I’ve got a phone line sitting in my office, but it’s not being used. This is because I prefer to run a VOIP phone line for my business. You may have heard of VOIP before, and you would have used it numerous times without even knowing. VOIP has come a long way in the recent years, from a lower-cost / lower-quality alternative, to something that is now on par with traditional phone services in terms of quality, but with a vast range of additional benefits.
What is VOIP?
VOIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, and it is the means of placing phone calls over the internet, rather than a standard physical phone line. This doesn’t mean you need to use a computer to place your phone calls though, as you can generally continue to use your existing phone handsets.
What are the benefits of VOIP?
The vast features are what originally sold VOIP for me. These features make running my business much more manageable. My favourites being –
- Follow me. I can setup my business line to first ring my regular phone, then if there’s no answer it calls my mobile. From the caller’s perspective, they don’t notice the transition, so it is very professional. It only take a minute to log in and change the Follow me list and settings too.
- Geographical numbers. I’ll cover more on this shortly.
- Better voicemail. If a caller leaves a voicemail, it is emailed to me. Since I always have my iPhone with me, I can instantly hear any voice messages that are left for me, in one click.
- Call records. I can log in and see all outgoing AND incoming calls that were made.
- Portable. If my business moves, my number comes with me. In fact, I can just unplug my VOIP phone, and plug it in to any one else’s internet connection, and it’ll work straight away; no configuration required.
There’s other features, like being able to make VOIP calls from your mobile too, but the above is what has really helped my business.
Like traditional phone line providers such as Telstra, VOIP Providers offer various plans to give you different call rates. But unlike traditional phone line providers, VOIP Providers are extremely cheap, and calls can range between 7c and 12c untimed Australia wide. Some plans require a monthly fee but most do not. Even the plans with the monthly fee are still usually less than $10 and generally include a large number of free calls.
Have a local presence
Geographical based numbers are very simple to have setup for your business, and can be a fantastic marketing tool. For example, the main number for your company may be best served as a Melbourne number (03) 90051111. If you’re based in Mornington, for example, then a local number may be more important to have advertised on your vehicle to convey that you are local. What’s more, you can get records of who calls each separate number, so you can directly see how well your car advertising is working.
If needed, you could also get a Brisbane number, Sydney, Perth, etc. Each additional number only costs a couple of dollars per month, so it can be a very effective marketing strategy.
Stop advertising your mobile number
Many small businesses do it, because they’re on the road most of the time, and are never sitting down in an office. Advertising your mobile number for your business tells everyone you are likely a one person business, which is not always ideal. Having a fixed line phone number that redirected to your mobile would give the impression that your business is bigger than this. A VOIP account will do this for you, for a total cost of about $10/year.
If you need to buy a new internet modem, then the easiest thing to do is buy an all-in-one device such as the Fritzbox router which includes your ADSL modem, wi-fi, and a couple of VOIP ports. If you already have a modem, then you can buy a separate VOIP gateway for as little as $80. Both methods allow you to simply plug in your existing phone handset to turn it into a VOIP phone.
The other method is to buy a VOIP handset. These allow you to simply plug into any existing internet connection without any other hardware required. These are a little more expensive than regular handsets, but are an option if purchasing handsets is a necessity anyway.
Why isn’t everyone using VOIP?
Most large businesses are using VOIP, but it can be a bit tricky to setup yourself. There are pre-configured bundles that some VOIP providers offer to simplify the setup process which can greatly help, but there can still be a bit of a learning curve. The good news; once it’s setup, you’ll forget that you’re not using a regular voice service.