When we interviewed SmallBusinessDepot.com’s Co-Founder and Publisher Don Mazzella for a Case Study in our 8/03/00 issue (see link below) we were so impressed that we wanted to know more about the company’s tactics in attracting small business traffic. So we bugged Don and here’s what we learned:
SmallBusinessDepot.com (SBDepot.com), launched this January, focuses on being a one-stop shopping place for small businesses. One of the highlights of the site is the government contracts section. Another point in the site’s favor is the daily small business news stories that are reported and written by SBDepot.com staff. This is fresh, well-written content and it really shines.
SBDepot.com has spent a lot of time really focusing on its target market. “Our marketplace is 150 employees or less,” Mazzella says. It’s easy to tell if you are talking to a small business person, Mazzella comments. “If a person refers to a company as ‘my’ company, it’s a small company. If a person refers to a company as ‘the’ company, it’s not a small company.” Mazzella gets involved personally in market research by calling new subscribers to learn where they found out about SBDepot.com.
One of the most important marketing goals has been expanding SBDepot.com’s database of names. Through pre-launch marketing efforts (see our aforementioned Case Study) SBDepot.com’s opt-in lists initially contained 180,000 names. Along with giving airline shuttle passengers free print newsletters, SBDepot.com also picked up names at non-entrepreneurial business shows and hooked up with county colleges with small business outreach programs. But the company found that to get, you sometimes had to give. For the county colleges, Mazzella says, “You have to have an active program that gives them a reason to say yes. There has to be a benefit.” To get to yes, SBDepot.com started Small Business University, providing the information to the colleges free of charge.
Since SBDepot.com launched, 40,000 names have been added to the database, Mazzella comments. The biggest source of new names has been people signing up for corporate and government services. SBDepot.com is launching a major online, direct mail and public relations campaign this month designed to grow the list even further.
Now SBDepot.com needs to “turn the database into dollars.” Mazzella points out that advertising on e-mails sent to the SBA mailing list generates a large portion of the company’s revenue. Cost to the advertisers is $150/m for the ads. All the hard work developing the lists is paying off, though. Mazzella says that advertisers are coming back three to four times to buy the lists.
The company also is working on expanding its alliances and is looking for partners from various industries including insurance, information systems, real estate and education. Most recently Kinkos agreed to be an alliance partner.
SBDepot.com is striving to succeed (the company is reinvesting every dollar into the business and expect to turn a profit by third quarter 2001) and believes it knows what it takes. Says Mazzella, “In order to be successful, you need to establish who you are, give people a reason to know your product, give people a reason to buy your product, and deliver the goods so subscribers will do a reference sell.”
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