Let me state this as a hypothesis:
new product <> disruption
Or in words, having a new product is neither necessary nor sufficient to create market disruption.
I recently had an interesting exchange with Judi Sohn at Web Worker Daily (a new favorite of mine) about GrandCentral, which gives you a single number that can reach you anywhere you want. GrandCentral is getting quite a bit of attention and generating lots of buzz.
I had to ask: Why? Everything GrandCentral offers, I’ve had from VoicePulse (my VoIP provider) for years. Other than the obvious price (GrandCentral is free, VoicePulse is not), I can’t find anything that GrandCentral can do that VoicePulse can’t. So why is GrandCentral holding the position of “it’s YOUR number – it’s attached to you, not your phone/device/location” which in today’s highly mobile multi-device world is important?
Pretty simple, actually. When VoIP started (VoicePulse, Vonage, 8×8, etc.) the selling point (key message in marketing-speak) was “this works just like your phone”. You got a little box and connected it to your home network. It had a standard phone jack and you connected your phone to that just like plugging it into the wall. You picked up the phone a dialed just like a regular land-line POTS phone.
Sure, you could do all this other cool stuff that got me and my geeky friends all excited, but the mass-market sell was “it’s simple – it’s just like what you do today, only cheaper and cooler”
This is a classic way to sell new technology: First, make it fit the existing model; second, show how it changes the model. GrandCentral is making the move to the second stage of technology adoption.
GrandCentral has taken advantage of the general awareness of VoIP capabilities and the fact that people in the market (mostly early adopters) no longer need to make it work just like their old POTS phone, they want all the capabilities that a network-based service can offer. So GrandCentral has gone to market with the selling point that “you own your own number.” It’s a powerful message, and it appeals to the people who were eager to move to internet telephony and wanted the capabilities to move forward.
Their service isn’t really new or innovative (OK, their exact brand is, but I bought the same exact service 4 years ago), but GrandCentral has turned on the second stage ‘boosters’ and is now moving the market forward – I expect pretty far forward. While for now it’s only the early adopters who will sign up, someone will figure out how to move this to the broader market pretty quickly.
And it is changing that market. Completely.
My question is: will the traditional VoIP providers take advantage of the opportunity to re-take their lead? Or will they, as so many technology companies before them, stand there complaining “but we’ve had those features for years!” – and go nowhere fast while their market escapes them?
What would your company do?