ISPCON: The Hottest Products and Services for 2007 and Beyond

It was standing room only for this session. In what has become an ISPCON tradition, Mike Cassidy (site) (blog) a marketing consultant for service providers, presented the hottest products and services for 2007.

Mike's Advice:
- not every VAS is applicable to every type of ISP
- establish your role, take advantage of your role, but never abuse it
- know your customer base
- create communication channels
- increase your bottom line with new services
- survey your customer base quarterly
- stay current on new product/services available

Opportunity for support services:

For those ISP who market to home network owners and intenders, consider wireless print server capability, parental controls, automatic backup and central storage. Broadband adoption leads to home networks. Understanding the appetite for broadband, the market for consumer support services will continue to grow.

On the small business side there's an opportunity gap for support. Consumers are supported by the likes of Dell and the Geek Squad. Large enterprise customers are serviced by tier 1 ISPs. There are 80 million SMBs worldwide. According to Gartner, IT spending by SMBs will outpace large enterprises in 2007.

Mike advised ISPs to create long-term contracts with SMBs and use support/IT guys as a sales channel. Many providers are providing incentives for IT staff to sell product in the field. Onsite support is profitable value-added service. Geeks on Call (and the like) cannot handle networks, security and support. It presents a great customer loyalty builder and allows ISPs to charge over cost. People pay plumbers and mechanics $100/hour to fix things, they'll pay you for support.

The trends:

Software as a service (SaaS), Web 2.0, Office 2.0 - whatever you want to call it is here. With it come new opportunities for email, web mail, CRM, ecommerce, billing, CMS workflow, human resources, SEM... the list goes on. What's different is SaaS is now a proven business model - and SugarCRM are a couple of examples. Business customers are becoming accustomed to outsourcing all of their IT.

Storage and/or backup of personal content (photos, videos, movies and music) for the consumer market. People have a small fortune on their computers in music purchased from iTunes. Losing your music sucks. Not to mention all your digital pictures and home movies. According to Parks and Associates, 84% of consumer have digital pictures on their PC.

Home and SMB security and surveillance. The product offerings may be new, but the concept certainly isn't. There are a few products floating around out there that allow users to keep an eye on the kids, the elderly, the vacation home, and everything. The elder care market alone is huge. Cameras use wireless or homeplug connections. Some services are offering SMS/email alerts from systems; video clip to phone options and door/window sensors. Bell South and Adelphia, for example, have been offering security and surveillance solutions for almost a year.

Digital/Connected Home/Networking/Automation. The home appliances of the 21st century are here - they are smart devices that simplify, automate and inform. Internet products are being used to control specific home applications like lighting, entertainment, home monitoring, PCs are more. Today's digital homes open vast possibilities for new consumer solutions.

Advertising. There are now products available for most ISPs to share in online advertising revenues. Some are intrusive, some are not. As ISPs, you are the conduit to the holy grail in the online advertising world - "behavioural" and "contextual" marketing. ISPs have never been cut into the pie, until very recently.

VoIP. From Mike's presentation: "new converged infrastructres that allow voice and data to be transported over a single network are changing the face of business communications. By adbandoning expensive circuit switches and leaded lines and linking voice and data servies together on IP networks, business can realize cost savings. Rather than implementing IP telephony in-house, many businesses prefer to have their voice services managed by a qualified service provider who have the expertise to handle its complex nature. Interest in out-tasking managed business voice services is steadily increasing as organizations take note of the cost and operations benefits. Service providers can provision, monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot business voice infrastructures."

VoIP is creating a huge distruption in telecom as conventional PBXs are approaching end-of-life. The opportunity is to make the small business customer comfortable and make it work for them. The SMB VoIp is starting to hear but decision markers still don't know which providers to turn to.
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