‘Conversational Marketing’ for SMBs

TechCrunch has discovered some new anti-Yelp sites and calls it an indicator of Yelp’s success. To be sure.

Yelp is the poster child for the much larger phenomenon of consumer reviews of local businesses. That phenomenon is here to stay. Some businesses hate it but a majority, it turns out, embrace the phenomenon conceptually:

Attitude of SMBs toward user reviews

There are two issues: fairness and discovery for local businesses.

On the first point, Yelp, for its part, offers “Yelp for Business,” which allows communication between consumer-reviewers and local businesses through the site. But Kudzu, in my memory, was the first to allow businesses to respond to reviews publicly. (Yelp’s communication happens behind the scenes.) TripAdvisor has even started allowing hotels and B&B’s to respond to bad reviews.

The systems are maturing and, in some cases, we’re moving from pure reviews to platforms that facilitate SMB-consumer “conversations” or CRM capabilities.

But the challenge and problem of how to monitor all proliferating reviews out there is starting to be addressed too. There are at least three companies, in addition to MerchantCircle, that are building or have built the capacity to automate the collection of reviews from multiple sites. As part of that a couple of them are also trying to centralize the process of data completion/correction on multiple sites as well.

Moon Valley Software’s Pete Ryan described to me a product the company is rolling out that combines review monitoring — he likens it to a “clipping service” — with data correction for multiple sites. The proposition is this from the SMB POV: “here’s where your listings show up online and here’s what they look like.” If you correct and/or enhance your information once it will be distributed everywhere your listing appears.

Localeze has developed a version of this same value proposition for its customers.

Ryan and I discussed online reviews at some length but also the broader phenomenon of user-generated content and how it’s starting to positively impact data quality online. Managing the “local database” is becoming a “two-way” process. The recent Google-TeleAtlas deal is an example of that trend.

Getting the businesses and community engaged in correcting and completing local data — Yahoo! was really the pioneer here — is picking up steam. And UGC, in Ryan’s view, will ultimately revolutize the process of data collection and management, uncoupling it from its top-down, telco legacy.

The phenomenon of “conversational marketing” has now definitely arrived for SMBs.


%d bloggers like this: