Exetel has, to date never done any advertising of its services and has reled on word of mouth and a slowly growing network of effective agents to generate new customers. This has worked well for the growth of the residential business for over 4 years now and has yielded 50 consecutive 'record' months in terms of revenue growth.
In obtaining 'business' customers we have used fax outs to around 15,000 companies and, again, a network of very effective agents.
Other than the fax outs which have cost us 1 cent per fax, we haven't spent any money on promotion or advertising.
Our major objective over the coming 18 months or so is to bring our 'business' revenue to a 50/50 share of our total monthly recurrent revenue from the approximately 15/85 it is today.
We obviously need to either develop or hire sales personnel capable of reresenting Exetel to business customers and I have been fiddling around with ways of doing that over the last 4 - 5 months with no success - partly becasue I was fiddling rather than putting a real effort in to it. I will actually put some real work in to recruiting/developing a competent corporate sales force once I return from Sri Lanka in early May. If that isn't possible to do then anything else we may decide to do would be largely money wasted.
We have decided to see if we can derive any benefit from using advertising to promote awareness (and of course sales) of our business services which have slowly built up in volume from zero to around $500,000 a month over a period of 4 years with very little emphasis or effort on our behalf - though we have had one dedicated person for almost two years now due to the volume of sales enquiries from our fax outs and those agents who use our services as part of their total offerings to their clients.
As someone who has continually expressed very negative views of advertising this may seem surprising, it certainly surprises me. However, and this may well be based on my almost total ignorance of everything to do with advertising, it seems to me that there may be a possibility for a small company (with a correspondingly small budget) to use some sort of finely targetted advertising to make the really useful and really low priced services that are currently bought by business customers better known.
There are two reasons why this has come to mind at this particular time.
The first is that each service sold by Exetel is now profitable, and sustainably profitable, in its own right based on recurrent revenue - in other words it doesn't need 'financial support' from profits made on activation/set up charges for the service to deliver a profit over its 'lifetime'. This has already allowed Exetel to provide many of our services with zero activation/set up fees.
The second reason is that from June Exetel will begin to get the financial benefits from the large reductions in IP band width charges that will result in monthly operating cost reductions of well over $A100,000 from August onwards and, for the first time, gives us some 'disposable income' that we can have a choice of investing in things other than the core requirements of delivering services. (we are already spending the first $20,000 a month of this money on Australian fauna and flora protection programs).
Part of this money will need to be spent on salaries/commissions for sales personnel (assuming they can be found) and some of the rest of it can be used for advertising if we can find suitable 'conduits'. We will spend a modest sum of money on a VoIP ad in a NSW regional business magazine as a 'test' of what we might be able to do on a wider scale. The draft ad can be found (used for another purpose on the Exetel web site) here:
Our main 'strengths' in terms of our business customers to date have been our low priced SHDSL and Ethernet services. However an increasing number of business customers are buying our SMS services and now VoIP from Exetel seems to be becoming more attractive. We probably have as much, if not more, expertise in providing VoIP and integrated data base VoIP services than any other Australian 'consuting company' based on our own very advanced and very sophisticated use of VoIP, SMS and Asterisk based services.
In any event it seems to be an opportune time to focus on building our 'business' revenues based on a 'best of breed' set of business services that also can be provided at lower costs tan any of the competitor's service I've looked at over the past six weeks.
It will be an interesting exercise to see if we can make advertising work for us now that we have the 'discretionary' spending that wil lallow a half decent budget to try and make it work.
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