Category Archives: Social Media

Randy Parker: ‘The Top 3 SMB Ad Platforms are Facebook, Facebook, Facebook’

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The new focus for SMB advertising is very precise targeting , and that means building campaigns with Facebook, according to SMB marketing entrepreneur and Constant Contact co-founder Randy Parker. “The top three ad platforms are Facebook, Facebook, and Facebook,” says Parker. “There is no second place.”

Parker, who is developing Brevi Ads, an integrated, automated ad platform for SMBs that uses Facebook solutions, says that Facebook’s targeting abilities generally cost less than $150 per campaign, and are better than what Proctor & Gamble would spend millions of dollars on ten years ago.

“If you own a stroller store, you can target women 25-45 who live nearby, and filter in people with a child under the age of three and who bought baby gear within six months,” says Parker. While you could split your budget with Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat, “you are probably better spending all of it on Facebook,” he adds. You might plug in Instagram as part of that – Facebook owns it.

Parker and his Boston-based team are building Brevi to take the power of Facebook and apply it to SMBs. He notes that the solution integrates such features as SMB scheduling and shopping carts to better understand the SMBs’ actual needs in each vertical.

“You want to automate by going deep” with the business, says Parker. “Your problem is not that you want to run a Facebook ad. You want people to come for your 5pm Yoga class.“

We are now in the third generation of SMB marketing, Parker adds. “The first generation was getting online and figuring out how to market digitally. The second generation was coached DIY: what we did with Constant Contact. In the third generation, marketing will be truly automated.”

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LSA16: Facebook Moves Away From Social Metrics

Facebook has just announced that it has three million SMB advertisers and 50 million SMB pages. Many SMBs have attracted thousands of likes. But “one of the challenges for Facebook in the future is to move away from social metrics,” noted Joe Devoy, Facebook’s Product Marketing Manager for Local Ads, who was speaking this week at LSA16 in San Francisco.

“Local metrics that highlight true business value” is key, says Devoy. While likes are good for the ego (and newsfeeds), they aren’t as powerful as metrics that show new business.

With this in mind, Facebook is re-orienting its pages to boost dedicated traffic and analytics. One of its efforts is “Sections,” which feature call-to-actions and tips centered around shopping and services. Another effort is to boost messaging between customers and SMBs via Facebook’s integrated messaging products. With mobile ascendant, messaging is increasingly he preferred way to communicate with customers,” notes Devoy.

The end result is that Facebook is a very affordable advertising channel for SMBs, says Devoy “You can spend $30 a month on Facebook.” If they get you one call a day, most businesses will be more than covered.

LSA16: Yelp Says Ads Remain ‘Core of Product’


Greg Sterling interviews Geoff Donaker at LSA16 (Photo, LSA Insider)

Yelp and other SMB channels are providing an increasing number of marketing services to their SMB customers. Interviewed by Greg Sterling at LSA 16 in San Francisco this week, COO Geoff Donaker noted that Yelp is providing “integrated commerce in many different forms,” including bookings, integration with OpenTable, food delivery and others.

But at the end of the day, Donaker reiterates that advertising remains front and center. “The core of our product: it’s ads,” he says. While “it is hard to explain the value of Yelp to SMBs…. it is the only option other than Google in many geo-categories.”

SMBs often assume that a large number of good reviews are a substitute for advertising on Yelp,” adds Donaker. While they help, the volume from word of mouth just isn’t there. “There are like two (ratings leaders that can forgo advertising) in every town. Everyone else could use ads to enhance their traffic,” he says.

Yelp, in fact, has developed one of the largest local sales forces in the industry, with 2,000 sales reps in the U.S. alone. It also has partnerships set up with YP, Yext, Single Platform, Loku and others; and has its reviews distributed on the largest traffic sites, including Yahoo and Bing. The majority of the traffic, howver, is App-Centric. “ You have to think ‘App first,’ says Donaker. “Websites are great as an advertisement for the App.”

American Express Cuts Back: Big Impact on SMB Digital Marketing Support?

American Express is under the knife, as it cuts $1 billion in spending with the end of its Costco and JetBlue co-branded cards. The cutback will probably cut into many of the forward looking promotion and marketing projects that Amex underwrites with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Uber, Pinterest and others.

It will also lead to the departure of many executives – Leslie Berland, EVP, Global Advertising, Marketing and Digital Partnerships, for one, is rumored to be headed to Twitter as CMO – where she would be able to work with Buy Buttons, coupons and other promotions to fan commerce that would supplement or compete with Amex efforts. In this case, the use of Twitter and other social media to fan commerce will seem a whole lot easier than directly fulfilling sales and ecommerce.

For Amex, however, it is not all bad. If we want to be cheerful about it, the looming cutbacks also represent a great “focusing” opportunity for the company, which is perhaps the most aggressive digital marketer in the field with mobile-oriented initiatives for deals, loyalty, prepaid cards and wallets.

The company and its premium model have actually been under stress for some time — even before the loss of the two reseller deals (Costco alone represented 10 percent of Amex revenue). While there is Apple-like seamlessness in Amex as the acquirer, the issuer and the network, many merchants have been hesitant to pay the .5 percent Amex premium over other credit card issuers – especially after Amex moved away from its exclusive emphasis on the wealthy and rolled out the Bluebird debit product with Walmart and other value cards to compete for the high volume of underbanked customers.

Given the cutbacks, we wouldn’t be going too far out on the limb to predict that Amex won’t be underwriting major promotions from major merchants in the near future. This past holiday season, we already saw Amex end its subsidy of Small Business Saturday purchases (which went from $25 in 2013 to $10 in 2014 to zero in 2015).

One could argue that Amex has already incubated its digital offerings, which launched in 2011-12 out of a distinct business unit designed to “challenge the status quo.” Indeed, these efforts may not really require additional financial support. We know that a good promotion these days still results in tens of thousands of sales – Amex definitely remains an inviting publisher for deals . But they are no Super Bowl.

As for the focusing opportunity? That would be for Amex to reimagine itself as a marketing machine for its merchants – something that is well underway. That could mean a series of acquisitions (I might speculate that could mean one of the SMB loyalty plays, Big Data companies – Amex was an initial investor of Radius Intelligence–, or even a social media power, such as Twitter, Yelp or Foursquare).

At Money2020 in 2014 – more than 14 months ago — CEO Kenneth Chenault telegraphed the company’s next moves. When it comes down to payment innovation, it all comes down to one thing: Merchants want to grow sales. Does the innovation “help merchants meet customer needs?” he asked. “Do they provide incentives for changing customer behavior?”

Amex CEO Ken Chenault at Money2020 2014

Local Onliner’s 2016 Trends and Predictions Re Customer Engagement Marketing

Our friends at Belly prompted me with some trend questions for 2016 for the company’s blog. I like where they were going, and responded as such:

What three marketing trends will have the greatest impact on customer engagement?

For the past several years, we always talk about (X) year being “the year of mobile.” And there has been tremendous movement towards a mobile centric environment for consumer information and services. But 2016 will represent a tipping point for mobile as people will increasingly use their mobile devices for commerce oriented features. Ewallets, mobile coupons, QR code info and card linked loyalty will become increasingly integrated into shopping activity. In 2016, there will also be something entirely new: The ability to pay all or part of purchases with loyalty points from different programs. We’ll see how that flies with merchants who don’t want to participate in such “coalition” marketing.” I suspect it will take some time to really take off.

There will be more social-oriented marketing, less “advertising.” SMBs are taking a social centric point of view in marketing. In many cases, they are beginning with a free Facebook account rather than a Yellow Pages ad or a Google AdWords campaign. Many go on to buy advertising on Facebook, or work with other social media or traditional media. But their real focus is on mastering social marketing. They are more likely to work with a marketing service that helps them get there.

We also expect to see more easy ordering and fast delivery options. Many local merchants have never really put much thought into easy ordering and delivery, whether they are restaurants, home services or speciality retail. But in many categories, national players are increasingly offering free or cheap delivery. It will be important for local merchants to match their efforts. The cost of delivery can be offset by more impulse buys, more upsells and customer loyalty.

There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding beacon technology and its impact on the customer experience. Will this technology be exclusive to the big brands or more accessible to the small business owner in 2016?

Beacons are one way to determine who is in the store and to target users with special offers based on their browsing and purchase behavior. The technology is relatively inexpensive, but managing it and acting on it takes some resources, so SMBs are less likely to use them. The exception: SMBs that buy into loyalty and CRM programs that include beacons as part of the subscription.

How crucial are brand evangelists for a business’s success? How can a small business go about building this base of loyal customers?

Brand evangelists who help SMBs with social media and commerce are increasingly important, not only for acquiring new customers, but for engaging existing customers. Getting existing customers back in the store and buying more is mission # 1 for many SMBs.

What social media trends do you predict will influence customer engagement?

Loyalty programs that include cash back, points flexibility and special perks; Opt in Messaging from favorite merchants that feature offers.

Last year we made a list of predictions for marketing trends in 2015. Which were fulfilled and which missed the mark?

A: Individualized Messaging

Not yet. Most programs don’t really have the volume of merchants or knowledge about their customer to offer truly individualized messaging. Most messaging will continue to be targeted on the general basis of locality and gender. In 2016, we might see more messaging based around recent purchases.

B: Powerful Storytelling

Better and better. Storytelling is getting increasingly powerful, especially as more merchants add video, which remains the media channel with the highest engagement. We’ll look for more “organic” testimonials via reviews in 2016.

C: Reputation Monitoring

Continues to Grow, but shifting. Reputation monitoring via social media tracking continues to grow in importance, but is increasingly integrated with presence management (web site hosting, listings updates etc.). It is all a major part of the new marketing.

D: Trackable Customer Acquisition / Lead Attribution

Critical. Attributing the right lead to the right marketing channel is a key part of the new presence management environment. With the average SMB now using 7 or 8 channels, and also reconsidering their marketing budget, attribution should shape up as being a top priority for 2016. We also look to see attribution increasingly linked to close the loop marketing, as SMBs do a better job tracking marketing efforts to actual sales, and then re-engaging these with loyalty efforts, new offers etc.

E: Customer Retention

Critical. More SMBs are planning to engage loyalty programs in 2016; and many existing loyalty program users are upgrading them from paper-based programs. From the consumer side, however, there are a glut of loyalty programs and they don’t often use them on an ongoing basis. The challenge in 2016 is to keep consumers interested and engaged.

Sneak Peek at BIA/Kelsey NEXT Show: 6 Things I’m Watching For

“End of Big” Author Nicco Mele Keynotes BIA/Kelsey NEXT Dec. 9-10

BIA/Kelsey’s December event has been local’s flagship, and always ahead of the curve in all of local’s iterations. It has been widely imitated, but never totally duplicated! I‘ve been producing it for a long time, but this year, handed it off in midstream. I’ll be moderating some great sessions, though, and the conference team has ended up with 52 hand-picked speakers, a Tech Expo and two full days of programming. Here are some of the things I’m most excited about:

1. The New Cut on Local and Community. Local’s still at the concept stage in a lot of areas. Why think small? Two leaders from USC’s groundbreaking Annenberg School (my alma mater) will point to the new directions in separate keynotes. First up is Nicco Mele, the author of The End of Big (2013), a tour de Force on “radical connectivity.” He’s also fresh from his stint as deputy publisher at The LA Times, where his team’s efforts to seize new initiatives in local had already produced major new revenue streams. He’ll have a lot to say about what’s going to work. Leading off Day 2 is Dr. Karen North, Director of Online Communities, a dynamic presenter who is focused on Millenial applications and behavior – you’ve heard, perhaps, these kids live on the phone?

2. Keynotes from Google and Facebook: The latest in local from the two dominators and trend setters in local. Danny Bernstein at Google is set to highlight its deep linking efforts (Google Now). He is sharing the stage with Button’s Chris Maddern and Local Seo Guide’s Andrew Shotland.

3. Big Thinking about MarTech: Big Data’s impact on local cuts many ways – analytics, leads, targeting, planning, But it’s only a subsegment of the broader “MarTech” movement. Those in the know attend Scott Brinker’s annual MarTech conference in Boston. Scott, who also runs ionactive, is going to focus on local and highlight what’s important and why for us at NEXT. He’ll be joined on stage by Surefire Social’s Chris Marentis.

4. The Mobile App-Driven Marketplace. The mantra is that it isn’t really about search right now, because Mobile apps are driving the marketplace. What’s that really mean for local? One of the best analysts I know is Mark Plakias, who has been running Orange’s think tank in Silicon Valley for several years. He’ll be joined by Quick.ly’s Paul Ryan and DialogTech’s Steve Griffith. This will be quite a session.

5. Local and The Internet of Things. We’ve been pondering iOT’s impact on local — when everything is linked, from transit cards to vending machines. So has the new venture, Instersection, which is a partnership from Google Ventures and former Bloomberg head and NYC Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff. CSO Dave Etherington will provide insights on what they are up to. He’ll be joined on stage by Cisco’s Andy Noronha.

6. Close Up on The New Local Marketplaces. We’ve been saying for a long time that local marketing has gone beyond advertising. Now it’s “closing the loop” with transaction data, offer targeting and complete behavioral profiles reshaping the game. Groupon’s Dan Roarty, Microsoft’s Neal Bernstein and MOGL’s Jon Carder share their insights. Cardlinx CEO Silvio Tavares will add data and help me run this session.

Haven’t got your ticket yet? I have a *little* influence and can get you $400 off. Please use this discount code: LOCALONLINER. You may register here.

Constant Contact’s $1.1 B Sale to Endurance: Is There Synergy with Email and Hosting?

Constant Contact, the king of SMB email newsletters with 600,000 overall accounts, has been sold for $1.1 billion in cash to Endurance Holding Group, one of the largest web hosting, presence and domain companies with 4.5 million accounts and brands like HostGator and Domains.com.

The deal – which might be seen an SMB version of Salesforce’s $2.5 billion acquisition of ExactTarget in 2012– potentially represents a way to “save” Constant Contact, which is constantly under attack by marketing rivals. It also represents a way to add to Endurance’s average customer revenue, which currently runs about $10 or so a month (for hosting). CCI typically receives $20+ a month for its marketing services.

For CCI, the deal is the culmination of a multi-year effort that began with its founding in 1995; its IPO in 2007; and a more recent effort to provide comprehensive SMB marketing efforts. Indeed, its stock price fluctuations tell the story of a company that still depends on email in an age of email fatigue, spam and messaging; but remains the envy and target of every SMB marketer.

In fact, CCI has managed –with some success — to move its customers from one that is solely about email to a deeper relationship with extensions such as social media (Facebook ad management) events management, search, loyalty and other services. Via its costly, $65 million acquisition of Single Platform in 2012, it also added presence management, contact management and in some cases, larger customers.

None of the “new” services have been the home run that Constant Contact’s email services represent. But all of its efforts act on Constant Contact SVP Joel Hughes’ observation at BIA/Kelsey’s SMB event in Denver this September that “the two changes in SMB marketing are the advances in audience targeting, and the rise of native advertising.”

Can the two companies ultimately help each other? Endurance is not known as a deep integrator among the 40 companies it has acquired over the years, and its brand names don’t have high awareness outside of their customer base. In terms of brand awareness, it is no “Go Daddy.”

But its brands have deeply loyal customers like me (Local Onliner is hosted by Host Gator). Loyal and trusting customers may be more likely to buy enhanced services. It also has a reputation for low cost customer acquisition. This is a major plus, given that Constant Contact and its competitors in the SMB marketing space have a reputation for high cost customer acquisition.

For the two companies, it also seems like an easy merger. Both companies are headquartered in the Boston area, and already work together as marketing partners. Five percent of CCI’s new customers come from Endurance leads. Endurance says the combination will allow the two companies to reduce duplicated resources, saving millions of dollars a year. The current employee count is 2,500 for Endurance, and 1,400 for Constant Contact.

In our view, the CCI/Endurance combination gets it right in combining presence and marketing. Together, the two features represent the stickiest parts of the SMB marketing arena.

But the combination of Endurance and Constant Contact is going to have to fend off a lot of other players. Many of them will have a higher profile. In fact, extending the platform is the real quest for every company in the SMB space right now. Will email marketing and hosting turn out to be the right anchor for an SMB platform? Or will it be search? Or Deals and loyalty? The list goes on. In this case, timing and execution will be everything.

I like what Constant Contact co-founder and current PagePart CEO Randy Parker told me today – focus on the consolidation of this space. “It really is coming and there will be few companies acquiring the SMB,” said Parker. “The rest of us will just get ‘distributed’ through them.”

Constant Contact CEO Gail Goodman Keynoting at ILM East