If you are looking to start your own business, the VoIP industry offers a very promising opportunity today. With more and more businesses working remotely and households looking to go “digital” with their phone systems today, VoIP phone systems are now the go-to option for communication for both commercial and residential markets. In 2020, the VoIP market is worth almost $83 million and is expected to surpass $100 million within 5 years. If you are looking to start your own VoIP business, 360Connect is here to help. Take a look at our 7-step guide to starting a successful VoIP business.
Step 1: Do your research.
If you’re serious about kickstarting a business in the VoIP space, you need to start by doing comprehensive research and becoming a VoIP expert. Becoming 100% familiar with the VoIP market, how VoIP works, and best-in-class technology will be crucial in establishing trust with new customers. Additionally, you won’t be able to efficiently set up your VoIP company’s infrastructure – including software and hardware – until you establish a solid understanding of VoIP technology. Here are some basic VoIP concepts to research to help you get started:
- Session Initiation Protocal (SIP)
- Public Switched Telephone network (PSTN)
- Quality of Service (QoS)
- Private Branch Exchange (PBX)
- Hosted vs. Cloud-Based VoIP
- Unified Communication
- Bandwidth and Latency
During this step, it’s also not a bad idea to come up with a sales and marketing plan. How will you market your VoIP business? What marketing methods are most efficient for VoIP companies? Have you established a winning sales team?
Our best advice: take your time to develop a full understanding of the VoIP industry during the research step. Your knowledge will be pivotal in your success as a business owner.
Step 2: Establish your business model and niche market.
Once you’ve done comprehensive research, your next step is deciding on an effective business model and determining your market. As you learned (or will learn) during your research – there are lots of different types of VoIP and different markets to which VoIP providers can cater their services.
One way to determine your business model is to consider your team’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your finances. For instance, do you have a software engineer that can help you establish a functional mobile VoIP app? How much capital are you willing to invest in starting your business? Once you do some brainstorming, consider these questions pertaining to your business model and niche market.
Residential or commercial?
With landlines becoming outdated, VoIP is popular among both residential and commercial customers. Are you going to target residential customers, businesses, or both? While commercial customers can help you close bigger sales deals, residential customers and small businesses can be great for establishing your brand and growing your business. Also keep in mind that catering to larger businesses can require a larger capital investment on your part, since they may require several lines as well as robust hardware and software needs. Whichever market you decide on, make sure you set up your business to be equipped to help.
Mobile or Hosted?
There are two general types of VoIP systems today – cloud (aka mobile) and hosted. Hosted VoIP is a form of Private Branch Exchange (PBX) that uses a physical server to route calls. Hosted VoIP users also have the choice of using physical hardware, such as a desk phone, or routing calls through Internet-connected devices, such as smartphones. Normally, if you develop a Hosted VOIP business model, you will need to install robust servers at your business location. You also may want to offer the option for your customers to rent or buy physical hardware using your service.
On the other hand, if you choose to go with a cloud-based/mobile VoIP business model, your users will be utilizing their mobile network or WiFi to take calls. If you are setting up a mobile VoIP service, you need to optimize your website and mobile app for digital use.
Reseller or Provider?
If you want to start a VoIP business you have two general options – becoming a reseller or provider. A reseller simply connects buyers with VoIP services that already exist. Resellers require less capital investment to get started because they don’t need to set up servers, optimize bandwidth, offer hardware, or establish software. They avoid much of the risk and overhead cost that providers bear, however, they generally make less money from buyers compared to providers.
Providers on the other hand must establish secure servers, optimize bandwidth, and set up hardware and software infrastructure for their customers. They also need to oversee these technologies on a day to day basis as well as make sure that customers are happy with their equipment and service. For this reason, becoming a provider requires a heftier capital investment, as well as risk and day to day management. However, providers will make more money over time than resellers.
Step 3: Explore your competition.
To be successful as a VoIP business owner, you will want to explore your industry competition. Competition can be fierce in the VoIP space, but if you understand competitive features and offerings you have a good shot at bringing in a lot of revenue. Finding out what your competitors are offering (and why their customers chose to do business with them) will help you understand how to create a lucrative business.
Start by looking up the top brands and biggest market share holders in the niche market you’ve chosen. Analyze their offerings, such as:
- Mobile flexibility
- Payment options
- Types of customers
- Customer service
You can start by comparing top VoIP brands such as Nextiva vs. RingCentral or Ooma vs. Vonage. Taking note of these offerings will help you better understand what is expected of VoIP customers today. Matching or beating your competition on these fronts can help you win over new business.
Step 4: Set up your hardware and software.
This step is certainly one of the most crucial and practical items on the list: setting up hardware and software for your business. This will make or break your customers’ experience using your VoIP service, as they will be using your hardware and software on a day to day basis. Note: this step is mostly for VoIP providers rather than VoIP resellers. Consider these items as important steps to creating your VoIP infrastructure.
Servers and Hosting
Especially if you are setting up a hosted VoIP infrastructure, you will need to put thought into implementing robust servers. Especially if you are working with commercial customers, you will need enterprise level servers that are hosted in Internet Data Centers (IDC) and supply sufficient bandwidth. You can lease or buy this equipment, making sure to take your target market into account when determining the size and quality of your servers.
A softswitch is the key gateway in terms of software for your VoIP business. This device will manage all voice traffic, route calls, hold customer records, manage transactions, and much more. Generally speaking, if you are starting a VoIP business you will need a good softswitch.
Softswitches are usually categorized based on how many concurrent calls or transactions they can handle at one time. Meaning, the more customers you have and the larger businesses you have using your service, you’ll need a more robust softswitch. Additionally when choosing a softswitch, you’ll want to think about things like security, call connectivity, call routing methods, and more. Take these into account when starting your business, as you will not want to outgrow your softswitch as you grow your business.
You may want to invest in bandwidth optimization software, which will allow for a better experience for your customers. The last thing you want when you start your VoIP business is for your customers to complain about interruptions, latency, and bandwidth issues. Bandwidth optimization software will also be useful when you have customers in troublesome geographical areas. Essentially, this software will help create a smooth call quality for your customers regardless of the WiFi connectivity on their end.
Mobile apps are generally expected of VoIP providers today, especially for cloud-based VoIP solutions. If you are looking to become a VoIP provider, you should highly consider developing a mobile app. Do you have a software developer resource in-house? If not, during this step you should consider sourcing this help. Some features that mobile apps allow customers to use are:
- Mobile dialers
- Calling cards
- Payment and subscription options
- SMS messaging
- Video messaging
- And more
We recommend taking a look at this article on Unified Communication systems to learn more about mobile features that are in-demand.
If you are offering hosted VoIP solutions, you may want to allow customers to lease or buy equipment when signing up with your service. This is especially a good option if you plan to adopt commercial customers who prefer to use other equipment besides their smartphones or computers. Some hardware that you can choose to lease to your customers include:
- Handset phones
- Conference phones
- Headset connections
Offering equipment leases or purchases can also be a great way to add revenue to your business. For instance, conference phones can cost as much as $300+ to buy and desktop phones can cost $100. Learn more about equipment costs and other VoIP costs.
Step 5: Start a functional website.
These days, every successful business needs a website and VoIP is an industry that especially hinges on utilizing a functional website. A website can be the place where you attract customers, provide them with information about your business, and sign them up. You absolutely want to make sure your website makes a good impression and looks professional. We also recommend considering adding interactive functions to your website such as:
- Interactive customer support, such as live chat
- Automated sign-ups
- Customer accounts and payment portals
- Learning and resource center
- Separate web pages catered to different types of customers (ie. call centers)
- And more
As a starting point, you can take a look at your competitors websites and see what functions they include. Our best advice: Think about the customer’s experience and how you can sell your services using your website.
Step 6: Build a customer support system.
When signing up new customers, you need to provide them with the ability to get in touch with your customer support team for assistance if needed. For instance, many VoIP users today will seek IT and troubleshooting help when getting started and as they continue to use your service. Do you plan to have a customer support and IT team dedicated to these customers? Are you able to handle them internally? If you anticipate the need for extra help, know that there are outsourced options available to you such as phone answering services and inbound call centers.
Regardless of the team you assign to customer support, there are expectations your customers will have when it comes to assistance. It’s best to include various methods for your customers to get in contact with you, as well as offering 247 assistance or as close as possible. We recommend considering the following options in terms of customer support offerings:
- Live chat: Allow customers to message customer service representatives in real time for assistance.
- Phone support: List your customer service number online so your customers can seek assistance when needed.
- Email: Create a separate customer support email address that users can use to reach out for help.
- Online guides and manuals: You can often reduce the amount of customer service calls you receive by providing your customers with online manuals and guides for troubleshooting purposes.
Make sure to include a “Customer Support” section on your website so customers are clear about how they can get in contact with you for help and support.
Step 7: Find customers and grow your business.
At this step, you’ve established a business model, built your hardware and software infrastructure, and started a website. You’re ready to find customers and start selling! But how are you going to do this? There’s several strategies you can use to find new customers.
- Ask someone in your professional network to test and review. To establish credibility with potential new clients, it’s always good to have testimonials from satisfied users. Do you have a network of professionals who may be willing to test your product and give you a testimonial? If so, add this review to your website so prospective customers can develop trust in your service.
- Establish a customer acquisition strategy. You’ll need a great acquisition marketing plan if you’re just getting started. There are several marketing channels you can utilize to find new customers who may need VoIP services, such as PPC, social media, SEO and content marketing. You also might want to try a digital marketplace or lead generation service like 360Connect to get you going with high quality leads!
- Utilize email marketing. If you’re new to the VoIP business, it’s a good idea to invest in email marketing. Build email lists of contacts such as business owners who may need your VoIP service. Then, implement a drip strategy to catch your buyers’ attentions. Learn more about the effectiveness of email marketing and drip campaigns.
- Network with VoIP professionals. A great way to help get your brand off the ground is to network with professionals who are already established in the VoIP industry. There are tons of LinkedIn groups that focus on the VoIP space. Additionally, there are lots of telecommunication and VoIP tradeshows you can attend to build your professional network.
For other tips for growing your business, be sure to check out our Business Empowerment section of our Supplier blog! Also know that 360Connect is focused on your success. Our Revenue Growth Program can be just what your company needs to get business off the ground, find new customers, and succeed. Learn more about our Supplier program today.