Some web conferencing products are sold primarily or exclusively through the manufacturer of the conferencing software. You may come to the signup page through a referral partner, but if you choose to license GoToWebinar or omNovia (as examples), you’ll probably end up working directly with the software vendor and you’ll see bills coming from those companies.
Other conferencing vendors allow their business partners to sell the product usage licenses directly, with billing coming from the reseller rather than the manufacturer. Adobe Connect, Microsoft Live Meeting, and WebEx Event Center (as examples) all have strong reseller networks.
I am not a software reseller or manufacturer and I have no vested interest in convincing you to take one approach or the other. I work with vendors and with resellers in my Webinar Success consulting and support business.
The advantages to working directly with a manufacturer should be obvious. Your relationship is with the entity that owns the software. You can’t get left in the cold if your reseller goes out of business or decides to stop supporting the product. Maybe you feel more comfortable with direct support or account management from the vendor.
But let’s look at the other side of the coin. What advantages can come from working with a web conferencing reseller? There is a lot of potential for added value, which you may or may not realize… There are no sure bets in this world.
I have seen cases where a reseller can get you a cheaper licensing rate than you can get from the manufacturer. Resellers enjoy wholesale pricing, and if they want to drop their profit margin and pass the savings to you, they might be able to make up the difference by selling you additional products or services.
One of the key benefits you may enjoy is more personalized service. A company the size of Adobe, Microsoft, or Cisco has many thousands of customers and simultaneous assistance requests. A typical conversation starts with: “What is your customer number? Do you have an existing ticket number? What is your name, your phone number, your email address? What category does your question fall under?”
A smaller, specialized services reseller may be working with only a few customers at any one time. If you are lucky, you can have a conversation that starts with “Hey, Bob. It’s me. I’m still having that problem from yesterday. Can you give me a hand?” Ideally you’ll have a dedicated account rep who knows you and can intervene on your behalf with billing or support questions.
Then there is the issue of value added services and offerings. I was just talking to Roger Rosenquist, the director of marketing at ConferencePlus, so I’ll use them as an example while their info is fresh in my mind. Hopefully it won’t sound like an advertisement for the company!
Like many resellers and service providers in this space, ConferencePlus offer a variety of products and services. They will set you up with Live Meeting, WebEx, or something else that suits your needs (such as Thomson Reuters for video webcasting). If your event demands the use of local audio/video experts to run sound and cameras, the company will arrange local support or studio availability. If you need audio conferencing in conjunction with your web event, they will provision that. So your reseller can act as a broker and multi-vendor consolidator to make sure you have all the technology pieces in place.
But then ConferencePlus offers additional options that go beyond standard provisioning. They have an option for very large enterprises running lots of audio/video to install a physical audio bridge on the company’s network. ConferencePlus manages security settings, maintenance and upgrades, integration with web conferencing, and other IT issues. The customer gets the security, ownership, and potential cost savings of using their own local equipment, but without needing to dedicate training and support time for their internal IT or datacom staff.
Another example of value-add that works for certain customers is something ConferencePlus calls their Share Portal™ Content Management Application. This lets their clients quickly group archived recordings onto a private web page for secure access by groups or individuals. Account managers can control access security, naming, and availability of different recordings.
I think that gets the idea across. A reseller and value-added service provider may not be necessary or appropriate for your needs. But then again, it might give you additional options on pricing, support, and associated functionality you couldn’t get by going through the web conferencing vendor directly.
If you do elect to use a reseller, look for how long they have been in business and have sold your desired technology. Ask whether they provide first line technical support themselves or whether you will be going through the manufacturer’s support lines. Ask what kind of training and expertise their support people have with the product. Compare pricing and licensing options they can provide with those of the vendor. And see whether they offer additional capabilities through proprietary software or services that will give you cost-effective benefits.