Category Archives: Sales Channels

SevaCall: Qualified Service Leads in 90 Seconds

Fast, efficient service leads has been a goal of numerous companies since the commercialization of the Internet. Richard Rosen and his team at FastCall411 pioneered the space seven or eight years ago, although their service was initially limited to hiring car service. The first car service to respond to queries would win the job.

Several new entrants have jumped into the space. ReachLocal has launched ClubLocal, a service that automatically sends out service pros to customers that send in a query. The pros, who provide discounted service, are sent out based on price quotes, reviews and other criteria.

Another new entrant is SevaCall (i.e. save a call), a five person startup based in Potomac MD that sends out leads to service providers, who can then automatically respond to customers – hopefully, within a 90 second window. The service allows up to three service providers to call consumers, who can do their own price and service comparison, set a service window, and hire who they want.

President and COO Manpreet Singh says the service, which raised $1.3 Million in first round funding, is filtering its leads to find the ideal service providers. It eventually will use call management software to filer leads based on pricing, job types done, ratings and reviews, and even inflection points.

Some service pros are being sent leads for free as an introduction to the service, but Singh tells us that the average lead cost is now $13. It is offering services in more than 50 categories, including taxicabs, florists and accountants. More than 6,000 zipcodes are currently being served, including zips in Atlanta, Boston and Kansas City.

ReachLocal Focuses on Verticals: A Look at its Eyefinity Deal

ReachLocal is now largely focused on providing integrated marketing solutions, including search, retargeting, promotions and process management. As part of this effort, it has also introduced three new brands: ReachCommerce, a process management service; RealLocal Edge, a lead conversion service; and ClubLocal, which allows consumers to book and buy home services online.

It is also drilling down on key verticals, such as auto and health care. The company, which works with 32,500 advertiser locations, recently announced a big deal via is ReachLocal Health Care division to sell the integrated solutions for clients of Eyefinity, which provides business services for eye doctors. Eyefinity will receive compensation for referrals to its franchisees.

ReachLocal HealthCare director Golda Hartman, who is a physician herself, runs a team of 130 sales specialists. She says the division has seen 70 percent year-over-year growth. It makes total sense for digital marketers such as ReachLocal to seek deals with optometrists and other media specialties, she says.

“They do everything in their practices, from business solutions to keeping electronic media records,” she says. The key is to be able to customize not only by vertical, but by type of business and location.

“We look at every individual practice,” notes Hartman. A private practice, for instance, may want to focus on new business or patients that require specialties, she says. Hospitals might focus on other strengths.

ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon is keynoting our upcoming Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing event in Austin Sept 11-13, along with leaders of Google, Facebook, Twitter, YP, YPG, Gannett and many others. You may register here.

LevelUp’s Sales Deal with Heartland Payment: A Discussion with Heartland’s Sarah Owen

As traditional local media players begin to lose some of their prominence, the search for alternative local sales channels has become increasingly important. The channel currently being explored: payment processors, which normally focus on selling Point of Sales systems.

Processors start out with a technological advantage; the “big data” from consumer purchases can help produce offers, rewards and other incentives. In addition to their large reach, processors already handle related issues that put them top of mind with SMBs as trusted business partners, such as payment processing, as well as credit/debit card management.

The first significant sales deal with a processor channel started with a pilot program last October between LevelUp, the Boston-based transaction marketing/loyalty company, and Heartland Payment Systems, which works with 250,000 merchants and is the fifth largest payment processing company.

LevelUp had built up a local sales force of about 25 people in eight markets. The local sales efforts had been moderately successful for such a new business concept, resulting in 6,500 business relationships. But the pilot with Heartland caused the company to shift its approach. After the pilot, LevelUp decided to focus more on its product offering and reach, and less on building its own branded services and local sales forces.

Heartland’s own perspective is that there are rich opportunities in working with companies such as LevelUp, and extending beyond payment processing sales. In a conversation with BIA/Kelsey, Sarah Owen, Heartland’s Executive Director of Mobile & Retail Payment Strategy (and former First Data executive) notes that it makes total sense for processors to begin selling consumer-centric solutions.

The relationship with LevelUp is a “perfect marriage,” says Owen. It would almost be unnatural not to pursue broader solutions, she says. “We ask ourselves: What types of solutions and brands do we need to support that consumers need to use? It is not just about payments. It is about launching and driving consumer behavior.”

Owen notes that the company has 800 of its own feet-on-the-street sales reps. “We are already talking to merchants about payments,” she says. “We act as a consultant to merchants in their acceptance of payment strategies. We help merchants understand what they need to do with a POS” to drive customer adoption and lower costs.

This post is an edited excerpt from a newly published BIA/Kelsey client Briefing: “Payment Processors as Local Sales Channels: A Look at the Heartland/LevelUp Relationship.”

ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon Talks ‘ClubLocal’

ReachLocal is moving boldly to find new ways to boost the business of its SMB customers. While the independent sales organization is still largely supported by the sale of advertising packages to its 32,500 active advertisers, it is now focused on commerce oriented services that not only help businesses get found by consumers, but also helps them track results and schedule services.

Now, via a new service named ClubLocal, it will even book new business for SMBs at pre-negotiated rates, and accept payments via a Square-like, ClubLocal iPad app. Today, the company unveiled San Francisco as ClubLocal’s second test market, following a test in Dallas that started in July. The Dallas test has involved ”thousands” of completed jobs in over 20 categories.

In rolling out ClubLocal, ReachLocal provides consumers discounts of 20 percent or greater on typical area pricing for over 4,500 service job types, and fully vets the fully-licensed service professionals that partner with it. It also guarantees two hour service windows.

Over time, the company also will maintain a large base of reviews as part of its vetting process, as customers send in reviews after completing their final payment process. In Dallas, 40 percent of consumers have submitted reviews. As part of its San Francisco launch, ClubLocal is providing $100 in free home services to its first 1,000 Bay Area consumers.

Initial San Francisco categories include Plumbing, Handyman, Electrical, Heating and Air Conditioning, Appliance Repair, and Mobile Auto Detailing. Additional services will launch over the upcoming months.

We talked recently with ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon about ClubLocal. Gordon suggests that most people aren’t necessarily loyal to a single service provider in most categories – “that’s why you had Yellow Pages,” he says.

Gordon also says that the smart phone generation basically values service guarantees, pricing transparency and convenience above all else. Up to now, “there hasn’t been a Walmart for services pricing,” he says. Gordon also suggests that existing service models such as Angie’s List and Home Advisor require too much work and are inconsistent – and have only scratched the surface in terms of customers.

Ultimately, consumers will make ClubLocal a habit when they need to order home services, just as they’ve made Uber a habit for taxis, Open Table a habit for restaurant reservations and Groupon a habit for deals.

ClubLocal directly addresses the “Booking and Buying” portion of the marketing funnel, says Gordon – a portion that Uber, OpenTable and Groupon have shown is increasingly important in today’s marketplace. Indeed, Gordon predicts that “local will be more about commerce than advertising ten years from now.”

ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon keynotes BIA/Kelsey’s “Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing” conference in Austin Sept. 11-13, joining a roster that also includes Home Advisor Europe CEO Simon Greenman and other leaders. Register here.

AnyPerk Expands Concept of Employer Driven Discount Clubs

We like the idea of using corporations as a distribution base for media and services. In the 1990s, The Family Education Network built a great newsletter business distributed in corporate lobbies. The concept’s been widely extended with the addition of email and the ability to more effectively target employees based on different criteria.

NextJump, for instance, has built a business providing discounts and deals sent out as part of employee communications. The deals are generally aggregated from other sources, but it can target the offers based on buying and browsing habits. It takes a commission from sales. The service is free to companies.

Now we’re also looking at San Francisco-based AnyPerk, which shifts the employer shopping model to a premium offering, charging $5 a month per employee. CEO and Founder Taro Fukuyama tells us that the 15-person company — a graduate of Y Combinator — now has 2,500 companies signed up, distributing perks from 250 different marketers. Investors include Andressen Horowitz, SV Angel and a number of individuals, as well as Japanese-based funds .

Fukuyama says that AnyPerk’s goal is to use its volume-buying capability to drive discounts of 5-50 percent. It proves its value as a consumer-centric service from the get-go, rather than serving the interests of merchants. “We do everything we can to save them more than $5 a month” he says.

Typically, customers will start with 15 percent monthly discounts on mobile phones and services and work their way up to other products, specifically monthly utility products such as gyms, video services or rent. There may be 20 things you pay for every month, he says.

Entertainment, especially, stands out. AnyPerk’s top products, in order, are fitness, entertainment, travel and cell phone. Among its perk providers are Verizon, AMC, Redbox, Regal Entertainment Group, Equinox, AT&T, Budget, Zipcar, T-Mobile and LA Fitness.

Fukuyama, a native of Japan, tells us that employer shopping services are common in his homeland, where there are four major companies. But the concept is still relatively new to the U.S.

Merchant Warehouse Moves Up Value Chain From Payments to ‘Engagement’

Payment processors and related companies work with most SMBs and are increasingly seen as a potential sales channel for reaching them with additional services. This week, we talked with one processor, Boston-based Merchant Warehouse, about its efforts to leverage its base of 75,000 business customers beyond terminal sales.

CEO Henry Helgeson told us the 15 year-old, 300 employee company got its start selling terminals, but has seen strong growth in new products such as integrated coupons that anchor its “Genius” customer engagement platform. A horde of companies have introduced coupons, for instance, but many businesses have no idea how to redeem them, given the constraints of their existing POS systems, he says. The rising use of mobile phones for payments and promotions has made it an especially big issue.

The move to integrate promotions such as coupons and a wide range of payment types into payment solutions has also changed how Merchant Warehouse works with its customers, which range from alternative payment companies such as LevelUp to value added resellers. “We are moving from working with tech teams to working with marketing teams,” he says.

What has become increasingly understood is how complex it all is. Many businesses had hoped to have a single point of presence for payments, just as they similarly had hoped to have a single search engine and online point of contact in the 1997-98 time frame, he says.

And as it turned out they had to work with 50 search engines and points of contacts, they’re beginning to see they have got to plan on working with a wide range of payment solutions. “They want one closed loop wallet. But there will be many, many wallets,” says Helgeson. There are 200 entry points in the POS value chain, he notes.

Centro’s Riegsecker on Local’s ‘Mid-Tail’ Opportunity

The Long Tail in advertising may be SMB-centric. The Short Tail may be ad agency centered media buying, which only go to the Top 100 sites on the Web. If that’s the case, the “Mid-Tail” comes from local publishers, suggests Centro Media CEO Shawn Riegsecker. But these publishers, which rely on high value journalist-based content and integrated advertising, have lately been “losing their shirts.” They can’t scale on the Web.

For Riegsecker, whose company operates an 80 newspaper affiliate reseller program, the answer lies in automation that places media across the board – a reliance on automation he’s been touting for years but that we’re increasingly hearing for local advertisers in search (The Search Agency) and display advertisers (Balihoo).

Centro has been growing quickly, and now sports a 300 person team. Half are based in Chicago and the other half are in 28 regional offices around the U.S. Lately, the company has been especially focused on rolling out a range of automation solutions for 575 mid-tier, independent agencies that represent 2,600 advertisers.

Two weeks ago, the company rolled out Centro Planner, a planning and buying module formerly known as Transis. Additional solutions will include a campaign planning operations tool and next year, a finance app that will feature invoice and billing reconciliation.

“They all link together and automate an ad agency’s entire lifestyle,” adds Riegsecker. “They support very healthy ad agencies for a very healthy ecosystem.” By reducing the emphasis on remnant/inventory that only account for 20 percent of overall agency business, Centro helps to release resources for agencies to do data analysis, hire statisticians, and move into social, native and content marketing, he says.