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The arrival of Groupon and LivingSocial four years ago appeared to be a no money down, fail-safe way to get a hold of small-business accounts. But the followup hasn’t been easy, and the race to win SMB accounts is still anybody’s to win.

In fact, there is no single “disruptive” door into the marketplace, says Constant Contact Founder Randy Parker, who has been watching the transition of SMB marketing since 1995. Parker believes the richer opportunity is in SMB platforms that plug in “presence,” social and mobile opportunities from best-of-breed providers. He’s currently trying to do that with SMBApps, a start-up that he’s been incubating for a couple of years.

What you have today is a bunch of SMB solutions that typically rank below aggregators such as Google, Yelp and Twitter on search pages, he says. SMBs, to their great consternation, have to work with each platform.

Where does the “feature creep” stop? he asks. Moreover, as it gets more and more complex, Parker fears that the vendors are overwhelming their customers. Meanwhile, the severe fragmentation in the space keeps driving the costs of merchant acquisition up.

Parker says the ideal solution manages three things: an SMB’s data (such as deals and menu items), the content side, such as blogs, social media and copy points), and visual presence. The best way to “future proof” the Web is to build a single Web presence with “pre-made building blocks” for social, email, click-to-call buttons, delivery tabs, promotional links and mapping.

What won’t work is the extension of new platform after new platform. All that does is result in under-performing and marginalized channels, he says. Take mobile, for instance. Mobile is extremely important, and results in 1 of 3 leads, he notes. But the people pushing dedicated mobile apps for SMBs instead of universal HTML pages are “in la la land. The typical SMB may get 35 installs of their app,” he says.

Parker appears at ILM East March 26-28 on the “Local Business Success” summary panel, along with AT&T’s Maria Kermath and Schedulicity’s Dave Galvan. You can register here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Randy makes some great points. They types of points that only someone that has been at the frontline of selling services to SMB’s for a long time would know.

    I completely agree that the fragmentation in the market is confusing the hell out of SMB’s.

    That said, I think that there are some more back-office features that SMB’s are asking for …. though I don’t want to add to the “feature creep”.

  2. We found the same fragmentation, feature battle and built a very basic coupon maker: In a few minutes, a business owner can create their own coupon with expiration and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Websites.

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