Nov 02, 2000
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One of the first companies to offer do-it-yourself website creation for small businesses, WebNow.com is continually reaching out to the small business community. The company has been successfully co-branding with sites like New England Business Service (NEBS) to market its website service. Carl Sperber, WebNow.com’s VP of Marketing, has been honing his marketing skills to small business for more than 10 years and has enormous insight into what works and what doesn’t. He talked to us about the company’s recent direct mail tests, which were designed to find out what message small business people responded to best.
WebNow.com sent out three direct mail campaigns starting in February. Why use direct mail instead of email? Because small biz owners don’t go online all the time, but they do open the day’s mail brought by the US Postal Service.
The package was a self-mailer that folded out. WebNow.com experimented with a couple of different sizes and various amounts of copy, but the basic message was the same for all three mailings. Copy read: “You have a free website ready and waiting for you. All you need is your phone number.” The mailers featured several pictures which showed how it easy it is to set up a website using WebNow.com.
The mailers were sent to two lists provided by NEBS and one list provided by Rapidforms, a NEBS subsidiary. At least 100,000 pieces were mailed. Upon receiving the mailer, the customer was directed to sign onto the website and then would be asked for the business phone number. When the customer entered the phone number, a roughed out version of the customer’s website appeared. Since NEBS provided the database, it was easy to put the customer’s info on the roughed out site. The customer could then further customize the site.
But WebNow.com didn’t drop the piece in the mail and cross its fingers that customers would respond. The company also made follow up phone calls to a representative sample of names, asking for reactions to the piece and finding out more about the small biz owner’s concerns. WebNow.com encourages customer feedback. Every marketing piece, as well as the company website, prominently features an 800 number for customers to use.
“Overall, we were encouraged by the results. We found that people like the word free. Websites are important things these days, so we had to say free but we had to show value.” The company was able to demonstrate value by showing potential customers the benefit of using the service. “Small businesses as a whole are just now waking up to the Internet.” You have to show small businesses that having a website is important and that “this is worth your time to do.”
NOTES: Understanding your market is key. WebNow.com has a call center that handles customer calls and that tries to understand customer concerns and needs. Small biz owners are very busy. They want to be on the Web but it’s taking them more time to get there.
The company also trying to maintain a higher profile in the marketplace since many more companies now offer website building capabilities than when the company started a year and a half ago. WebNow.com is seeking to let small biz owners know that they can get a high quality site that is easier to set up and manage than anyone else’s and they are doing that through partner marketing.
What’s the one most important thing marketers should bear in mind when marketing to small businesses? “You have to show value and benefit and respect for time.” What’s the biggest mistake marketers make? “Going over their heads with technology. Keep it simple.”