ContactAtOnce Rolling Along

picture-31After well over a year I finally caught up with John Hanger, CEO of presence-based marketing company ContactAtOnce (CAO). Launched a couple of years ago, the company has been quietly chugging along doing deals in the automotive vertical. Hanger told me that his company is now profitable.

Yesterday CAO issued a press release about its latest deal with Cox:

ContactAtOnce!, a leading provider of internet marketing tools that move online shoppers into live conversations with car dealers, today announced that Cox AutoTrader, one of the world’s leading providers of online and print automotive consumer information, has deployed the ContactAtOnce! dealer live chat service on CarShopSmart.com, the just-launched “web2.0” sister website of AutoMart.com. Cox AutoTrader/AutoMart online operations combined have more than 1 million new and used vehicles for sale and reach over 2 million car buyers monthly.

ContactAtOnce! powers graphical elements such as “drop-in business cards” that appear if a sales person at a dealership is available at the moment a site visitor is looking at a car. Site visitors are offered a variety of ways to contact the dealer, including chat and a phone number. Dealers appreciate ContactAtOnce! because all chat conversations are tracked and recorded, making it easy to measure the effectiveness of advertising and to conduct sales training. ContactAtOnce! dealer chat is simple to use and designed specifically for sales people who are not always at their desks.

CAO uses an IM-like client to capture potential leads on auto dealer sites. The client is also able to make a transcript of the interaction for later sales training purposes. The company has a couple of different revenue models but all involve licensing.

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This is a case of a startup casting about for the right industry for its product, getting early traction in the auto vertical and successfully building on that early success. CAO took roughly $1.5 million in investment capital and so now is more “nimble” in terms of potential exits in a down market. In addition, the company has about 12 FTEs and some contractors and thus a fairly low overhead. Again a positive in the current economic climate.

Finally, Hanger told me that CAO is ready to start expanding into other verticals and is testing with several non-automotive sites. I’m pleased to hear success stories like this in the midst of so much bad news.


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