ACS End of Life Notice” and “Critical Information Regarding Your Communication System” That person says “It’s very important that the owner get this information”. Have your person “check in” on facebook with a dedicated facebook account so you can track which customers to follow up with (or just have them write it down 🙂 )
Sell the customer:
  • Use the IP Office Partner Migration Tool Kit: https://partner.avaya.com/ptlWeb/smbs/spCP/CS2010618132625355032/C20106183022553020/SN2010618132757191040/SN2010618132757191040
  • If you can convince the client the following are worth ~$50/month, you’ve got a customer. A better way to say it, it’s costing you $X/ month to stay on this Partner ACS system.
    • Voicemail messages routed to email so you only have to check voicemails in one place.
    • SIP trunking – which could drive down their monthly telecom spend to pay for system. Even better: PAETEC, for instance, has a program called “EFS” where they actually fund gear up front meaning your customer could upgrade for free or at least at a greatly reduced price.
    • One-Number access means you don’t miss calls (missed calls = missed business)
    • Free conference bridge (no more paying for hosted bridge)
    • Dial by name directories and visual mail on new 1400 and 9500 series phones
    • Voicemail: 2 additional ports and 13 additional hourse of storage!
    • Built in Autoattendant since messaging is included.
Cost Effective Implementation
  • Send the enduser a postage paid envelope with a blank backup restore card. Have them swap cards and send their existing backup restore card to you so you can pull translations and programming that you will need for the new IP Office. If you have their backup restore card, as well as the number of phones, you should have everything you need. Also, more importantly, the very fact that they send their card to you gets them psychologically invested in the process of upgrading with you. This won’t cost you anything (except postage) since they are sending back their card.
  • Catalyst performs system integration on the IP Office system before it ships. This includes testing for DOA, patching and upgrading. You can then email the programming file which our SI team will load into the IP Office. This costs around $200.
  • Catalyst doesn’t invoice the system until we ship it. We ship blind to the end user for free (you charge the end user for “shipping and handling”= PURE PROFIT!).
  • You arrange for rack+stack install since the IP Office is already programmed. Use a subcontractor from the following network www.onforce.com. Plan on $70 per hour, 2 hours = $140 remember the system is already programmed and these engineers are rated and reviewed by others so you know what you are getting (to some extent)
There you have it! If you want to pick this apart and fine tune it, give me a ring (480-403-8525). Oh, and you might want to put an order in for your Quattroporte, they can take at least 3 months to come in.

Instant Business Strategy: Just Add Water

Comrades,
There are fortunes to be made. Over 1M partner ACS systems are out there and prime for someone to give them one or two reasons to upgrade their system. If you know the value proposition of IP Office, you know there are many reasons. All you have to do is figure out how much the additional functionality means to their business and give it a monthly dollar figure.  If you can uncover $50 worth of value every month, you’ve got a customer.
Now I know what you’re thinking: These are small sales. True, but what if you could sell 20 of these every week? I’ve crunched the numbers and figured out you can net about $500 to $700 per system (after gear and installation).  That equates to at least $48,000 a month in profit. 
Do I have your attention? Give me a call and I’ll explain how you can employ the following tactics to build a cash cow.
  • Use publicly available data mining tools to identify existing Partner ACS customers.
  • Implement these systems very inexpensively by utilizing our staging services.
  • Employ SEO and Pay per click to drive traffic to a website like the one above.
The money is out there, just waiting for you to grab it.  Let’s talk.
-Tom

Quid Pro Quo

Based on the righteous teachings of Jim Sevier (via the SIP Smarts Series), I have organized and condensed a bite-sized SIP Playbook made for VAR sales reps. I will email you a copy of this amazing, no-fluff, high impact playbook if you (A) follow me on twitter (@convergencesoup); and (B) subscribe to my blog on feedburner. Deadline is next Friday (May 20th)

Good Selling!!

Tom

Social Media and Alter Ego (aka Don’t be a blow-hard)

Let’s face it, nobody wants to read on facebook about your whiz-bang technology. Think about it. How interested are you in reading on facebook or twitter, your insurance agent’s opinions on sufficient life insurance? Or your plumber’s new 24 hour rooter service? Chances are, your bloviations on cloud technology and WAN acceleration are equally dull to your target audience.. at least in a social media setting.

This is a hotly debated discussion I often have with VARs: Does social media really “work” for our industry? Isn’t social media geared more towards consumer products like Apple, Zappos, Fat Tire Beer, and the like? 

My take is one of common sense. People put their eyeballs on social media, largely for some level of enjoyment. Do you think people really enjoy understanding how your SSL VPN has a lower TCO? They don’t. We’re all guilty of this. Heck, this very blog post may be guilty of it. I think there is yet another way to approach this — create an alter ego. Your company is Clark Kent — you need a Social Media Superman. Something that connects with your audience on a personal level.

This alter ego would be both a departure from your brand, but also have a connection to your brand. It would have a sort of theme or mantra.  Here’s some ideas:

Lifehacker is a popular website/blog because they include some really creative, counter-intuitive ideas, most of which can be implemented for little or no money. It demonstrates you’re not just trying to make money off the audience. You could include info on hacks to manage the network while you’re on vacation, free up bandwidth, tighten up security with freeware, get a better discount from carriers, you get the idea.

– Everybody cares about their career. If you focus content around how IT professionals can advance their careers and up their marketability, you’ve got an audience. People enjoy making more money and visualizing their ascent up the corporate ladder.

– Everybody likes to laugh. Sometimes, we really need to laugh. Sharing humor that is relevant to the industry strikes the perfect balance. There’s a lot of free tools out there like www.stripcreator.com to create free comic strips. Or you could create animation via goanimate. I know of one VAR  that makes fake onion-esque news articles that spread virally. Here’s an example of a comic strip I created.

It’s possible to do all of the above while at the same time creating a path back to you for a discussion that leads to more business.

Really, it’s just common sense. It shouldn’t be all about you or the junk you sell, rather it should be all about your audience. Not many VARs have cracked the code here which is good. You’ve got a great opportunity to make social media work for you while your competition languishes.

What do you think?

Tom

Cloudy With a Chance of Pain…

 

Pain for whom? Pain for YOU if you aren’t paying attention to the Cloud. Friday, I wrote about the idea of using Google Apps to short-circuit Microsoft’s plan for inter-stellar domination in the UC space.  Today, my proposed strategy received a worthy retort by early signs that Microsoft just may be getting it right with their Microsoft 365 solution (example.) Nonetheless, I think it’s safe to assume we have a battle royale on our hands between Microsoft and Google which will have far reaching impact on your business as a UC and/or infrastructure VAR. 

The real question isn’t which solution is better, but  how do both cloud migration scenarios play out in the context of your business? If your clients migrate to Google’s platform, how does that impact your ability to sell UC and/or infrastructure. Should you hasten that migration to block Microsoft from picking up the UC piece? Will customers trust business-critical, real-time voice and UC to the public cloud? How can you play in the context of customer’s migration to Office 365?

Or do you just continue to take a frontal, block and tackle approach on UC opportunities as they arise (I hope not)? What is your story? Where do you play? What’s your vision? What problems can you mitigate? What perils do your clients face with both Microsoft and Google? How can you squeeze money out of this situation? Why does anyone listen to Lady Ga Ga?

At the turn of the century, we saw Cisco stealthily gain UC marketshare by planting ISR’s (Integrated Services Routers) at branch locations right under out noses, only to turn up voice on said ISR’s while we were snoozing. What we are seeing now is very similar in that the choice they make now (or have already made) on messaging and collaboration will provide a path of least resistance to UC.

Have an opinion on this with your customers. Understand the advantages and perils of cloud vs premise, private cloud vs public cloud, google vs. microsoft. Find a way to (a) insert yourself in your customer’s migrations (see my post yesterday) and (b) direct them down a path that provides them flexibility and you account control.

This will be a hotly debated proposition for your customers. But,as they say: no pain, no gain.

Tom