Well, I finally completed the accounting and tax work I mentioned in my January 28 article. I didn’t finish until Wednesday this week. Today is Friday and I’m fully back in the saddle playing catch-up. Yesterday was spent largely recovering from that monumental task.
It’s 5:00 am right now and I’m preparing for the first training session with our new Philippines agents at 7:30 am our time this morning (10:30 pm for them). We have recruited 3 new agents but one of them cannot start until her current job is terminated in about 5 weeks. Therefore, we’re recruiting a few more to ensure we have sufficient staff to meet the needs of our new Clients. I expect “live” calls will commence by next Wednesday. Today I’ll be notifying our new Clients of the expected start date for their respective campaigns.
Renewed Effort To Sell Leads
With today’s training session also comes a renewed marketing effort to compete in the lead generation business in the USA. The next step after we settle into a routine with our new Clients is to acquire MORE new Clients. Initially, I plan to do that with a robocalling campaign directed at the insurance industry in the USA. We already have a proven script that pulls response from this industry. At best, generating insurance leads is problematic for most insurance agents. We’ll be focusing on this discontent in our marketing efforts. By selling the leads instead of selling the ability for them to generate their own leads, we greatly simplify the process for insurance agents (our Lead-gen customers). Last year’s marketing efforts proved that this simplification for our Clients is necessary if we expect to acquire a sufficient number of Clients to make this aspect of our company viable and profitable.
Work-Around For VoiFone™ Activation Email
It seems the biggest problem we have had in setting up new VoiFone™ accounts is that people simply don’t click the link in the activation email. One reason for that is many of them aren’t getting the email. We have determined that the email is indeed sent by our sever in 100% of the sign-ups. But for some unknown reason, there are times when it just doesn’t arrive. At least that’s true for all of the major fee email providers: Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail and AOL. It seems to be our Activation Email is randomly blocked from delivery. There doesn’t seem to be a consistent reason for our email being rejected, so we haven’t been able to debug the problem yet.
As a work-around, anyone who DOES NOT receive the activation email right away, beginning today will be instructed to request a free email account from us. We’ll set it up immediately and resend the activation email to their new company-issued email account (firstname.lastname@example.org) to enable our new customer to activate and begin using their account.
Re-Thinking The Use Of Linphone
I am re-thinking the adoption of Linphone as our preferred soft phone. The reason is expense. I am corresponding with the publishers of Linphone right now for the purpose of determining our cost to fully customize the product and brand it to ourselves. Of course they provide for this re-branding for their customers (“us”) to ensure that our customers see “only” the branding of our own product (“VoiFone™) and NOT their product (Linphone).
But the cost appears prohibitive. The producer of Linphone (Belletone Communications, Inc.) is a company based in France. Ironically, their product doesn’t even work in their own country! Their government blocks its use. (Go figure.) Most European products are not competitively priced for Americans due to the currency difference between the U.S. Dollar and the Euro (today’s conversion rate is 1 USD = 0.750 Euro.). This simply means that as of today, a dollar only buys 75 cents worth of products from Europe. Having said that, it would still be possible to do business with European entities if their prices were somewhat reasonable. At the present pricing scheme, it appears that Linphone’s licensing cost greatly outweighs the benefits. It would cost us more than $60,000 USD to fully customize Linphone and brand it to ourselves, making all functions available to our customers (eg free calls, paid calls to phones, video calling and chat services). That would cover up to 1,000,000 downloads combined through Google Play and/or the App Store. If we want unlimited downloads it will cost closer to $100,000 USD. There’s also an annual maintenance cost for the Unlimited License of 18,000 Euro’s (about $24,000 USD).
For today, these costs are substantially beyond our ability to pay. I will consider it seriously if we raise a significant amount of new capital (eg $400,000 or more all at one time, to give us a sustainable operating budget). We could have a complete business-in-a-box solution for a fixed cost and ready to go instantly – “IF” I can raise sufficient capital. As of this writing, the company does not have sufficient capital to exercise an option like this.
Why Not Continue With Linphone Anyway?
Two reasons: Branding and Non-Working Features.
Branding is critical to our long-term success. Right now, we must disclose that our soft phone is Linphone. This naturally confuses customers because they are accustomed to seeing only ONE name associated with a product (Skype, Magic Jack, Vonage, etc). There are many open-source soft phones on the market that we can brand to ourselves for much less than Linphone. It’s OK to start our marketing with Linphone. But even at this early stage, I’m seeing some confusion among customers about using and downloading a product that is “NOT” VoiFone™ and yet we claim it to be part of our system. “NOT” good.
I mention Non-Working Features because, while Linphone does provide the chat and video call services for free, the only way to use them without paying the massive license fees is to have our customers set up an account on THEIR server not ours. Their “free” product does not allow our users, while making free and paid calls through our services, to use the chat and video features of Linphone. This is potentially very detrimental to our long-term marketing plans and will certainly cause ongoing confusion among our customers, not to mention the very real possibility that customers lose confidence in our ability to provide end-to-end services for them.
One final reason for making this change is the complete lack of support from Belledone Communications, the producer of Linphone. They don’t provide support services to anyone except paid licensee’s. The “community” of Linphone users is too small to provide viable support. This company provides no method for Q & A with Linphone users with Belletone – direct communications with them is reserved only for their paid licensees.
The Immediate Work-Around
As I have watched our VoiFone™ marketing efforts continue to unfold, I have noticed that NO VoiFone™ users inquired about, or even tried to use, the chat or video call services. My natural conclusion is that these features are NOT important to the start up of this product. Our users have indicated interest in only two aspects of the VoiFone™ Service: (1) Cost to call cell phones & land lines, and (2) Simplicity for setup and use.
The main attraction to Linphone has been its ability to replicate Skype’s services. However, since our customers have NOT placed value on chat and video services (after all, Skype is the world leader in these services, along with many others who already have complete and robust solutions for chat and video calls), it’s only logical to conclude that the primary interest our customer has in VoiFone™ is to get CHEAP AND FREE PHONE CALLS. We can easily provide those services with any one of countless free soft phones, many of which are open source and easy to modify and brand to our own logo. We can also provide individual and bulk SMS and email services without using Linphone (and that’s something Linphone doesn’t and cannot offer).
It’s easier and much less expensive to re-brand other existing soft phones to our own logo than is Linphone. Therefore, beginning today, I’m hunting for a different soft phone. Existing users won’t need to change from using their Linphone application to another soft phone, unless they wish to do so. My guess is MOST customers will want to switch over, especially after we create the new simplified installation procedure in which the soft phone is automatically connected to our servers during the installation procedure WITHOUT requiring the customer to separately enter a username, password and URL into the software after installation.
In fact, Linphone is just fine “as is”. But if we really wish to brand ourselves (and we DO . . . ), the better and faster way to go is to just select a different soft phone. I’ll be announcing the new soft phone in the near future. Please return here often so you’ll know when it becomes available.