ILM East: SMB SuperForum: Focusing on Local Business Success

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Tom Bates, Founder, Kudzu

Wiley Cerilli, CEO, SinglePlatform

Dave Galvan, President, Schedulicity

Randy Parker, President, SMBApps

John Vitti, Cofounder and CMO, Mobile Spinach

Which SMB solutions will stand out and make a difference in 2012? Our SMB SuperForum discussed some of these during our ILM East wrap-up moderated by Interactive Local Media Program Director Matt Booth and The Kelsey Report Program Director Charles Laughlin. Verticalization, improved customer targeting and providing better value proposition to SMBs were the major takeaways.

“In Silicon Valley, it’s about collaborative consumption space,” said Schedulicity President Dave Galvan. There are more than 60 of these companies sprouting up, offering a peer-to-peer marketplace where individuals can trade goods, services and even places. Galvan cited San Francisco-based Airbnb as an example. The site allows people to list, discover and book unique travel housing accommodations around the world. “From a local perspective, there’s just nothing happening. So when you verticalize something, there’s more ‘there…there,” Galvan said.

Kudzu founder Tom Bates, who is no longer with the company, also sees the value in verticalization. “If you go vertical, you can have a smaller group drive more contribution,” Bates said. Kudzu is a site focused on helping users make informed home service provider decisions. However, Bates said the idea was “smart, but very painful to try and do market by market, particularly when you rely on user-generated content.” When it comes to scale, Bates cited Google and Amazon as companies that have done it right.

But scale is easier to contain when you start at the top of the funnel. So how do SMBs at the lower end gain traction? For starters, SMB site traffic must be more frequent. Houses and cars, for example, are two things that people buy periodically. Another key area of success is forming the SMBs brand. “SMBs want their online presence to represent their P.L.A.Q.U.E: promotions, locations, availability, quality and user experience,” said SMBApps President Randy Parker.

Another issue for SMBs is customer acquisition and determining who to target. Mobile Spinach Cofounder John Vitti says you can quantify what a good salesperson does in a four-part inquiry: “Who did they talk to? When? How do they want to be engaged? And how do I create a winning proposal?” At Mobile Spinach, all selling is computer-based. In preparation for the sales proposal, the company researches demographics and margins. Around 2,000 new merchants a month sign up to the site to receive offers across different verticals.

How to sell to SMBs as a digital marketing and advertising company is evolving. Instead of a cold call, “You can call up a merchant and get them in front of a computer and walk them through a Powerpoint presentation and sign them up,” said SinglePlatform’s Wiley Cerilli. SinglePlatform has one unified platform that SMBs can use to sell a product or service and it updates to social, mobile and listing pages on YP and Foursquare.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Service

    Some great points here.

    It just points out how gigantic the local space really is, and that it is so big that no single company with a single strategy will be able to bring together everything required to create a consolidated product and brand that fits all verticals in all geographic markets.

    Maybe in 10-20 years time we may start to see some consolidation in this market, however in the short to medium term it very much looks like the market is going to continue to splinter into hundreds (if not thousands) of different advertising channels for SMB’s.

  2. bbb

    It’s fantastic that you are getting thoughts from this paragraph as well as
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