ininlogoWhile attending VoiceCon Orlando last week, I met up with Rich Chin and Brad Herrington, two product marketing managers from Interactive Intelligence, the successful Windows-based IP PBX, contact center and voicemail solution provider. With 3,600 installations in 88 countries, the company earns 20% of its revenues through a direct sales organization with the remainder coming from a global network of resellers and systems integrators. The applications have been Windows since inception and SIP-enabled since 2003.

The products are positioned as an 'all-in-one' where with the use of software keys, customers can deploy the appropriate functionality on demand, with built in integration to other, related and embedded applications as required.

Of course, marketers who prefer the 'all-in-one' positioning like the association with the Swiss Army knife, but from my experience, it requires engineering and functionality tradeoffs that aren't necessarily complementary. Like the Swiss Army knife with the dull scissors, the stunted or lost plastic toothpick, the corkscrew that is too short for many dry corks and the short saw blade, all-in-one devices are easy to compete against. Customers innately don't trust products that purport to fit in many places such as the snake oil salesman claiming the product can cure cancer, lame horses and incontinence.

From my own experience in another life, we marketed a WAN switch that would take the place of frame relay switches, TDM muxes, ATM switches and IP routers, but at the same time often lacked the port density, the low prices, sometimes feature richness and the rapid development cycies that single application vendors such as Cascade, Newbridge, Stratacom and Cisco could boast. Although all-in-one is easy to market, it is much harder to sell because you have to demonstrate your competency in more than one selection area, or you can only sell to customers that are searching for multiple applications at once, or can appreciate the integration value, which I believe, is a much smaller market than the sum of the applications.

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