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Will Flowtown Finally Solve the Small Business Marketing Problem?

Most small businesses have it really rough. Whether they are retail or b2b, marketing is a huge problem for them because the can’t do sponsorships, brand strategy, advertising and slick PR like the big boys. They’ve still got to get customers from somewhere, though. About five years ago, Stealthmode Partners had a consulting agreement with the City of Phoenix to help businesses affected by light rail construction. Those businesses along the construction route were typical small businesses — everything from yogurt stores to hairdressers to Chinese restaurants.

Most small businesses have it really rough. Whether they are retail or b2b, marketing is a huge problem for them because the can’t do sponsorships, brand strategy, advertising and slick PR like the big boys. They’ve still got to get customers from somewhere, though.

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About five years ago, Stealthmode Partners had a consulting agreement with the City of Phoenix to help businesses affected by light rail construction. Those businesses along the construction route were typical small businesses — everything from yogurt stores to hairdressers to Chinese restaurants. When the sidewalk in front of them was torn up and the construction signs appeared, their walk-in traffic went away and many of them suffered 40% revenue losses.

Ed and I went about showing them the glories of online marketing, showing them products like Constant Contact, Typepad, and even MySpace. We taught them how to collect business cards (some were already doing this) and make email lists, and then we taught them how to do email marketing. For most, this was like revelation. Constant Contact was a huge leap. They were amazed at how many existing customers opened, read, and acted on their emails.

Fast forward five years. While they all have email lists now, and they are sending out the same emails, fewer are being opened. The tools have changed, the analytics are much better, but small businesses can’t understand or afford the combination of SEO, social media, monitoring and tracking tools they need. Nor do they have either the time or the professional marketing team to leverage all the social media stuff that’s out there.

So Ethan Bloch, a young, energetic entrepreneur I met through another young, energetic entrepreneur (these are the ones I really love) decided to do Flowtown.

Give Flowtown an email addresses and it can tell you who a person is (name, age, gender, location, occupation) and where they hang out on the web (facebook, twitter, linkedin, myspace, flickr, amazon and more). It makes the emails more relevant, and allows them to be targeted and better performing. Or it intelligently routes the marketing effort to where the customers really are, and what services they use. It also lets the businesses follow up with their customers (potential, current, and even past) and keep in touch with everyone wherever they are. You can then build or maintain mind share through social media messaging.

Most of our small business clients now know that they should be doing online marketing differently now — they just don’t know how to do it. I’m looking forward to showing my Fasttrac programs Flowtown, because I think it will coordinate their sporadic and often ineffective efforts at both email marketing and social media marketing.

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[Disclosure: I went on the Advisory Board of Flowtown because I think this is going to solve a big problem for both the businesses and their technical assistance consultants:-) ]

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About the author

Francine Hardaway, Ph.D is a serial entrepreneur and seasoned communications strategist. She co-founded Stealthmode Partners, an accelerator and advocate for entrepreneurs in technology and health care, in 1998

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