Enterprises in various industries engage with networks of small businesses as distributors, suppliers, or customers. In general, independent small businesses have limited expertise and capability in sales/marketing. According to Google, 50% of these businesses do not have websites and 90% of them do not have websites optimized for mobile platforms. This is all in the context of 90% of consumers going to the internet as their primary method for research and increasingly doing so on mobile platforms. The situation is so extreme that Google has announced that it will penalize non-mobile optimized websites in their search ranking [mobilegeddon].
In this article, we will show that by meaningfully engaging with their network on the topic of online infrastructure, large brands can create a keiretsu effect which can amplify their brand, drive incremental sales, and strengthen their network.
Network Marketing for Distributors:
Enterprises such as insurance companies, financial services providers, or payment processors use large networks of independent agents for their sales/distribution. The impact of the internet is material because in terms of sales the agency channel is increasingly becoming non-competitive. Further, the efforts of these small businesses to engage on the internet often lead to situations where the major brand is not represented well. Thus, the “find nearest agent” functionality from the main brand site is actually leading customers in a negative direction. What is the solution ? Large Brands need to arm their network with more than some marketing literature and a physical sign. They need to get intimately involved to enable the online lives of their network. How ?
Imagine the following solution:
- Brand builds online portals for their network with two options:
Solution has the following characteristics:
- whole agency website with brand portal
- brand portal in the context of existing agency website
- agency controls updates and local marketing
- brand broadcasts content to the brand portal within website
- solution represents state-of-art (mobile, search, crm, analytics, etc)
- high level analytical information shared with brand
With this solution, the brand has the following advantages:
- Radically Improved Agency Effectiveness with Consumers
- Control of the Brand within Agency Website
- New Advertising Vehicle..the Agency website acts as a digital billboard
- Local Analytics integrated into enterprise analytics for advertising optimization
- “find an agent” functionality connected to brand portal
For the Agent, there are also significant advantages:
- world-class online infrastructure to make them visible to customers
- brand support for content updates (thus helping in SEO)
- analytics, crm, and data mining for marketing optimization at the brand and agency level
Overall, enabling the agent with online infrastructure allows brands to crowdsource marketing energy from their network, control the messaging of their brand, enable their network to differentially compete in the marketplace and accelerate sales. It also sets the technology underpinning for the next generation of network marketing.
Network Marketing for Suppliers:
Leveraging the network is not limited to situations around sales/distribution. There are enterprises which use large network of independent suppliers to deliver services in situations ranging from emergency service (AAA) to home installation (Lowes). For brands using the network as suppliers, the network also offers an invaluable opportunity to grow their brand, build incremental sales channel, and strengthen their network.
Consider the situation for brands such as AAA. Imagine they armed their network with online website resources which included AAA branding and dispatch capabilities. With this change, AAA would gain access to the 900K searches happening for local tow-truck services (65% on mobile devices). This is the traffic from non-AAA members. What an opportunity to move customers to AAA. In addition, AAA could offer centralized dispatch, billing, and financial rollup services to their network for a small fee.
For the network member, AAA has simplified their life and provided an additional source of income. For AAA, the network is stronger, and they have a path to convert end consumer to their club in a potentially self-service model. It also sets the technology underpinning for the next generation of network marketing.
Network Marketing for Customer Members:
Consider brands which sell primarily to businesses and drive member programs such as Target, Home Depot, or Staples. For these brands, building a more intimate relationship with their customers is critical to their success. Today, the major point-of-engagement is when the customer walks into the retail store. However, consider the situation:
- Brand offers customers a state-of-art online solution as a part of member services.
- As a part of this solution, brand integrates customer services (70% SMBs provide services) into the main brand website. The referrals create another opportunity for monetization.
With this situation, brands can build a much more valuable relationship with the SMB customers. This is a relationship where the brand can reach the customer well before they walk into the store. It also sets the technology underpinning for the next generation of network marketing.
The technology underpinning for such a solution has some interesting characteristics. From the point-of-view of the network players, the solution must primarily serve their needs in terms of capability and control. Thus, large enterprise solutions with templated structures have typically not worked well. The traditional SMB website solutions (wix, wordpress, etc) also do not work in this situation due to the lack of scalability and enterprise level engagement. At Ocoos, we have built a solution which uniquely mixes these two worlds in interesting ways.