FreshLime CEO Talks Data-Powered Marketing for Local Businesses

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These days, there are more ways for local services to connect with their customers than ever before, according to FreshLime, but the trick is making customer data work for small businesses within their often tight budgets.

The automated marking and engagement platform developed by FreshLime helps local businesses leverage customer info and data in order to send out targeted texts, emails, and other messages. The goal is to retain current customers and encourage lapsed customers to return.

FreshLime was a winner at Street Fight’s 2015 Local Visionary Awards for best use of data in campaign targeting. Founder and CEO Jay Bean recently reconnected with us to discuss ways small, local, service-oriented businesses can use automation to see better returns on campaigns—even with limited resources.

What does FreshLime bring to the table compared with other platforms and solutions?

The data piece is really what sets us apart from others in the market. There’s a lot of companies focused on helping small businesses get new leads, interact with their customers, and get reviews. What we started to build from the ground up little over three years ago was centered on data and data connectivity.

If you think about HubSpot for small business, those platforms are great but have someone who is running it. Someone is making sure the data is getting in there. Someone is doing the segmentation, writing the copy. But if you think about the vast majority of local service businesses, they don’t necessarily have the resources to pull those things together. So we’ve automated that, going into key verticals like in-home services, automotive, and pest control.

We’re not only going in and connecting their customers; we’re also taking all their key marketing data, their email marketing, their Web marketing, social marketing—all those pieces pulled together. We are able to extract insight out of it that normally a person or a team would [only be able to] do if they were working for a larger company. We do all off that, automated for small business. We’re able to use that data to help them not only get more customers but to really interact with past customers and make sure they are coming back more often.

How does that affect the bottom line for local businesses?

If I looked at a plumber in North America who spent $300 on Google AdWords, they’d probably make $700­–$900 in revenue. On our platform, that same $300 could bring them $15,000 to $20,000 in revenue.

The essence of the platform is driving activity and interactions with their customers in a very seamless way.

How have you spread FreshLime’s reach?

We have chosen to go to market a little differently. In my past company, OrangeSoda, we used mostly partners. We partnered with American Express, Intuit, and all the big yellow pages and newspaper companies. When someone is thinking about building a small business platform and they want distribution, [they] typically get a deal with DexYP or Gannett. They think that is the best way to reach small businesses.

While we do work with a couple of yellow page providers, we find that their relationships with their customers [are] a little strained today. We also see them selling software products versus an advertising product, which is difficult for their sales staff.

We’ve chosen to primarily partner with nontraditional resellers, where they have a relationship with small business customers but they are not necessarily selling advertising solutions to them. In the oil change space for example, there’s a dozen or so platforms that small businesses are using. When they take your car’s license plate number, we have integrations at that level. When customers drive out of the garage, the transaction data is pushed over to our system. We’re going to look to see if the vehicle has been there before. If so, we attribute that visit to your record and then look at the lifetime value, how often you are coming in, the miles between visits, and other services you’re buying.

What have been the results of collaborating with your partners?

We have a number of partners and companies that want to sell more barrels of oil. They have thousands of dealers that use their oil and find that we could increase their revenue per store by five to eight percent. That is significant for an oil change place that is doing 600 or 700 cars per month, and $60,000 or $70,000 in revenue. Just that additional piece is significant to them and the oil producer can sell more oil. We’re looking for nontraditional partners like that.

We have other partners in other spaces where they touch small businesses, such as with payroll services or other supplies. Those are the types of partnerships we are getting into. We’re able to use their salespeople and marketing to introduce our product set to businesses. What is really profitable for us is putting local salespeople in-market through them.

When you look at ReachLocal and others who want national salesforces, they had to build local infrastructure in every town they went into. They had to have offices, management, hire a bunch of salespeople who had to compete with the yellow page, newspaper companies trying to get the attention of local business owners. We’re going into those local markets, but we are not building offices or hiring local management. We’re going in with the infrastructure of our partners that already exists. Our leads are hot leads coming from our partners’ efforts from their salespeople selling their other products.

What comes next for FreshLime?

If we look at what’s happening in the enterprise and retail spaces, AI is driving a lot of user interaction between enterprise businesses, retail businesses, and their consumers. We believe the local space and small business services space are really behind in that sense.

Now, the big thing is connectivity. Small businesses are adopting cloud-based software at increased rates, like never before. By connecting to data, it gives us an advantage. I go out and engage a plumber’s customers, and we’re talking to a segment of customers who have not used them in over two years—we can warm them up. Now there’s just 12 days between my last interaction with them and that customer coming back. I know that’s all attributable to me.

We could also take someone’s Google AdWords campaign, the call tracking number the customer interacts with, and tie it all back. We can give full attribution on other campaigns they are running. That includes postcard and mail campaigns. The attribution piece for the offline world is now possible because of the data we have.

Joao-Pierre Ruth is a staff writer at Street Fight.