Amex’s Rob Ciccone Discusses Entry Into Local Search


American Express Open is making a series of moves to extend its massive list of SMB credit card customers into broad marketing relationships that will fully leverage Amex’s powerful brand and relationships. The potential for Amex to be a marketing one stop has always been there. As InfoSpace Founder Naveen Jain noted in 2000, Amex is so big that its reach into SMBs could be bigger for partners than “all the Yellow Pages companies combined.”

The latest move is to enter the local search wars, going up against the Yellow Pages; third-party resellers like ReachLocal, Yodle, WebVisible and Orange Soda; and direct customers of Google AdWords itself. The effort, which is a partnership with Clickable, extends earlier efforts that provide SMBs with online payment processing, comprehensive insurance information, and international payment and wire transfers.

According to VP of Business Solutions Rob Ciccone, it is all part of an effort to “provide a portfolio of tools to help SMBs grow revenue. We have excellent knowledge of SMB needs [and] a very large customer base,” he says. Those are supplemented by non-customers who are users of Amex’s OpenForum site, which provides articles and boards and e-mail links for a wide variety of SMB topics.

The Search Manager product itself has some advantages for SMBs, adds Ciccone. Most notably, it uses Clickable to manage search across multiple search engines, including not only Google, but Yahoo, Bing and Facebook as well. The product also includes a daily recommendation feature for improving campaigns. SMBs that don’t want to manage their own campaigns can use Search Manager Assist, although that carries a higher premium of 8 percent to 10 percent per month. The price of unassisted search is 5 percent of ad spend, or $49 per month — whichever is higher.

The search products are initially being promoted at trade shows and to the credit card and OpenForum list. They include a 30-day free trial.

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