Winston Lawrence

Project Manager & Occasional developer

OOMA – Time to take it to the next level

OOMA, the VOIP upstart has been selling the buy the hardware and your phone calls are free service for about three years now. I am a satisfied OOMA user myself, having owned one for about six months now and yes I am now in the ownership period where my phone calls are indeed free. I am also a regular contributor on the OOMA forums and that is why I am going to say to OOMA “It's time to take it to the next level”. You are no longer a start-up but you're not yet a 'big' company – if you want to play with the big guys you're going to have to take your game up a notch or three:

Drop all the QOS discussions in your marketing materials – you've landed all the tech user, early adopters you need - QOS marketing is irrelevant as most users don't care, don't understand or they are just not interested. You should make OOMA as bandwidth efficient and clear sounding as possible, which you are doing, just stop positioning your box as a general network router, server and firewall where folks plug in everything else behind the OOMA. Just manage yourself and stop trying to manage and support everything else on peoples networks, your support calls will drop when you become just another box on the network and not network central.

Drop the “free phone service” line, you've proved your point but going forward free phone service sounds like snake-oil - consumers are very well aware that you get what you pay for and when you tie “free” to “phone service” you run the risk of losing your audience because they are now busy looking for “the catch” and not hearing your message. Get your marketing folks to create campaigns to play up the huge savings “at least 70 percent off your phone bill – guaranteed” or something similar, but lose the “free”.

Now that you've lost “free” keep the minimal yearly service level high enough to cover taxes and a couple of support calls. Keep the Premier service priced as is and with the current level of services which seem about right. Now you can come out with additional services priced a la carte! What additional services? Well glad you asked.

Establish a certification program for installers (of course you charge for this) and set certified "standard" OOMA installations at a fixed price (say $49.95). This will get the folks that don't know the difference between a wireless router and a cordless phone into the game and allow those of us who do know the difference to recommend it to family and friends without becoming defacto OOMA installation support ourselves. As a benefit, you will know these folk have had their OOMA setup correctly, minimizing your support calls. This would fit right into a Radio Shack or Best Buy (Geek Squad) niche not to mention independent installers.

Establish a certification program/co-advertising/partnership program with the big networking gear vendors Netgear, Cisco etc and let them drop an “OOMA certified” sticker on their boxes. Free advertising for you, consumers gain confidence and let those vendors handle the QOS details in their products it is after all, what they do best.

Develop an API – come on guys this is 2010 – every major web 2.0 play has an API, they let the developers loose and interesting apps get developed that make the platform even more appealing to end users. You are really falling behind on this one and it's not like it is that difficult you have useful statistics, call history and messaging data that you already make available to some extent – just not in a format that is very reliable or useful to developers. Let the developers play in your sandbox and step back. When they come out with useful (certified) apps and maybe want to charge for them you take a percentage from the OOMA app store and they provide the support (hey if it works for Apple).

Expand your markets. The consumer market is big and it is a good bet that a percentage of that market is the Single Office/Home Office (SOHO) market. So play that up to the small business that need four or fewer phone numbers and who would see even larger savings from their 'business line' costs. You've already dropped “free” so come up with additional tiered service levels tied to minutes/support/installation – again, you've got a product management and marketing department – put them to work.

I think you guys get the point, there are probably another half a dozen relatively easy things I could mention that you could do to take the company to the next level and I'm sure some if not all of them are already on your radar so just take this article as friendly advice from a satisfied customer who would like to see you hang around for awhile.

Winston Lawrence

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