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June 8, 2020 | Robert Cooper

The Expanding State of UC: Going, Going, Gone … Global

Worldwide brands are advancing on local MSPs, but there are ways the little guys can stay in business.

As globalization causes the world and markets to shrink, there becomes less and less room for small businesses in the customer’s mind. In a nutshell, this is why the growth of worldwide brands remains one of the most disruptive trends in unified communications. MSPs need to recognize the gravity of this situation.

It’s a song and dance we’ve seen before, of course, going back to the old mom-and-pop general store—a town’s lone, all-purpose shop with groceries, hardware, and anything else you’d need.

Once upon a time, you’d find one of these stores in every area, each with their own identity and image. Even as localized as they were, their versatile model let them dominate in their respective markets as the warm, friendly business that everyone knew. After all, if you wanted to do all your shopping in one place, they were the only game in town.

Then in came the global brands.

You already know the rest of the story: buyouts, bankruptcies, the death of an entire small business sector.

In a flash, those warm, amiable businesses were replaced by big, faceless enterprises, ones that sold their global brand and its security instead of a friendly face unique to that town.

The UC market is on the precipice of a similar disruption—that is, if small MSPs don’t do anything to stop it.

The Rise of the Global Brands

It’s obvious by now that the growth of global UC brands isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In metropolitan areas and even small towns, the biggest names in the industry are quickly becoming the go-to sourcers and installers for businesses of every size.

If this sounds worrisome, then good—you already understand the risk these global players pose: As world-spanning companies merge and expand into new territories, they sit poised to dominate the local competition.

The odd part of the situation in UC, though, is that the reason these worldwide companies can step in so easily isn’t because of any ground-shaking advantage in their offer or technology. Actually, it’s often just the opposite: The platform from large-scale brands is often mediocre, or at best nothing to write home about.

No, the explanation for the rise of global UC brands is, conveniently enough, right in the name: the fact that they’re global, and the fact that they’re a brand.

Worldwide Power

Rather than any measurable power in their actual platforms, the real strength global brands have comes from their mass marketing campaigns, which have been carefully coordinated to create the impression that these companies are powerful on a global scale.

The relevance here is twofold: First, it bears mentioning that global capabilities matter immensely in today’s market. As much pride as many small business owners have in being small, analysts and especially the internet have many entrepreneurs aiming at a fully global presence, where there’s far more room for profitability and prestige. Second, by communicating a sense of power and presence, global brands instill in customers the idea that they’re here to stay; in the customer’s mind, these companies seem unlikely to go out of business both now and in the long term, making them a reliable partner to invest in.

Through these large-scale branding efforts, the global UC brands gain an immense advantage before any sales reps even talk to prospects. Without the need to list technical capabilities or show off a demo, the association with worldwide branding lets these companies portray themselves as reliable and an avenue toward worldwide growth, for even small businesses. Up against that brand power, the small MSP will only seem to represent staying small forever.

The Goal for Small MSPs

These factors make competing with global juggernauts difficult, to the point that a small MSP can’t count on old strategies to win. Sure, relying on good customer relationships and humble, small business branding won in the past. But those advantages alone don’t mean much against a company that customers feel they already know, and can connect them to the entire world besides.

To stay competitive, it’s crucial that MSPs first achieve a comparable degree of worldwide coverage. Even if being able to connect to international markets doesn’t appear to be something your clients currently need, offering that capability shows you have what it takes to be reliable in the long term.

The other important strategy is to not only partner with a recognized worldwide brand, but to emphasize to customers that your local UC business carries that same reliable global power. In a sense, the strategy is to play the global companies at their own game; small MSPs have to emphasize the fact that their solution is just as global and reliable as what the competitors present, and that their business is, in fact, part of a larger, globally present network.

Although this second point may feel uncomfortable, you have to remember that customers now look at global UC brands as the way forward. Coming at those prospects with the same old model is like trying to talk someone out of an automobile purchase by pointing out how your buggy has comfier seating.

Bottom line, no matter what you do, globalization is well on its way—and it’s a game you can’t win if you don’t play. If you don’t lean into a brand that will support you as your customers look for someone who can go global, you can bet someone will move in to take your base away.

ROBERT COOPER is the managing director of Wildix, where he leads the charge toward a channel-focused approach to unified communications. In addition to his military background, he has over 20 years of experience in leading technology sales teams and has served on the White House Conference on Small Business.

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