Perry Evans, one of the founders of MapQuest and the former CEO of Local Matters, is launching his new venture at the DEMO conference today. The company is called Close.ly and it offers a spin on group buying, coupons and social marketing for small businesses (SMBs). It’s very very interesting.
It’s positioned as a “social action platform” for SMBs and the publishers and channels that work with them. This is how the release out this morning describes the effort:
Closely Business Edition is a real-time application service that allows small businesses to centrally launch, manage and measure promotions through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, enabling them to build their customer base and manage demand with real-time, socially engaged offers.
Closely Business Edition puts the professional social marketing tools found in branded group buying services into everyday business use for live local promotions. Connecting a live offer page to each social media post, Closely enables a business to engage their followers and fans with individual and group offers. A Live Marketing Dashboard delivers advanced productivity and performance to the business with flexible offer publishing, scheduling and analytics.
I got a quick demo of the product from Perry Evans a few weeks ago. I was impressed by the careful thinking behind Closely and think that Evans is entering the market at the right time with a “right product.” It’s an evolution of pure couponing but also of group buying.
He distinguished Closely from the Groupons of the world, which it resembles at first Glance. He pointed out that many SMBs are ambivalent about the group buying sites, which work well but exact a hefty margin and so can’t really be used by SMBs on an ongoing basis. As I pointed out earlier in my discussion of Analog Analytics, they’re mostly a “one night stand” for SMBs seeking new customers or a quick infusion of business.
Closely sees itself as something much broader — a social action platform — that can be used for prospects and existing customers on an occasional or regular basis. It also provides a dashboard, analytics and a way to regularly engage users of social media. In other words, it offers a way to create and schedule promotions and distribute them with existing social media channels, without having to rely on group-buying email networks.
Here are screenshots of the offer landing pages (a profile page substitute) and the SMB dashboard:
Closely empitomizes a new phase in SMB marketing, which combines familiar elements (offers/coupons) with less familiar tools and services (social media) that are quickly being adopted by SMBs. It’s also part of a trend bringing increasingly sophisticated online marketing capabilities to SMBs at very low cost.