Constant Contact MarketPlace Helps SMBs Find Help

Wednesday Jun 16th 2010 by Stuart J. Johnston
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If you're a leader in email marketing for small businesses and want to increase loyalty and brand awareness, what do you do? If you're Constant Contact, you build an online marketplace.

Many small business owners have known about, and dealt with, email marketing firm Constant Contact for years.

After all, the Constant Contact (NASDAQ: CTCT) launched its first product in 1998. Today, in addition to email marketing, it offers event marketing and social networking marketing, as well as online survey and Internet marketing tools.

Tuesday, the company launched Constant Contact MarketPlace, a free online service designed to help small companies find products and services to help them build their businesses.

"Small organizations have different needs than larger ones," Steve Johnson, Constant Contact's vice president of channel partners, told Small Business Computing. "MarketPlace provides a central online directory of [businesses selling] services to help small companies better run their businesses," Johnson said.

Beyond Small Business Marketing

According to Johnson, Constant Contact MarketPlace is a natural outgrowth of the company's core business of helping small businesses do effective, inexpensive email marketing.

The company, from its own calculations, figures that about 70 percent of small businesses and non-profit organizations have between one and nine employees. That's a market that many larger companies, like Salesforce, Intuit and Google, often overlook.

However, it's a potentially lucrative market. Johnson said that the market opportunity among small businesses is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $10 billion.

By focusing on that group, in fact, Constant Contact's business has done pretty well. The firm currently has about 350,000 customers and 600 employees. Its 2009 revenues were $129 million.

However, the purpose of MarketPlace is not to be a money maker -- but rather to make the Constant Contact brand more visible, while at the same time building loyalty by helping customers find and vet vendors they're considering hiring to help them develop and execute effective marketing strategies.

"We're taking an ecosystem perspective [with MarketPlace]," Johnson added.

The talent pool that conceivably can market to that demographic is sizable. Some 6,200 companies have signed on as Constant Contact Partner Program members, Johnson said.

For partners, the idea is to provide a channel through which they can market their products and services. The company also developed an applications programming interface, or API, called AppConnect, that enables software developers to integrate their applications with Constant Contact's.

The sheer size of Constant Contact's customer base underscores the attraction for partners.

Doing Good to Do Well

"Constant Contact is already helping a lot of small businesses do a better job of marketing and customer relationship management," Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research for analysis firm Nucleus Research, told Small Business Computing.

"I see this [MarketPlace] as an extension of that. It creates a 'stickier' relationship with their customers and they [Constant Contact] become even more of a trusted partner," Wettemann added.

Juliet Okafor, an online marketing specialist at Llewellyn Realtors, beta tested MarketPlace, and she agrees.

"It was very quick," Okafor told Small Business Computing. "They provided three options, and one responded within an hour."

Johnson said he sees four audiences for MarketPlace -- small businesses, solution providers, independent software vendors and independent developers.

Searching for Help

Small business users can search the MarketPlace using criteria such as business need, service type, industry, geography (including searching by postal code or distance) and by keywords. Additionally, potential customers can choose among applications and services categories.

For instance, under applications, categories range from analytics, blogging and content management, to contact management, to mobile device apps, social media and website design. The same is true for services listings, which start with branding and corporate identity categories, and include graphic design services, search engine optimization (SEO), and website design, among many others.

For each listing, you see the vendor's name, logo and a very brief description of its products or services on one side of the screen and the vendor's "type" -- i.e., solution provider, application, etc. -- as well as cost, on the other side.

The MarketPlace also provides categories for marketing tools and services for associations, chambers of commerce and faith-based organizations, as well as franchises, non-profits, and general business. (Some categories have more listings than others.)

"The Constant Contact MarketPlace offers our growing network of developers, ISVs, and solution providers a place to promote their integrated applications to a wide audience of small businesses," Johnson added.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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