Skype has been targeting consumers for years, offering an inexpensive way to reach out and touch someone -- even if that someone happens to be halfway across the globe. The service provider also extends that same courtesy to small businesses, but now with a few new benefits.
The company just launched SITW, which stands for "Skype in the workplace." The new online platform is specifcally designed to connect business users. That basically means that instead of reaching out to loved ones, SITW will allow SMBs to instantly connect with potential customers, partners and suppliers across town, across the country, or across the world.
Even cooler, this tool is absolutely free -- and that's not a typo. SITW uses Skype's existing network, so SMBs can improve existing connections and establish new ones. It allows for face-to-face meetings and instant messages, without all of the hassle and expense of travel.
According to Skype, the SITW community just completed six months' worth of beta testing with 500 business and 140 services.
One of those new options will provide a central hub for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses to connect with experts, coaches and consultants who can help with business development. Users can join the community using an existing Skype account. From there, the menu has an option to create public "offers" or "opportunities," inviting other members to live sessions on Skype, bringing product and service demos to a wider audience.
"Skype in the workspace is a real breakthrough, " said Alison Coward, Skype user and owner of the London's Bracket. "It's the perfect platform for me to promote my business and connect with the people who can help it to grow. My business is about getting in front of people and helping them to solve their problems. With Skype in the workspace, I am visible to quality leads without even leaving the office. With no travel time to contend with, it's also now far more feasible for me to grow my business outside the U.K. into Europe and the U.S."
Other options allow users to book appointments and keep track via a meeting notification service. The option to create and log testimonials is also available.
"With more than 280 million connected users each month, Skype offers a huge range of contacts for the small-business community," said Ural Cebeci, head of SMB marketing at Skype. "We aim to connect millions of small businesses with Skype in the workspace and believe that, by taking advantage of this shared network, businesses can develop the range of tools they need to grow, regardless of location or industry. From the designer in San Francisco looking to source textile suppliers in Thailand to the London consultant connecting with clients in Milan, the possibilities are endless."
SITW is now available to all Skype users. It's free to sign up, but you will have to register for the community on the Skype website.