Closely Blog

Advancing Our Perch!

First of all, I’m delighted to be announcing the closing of a $3.0M expansion of our Series A investment! We’ve attracted participation by three quality venture investors who combine to give Closely the backing to really scale our Perch business!

With our SMB user base rapidly approaching 40,000, small business owners and marketers are responding very favorably to our product and continually expanding their everyday use of Perch.

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Strengthening our network!

One of the most gratifying experiences as CEO of Closely is the support we’ve gathered in our Investor group over the last couple of years.  If you haven’t browsed our list, it’s worth a look - talk about “smart money”!

Today, I’m delighted to announce that we’ve added Joe Walsh onto that list! Joe has just joined Closely as an active Strategic Board Advisor.

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Perch: Creating the SMB Marketplace Graph

The local media industry is abuzz with Facebook’s recent local search announcement, and its unique ability to exploit the knowledge in their social graph.  It feels like a good moment to go a step deeper into the product intent behind Perch, our new SMB mobile app.

Underlying Perch is a very powerful new business graph that we’ve begun to refer to as the SMB Marketplace Graph! As Perch is used, the application is capturing the network relationships between a local business and their business neighbors, their competitors and their influencers.  In doing so, we’re capturing what and who is fundamentally important to each individual business.

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Sharing Our Perch Post-Launch Buzz!

Getting a new product out into the “real world” is an exhilarating time!  On October 24th we announced the open availability of our new mobile app for small business owners and managers, Perch. It follows a heads-down dev period in Closed Beta that we previewed at Where 2.0 in San Francisco.

We wanted to share our favorite press and blog coverage of Perch, as key industry and small business press viewed, downloaded and chatted with us about the shiny new app!

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About Our New Partnership With hibu.

hibu logo

You can read the official release here.

Closely has been working for some time with the great folks at hibu, the small business mega-artist formerly known as the Yell Group.

As many know, hibu is one of the world’s largest providers of small business commerce, operating across many countries and serving the marketing needs of 1.2 million small businesses.

The exciting thing about this partnership is how synchronized our visions are about today’s shifting marketplace model and the importance of rethinking how to deliver digital marketing services.

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Crumbling Silos: Daily Deal Distribution in Transition

The distribution of Daily Deal offers to consumers has grown up through opt-in email lists. While social sharing plays a supporting role, the mainstream model is pretty simple and self-contained, and drives a healthy spend on display advertising to feed email list growth.

Today, GroupOn’s strategic advantage centers on the scale to which it creates an audience for an offer. They have amassed an email list hovering at 40 million consumers, whose attention is tuned exclusively to review and acting on “advertising”. This is indeed a commerce gem.

However, I expect we’ll look back on 2011 as the year that distribution of offers started to become more dynamic and dispersed. A major shift will happen as the industry expands and refines itself.  The world of Daily Deals will increasingly connect into the existing search, discovery and promotion ecosystems.

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Refining the GroupOn Blunt Instrument

A few weeks ago, we presented a keynote presentation in London at the Local Social Summit, entitled “Refining the GroupOn Blunt Instrument”. You can browse it below.

While that title may sound a tad negative, it’s not at all! The focus of our talk was to expose the challenges that current generation Daily Deals impose on small businesses, and address them head on.  The point was to share our views on the key shifts that will deliver greater impact over time.

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Tags and Live Marketing: Search Integration Linchpin

It was interesting to read TechCrunch’s breaking discovery of the new YP industry initiative by Yext, which it characterizes as the local media competitors to Google organizing an “Anti-Google Alliance” product, a description repeated by the WSJ.  TC describes Yext Tags as a product that will “let small businesses highlight their names with a little tag and customizable message across about a dozen local listings sites”.

Yext Product Image

Greg Sterling also weighs in, more fully capturing the ad network model of Yext Tags. It was no small feat to pull off a distribution network with reach estimated to easily top 100 million unique visitors via the industry’s top local search websites.  Google’s claim of a 2X ROI on Search Marketing spend with its Tags product certainly reinforces the potential for Tags to improve the return on SEM spend.

The pricing for this new product is $99/month/SMB, to be sold directly and via channel partners.  This still contrasts as more expensive and unproven vs. the Google Tags penetration priced product. As a new unproven product the Yext Tag price point and trial terms seem like a tough sell, but of course that can readily change.

Looking at Tags More Closely

Tags represent one element of Closely’s media distribution products, making this an opportune time to share our viewpoint on how we see Tags fitting into the Social, Deal and Search ecosystems.

To us, Tags represent a brand new product category and model still very much in early formation. We think it can be one of the key linchpins connecting social, mobile and search through live publishing.

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Price Incentive Marketing: Finding the Right Time & Place

Criticism over Daily Deals often centers on the brand damage that can result from a widely advertised deep discount promotion.  Indeed, in the most recent survey, 59% of small businesses have not and will not do a Daily Deal.  There’s a clear strain between Daily Deal’s incredible pull with no risk lead generation and the risk to margins and brand image of discount promotion.

A critical underlying question is:

Are there situations in which a discount price does not harm the business’ ability to “return to list price”, because the consumer perceives that the situation surrounding the discount is rational and unique/temporary?

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Behind the Scenes of Social Select: Selective Social Commerce

We’re very excited to introduce you to Social Select.  Our new product tackles some of the core problems with daily deals and social marketing – it’s also the culmination of months of development on our Live Marketing platform, driven by several iterations with businesses and agency partners.

To learn more about the service, please go here.

I want to highlight a few key “behind the scenes” things that may not be obvious on the surface of a deceptively simple new product concept.  Social Select is created with four key building blocks.

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Up Next: Putting More VVRoom Into Your Deals!

VVRoom, VVRoom… okay, what we’re talkin’ about here is “Variable Value”, and how we aim to help you create more “room” to take maximum advantage of Daily Deals.

The concept is simple, and it’s part of our theme of refining this blunt instrument called Daily Deals, to make real-time social commerce a killer power tool for everyday marketing.

One Small Step for Yield Management

We’ve been developing this for some time, because we want the concept to have maximum flexibility.  One simple example is to offer a single Daily Deal that provides multiple values based on the day of the week.  So a business can offer a deal that is $75 for $120 but has a “bonus value” that makes it worth $150 if used on Tuesdays. The benefit is obvious, it tips the consumer behavior towards desired redemption patterns – to get the most ROI from the deal.

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Sharing Our Where 2.0 Presentation

We gave a talk yesterday (copied below) at Where 2.0, one of our favorite events every year.  It’s the O’Reilly gathering of the smartest geeks and business visionaries of the location technology world.

Our topic was “Adapting Daily Deals to Live LBS.” In some respects this title felt a little backwards, in other ways it’s a perfect reflection of the industry momentum.  We began Closely grounded in the vision that live media is the killer foundation for advancing social marketing.  The combo strikes at the heart of our mission to empower businesses to stimulate demand when and where they need it the most.  Along the way, the incredible bursting success of Daily Deals has upstaged the LBS industry with revenue momentum and value growth – perfectly reinforced two days ago by GroupOn’s acquisition of one of pioneering LBS tech players, Pelago.

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Bringing the Best Customer Forward

At the BIA Kelsey Group’s Deals 3D conference, we are previewing a key new component of our Social Commerce platform, centered on converting commerce transaction activities into simple and powerful social promotion programs.

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The Right Time for Everyday Deals

At Where 2.0 this year, we previewed a product concept that we obscurely labeled a “variable value deal”.  The concept was – and is – powerful.

We created an evolved Deal model, in which you set different values within one deal based on the preferred demand patterns of an individual business.  Our imaginations soared.  You could make it a sophisticated match between the times, days and seasons in which you really need new business activity – a true instrument of yield management. We have even designed a “live push” component, so that a business could reach out to customers and further entice them with instant additional incentive.

As things go with small businesses, simplicity trumps flexible but complex options, and new concepts demand a walk-before-you-run entry point. Our user research and design iterations have led us to simplify all this into one very understandable product feature, which we’re launching today.

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Fighting for a Place in Your Customer’s Wallet

We’ve begun to refer to one of our key product development themes at Closely as “Wallet Bias”.  It captures an increasingly important new promotion marketing concept.

Return shopping behavior is undergoing a sea change, as consumers begin to modify their shopping decision making. They are being conditioned to “check for promotions” before deciding on a particular product/service purchase.  Indeed, a consumer today can jump from Spa to Spa, from Restaurant to Restaurant, or from Cleaning Service to Cleaning Service, living off the growing inventory of Deals being continually published.

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Making Prepaid Deals Work in Small Town America

Little Market, Big Deal

Meet Pineapple Day Spa, an award winning spa located in Pine Bush, New York, a town of about 1,600 residents a ninety minute drive from the Big Apple. Pineapple Day Spa offers a range of services and products for wellness, beauty, and relaxation by a team of more than 15 highly trained stylists and therapists.

While the spa is located miles from the media centers of Manhattan, Pineapple Day Spa’s digital marketing presence is on par with the biggest and best salons in the country thanks to the innovative marketing services provided by its marketing agency, the gooroo group.

Pineapple Day Spa’s beautifully designed website offers booking functionality and allows customers to purchase gift certificates directly from the site. In the social media world, the spa now engages new and existing customers through an expanding network on both Facebook and Twitter, and an email list reaches subscribers with strategic updates and offers.

Economic Uncertainty

In 2011, as pre-purchased Deals were embraced by consumers across the country, Pineapple Day Spa saw potential for growing its own business. Like many smaller communities, the economic environment in Pine Bush has led to belt-tightening and reduced spending on percieved luxury items, including spa services. Allowing customers to pre-purchase services at a discount would help new customers overcome the perception of unafforability and allow them to experience the services worth coming back for — a proposition the spa found promising.

However, the major daily deal sites were not operating in smaller markets like Pine Bush, and providing deep discounts to NYC customers unlikely to make the long trip for a return visit at regular price was simply not an option for gooroo group’s strategy of creating long-term, loyal customers. Pineapple Day Spa and gooroo group needed to find an alternative to the big daily deal sites.

Discovering Closely

When gooroo group’s founder learned about Closely’s promotion application for small businesses in the fall of 2011, he was excited about the possibilities. In contrast to the blunt, broad-market options of major daily deal sites, Closely would allow the spa to run deals any time, set their own terms, and distribute the deal to the spa’s email list, social following and other locally targeted channels. The platform would serve as a tool to enhance gooroo group’s strategic marketing approach, not a one-size-fits-all distraction from the spa’s core customer base.

While the possiblities were appealing, the agency’s research showed that customers in more rural markets were far less likely to have purchased a daily deal than those in deal-saturated urban areas. Armed with this knowledge, they approached a new campaign with cautious optimism, developing a plan for a relatively conservative deal with a short duration and redemption time. Unlike the major daily deal sites, the Closely platform would allow this initial test and empower the agency to repeat or modify the approach as needed on a real-time basis.

The Deal

  • The Offer: Buy the deal for $49, and get $70 worth towards any spa or salon treatment
  • Discount: 30%
  • Duration: 11/18/11 to 11/27/11 (redemption extended until 12/15/11)

Distribution

  • Email: The gooroo group created an email marketing campaign to promote the redesigned website, including an extra incentive highlighting the Closely deal.

  • Facebook: gooroo group shared the deal to the spa’s Facebook page, promoting sales and engagement from Pineapple Day Spa fans.

  • Twitter: The deal was posted automatically via the Closely application on a repeating schedule carefully selected by gooroo group.

  • Website: The Closely widget was easily embedded on the Special Offers of the spa’s site to capture site visitors looking for the most up-to-date offer information.

Results

The Pineapple Day Spa and gooroo group could not have been more pleased with the results when they reached their goal of 15 deals sold in 9 days.  Results and return on investment were easy to track using the Closely analytics dashboard.

Some highlights:

  • 5% of customer who viewed the deal page bought the deal.
  • 79% of views came from the email marketing campaign or web site
  • 16.5% of views came from the social networks
  • 4.5% came from search engines, thanks to an increased SEO footprint
  • Immediate revenue generated: $735 (with 90% going to the gooroo group and the Pineapple Day Spa directly!)

The Pineapple Day Spa was very encouraged by the positive response from its customers – old and new – and has adopted the Closely application to run regular deals tailored to the unique needs of the business and its customers. The customer response has been 100% positive, with clients thanking the business for offering deals that make it affordable to pamper themselves in tough economic times.

Meanwhile, gooroo group was able to demonstrate that the pre-purchase deal model is not just for large, metropolitan markets.

A savvy marketing agency with a real connection to the business they serve, combined with the flexibility provided by the Closely platform, can transform the online marketing possibilites for small businesses in local markets.

More Info

More more information about how Closely can help you grow your business, contact info@closely.com

The gooroo group can be reached as follows:

Ryan DeJong, Founder
gooroo group
646.580.9717
info@gooroogroup.com
www.gooroogroup.com

New Year, New Features

2011 was a busy year for the Closely product team, and we’ve had a chance to take feedback from our early partners and transform it into useful new features and improvements to the application.

Here are some highlights we’ve introduced to make Closely even better in 2012:

Agency Support

  • Multiple Businesses: Create and manage profiles and campaigns for multiple client Businesses from a single Closely account.
  • Multiple Team Members: Account Admins now have the ability to create Agent users to manage business profiles and promotions, allowing agency teams or partners to collaborate on client campaigns.

Enhanced Options for Businesses:

  • Online-Only Business: E-commerce merchants or those without a storefront location may now upload discount codes for deal vouchers to be redeemed online.
  • Bonus Days and Times: Deals can be optimized to stimulate business when you need it most by adding bonus values for redemption on particular days of the week or hours of the day.

Campaign Management:

  • Improved Interface: Creating and managing campaigns is even easier with new tabbed organization for different promotion types.
  • Post Scheduling and Repeating: Promotions can can now be distributed to Facebook and/or Twitter on repeating schedule to reach customers throughout the duration of the campaign. Successful campaigns can be easily revived from the Closely dashboard.
  • Enhanced Analytics: Easily track and improve your campaigns with access to detailed statistics including total purchased, total viewed and sources of clicks.

Consumer Accounts:

  • Consumer Account: Customers who purchase a Deal can log in from their own account to review and print their purchased voucher at any time.
  • Improved Customer Voucher: Vouchers are easily printed as a PDF with a Google map to help them find the local business.
  • Google+ Sharing: All Deal and Offer pages can be now shared by consumers with a click on the G+ button, joining Facebook, Twitter and Email in Closely’s social distribution.

Rethinking Promotion Distribution: Guest Column on Street Fight

When we recently participated in a panel at the inaugural Street Fight Summit, major media players looked on for insight into how best to respond to converging pressure in the market. One on side, we are seeing a shift in the way consumers are accessing local information. On the other side, there is a shift in how businesses reach consumers. Local media channels are increasingly excluded from the process.

Closely proposes a model where media channels remain relevant when the small business needs the extra local distribution. Closely founder and CEO Perry Evans explored the big picture for small business in this new distribution environment in a guest column for Street Fight Mag.

Promotional commerce between small businesses and local consumers is undergoing a massive reconstruction. In the process, media channels are being forced to proactively adapt or wither into irrelevance.

In the old world, a business relied on a small number of trusted local media channels to package and deliver their promotions to local consumers, and spent what they could justify to convert these offers into visits and appointments. Media channels no longer enjoy the spoils of having critical mass in consumer reach and limited competition…

Read more at Street Fight Mag

Making Closely Even More Live-ly!

I’m very pleased to introduce the latest addition to the team at Closely!  Andrei Taraschuk joins the team, bringing a treasure trove of knowledge from the worlds of geo-web and, in particular, the visual presentation of real-time data from social and local data streams. I’ve been a personal fan of his work for years (see a couple of examples here)!

What’s this got to do with promotion management, you might ask?  I’d jump to answer, EVERYTHING!

We began Closely on the foundation that promotions should be deployed as a real-time tool to stimulate demand when the business needs it the most.  So, live promotional content is foundational around here.

We’re bringing Andrei on board at the perfect time – just as we gear up to launch v1 of our mobile application for merchants (stay tuned!), and as we commence design of our next generation “everyday dashboard” that connects our Promotion Management Dashboard with live marketplace context.


It’s going to be a fun ride, and we’re delighted to be cranking up the @Closely collective intellect with the addition of Andrei!

Rethinking Small Business Engagement

One of the truisms in local media is that consumers are spending more and more of their search, shopping and social activity via their smartphone. As these tools are geo-aware by default, the opportunity to connect these consumers to local businesses finally gets very tangible and lucrative.

Hundreds of millions of consumers spend their time on utility apps in mobile maps, localized search and shopping tools, on specialized social local apps, while waves of new local shopping apps call for their attention: witness Groupon Now, ScoutMob, Yipit, SCVNGR. Mobile wallets are about to increase the noise even further – essentially creating another new localized marketing channel disguised as a convenient payment tool.

But where is the merchant amid all this noise and excitement?

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Launching Perch at Where 2.0 (Video)

This week we launched Perch, our new mobile product for small business users, at O’Reilly Media’s Where 2.0 Conference.

“There’s an awful lot of attention going on around the consumer, while virtually leaving the small business owner out. We’re powering the other side of that equation.”

Announcing Our New Partnership With Entertainment Promotions

We’re pleased to announce that Closely has teamed up with Entertainment Promotions, a leader in the local promotion space for over 50 years. This announcement demonstrates scaled deployment for our platform with one of the world’s largest and most established merchant and consumer networks!

While most people are familiar with the popular Entertainment Coupon Book®, the company has turned its attention to expanding its reach into the online space via a suite of web, email and mobile products. Under this partnership, Closely empowers Entertainment Promotions to expand distribution to a growing array of online and mobile destinations by aggregating, organizing and managing the promotion distribution.

Many technology companies have been working to develop new ways to help small businesses reach customers who increasingly receive their local information digitally, but merchants have been slow to work with unproven partners. With Closely as its technology partner, Entertainment Promotions accelerates its mission to expand customer acquisition and loyalty marketing for its 70,000 local merchants, building on their trusted relationships with busy small business owners.

It’s Time for Campaign Reform

At Closely, we’ve been refining channel product models that enable digital marketing channels to better capture the opportunity from the convergence that is emerging between LBS, Daily Deals and Mobile Commerce.

It has become crystal clear that traditional media approaches have to significantly shift to deliver on the opportunity. Our experience has led us, through multiple iterations across several channel types, to a sales and delivery model that is really starting to hit stride.  For lack of a better term, we’ve begun using the label “Promotions-As-A-Service” to describe this packaging, building off the familiar SAAS paradigm.

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News: Closely Partners With hibu To Bring Everyday Digital Marketing Tools To Small Business Customers

DENVER, CO – Sept 17, 2012 – Closely, a Colorado-based technology company dedicated to helping small businesses succeed with everyday social and mobile marketing, has entered into a partnership agreement with hibu to offer innovative digital promotion tools to hibu’s small business customer base in the US.

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