One of the most promising concepts in local are “Write Once, Publish Everywhere” platforms for SMBs. With local businesses needing to communicate more and more deals, new features and special events to their customers, it makes sense to get them on a network to reach more people with one effort.
Yext and Google’s “tag” networks really got the concept going. These enabled an SMB to self-serve a promotion (“$2.00 off tonight”) throughout a network. The tech has since been applied to a wide variety of networked features, including photos, videos and menus — all wrapped in a suite of marketing services.
They’ve also been applied to mobile, which enables more “on the go” activity. Constant Contact’s $65 Million + acquisition of SinglePlatform in June was a strong validation of the space.
The services are terrific, but they haven’t been an instant hit. Pricing has been tough. Is it worth $30 a month? $100 a month? Or should it be bundled in for free? So has the challenge of getting SMBs to pay for one more “value added” service.
Last week, we talked to MeNetwork, one of the more established contenders in the emerging space. The company is based in Boulder, CO and was started in 2010 by banking, technology and ad agency vets.
MeNetwork sees itself as an SMB promotion platform that provides a comprehensive set of “write once, publish everywhere” services. One of its differentiators is that it is pushing a dedicated MeNetwork mobile app in addition to white-labeling its services with strategic partners. It’s risky, but potentially rewarding.
The company also enables easy point-of-sale redemption of offers via QR codes and Bar codes (with compatible POS devices) — something that will make increasing sense as more smart phones are plugged in, asserts COO/CTO Craig Page.
While the service helps manage and process promotions for its customers, it is also mindful that many of them already work with loyalty programs. MeNetwork seamlessly integrates with them, says Page. The aspiration is for MeNework to become the central hub for all of its customers’ promotional activities.
Pricing has been set at $500 a year (approximately $41 a month). Sales channels include self-serve, local media and vertical partners as well as convention bureaus and downtown associations.
Visitors bureaus in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Austin are already actively selling. The New Orleans center sold 200-300 SMBs off the bat, says Page. The company is also working internationally with a division of European Directories in Austria.
Working with outside sales sometimes produces higher than expected churn, and MeNetwork initially saw annual churn rates at 52 percent (actually, pretty low in this area). Churn rates have fallen to 12 percent however, as the company worked to train its reps to provide comprehensive and consistent customer care.