Peter Radizeski is Founder and President of RAD-INFO INC. He is an accomplished blogalyst, speaker, author and consultant. He has helped many service providers with sales training, marketing, channel development and business strategy. He is a trusted source of knowledge about the telecom sector. His honest and direct approach make him a refreshing speaker.

Look for his innovative ideas and analysis of current technology on his blogs.

Meet him at one of the many conferences he attends and speaks at.

Hire RAD-INFO today!

Content is Again King

On a Zoom Coffee Break with COLOTRAQ yesterday, the discussion centered around our face to face world in the channel. Will conferences happen? Will people go?

CONFERENCES

Many conferences have suitcasing clauses. Why? Because a majority of the value is in meetings and networking, both items that conferences have a hard time monetizing and facilitating. ITW went virtual this year. The platform chosen was essentially a Deal Center portal to facilitate meetings. Some have expressed to me that it was not a fun experience. So again the virtual experience is not user friendly.

INCOMPAS, ITW, Metro Connect, ITEXPO and Channel Partners Expo rely heavily on inter-personal interaction. Without that what do you get at these events?

Conferences are experiences. It is about seeing old friends, meeting peers (new and old), doing business and learning. Currently, there isn’t a platform available that can replicate that online.

The business model of conferences has been about the vendors providing about 90 percent of the revenue via booths and sponsorship. Everything else is an after thought. Everything else was just to attract attendees to walk the show floor – to provide value to the show’s vendors (the real customer of the show).

Now turn it is all virtual. The platforms are basically portals and Zoom webinars. What do you do?

Content becomes king again.

An in-person event costs roughly $1500 per show for the partner with airfare, hotel and F&B. A partner has to find $3000 worth of value out of every show. Think of it this way: What can an attendee learn at the show that could be applied to create $3000 in revenue?

This will be the new thinking until we have herd immunity or a vaccine. What is the ROI of a show?

Now conference companies – like Informa, TMC, et al – should be re-thinking what a conference looks like. Most of these companies already sell webinars. In other words, again and again they demonstrate what they consider content and how it is produced.

Most of the webinars I have seen consist of analysts and vendor executives yakking. People have become oblivious to basic marketing guidelines. Who is the customer? What do they care about? What do I want the attendee to take-away from this?

Instead it is basically wrapping for the vendor. I have yet to see webinars starring partners or customers discussing outcomes. (I would fall over if I did.)

On the Coffee Break, I mentioned that the key will be content that is engaging and entertaining. No more reading slides or showing videos. On webinars this week, there wasn’t enough value to make up for the time wasted. And for each shitty webinar, it becomes harder to get someone to watch YOUR webinar since the experience thus far has been disappointing.

COLOTRAQ CEO, Dany Bouchedid, thought that building a community would be the next step for conferences. Vendors would pay to be a part of the community in order to interact with the partners. Sounds like a vertical LinkedIn, right? InMail by Informa. (BTW, when it was Virgo, CP was contemplating a subscription model.)

ASCII Group and Robin Robins have that model in a way. The shows are a profit center that provide real world value to the attendees – and a funnel for the communities the shows’ owners operate.

The conference companies will need to become TV channels of quality programming. It will be available in audio and video – probably with commercials. It will be on Facebook Live, a YouTube channel and more. Since it isn’t easy to produce quality content (just browse cable TV or YouTube to see what I mean), it will become bland fast. Only Mr Rogers and Sesame Street understand how to produce quality educational programming!

Will Virtual Expos Be a Thing?

Lots of pundits are exclaiming that now is the time for virtual conferences. That is some hopefulness right there. It is almost as if none of them have been to a conference.

Remember, the trade show & conference makes the majority of its money from sponsors and booth sales; content is a secondary thing. For the virtual show to work, due to the one dimensional aspect of the technology (platform), the content would have to be awesome. The technology – audio, video, presentation – would have to work flawlessly. We don’t see that working.

Each speaker would have to practice and prepare. Get lighting and gear in order for the performance. And let’s face it, how many speakers think of it as a performance?

To practice and prepare there would need to be compensation. How would that work?

The number one reason people attend conferences is the networking. Granted, conference operators just throw a happy hour and call it networking, but the attendees leverage that time to meet new faces and catch up with old ones (and see what logo they are wearing on their business card this time). How do you make that impactful virtually?

That is the other consideration: IMPACT. Virtually, how long will someone steer at a Zoom meeting screen without distractions? The agenda and format would need to adjust for the attention span.

Content, format and performance are the elements necessary to have a great virtual event – three things missing from the in-person events for some time.

The organizers now have to re-do the business model around the content instead of the booths because have you been to a virtual booth? It is awful (especially for job fairs). With all the apps available today – Snap, twitter, FB, Instagram, twitch, WhatsApp – and all the connectors like Calendly, Doodle, etc. – why can’t a job seeker roam a virtual fair, step up to a booth and start a video chat with someone from that company? A vCard with a link to an Indeed resume or LinkedIn profile would work (except for the blue collar jobs that are most needed right now, that this technology escapes that audience**).

One person remarked that there hasn’t been money thrown at this problem yet since the conference space (in-person) was booming. When you see the gaming platforms like Call of Duty, you have to wonder why the virtual conference isn’t like that. Upload a photo to be morphed into the character and off you go. You can have virtual sex but not a decent job fair. Go figure.

Competing in XaaS Space Today

CPaaS, UCaaS, CCC, SaaS, CRM – all crowded markets with new providers joining the (already crowded) ranks every quarter.

How to compete?

One way is to go the way of the platform. You become an ecosystem like Salesforce or Vonage or RingCentral.

Another way is by feature. Develop a feature no one else has. In my experience, most executives don’t know what the competitors have/do, so your new awesome feature may in fact be passe or normalized – or have no market demand or fit.

You also have to deliver on that feature. Take the Salesforce hook that most UCaaS providers have (advertise). What is it exactly? Most it is just click to call. Integrations between customer apps are great but how they are executed is where the benefit sits. So it isn’t just that the buyer can check the box for SF integration, but what will the user be seeing/doing with that. THAT is the advantage.

Very few decide that service delivery and ease of use are going to be the ladder steps to success. Amazon has these in spades – and far exceeds anyone in retail in ease of use. In the conferencing space, Zoom has ease of use and some of the best video quality (delivery).

CX or UX – customer or user experience is by far the best way to compete – as Zappos, Amazon, Zoom, Pipedrive, Hubspot have demonstrated.

Recently two new video conferencing services hit the market – Jitsi and Team.Video . So Jitsi is the open source version of what 8×8 is using. Team.Video is trying to add better collaboration to the video meeting. I don’t know how either will take off in a market where Zoom gets all the air.

In the video space, YouTube is for reach and Vimeo is for control and quality. There are so many platforms to stream live – Facebook, YouTube, Snap, Instagram and others. It is a preference thing coupled with a where is the audience I am trying to meet thing. That last part is important. Who is your target? Where are they? What do they need? How can I solve for that? How can I make it easier? Where is the friction that I remove (a la Uber/Lyft)?

Personally, I don’t see people asking & answering these questions in order to position themselves for success in the crowded marketplace.

Being in the Conversation

In twenty years of working with service providers of all stripes – ISP, WISP, MSP, VoIP/UC, CLEC – the biggest hurdle has been Attention.

For ISPs and WISPs, they had to yell louder than the Duopoly (MSO and ILEC) just so the community they serve would know they exist.

In the UCaaS and CCC spaces, the pay off for being in the Gartner MQ was now. They were in the conversation or they were top of mind for when businesses were frantic to transition to the cloud.

I will say that for any service provider marketing is the key to success.

Who knows you when the time comes to buy?

Microsoft Buys Metaswitch

Andy Abramson and Rich Tehrani have takes on this — so does every analyst. I look at it different.

Metaswitch in the US is in every telco. This gives Microsoft an in into every telco customer of Metaswitch. MS Teams/Skype direct routing for all. Teams can now become the default app for collab and calling in businesses globally – if it is played right.

Metaswitch has their own SBC. That helps MS in its age old one-upmanship with Oracle that acquired Acme Packet and Tekelec 8 years ago.

5G? I don’t know much about Meta’s 5G product. I know that Sprint, AT&T and VZ have Metaswitch but none of them use Meta’s MAX mobile UC. I don’t think that changes any due to MS’s mobile history (read: failure).

I know Cisco is a factor in this too. Webex Teams powered by Broadsoft. Let’s not forget that this is reiteration number 4 or 5 for Webex/Jabber/BSFT/Spark/whathaveyou. Cisco ain’t so great on this front either. If anyone should have leapfrogged the market with a great UX designed app, it should have been Cisco.

I also can’t believe that Webex – like every other conferencing app – has the same login process. Nothing original in this aspect of the space at all. Hello?

This announcement came out of the Azure group, so this is about cloud, NFV and SDN. However, a majority of Meta’s clients are mom and pop telcos in rural America who cannot/will not go virtual.

I think this is more like the LinkedIn buy for Microsoft. One department that had the cash decided that they needed this thing that Metaswitch had – oh and btw there are other nice to haves available.

As I wrote on twitter, MS has a history of buying stuff like LinkedIn and Skype – and not being able to extract value from it. They don’t embrace it and enhance it and put it back out in the world better than when they bought it.

Instead it ends up like Internet Explorer or Bing – a check box that we have it, but no one is using it. Much like their mobile play.

I could be wrong but I am hoping this isn’t the big blue screen of death for Metaswitch as a switch. There aren’t any replacements out there.