Last Friday the NY Times published something of a “how-to” guide for small businesses on LBS services: Foursquare, Twitter, SCVNGR, Gowalla, etc. But the article itself unwittingly perhaps illustrates and recapitulates the complexity of the mobile or LBS market for SMBs. Asking SMBs to address multiple sites and LBS platforms is a microcosm of the larger and increasingly complex digital marketing world they face.
In general marketing is getting more challenging, not easier, for small businesses. This is why almost every traditional media company is presenting itself as a “one stop shop” or agency for SMBs. Recall the description that SuperMedia used in its latest press release: “the full service digital ad agency for America’s local small-to medium-sized businesses.”
Depending on whose numbers you believe, only 4% or 11% of consumer-users have ever “checked-in” using one of the main LBS services. Regardless of the figure it’s a minority use case at the moment. These services, however, have outsized mindshare among people who read this blog and others. This is not to argue that they can’t be effective marketing tools in many circumstances.
A better way to position these platforms to SMBs, however, is not as “geo-location” or “LBS” services but as loyalty or CRM tools, akin to email marketing — something that’s more accessible to SMBs. And the most successful of these will ultimately be cross-platform and not just mobile.
One service that’s not a household name (even among the tech-savvy) but has a good shot at broad adoption is Fanminder. I’ve talked to co-founder Paul Rosenfeld a number of times and am finally getting around to write about the company.
Rosenfeld was with Intuit and American Express and understands the challenges SMBs face from a long history at these prior employers.
Fanminder sees itself not as “mobile marketing” per se but as a simple CRM tool for small businesses to communicate with customers. Fanminder promotes the idea that SMBs can reach their customers/fans anywhere they may be: online or on the go. This is the ultimately the right message. SMBs understand that mobile is increasingly important and they know their customers are all over the place. But they don’t know “how” to capitalize on this phenomenon.
Fanminder’s emphasis is on simplicity and ubiquity. The pitch is “create an offer in 60 seconds,” which can be pushed to Facebook, SMS and spread by third parties as well. There are simple analytics that help SMBs understand when offers are redeemed in store and how much revenue has been generated by the offer.
Fanminder updates (offers) on Facebook generate a hosted offer page that ties back to SMS for verification and redemption purposes.
Pricing is also simple. The system itself is holistically and well thought through. I was impressed. The two major “issues” I challenged Rosenfeld on were 1) SMB interest in mobile marketing and 2) SMB acquisition.
Even though most SMBs are aware of the growth of mobile it’s lower on the priority list than other marketing channels. However Fanminder isn’t being positioned as “mobile marketing” as I indicated above. It’s simply sold as an easy way to communicate with customers across platforms. On the second point, which has tripped up so many in the past, Rosenfeld already has partners and resellers as well as a growing list of direct SMB customers. He’s actively working to develop and expand the reseller channel as well.