Do Buyers Want a Telecom Marketplace?

There are a few companies throwing out the idea of a telecom marketplace. They want to sell buyers on UCaaS, Internet, SD-WAN, colocation and more. They got this idea from Amazon.

Unfortunately, Amazon tried this already. And failed. Amazon failed at selling Chime, Comcast Internet and a few other telecom lines. Amazon has done a great job selling smart home solutions from Ring and Blink along with subscriptions. This makes Amazon even more valuable with MRR.

Buyers may procure CRM, file share (Dropbox), and other single use SaaS via e-commerce. Salesforce has certainly demonstrated that you can craft a ecosystem around CRM and add-on sales to make the CRM the centerpiece of a business user’s day. This also is not what these “telecom marketplaces” are doing.

They don’t have a brand. They need a brand to drive buyers – and build trust. They are hoping that partners will send their customers to the site for sales. I only see that happening when the customer is a PITA.

The other hurdle is that most buyers do not know what they need, what is available, what comes with it.

Recently, a buyer had DSL. The DSL came with a wireless access point on loan from the ILEC. When the buyer upgraded to DIA due to reliability issues with the DSL, the WAP went away and no wi-fi! They needed cabling run for VoIP phones. They needed cabling from the telecom closet to the suite. And more. Who handles that through a marketplace?

The master agencies are supposed to help with some back office. As they get bigger, they don’t get better. NO MERGER IN TELECOM in my 21 years has ever made things better.

Most of telecom orgs as they get bigger, get messier – for example, SBC-PacBell-AT&T-BellSouth, Windstream and CenturyLink/Lumen/Level3/TWTC/Quest. Each one is a circus tent with many fiefdoms underneath that prevent stuff from getting done. I see this with AppSmart.

Most partners aren’t running a practice management system or a standard CRM. So how do you get all that customer, order and commission data from one org to another? Maybe the first thing would be to get everyone on one system, but at $3000+ per month, I don’t see too many partners jumping on that partner management software soon.

While the money men try to roll up the partners, I am reminded of JAB Wireless, a WISP roll up that didn’t work too well either circa 2015. Lot of reasons for that – like no common software for CRM or billing.

When Datto or Kaseya report on the state of the MSP, 80% of the MSPs are less than 10 employees and less than $1 million in sales. I would imagine that the profile of the average telecom partner is similar. These businesses are difficult to roll up.

I think when these efforts get exhausted or fail, it will have had a horrible ripple effect on the channel. Some regional master agencies will suffer. Some of the acquired partners will suffer. Some customer will suffer. The reputation of the channel – that we have spent 20 years improving – will be hurt. Because while people say it is about the customer, in the race to the Buyer, these orgs are going to run over partners and customers!

One last point, after the sale, there is a ton of post-ink work to be done, project management, information to collect, paperwork to be signed, orders to be placed, customer site preparation, and on and on. How will all that be handled? What about the pre-ink information gathering?

If e-commerce for UCaaS really worked, one of the 2000 providers in that space would have nailed it by now.

If e-commerce for mobility was so easy AT&T wouldn’t have 5300 branded stores. You see what I am saying?

Ordering is the easy part – choosing, delivering, gathering, deploying are all the messy parts that partners handle – just to get the commission.

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