Over the course of the last few weeks, through many conversations and meetings, something has become clear to me: there’s a local SMB online “marketing suite” coming into focus. Most of the pieces of this already exist or are emerging but nobody to my knowledge has put them all together — packaged them in the right way.
Significant components of this marketing suite are not about advertising but about data management and reputation monitoring. Everyone selling “advertising” will eventually offer some version of the following:
- Website/presence (now mostly appearing in the form of profile or landing pages for PPC campaigns)
- Data integrity monitoring (including dissemination to third party sites)
- Reputation management/monitoring/CRM (focused on existing customers)
- Advertising network (new customers)
Small businesses need to have a professional online presence/site. This is a basic website of some sort that doesn’t look like someone’s nephew built it in his spare time. This can be augmented with multiple third party profiles, landing pages, Facebook pages, video, etc. But businesses, despite the rise of blogs, Facebook and Twitter, still seem to feel a need for a site of their own:
Source: Vistaprint, n=300, 11/09
Most of what we see in the market is perfunctory website products with an emphasis on landing pages for paid-search campaigns.
Data completeness and integrity:
This is important for new businesses coming online or starting up. Where is the business listed and is the information accurate?
Sites like GetListed, Palore’s new AmIVisible and Marchex’s reputation management product help show businesses where they appear online and make completeness and accuracy of listings more transparent. The business wants see its listing and then make it more complete and effective (with someone’s help in most cases).
A single, universal enhanced profile was the theory behind the now defunct “master business profile” from LocalLaunch (now RHD). But there are many other similar products in the market. Universal Business Listing is devoted to the principle of a single entry point for SMB data.
The dissemination of uniform, enhanced SMB data and the identification of inaccuracy in online listings is the crux of this “product.” It’s analogous to a credit report for SMB listing data.
Reputation management/monitoring and CRM:
Marchex has a great product, and is bringing the “buzz monitoring” capability of Fortune 500 companies and their vendors to SMBs and their sales channels. There are others (e.g., ClickFuel) offering varying degrees of this capability. This “reputation management/monitoring” area will be fertile for new tools and services in 2010 — along a continuum of complexity, features and capabilities.
MerchantCircle was the first to aggregate reviews about individual member businesses a couple of years ago.
CRM is a broad and elusive term. But I’m using it here to refer to a capability that enables me to communicate with and stimulate demand among existing customers: happy customers, angry ones, customers who haven’t purchased anything in some time.
At a minimum, as a business owner or manager, I want to see who’s reviewed my business. If that functionality can be actionable as with the Marchex product (i.e., posting selective reviews and comments to Twitter and elsewhere) that’s even better.
I also want to see how I stack up against competitors in my category or market. This latter capability is also manifested in some of the “data integrity” products, such as AmIVisible, which indicates how visible the particular business is vs. others in the category:
CRM also means email marketing and social media, as suggested.
This coming year will be the year that everyone pushes into or integrates Twitter and Facebook into their strategies. SMBs want an efficient way to communicate with existing customers and generate word of mouth referrals. Email is the top-rated SMB marketing vehicle and more channels will integrate it into their product suites as a CRM tool. But Twitter and Facebook can also serve in this capacity.
Everyone is now an agency and everyone in the local segment has or is building some sort of distribution network. Exceptions are few; Yelp and Google (Y & M) are examples. The ad network — whether it’s calls and/or clicks from O&O properties or third party sites — will be the tool for new customer acquisition and to some degree branding at the SMB level. (Video and graphical ads play here.) After SMB advertisers are acquired these other products help improve their visibility and manage reputation or offers to existing customers.
The problem to date is that most of the product offering is concentrated here in the form of “guaranteed clicks,” calls or something similar. As we know there’s a ton of churn in this segment. There’s also the problem of managing how much is retained for costs/margin and how much is spent on the media buy. These other products/services are more cost effective and make the entire package more valuable (there are no clicks to buy). The data and rep. management components are not “advertising” products and don’t rely on traditional clicks or calls. Yet they provide a hugely valuable services that SMBs will eagerly pay for.
(Generally speaking, mobile distribution is a horizontal manifestation of all of this and is managed by the third party publisher or vendor with whom the SMB has the relationship.)
Three or four-legged stool:
Depending on how you want to group these services, this is a three or a four-legged stool and covers the gamut of SMB online needs (these same needs exist at the national level). As I mentioned most companies selling online have some but not all of these services. But quickly they will need to fill in the gaps where they don’t have an offering to remain competitive. Presenting and sellling them in a simple way will be a challenge perhaps but if done well this is a much stronger product offering that is more in line with what the SMB actually needs.
Have I left anything out?