How To: Be Your Own VoIP ProviderBy: VoIP Now, on May 14, 2007
Looking to compete with the likes of Skype or Vonage? Well, don't start eyeing that new yacht just yet. While the VoIP industry is making some people very rich, you will have a tough time competing in this saturated market. However, adding VoIP to other Web services provided by your company is a good business move. Even if you can't become the next VoIP giant, you can definitely profit from becoming a provider to your existing customers. If you offer ISP, email and/or hosting services, VoIP should be the next addition to your business' roster of features. Don't be intimidated by this new technology, either. You no longer need an IT degree or a small fortune to become a VoIP provider.
Sell VoIP the Easy Way: Become an Affiliate or Reseller
One thing that deters a lot of people from becoming a dedicated VoIP provider is the risk involved. Not only is there a lot of competition, it takes serious money to build from scratch. How much, exactly? Estimates range from half a million to several million dollars. However, there are now many VoIP companies that offer start-up businesses in the form of both affiliate and reseller programs. Affiliate programs are the most simple way to offer VoIP to your customers. You simply act as a middleman for an established VoIP host, selling their services through a unique Web site of your own. As a VoIP affiliate, you will earn commission for signing up new users. This is a great option for those who don't want to bother with the technical aspect of Internet telephony. However, you may wish to have a more hands-on approach to your VoIP business, in which case you should set up a reseller account. Becoming a VoIP reseller is a compromise between building a dedicated VoIP company from scratch and selling VoIP services as an affiliate. As a VoIP reseller, you will be redistributing the airtime of an existing VoIP company, who in turn will handle much of the back end of the business. However, you will still be responsible for some on-site equipment, as well as the marketing of your business. The plus side to this is that you will be your own brand and can set the price for the service, whereas an affiliate program only earns you a fixed commission. As a VoIP reseller you will have to be somewhat technically savvy, but not nearly as savvy as if you were building a VoIP company from the ground up. In fact, there are some hosting firms that will conduct on-site training and equipment setup if you open a reseller account with them. Depending on the company you choose to do business with, as well as the agreement you sign, you may have to purchase some hardware and software. Resellers are more likely to have to do this than affiliates. As a reseller, it is advantageous to have someone in your employ that is experienced in Linux. This knowledge will be helpful when you assemble your store front. If you have no one in your company that can help you with this, you may have to hire an outside IT professional. As for hardware and equipment, a reseller may have to invest a few thousand dollars before seeing any revenue. Keep in mind that this is a nominal amount compared to the possible millions it would cost you to start a VoIP company from scratch.
Choosing a VoIP Host
If you are planning on becoming a VoIP reseller or affiliate, beware of scams, as there are plenty of them around. There is a difference between a legitimate affiliate program and an outright pyramid scheme. Don't believe any advertisements that claim you will effortlessly get rich with VoIP. If that were true, everyone on your street would have been converted already. Also, you have to beware of hosting companies that offer poor service. After all, you are staking your company's reputation on the assumption that they will hold their end up. When looking for a hosting firm, always go with a reputable company, not some poorly advertised service on Craigslist. Below, you will find the top five recommended VoIP providers for both affiliate and reseller programs.
VoIP Providers Offering Affiliate Programs
VoIP Providers Offering Reseller Programs
Remember, all of these companies offer different affiliate and reseller packages. While some of these may be turnkey solutions that do most of the work for you, others will require extensive equipment and software setup on your end. Further details, such as how you will bill your customers, might also be a deciding factor when you choose a host provider. Be sure to go over every detail before signing any kind of agreement. Once you have decided on a company and have assembled your store front, you will want to begin marketing your new VoIP service.
Once your VoIP system is in place and you are ready to provide customers with the technology, you should start with your existing clientele. Let them know that you are now offering VoIP in addition to their other Web services. A mass email, in addition to a low introductory rate for existing customers, should be enough to garner plenty of attention. Assuming your company has a Web site (and it really should), your homepage should make an announcement of the new add-on. There are also plenty of online resources for posting a VoIP-related press release. This will not only ensure that your customers are aware of their new VoIP option, it will draw in new customers. As new customers are signed on with your company, the VoIP service can merely be included with a complete Web package, rather than being sold by itself. It isn't a very good idea to start a company to solely sell VoIP. There are too many giants in the field for you to make a profit off of VoIP alone. However, it makes a perfect addition to your existing or future Web business. Treat this service as just another great feature offered by your company, rather than a revolutionary replacement for the common telephone. Business owners have tried and failed by using that angle, as the majority of the public just isn't ready to give up their landline. VoIP is, however, becoming a practical tool for personal and business use. That is your sales pitch right there. Simple, effective and it will validate your decision to become a VoIP provider.