Last week IAC-owned HomeAdvisor acquired a majority stake in a company called Mhelpdesk. The latter is described as “a cloud-based workflow application that helps small to medium-sized field service businesses streamline their operations.”
HomeAdvisor is the rebranded ServiceMagic, a lead-gen marketplace for home services professionals.
The Mhelpdesk product is a CRM tool that helps SMBs with field-service professionals or technicians better monitor and manage their operations. The software includes “scheduling, work orders, job tracking and invoicing.” The companies said that the software will be part of a HomeAdvisor “membership package” starting in January 2015.
What’s very interesting about this is that it plays into a larger trend: providing SMB services rather than pure marketing solutions. In a forthcoming report for the Local Search Association on the future of local media sales (co-written with Neal Polachek), I discuss the central problem of too-many “one stop” SMB marketing packages that are undifferentiated.
This is not that.
By offering this “vertical” field-service management software HomeAdvisor is gaining an operational foothold at the center of the business. Existing HomeAdvisor clients/members that adopt this will be more likely to continue working with HomeAdvisor for marketing and lead-gen. And a new group of prospects will be attracted to HomeAdvisor via Mhelpdesk.
Accordingly it helps with acquisition and retention. It’s much hard to displace a company that offers a key operational tool or service that is used in the daily management of the business. That’s a much different proposition than a vendor who offers to deliver SEO, SEM or even reputation management.
Scheduling, broader CRM and payment processing are parallel services that similarly qualify under this analysis. These operational tools become differentiators for the providers that offer them. They can also support and supplement a package of pure marketing solutions.
SMB sales channels that hope to thrive and retain customers over the long term will seriously consider moving into these operational services as a complement to what they’re already doing. But you can’t offer the “bad version” however.