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Small Businesses: GotVMail?

While many films stars and sports figures got milk, an estimated 10,000 small businesses have GotVMail in an effort to present a big business presence to their customers-but minus the long-term commitment, equipment and ongoing expenses associated with the telephone systems of the rich and famous.

These small businesses, be they CLECs, mom-and-pop shops, or work-at-home professionals, all need the core functionality of today’s big-ticket telephone systems and software. The answer: a pay-as-you-go hosted PBX service that for a small monthly fee, offers a toll-free and/or local number, custom greeting/autoattendant, multiple extensions with mailboxes, dial-by-name capability, live call forwarding and instant Web and e-mail delivery.

The GotVMail Virtual One communications service represents an opportunity for small firms, CLECS, ISPs and resellers looking to target the lucrative small operations market, which at last check accounted for well over 90 percent of all U.S. businesses. Beyond providing an enhanced image, the service is also designed to help customers boost productivity without sacrificing handling customers with professionalism, according to the company.

“We’re looking at putting an affordable face on small business operations and home-based businesses that can’t afford the expensive equipment, software and support services associated with Fortune 1000 PBXs,’’ explained Siamak Taghaddos, president and CEO of GotVMail. Customers pay a $40 fee and a $25 activation charge the first month and then 7 cents a minute for calls which, with features, represents roughly one-fifth the cost of PBX maintenance alone, he added.

In addition to selling to end users, GotVMail has been aggressive in recruiting partners to help broaden the sales reach of the service. Of note, the hosted PBX service provider inked a pact with Pitney Bowes Inc.‘s PBDirect unit to offer a program comprising a small business outreach campaign consisting of discounts on the core service, website promotions (www.pitneyworks.com/dealzone) and direct mail and permission-based e-mail offers. The company is targeting PBDirect’s 840,000 small business customers with the undertaking.

But while the service has received strong marks from analysts, the company needs to go well beyond this deal to sustain success in this volume-oriented business. “It’s a great little service that I’ve used, but they need to keep building up a distribution channel,’’ said Deb Mielke, president of Trelliage Network Strategies. “They need to reach as many people as quickly as possible, which would make teaming with bloggers a great idea.”

When it comes to hosted services, PBX or other, GotVMail is capitalizing on the affordable abundance of hosting facilities, which were hugely overbuilt starting in the late 1990s. This service is hosted out of two such centers, one in New York City and one in Somerville, Mass. To that end, GotVMail and similar providers are actually customers of hosted service center operators, in this case in New York City.

How it works:

  1. When calling a toll-free number or local GotVMail VirtualOne account number, a caller hears the company’s customized main greeting and is instructed to choose an extension or dial 8 for the dial-by name directory.
  2. The caller dials 1 for sales and is then placed on hold with music while being transferred to the designated employee’s cell phone or home office. The employee can then choose to accept the call or place it in voicemail.
  3. If a message is left, the VirtualOne service notifies the employee of the message instantly by calling him or her and e-mailing the voicemail in MP3 format.

While hosted services are hardly new, offering ones focused on cost avoidance and targeting them toward small business represents a new wrinkle in a growing market segment.