Major companies have started to turn their gaze to the small business market, looking to cash in on a segment that has long eluded some of technology ‘s biggest players. During Interactive Local Media in San Francisco Wednesday, two Web 1.0 giants — Intuit and Yahoo — laid out their strategies to position themselves as the go-to source for small business software.
When Marissa Meyer took the helm at Yahoo last year, many thought that the Google Maps-veteran would revitalize in the company’s fledgling consumer-facing local tech — possibly by acquiring the troubled check-in pioneer Foursquare. But during her first earnings call as chief executive, Meyer put the speculation to rest, telling investors that local was “probably not an area where we’re going to invest heavily moving forward.”
However, the resurgent search giant hasn’t left the local market altogether. During a presentation Wednesday, Amit Kumar, VP & Head of Yahoo Small Business, outlined the company’s emerging small business strategy, which aims to position Yahoo at the center of the exploding small business software ecosystem.
Initially, the company plans to use its local listings editing and syndication product as a hook to up-sell small businesses on other marketing services. But eventually, Kumar says, Yahoo plans to launch a dashboard through which small business owners can find, buy, and operate marketing and operations software. It appears to be an extension of the Yahoo Marketing Dashboard, which the company launched under ousted-CEO Scott Thompson last year.
“If you look at the acquisitions we’ve done, what we’ve been really interested in is the platform, and the technology allows us to create a better ecosystem of partners,” said Kumar. “What we’re trying to do is figure out for each small business what is it that serves their needs best at this point of time and connect them with those services.”
The product will function as an App Store of sorts, where businesses could buy a range of software, from a Google AdWords or mobile advertising app to scheduling services or software. Businesses would keep their credit card information on file, and Yahoo would then manage the payment and billing process through the platform.
The big question for Yahoo is how the ecosystem would enable applications to share data with one another — something that has become a big selling point for the more closed software bundles being pursued by companies like Square and Intuit. Kumar hinted that eventually Yahoo would provide central storage system for the disparate bits of data generated from a businesses scheduling, marketing, and lead generation services.
While Yahoo looks to position itself as a platform, Intuit is investing heavily in a single product. Beginning with the acquisition of DemandForce in 2011, the company has quietly bought a up a number of small business marketing and operations startups to build out a full suite of marketing and operations technologies around its core QuickBooks product.
Speaking to an audience Wednesday, Patrick Barry, the company’s chief marketing officer said Intuit planned to continue to integrate its existing back-office assets with existing and new front office features. Barry said that the company would continue to expand its marketing software capabilities through internal developments and more acquisitions.
“The whole idea is that marketing is something that you can build on your back-office functions, and it’s something you can automate,”said Barry. “A big part of the strategy is to connect those small businesses’ back-office data to the front of the funnel, which is represented by all of the consumer networks. It’s been a big part of DemandForce’s strategy; and it will become a large part of Intuit’s strategy moving forward.”
The company is in the process of testing an integration of its marketing products with the new version of Quickbooks, which it released earlier this month. Barry showed a mockup of a potential version, in which marketing joined accounting and transactions as a separate tab in QuickBooks.
Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.
Related Street Fight Content: “How Back-Office Innovation is Transforming Local Marketing”