Mobile email was once a tool just out of reach for small and midsized businesses (SMBs). They knew the capabilities existed, but they were hard pressed to find viable solutions that didn't come with massive expense and management headaches.
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In its stead, some companies were forced to rely on unsophisticated systems that were thrown together out of necessity instead of having a truly viable solution that could be deployed throughout the entire company.
"I was using a Treo," said Ed Warren, vice president of sales and marketing for Creative Marketing Solutions (CMS), a marketing fulfillment provider. "I had patched together a shoestring of capabilities, but it was difficult to manage and not consistent."
But a recent partnership between mobile email provider Visto and Sotto Wireless, a hosted communications service that combines the mobility of devices with the functionality of office phone systems, helped Warren and his salesforce see the true benefits of a legitimate mobile email deployment.
Going through Sotto to roll out Visto to the company's fleet of Nokia E61 and E70 devices showed instant improvement, Warren said, giving sales teams the benefit of on-the-go communications.
"Immediately, the sales reps were more productive," he said, adding that he has seen a faster response time from sales reps and their customers since the system was rolled out in late January and early February.
Warren said he hasn't yet crunched the hard numbers, but he noted that "there is a tangible improvement." The improvement was noticeable enough for Warren to promise that every sales rep within CMS would be using the Sotto/Visto solution in a short time.
Under the old "shoestring" approach, Warren's mobile email wasn't real-time and it was much more time consuming, he said. Now, being able to send documents, edit them, reattach them into an email and forward them along is a process measured in seconds rather than minutes.
"As a manager, I am more responsive to the needs of my reps and their customers when they need me to review or approve a written document," Warren said.
Also, he said, Sotto handles much of the management, which eases his burden. He and his team have access to a Web portal where they can add users, phone numbers, passwords and the like.
Under their partnership, Visto is made available as part of Sotto's hosted service, filling a void in the SMB area where mobile email has not yet truly caught on.
According to a recent Forrester Research survey, 71% of enterprises in North America have adopted mobile email, while just 28% of SMBs have. One of the major stumbling blocks for SMBs has been the complexity of managing and administering a wireless email infrastructure.
Mike Houston, Sotto Wireless' director of marketing, said the goal of partnering with Visto is to make a unified service for the end users without having the hassle of managing all of the back-end systems typically required with a mobile email solution. He said many smaller companies, in the past, had looked at a wireless email solution, only to come away frustrated with the cost and complexity. Adding Visto to their hosted services option makes a mobile email deployment more realistic and doesn't require additional management resources.
Joyce Kim, vice president of marketing for Visto, agreed. She said the prevalence of mobile email today has prompted many companies to look into a solution, only to abandon the prospect. Offering a hosted mobile email service changes that, she said.
And, according to Warren, CMS is embracing the technology and hoping to continually add new sales reps and new mobile email accounts.
"We're going to put this into all of our sales reps' hands," he said.