We’ve written previously the vast opportunities available to major wireless carriers through participating in and driving forward the adoption of modern technology by local and small businesses. We think of companies like Verizon, AT&T, and Vodafone. These companies have very large numbers of small business customers. But we see little evidence of them finding interesting ways to extend those relationships. Sure, there have been moments of effort. But by and large, we haven’t seen any long-term, ongoing transformational initiatives.
So we read with interest a new initiative by T-Mobile to launch new rate plans for small businesses in conjunction with Microsoft. According to the release, the wireless carrier has cobbled together some offers that include access to Microsoft’s office apps, cloud services, device management, and advanced security solutions.
To us, this sounds a lot like some of the very services Managed Service Providers (MSPs) offer to small businesses. One could be cynical and suggest this is simply a press release to coincide with it being National Small Business Week. But the offer called “Magenta For Business” includes Microsoft 365, a $9.99/month value “at no extra charge”. That’s a pretty good offer. And it is a smart approach for Microsoft to compete for customers that might otherwise find Google’s free apps or paid services via G-Suite more appealing.
Taking Care of Business
There’s more we find interesting. Apparently T-Mobile, aka the “Un-carrier” (suggesting the carrier label has an old-world connotation) is upping their game by doubling the team dedicated to supporting SMBs. We are not sure what that means in terms of people and resources. Is it doubling a five-person team to 10 or a 100 person team to 200? The company also claims that its 7,000 retail locations have been upgraded to help with the needs of small businesses.
We don’t know for sure what either of these statements really means. But there are signals that attention to the SMB market within T-Mobile is ratcheting up. For example, Mike Katz, the company’s EVP for T-Mobile Business, has been doing a web series, and now a podcast, called Taking Care of Business, invoking Bachman Turner Overdrive’s 1974 classic (No. 12 on Billboard’s Hot 100 that August). Katz’s show launched earlier this year to help small businesses navigate the perils of Covid-19. Now the show continues to provide insight and leadership ideas for business owners.
The Laws of Attraction
There’s a funny thing about the small business market. Whenever you draw up a business plan and load in the huge total addressable market (TAM) — using 7 million, 10 million, 30 million, whatever — the spreadsheet always spits out a huge revenue opportunity.
Then, the big enterprise machine fires its engines and begins its pursuit. And, inevitably, rocks, potholes, and other obstacles appear on the road, disrupting the machine’s journey to success in the SMB market. The TAM isn’t really the TAM. There are hundreds of verticals within the TAM. Each vertical has its own methodology. There are meaningful geographic differences within an individual vertical. The creditworthiness isn’t what it should be. The list of obstacles goes on and on.
We’re always eager to see a large, well-known brand like T-Mobile put forward a real initiative to help the small business world with reliable, cost-effective products and solutions. The big question is, in 12 months will the un-carrier will issue another press release? Or will it reveal some truly compelling results? Time will tell.