AnyMeeting is trying out an interesting new channel distribution strategy, tapping big-name service providers in a way that is unusual for the web conferencing industry. I thought it was worth a look after I saw a recent press release issued by Comcast Business.
I spoke to Costin Tuculescu and David Gerken of AnyMeeting late last week about the new approach. Costin is President and CEO, while David is COO and VP of Business Development.
They explained that they wanted to focus squarely on the small business market, where AnyMeeting has had the best traction over the last year or two. But reaching small businesses across the US is a tricky matter, given the fragmented marketplace and individual nature of customer priorities, attention, and decision-making. Trying to build name recognition, goodwill, and trust among this huge horizontal swath of potential customers could bankrupt a vendor trying to do it all through direct marketing. The only successful mass-marketing example I can think of is Citrix with its saturation advertising for GoToMeeting. But it is no slight against AnyMeeting to say that their pockets are not as deep as those of Citrix!
So Costin and David took a different route. They looked for established deep-pocket business service providers who already have trusted relationships with small businesses. Comcast Business of course provides data and telephony services via their cable business, but also maintains an online marketplace of partner solutions to meet its customers' needs. Comcast's Upware Marketplace includes several solution categories. Clicking on "Web Conferencing" now brings up Cisco WebEx Meeting Center and AnyMeeting. Excellent positioning, next to the 800-pound gorilla of the industry… Especially when the summary page shows a lower price for AnyMeeting compared to its larger competitor.
AnyMeeting is betting that Comcast won't just use "list and wait" pages like this, but will want to bundle service offerings such as web collaboration in their small business packages. That could potentially open huge doors for AnyMeeting. It also gives business customers the possibility of managing their web conferencing as just another service from their primary provider instead of requiring separate contracts, contacts, and service agreements with a web conferencing vendor.
In addition to Comcast Business, AnyMeeting has made similar partner distribution arrangements with Staples AppCenter and The UPS Store. I was surprised when Costin told me that Staples.com is second only to Amazon.com in retail web sales. AnyMeeting joins Brother OmniJoin as the only web conferencing solutions on the Staples AppCenter, giving it additional excellent visibility.
Both Comcast and Staples will provide first-line support and point of contact for their customers, allowing AnyMeeting to handle the expected business growth without imploding under the additional service load. David and Costin told me that they are staffing up to handle increased Tier 2 and 3 customer service needs.
The UPS Store uses a slightly different business model. Here, AnyMeeting wants to leverage the relationships that franchise offices and personnel have with their local customers. AnyMeeting is hoping to give these franchisees education and incentives to help build awareness of AnyMeeting and suggest it as a business solution. Then customers would contract and receive service directly from AnyMeeting, similar to any other direct sale.
I am fascinated by this strategy and eager to see how successful it is for AnyMeeting. The company not only benefits from increased visibility and ease of acquisition for its target customers, but also receives implied validation and recognition as a best-of-breed web conferencing product by the very fact of its inclusion in a limited set of recommended solutions. I think this is an idea with legs.