Even the best description of your product can’t beat a demonstration of your product – podcast

on August 4, 2008

Episode one of the “Be the Voice” podcast stars VoIP industry thought leader and founder of iotum, Alec Saunders.

Summary (Alec Saunders):

  • The “Holy Grail” of “Be the Voice” communications is to build thought leadership using your own product.
  • Give people the opportunity to see in action an applicable and fun use of your product.
  • The best description of a product can’t beat a demonstration of your product.
  • On developing his thought leadership in Voice 2.0, Saunders said, “I’m pushing others in the industry to adopt these technologies because when they do, it becomes easier for our company to do business.”
  • The alternative to spending money on marketing is developing your industry voice. It’s cheaper and long lasting.
  • Saunders’ blog traffic jumps correlates with jumps in his business site’s traffic (iotum).
  • Frequency of content wins. Saunders went from 300 visitors a day to 200,000 a month in just one year solely by writing three posts a day, NOT engaging in social media.

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The full article:

David Spark and Alec SaundersAlec Saunders is the author of the VoIP-centric blog, SaundersLog, and also the roundtable tech podcast, The SquawkBox. These are the avenues that he uses to expose his wisdom and engage others in conversation about VoIP and also technology in general. For the past year I’ve admired the dedication he’s put into developing his industry voice through his blog and podcast. It’s why I asked Alec to join me in a conversation about how he’s used blogging and podcasting to become a leading voice in telephony and VoIP.

In addition to blogging and podcasting, Saunders is the CEO of Iotum, a voice call management technology that operates on BlackBerry devices and on the Web. Out of Iotum, he also launched a free conference call tool, Calliflower, which he uses to record his SquawkBox podcast.

Building thought leadership using your own product

What really drew me to interview Alec is he’s accomplished what I think is the Holy Grail of “Be the Voice” communications. He is building thought leadership using his own product. People who are interested in being a participant in Saunders’ daily SquawkBox recording simply join the Calliflower conference call which is recorded and then posted on his blog. The daily podcast varies between a roundtable discussion of the tech news of the day, or Saunders invites a guest to talk about their new product offering. Personally, I’m so impressed with the process that I’ve volunteered to be a substitute host.

It’s not always possible for someone to use their own product to build their own public voice. But when you can, you’re giving people the opportunity to see your product in action. And when people see it, can participate in it, they see the value of it, and then there’s no need to actually invest in marketing or have a formal sales pitch. As much as you describe a product, no description can even come close to seeing a product in action. The value Alec Saunders brings to his company Iotum and its product Calliflower is by recording a five-days-a-week podcast.

Calliflower’s first iteration was a Facebook application simply called, “Free Conference Calls.” Iotum took advantage of Facebook’s pre-built listings because as Saunders said, “The emergence of social networks is going to drive all kinds of changes in directories.” Saunders still believes that’s going to happen, but it’s not happening at the pace he thought it would happen. That’s why when Iotum rereleased the product as Calliflower, he kept the Facebook application in tact, but he also took the product outside of the closed social network and allowed anyone to join.

Becoming the voice of “Voice 2.0”

Three years ago Saunders wrote the “Voice 2.0 Manifesto” arguing that there’s going to be an intersection between the openness of the Internet and the closed limited functionality of the telco industry. It’s a world that communications providers have been forced to participate in for years, but given the Internet’s ability to build lightweight communications applications on top of Internet protocols, like HTTP, Voice 2.0 communications removes the traditional constraints of business.

Within twelve months of writing his manifesto, “Voice 2.0” became a meme that spread throughout the world and there was a conference launched by the same name. Saunders didn’t try to own the name as he knew its value had greater value to the community. “I’m pushing others in the industry to adopt these technologies because when they do, it becomes easier for our company to do business,” realized Saunders. As of writing this post, if you do a search for “Voice 2.0” on Google, Alec Saunders’ blog appears in the top two results.

Saunders explains his rationale for building so much online voice. As a start up, Iotum simply doesn’t have the marketing budget of his competitors. The most effective promotion they do is the blog and podcast, Saunders said.

Why blogging critical to your business

It’s difficult to show a one-to-one correlation between blogging and sales, but Saunders can still demonstrate the value of blogging using a tool called Alexaholic (now called Statsaholic as required by Amazon). The tool allows you to compare the Alexa traffic for various Web sites. Saunders showed one friend the traffic of Saunderslog vs Iotum demonstrating that when his blog traffic spiked, so did his company site.

Saunders repeated the process using his friend’s business site. He could see a handful of tiny bumps where the company issued press releases. But that was it. There was no continuing interest in the company like what Saunders had developed over the long term with his blog. The difference between Saunders and his friend, is his friend was spending all kinds of money on promotional marketing and nothing was happening. Saunders didn’t spend any money on marketing. He just blogged. Said Saunders, “I’m just out there talking to people. The difference is [with blogging it’s] palpable and apparent.”

Saunders gets calls from people who have heard or participated in the SquawkBox podcast and they want to become users of Calliflower for free conference calls. Saunders provides the answers they’re looking for and they return as users.

The biggest tip Saunders offers to anyone else wanting to jump into blogging or podcasting is frequency. Lack of it during his early days of blogging was his biggest mistake. Saunders began blogging only when he felt he had something to say, which could be weeks. “There was a period of time several months went by and my traffic went down, and down, and down, and down, and people weren’t coming by. And they never had a reason to return because I wasn’t publishing anything new,” said Saunders.

A mutual friend of ours, Andy Abramson, also a VoIP blogger and owner of the public relations and marketing firm Comunicano, advised Saunders to blog three times every day. Saunders was shocked at the advice, but he did it, even on weekends, for an entire year. The result is his traffic went from 300 people a day, to 1000 pretty quickly. By the time the year was over he had 200,000 visitors a month. Blogging was all he did. He didn’t take advantage of any of the social media tools. “A lot of people invest in everything in social media. I decided to focus on one thing really really closely, and that was content,” said Saunders, “You don’t get the comments traffic until you get the content for people to comment on. You don’t get people returning over and over again or commenting on what you wrote on other blogs until you’ve got the content.”

Saunders’ blog created enormous interest from carriers who were very interested in what we were trying to do. It was that interest that led Iotum to building its BlackBerry call management product and Saunders writing the “Voice 2.0 Manifesto.”

“Blogs are great marketing tools,” said Saunders. Blogs create lots of content and lots of links and that’s exactly what Google look for. Static Web sites won’t ever be able to do that.

“If you’ve got the ability and the desire to write you can create a very valuable promotional tool for your company,” advised Saunders.


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