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If you are a small business, what do you do after you run the daily deal? Or how do you run a daily deal-like promotion “safely,” without hurting your brand? These are the questions a number of start-ups have posed for themselves as they seek to dive in to the deals revolution, while differentiating themselves from the cluttered destination deal and white-label deal marketplaces.

At ILM East last week, we heard from WildFire Apps and Closely — a new Denver-based company from MapQuest and Local Matters founder Perry Evans that formally debuted its “Social Select” service at the conference (and which we wrote about last July.)

Evans says Social Select relies on social media to tackle the two major flaws of the daily deals space. The first is the “very, very low” percentage of return visits, which he says is often under 10 percent. The second is the sense that merchants look like they are desperate for business, harming their “brand and margin value.”

Closely’s solution is to work with merchants to bring in existing customers and attract new customers via a “connect, referral and social network.” It is an “everyday, social commerce” approach,” says Evans. The mass market appeal of a daily deal is under performing outside of “maybe 10 to 15 core categories,” he suggests.

The offering is made up of two parts. First is a “private deal” for preferred customers and friends, which is akin to a “manager’s special.” Merchants hand out preprinted cards with QR codes taking them to a 24-hour deal. customers can hand them to five friends. “It allows you to hand select your next lead,” and shift to “better targeting and engagement,” says Evans.

The deals are also very flexible, since cards can be handed out based on consumer interests, and can represent many different deals. “You could have nine different deals,” he says.

The card idea is thought to be ideal for such recurring categories as home services, automotive services and pet services. “You don’t get a recurring customer from one visit. It takes five or six visits,” says Evans. He adds that the use of a deal card does not preclude a loyalty card that provides discounts or free services after a certain number of visits. It is just a different concept. Evans notes that the program have now been field tested with three partner/agencies.

The other part of the Social Select concept is the management of social media promotions and includes widgets for updating merchant websites, Facebook and Twitter. The company enables all relevant categories to be displayed, and to develop a “curated social graph.”

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