Small Biz Barry’s Hard-Times, High-Tech Arsenal

Technology can help small companies cut expenses, boost sales, save time, and work more efficiently. This story about composite character Barry the small business CEO illustrates how hosted PBX, search optimization, video conferencing and instant messaging can help cut costs and increase revenue in these tough times.
Slashing Office Space, Keeping Phone Presence
Fresh from an emergency meeting with his venture capital firm, Barry figures that he’s got about three months to get cash positive, if he can slash expenses. First thing he’s going to do: send software engineering and tech support home. Not to the unemployment line: just to their home offices, letting the lease run out on the R&D shop on the second floor and tech support on the fourth. This is also the push he’s needed to go VoIP and cut down on telecom expenses. He puts the PBX on eBay, gets SIP IP adapters for the phone sets, gets everyone to download a free SIP softphone client to their PCs and signs his firm up for OnSIP, Junction Networks’ hosted PBX.

Last year, rent on the second- and fourth-floor offices ran $120,000 and telecom costs, including cell phones while on the road, ran Barry’s 35-person shop $4400 a year. Now that OnSIP is installed, what happens?

  • Office space costs plummet; so do time, money and environmental commuting costs for 20 employees.
  • Everyone at BeanCount Software—at home or in the remaining offices—uses an extension to the off-premise, OnSIP switch. Everyone dials everyone else as before. For free. Everyone dials outside, PSTN numbers for less than three cents a minute.
  • Everyone calls anyone else who’s on a SIP phone or softphone for free.
  • All external calls come into the office, or to individual extensions, as before, with no number changes. Greetings and dial directories are re-recorded to match the old on-prem system.
  • Tech support calls get distributed in order of arrival to next available tech support engineers, as before, even though they’re physically scattered around the suburbs.
  • In addition to the IP-adapted phone on the desk, everyone’s softphones ring on their laptops when their extensions are dialed, even when on the road.
  • Monthly telecom expenses drop from $350-$400 a month to about $125, including the $39.95 package of advanced calling features like hunt groups, greetings, route-by-time-of-day, and Web-delivered voice mail.
  • Conference calls become free.
  • Calls that don’t get answered on the extensions can be easily forwarded to employees’ cell or home phones, via browser-based choice.

Search-word optimization with Ifbyphone
Next, Barry turns his attention to the revenue side. Harry, his marketing VP, informs him that BeanCount Software’s spending on Google™ AdWords has ballooned in recent months. They’ve paid hundreds of dollars a day for dozens of terms, like “accounting software,” “accounts payable” and “P & L,” but they have no idea which of those terms deliver sales leads.
Then Harry puts Ifbyphone’s smart, programmable call-me link on the Web site. Now what happens?

  • The browsing prospect sees the site, clicks the button, and enters his phone number. His phone immediately rings, with one of Barry’s agents on the line.
  • Harry can now tell, through Ifbyphone, which search terms that prospect entered just before being delivered to his agent.
  • He can raise the prominence of those buyer-attracting search terms.
  • He can concentrate his AdWords budget on the most productive words, and drop the rest.
  • He can also (via Web controls) configure the call button to send after-hours calls straight to himself—the best software salesman in the business—or to other landline or cell phones.

Facetime Anytime with SightSpeed
With almost two thirds of his staff telecommuting most of the time, Barry begins to miss the spontaneous give-and-take of in-person meetings and chance encounters in the hall. Also, he needs reassurance that employees are at their posts and on the job. He makes sure all his telecommuters have webcams, and has them download SightSpeed videochat and videoconferencing software. Now what happens?

  • BeanCount teleworkers leave their SightSpeed client open and running all day, like an instant messaging program. In fact, SightSpeed is an instant messaging software, with characteristic buddy lists, and text or real-time voice communication as well as incomparably clear and fluid video. It also charges like an IM service: nothing, for the consumer version. For more bells and whistles, SightSpeed Plus enables four-person conferences and longer video mails for $9.95 a month, while SightSpeed Business allows up to nine-person conferences starting at $19.95 per month; a couple of days’ worth of gas.
  • Barry’s never more than one click away from a clear, full-motion, face-to-face conversation with any one of his contacts. He can bring up to nine webcams in on the same video call, with split-screen display.
  • Barry schedules weekly videoconferences with R&D and tech support managers. People share files and views of their whiteboards. They stay off the road.
  • Barry’s customers and suppliers start to video call him as well—without downloading any application. All they need to do is click on a link/URL that Barry sends them and they get the full power of SightSpeed (30 frames per second, no latency and perfect video-audio synchronization). Even Mac users can join in.
  • Barry easily conducts hiring interviews over SightSpeed, recording each candidate—who also stays off the road and out of planes.
  • Barry’s tech support people record their answers to tech support questions, alongside demos. These can be sent as video e-mails, and played by anyone, with SightSpeed or without.
  • Harry interviews some customers via SightSpeed video conferencing on their use of BeanCount software, records their conversations and posts their testimonials on the Web site.

Back-Channel Customer Intelligence with Palringo
The following week, Barry has a speaking spot at the AccounTech trade show, while Harry and Larry staff the booth on the exhibit floor.
In the past, Barry would bump into analysts and trade press in the halls or during presentations, urge them to visit the booth and hope they followed up. But those in the booth never really knew who they were speaking to: big or small potential buyers, tire kickers, souvenir collectors or even the competition. It’s a small industry segment; Barry knows most of the players.
In the Wi-Fi-equipped convention hall, or even beyond it, the three BeanCounter men keep in touch through smartphones running Palringo, a multifunctional, multiservice, mobile IM client that also lets you send instant photos and voice notes (and can also, incidentally, tell you the whereabouts of contacts if they desire). Now what happens?

  • When Harry greets a booth visitor, Larry, his associate, asks permission and then snaps a mobile phone picture and instantly messages it to Barry via Palringo. Still in the same IM session, Barry texts back a quick ID: “That’s our biggest competitor’s director of sales. Tell him nothing!”
  • Larry snaps another prospect’s picture, and instantly sends it to all of the company’s sales team in one click. A vocal note comes back in seconds, from BC’s southwest regional manager. Harry puts it to his ear and taps the screen to hear: “That’s [insert name of exec in biggest account]! Treat with care and talk up the Linux version!” Just to be on the safe side, the regional manager IMs him the man’s name in text.
  • Barry has managed to leverage the customer relationships of every one on his entire sales staff by sharing what he sees with his “sales” contact group, every member of which runs Palringo on their PCs and/or smartphones. Even while back in his hotel room, Barry gets the booth’s instant visual, aural and text messages, discretely sent.
  • SMS and MMS charges have been wiped from the balance sheet; Palringo is a free service when data plans are already in place.