Office Depot, a chain of retail office supply and home office electronics stores, has signed an agreement with AT&T's CallVantage to sell the product in stores. I love Office Depot because their sales team on the floor are very smart, they have great attitudes and care that you are there. I've made them my office supply store of choice.
Now, I hear they are selling the Linksys line of VoIP products which I reported on earlier as becoming the most widely deployed VoIP adapters in the market. What this all means is obvious.
VOIP is going mass market. Let's look at the history of how it got here.
While other players were on the field, the fire was really lit by The Olympic strategy of CallVantage. What genius. AT&T already had a time commitment and sponsorship agreement in place with the Olympics. They had dropped out of local and long distance and with the audience being mostly consumers, what were they going to advertise? Enter CallVantage.
Since then, the company has gone on a tear with well timed announcements, but more importantly, well structured in sequence, clearly showing a roadmap of why they are the right company for people who are thinking about switching from PSTN to VoIP. It's called building trust by telling the story.
What did they do? First it was the relationships with cable companies, then in some order were online etailers and bricks and mortar retailers. There was then an announcement about working with product manufacturers of routers and other networking gear along with developers. Woven in and around all these are the steady stream of where CONSUMERS can find the service to buy.
Sure, companies like Vonage and Packet 8 have made some announcements that say some of the same things, mostly where you can buy their service, but not one of the other VoIP players has taken the kind of approach that AT&T, which with their budgets and brand equity are the only ones who can pull it all together the way they have.
My sources also tell me, that they are far from done as they have new applications and other plans in place to unleash. Vonage may be gearing up with a $50-75 million dollar ad campaign, but right now the advantage in top of mind is rapidly shifting to CallVantage. Vonage, which was the market sector's first mover is losing that advantage as what AT&T has done is clearly outflanked them by starting with a better product, based on their better network, or in Vonage's case, no real network at all.
And that's the crux of Marketing. You can market any product well, but it takes a good product to succeed. Many of the IP Telephony players have solid products, with many great features, but the offering from AT&T is better packaged and more on target with what people already know. That's the difference. They are not trying to get you to buy VoIP. They are getting people to choose AT&T as their telephone carrier. That's the big difference. While Vonage and all the rest of the carriers say "switch to VoIP" AT&T has said come back to AT&T and use our new service, CallVantage.
That's the same real type of message the cable companies are seeking to empart with their triple play offerings. They don't want you to know it's VoIP. And when you use the service from the MSO's or CallVantage its' what you don't hear that's the difference.