, 1 Oct 2014

Data, social media and simplicity: These are the things driving SMB digital marketing, according to the mid-conference takeaways of this week’s Analyst roundtable.

While in New Orleans last week for the SMB Digital Marketing conference, Charles Laughlin and I grabbed a few minutes to do our standard analyst roundtable. In this case, it was in person instead of Skype. And the subject matter is all about conference takeaways.

In the video below, we discuss how most discussions in SMB marketing haven’t changed, though they are taking new form, in step with today’s media and tech trends. For example, simplicity in SMB ad tools continues to be a universal theme, shown in Reach Local CEO Sharon Rowlands’ keynote.

We also discuss how that relates to formulating product bundles for SMBs. And how are those products priced and sold? This invoked a panel consisting of local media sales reps and managers; and conversely a session of real life SMBs who reinforced the simplicity point.

Big data was also a big topic, culminating in Axciom CEO Scott Howe’s keynote. In some ways, big data is antithetical to simplicity, given the perception that it adds complexity. So the idea is to use data to support SMBs (and the sales reps serving them) in more automated or covert ways.

Much more to come in conference video footage, including these backstage interviews, as well as session footage.

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, 1 Oct 2014

ReachLocal cofounder Zorik Gordon left the company last year after veering sharply to the left with ClubLocal, a consumer-facing brand that would collect home improvement pricing and reviews, and assign jobs to home improvement pros.

Now, Gordon and several ClubLocal alumnis are back with Serviz, a similar service that has launched in southern California after running a beta since February. Groupon is Serviz’s largest investor, with an undisclosed ownership share. ReachLocal, where much of the intellectual work was developed, still controls 19.8 percent of the company.

Groupon could theoretically apply its sales forces to recruit home improvement pros, but Gordon tells us that Serviz is being launched with its own sales forces. Most of the core concepts remain the same from ClubLocal –recruit consumers with convenience, price and service guarantees and a strong review base, and recruit home improvement pros with guaranteed work. “They are fundamentally on demand home services,” said Gordon. “”What we’ve done is focus on transparency, and transparency of pricing. Uber has shown what it takes to really hold and disrupt the conventional ecosystem.

The key differences this time take off from this theme: there is a focus on sole practitioners, who have more flexibility in their time and ability to charge, and ultimately, much lower prices. “You don’t need to charge $250 for a home visit from a home tech, who is being paid $15 an hour,” said Gordon.

Gordon acknowledges there is a lot of competition in the space, with the emergence of players like Thumbtack, Pro.com, Handy, Home Joy and even Amazon coming in, all building on a base that already has Angie’s List and Home Advisor.

Amazon will come in as a marketplace, and won’t be a direct competitor, he says. In fact, he hopes to participate in the Amazon marketplace. “No one is going to come to your house with an Amazon shirt,” says Gordon.

The other services range from what Gordon characterizes as directory listers, like Thumbtack and Pro.com; to low end service fulfillment players like Handy. Serviz will work at higher point in the value chain by focusing more on specialized service providers like HVAC and electrical. “We’re building a horizontal platform around higher end home services,” he says.

Zorik Gordon and Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta are among the initial speakers appearing at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media, Dec. 3-5 in San Francisco. Get early pricing now.

Zorik Gordon, CEO, Serviz

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, 30 Sep 2014

After an action packed week in New Orleans for our SMB Digital Marketing conference, the video footage is starting to roll in. The first item — embedded below — builds on an announcement made at the show from Agendize: It has launched a smart watch app for it’s flagship scheduling tool.

This comes in the wake of Apple’s watch unveiling, when the marketplace is attentive to all things watches. Agendize’s app will be available for Apple Watch when the device ships, but for now operates on the Android Wear platform, as well as Samsung’s watch OS.

The idea is that some SMB verticals can benefit from Agendize’s scheduling tool in this watch-based format. For example, home services are not only appointment oriented, but are often in the field and need quick access to that information. Think contractors on your roof or plumbers under your sink.

“They’re able to quickly interact with the way they do business, which is appointments,” said Agendize president & COO Alf Poor. “They can quickly review, take action and then move on. We find that concise experience is exactly what SMBs are looking for.”

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, 29 Sep 2014

Shopkick, the four year old mobile retail loyalty app that provides points for people coming into stores and virtual gift cards, has been sold to South Korean mobile services leader SK Planet for $200 million. SK Planet is expected to invest heavily in Shopkick’s international reach.

Once seen as a new mobile paradigm for shopping rewards and loyalty, Shopkick was especially notable in setting up collective “kicks” or points that could be used anywhere, encouraging regular usage. It realized earlier than most that consumers were less likely to download individual apps for retailers that they’d only use once or twice.

The company’s novelty has since worn off. Virtual check-ins are widely enabled by FourSquare and others as the technology has evolved from an exclusive reliance on smart phone alerts to also using wireless Beacon sensors, which are accurate to the point of capturing users within just a few feet — ideal for ID’ing shoppers near brands. Moreover, the value of virtual check ins have been called into question by newer card linked offer players that can match credit card information and more specific data (not to mention that many consumers collect points for just walking by a location and never going in).

Yet, ShopKick has developed a strong base of customers and continued to grow. The Redwood City, CA-based company, which has 75 employees, now has eight million active users and has kept its appeal to retailers eager to jump on location targeting and building loyalty programs. It now has 20 retailers and 200 brands under contract. Macy’s, for instance, has just signed on with a 4,000 Shopkick Beacon deal joining Target, BestBuy and other major chains working with the company.

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, 29 Sep 2014


Facebook today announced the relaunch of Atlas, an ad network that connects online campaigns to offline purchases across multiple devices. Atlas isn’t a new company but instead has been rebuilt since been being acquired from Microsoft last year. This announcement follow’s Facebook’s announcement of an ambitious program to match sales related data from a variety of sources to show ROI at BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing event in New Orleans.

The platform will utilize Facebook data to track users between devices and connect online campaigns to offline results. This is an effort Facebook has been working on with its Custom Audience Tool. A Datalogix study showed that 89 percent of people who saw a Facebook ad and then bought a product in the store did not click on the ad. This uncovers an important behavioral trend for local advertisers who are increasingly critical of ROAS (return on ad spend).

Atlas doesn’t only link consumers to their Facebook accounts but with their interactions on other websites and apps.  Facebook is already equipped with a deep social data trove with 1.32 billion MAUs. This positions it to launch Atlas across both desktop and mobile and to compete more closely with Google’s Ad Sense network. Along with the Atlas’ relaunch, Facebook announced Ommicon has signed on as the first major agency partner.


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