Tag Archives: Gary Cowan

Rethinking Coupon Engagement: DataSphere Launches LocalSaver

Can coupons be reimagined to spur more consumer engagement? That’s what DataSphere is working on. The Seattle-based company sells and hosts marketing solutions to more than 20,000 SMBs under local TV and newspaper brands owned by Gannett, Belo, Raycom, Meredith and other players.

Part of its effort has been enabling and distributing free coupons for its SMB clients. As part of this effort, it has developed a network that can send coupons out to national website and mobile players such as Coupons.com, GeoQpons and CouponSuzy. It also drives traffic via organic and paid search, Facebook, Twitter, affiliate programs and mobile campaigns.

DataSphere’s latest coupon-centric effort is LocalSaver.com, a destination site that showcases coupons based on category and popularity. It also uses the coupons to anchor a rich media experience for the SMBs. Every SMB coupon on the site links to a page that includes a video, pictures and information about the business.

“Consumers who look at a coupon are more likely to play a video and consumers who play a video are more likely to look at a coupon,” says SVP Gary Cowan. ”Eventually the aggregate of all these touchpoints hopefully results in a transaction.”

Cowan notes that LocalSaver is fully integrated into the company’s coupon network, which makes it easy for SMBs to frequently add or modify as many coupons as they like (for instance, they can set their coupons on auto-renew, or set a predefined date range during which they will be valid.) The compay also provides best in class coupons for particular business categories. Over time, there will be opportunities for advertisers to gain additional exposure across the network through premium service tiers.

Cowan is a featured speaker during our Sales Force Transformation session at Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing, which takes place Sept 11-13 in Austin. You may register here.

DataSphere: ‘Online Coupons Prove Value to SMBs’

Local media companies have increasingly zeroed in on smaller SMBs for growth. In many cases, however, they don’t have the resources to go after them. Enter DataSphere, which handles telemarketing, content and search optimization for its growing list of media company partners, while harnessing the media company’s local brand in each market.

The company was launched six years ago by former Amazon execs, and primarily works with TV station groups in 103 DMAs. The station groups include Gannett, Meredith, Cowles, Raycom, Fisher, Local TV, Morgan Murphy Media — and as of this month, Belo and Sinclair. Earier this year, DataSphere also launched services for Gannett’s Arizona Republic – its first newspaper. Adding Belo and Sinclair have provided a significant boost to the size of its network to 600 million page views a month.

DataSphere works with its partners on either a revenue share basis, or it buys space to place its inventory. Either way, the media partners don’t pay upfront and appreciate pure profit.

The 500 employee company, with offices in Seattle and Arizona, currently has over 20,000 SMB accounts through its partners. Each account is worth roughly $200 each on average, although the value of each account varies widely. Typical accounts come from such categories as restaurants, insurance, financial services, veterinarian hospitals, dentists and tree trimmers.

While the focus on SMBs has remained the same for the last 4 years, the offering has significantly changed. DataSphere’s initial efforts were centered largely on LocalNet, a platform for hyperlocal news content effort driving traffic to local blogs and SMB landing pages. LocalNet enabled DataSphere’s TV station partners to provide a more neighborhood-centric perspective.

Over time, the company has continued to provide a range of hyperlocal traffic drivers, including local event calendars and SMB landing pages. But it has expanded its anchor offerings to focus on coupons, which incorporate more tangible direct response components. Coupons in particular, clearly demonstrate value to SMBs, according to SVP Gary Cowan. “Unlike a news story, the beauty of coupons is that the content is the ad,” says Cowan.

Cowan notes that coupons are easily exposed beyond local media sites to a wide network of national coupon sites that localize, which includes such giants as coupons.com. The coupons also can be shown on multiple partners in a single market. In all, the DataSphere Coupon Network now attracts 40 million unique users a month.

The company’s coupon business also differs from traditional coupon leaders, such as Cox Target Media’s ValPak. “we offer a lower priced solution, which can be a better fit for many businesses,” says Cowan.

DataSphere’s marketing outreach, meanwhile, remains focused on telemarketing. Its 300-strong telemarketing sales force is based in Seattle and its growing Arizona office, with the majority of the growth planned for Phoenix. But the company is also doing more with self-serve advertising. The company learned from its roots in real estate leads that “self-serve develops warm leads,” says Cowan. “It leads to upsells for more extensive efforts.”

DataSphere SVP Gary Cowan appears on the Coupons section of the Deals Superforum at ILM West, along with ValPak President Michael Vivio and Savings.com CEO Loren Bendele.

Datasphere: New Focus on SMB ‘Adjacencies’ like Coupons, Events

We’ve long known that coupons provide real traction for SMB advertising. Nothing beats a customer walking through the door with a coupon in hand. But a lot of SMB website publishers haven’t really focused on them.

DataSphere, on the other hand,,has had a coupons product for some time. But it only recently has really zeroed in on their potential as “an adjacent space” to normal SMB activities, along with events, notes SVP Gary Cowan.

Coupons are actually easier to pull off than daily deals because “they don’t require the level of investment from partners,” he says. “They’re accessible to a wider set of companies. And they target advertising in a similar way.”

DataSphere, which is now in 85 markets with more than 300 sales reps, has taken an approach that more closely resembles “closed loop optimization,” adds Cowan. “We’re now helping businesses provide better content, and to make better offers. We tell them what the difference is between making an offer that is 10 percent off and 30 percent off.”

While coupons don’t drive the same volume as deal publishers such as Groupon, they lead to higher profitability because they feature smaller discounts, and have no commissions. They also typically run for longer time periods than deals.

DataSphere has also been focusing on exposing the coupons across a larger network of relevant sites, including Coupons.com. “There is no reason not to publish a coupon on several sites,” says Cowan. “It all goes to help the SMB advertiser in the end, and if they see more value, they’re more likely to stick around.”

With TV station partners such as Gannett and Fisher Communications, Cowan says the focus is on leveraging DataSphere’s increasing scale to “continuously evolve and add services with clear and demonstrable value for small local advertisers.”