Gary Slack, chairman-chief experience officer of b-to-b agency Slack & Co., Chicago, in March helped launch Bizy, a deal site at www.bizydeal.com that is aimed at small businesses. In the following interview, he discusses how the business is assisting marketers that want to reach small businesses, and he offers tips for marketing to the sector.
BtoB: What was your objective in launching Bizy?
Slack: Our objective was to provide a supplemental lead-gen and customer acquisition channel for b-to-b marketers that market products or services to small businesses and to give small-business owners an opportunity to be buyers, and not just sellers, in the deal site space. If you look at daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, small businesses are the sellers. Our proposition to those small businesses is, we'll help you with the other half of your P&L. With Bizy, you have a deal site to help you reduce costs for the things you buy to run your business and expose you to new products and services to help you run things more efficiently.
BtoB: What types of sellers do you have on the site?
Slack: On the sell side, we've done more than 30 deals. Our deals are all national in scope, and our seller partners include large national brands such as LinkedIn, Experian, Constant Contact, Expedia, SurePayroll, Boxwire and Fairmont Hotels. We don't think small-business owners will tolerate a daily deal schedule. It works with consumers, but we think it's too much frequency and email in their inbox. Our deals go out weekly, and we do about one deal a week. The deals last anywhere from seven to 14 days.
BtoB: What types of deals do sellers offer small businesses?
Slack: Unlike some of the other b-to-b deal sites, we have purposely shied away from doing deals around very mundane things, like office products that a business owner would ask an admin to buy, and we've tried to focus on deal ideas that will be really intriguing to the business owner and captivate them. For example, LinkedIn did a deal offering 50% off a single LinkedIn job posting. Instead of paying $195 for a job posting, (small businesses) are paying half. This helps reduce the cost of recruiting talent for small businesses. We did another deal for Davinci Virtual, which provides virtual office services. A lot of small businesses can't afford a receptionist, so Davinci offered a deal for a discounted live virtual receptionist. Another interesting one was with Experian, which just launched a new small-business division. They created a product called Clone My Customer, in which a small business sends Experian everything in their database about their best 10 to 20 customers and Experian sends back contact information for maybe 100 (prospective) customers similar to your best customers.
BtoB: Do you use the tipping point model, similar to Groupon's?
Slack: We started out with a tipping point model, where 15 or 20 people have to buy the deal in order for it to be valid. However, we dispensed with the tipping point pretty early because it's not really necessary in b-to-b. On the consumer side of the deal space, Groupon may have a deal live for the day where 50 people need to buy it, so the kind of behavior that generates is every consumer calls 10 friends to make sure they reach the tipping point. We don't see the same behavior with b-to-b. It's less likely small-business owners will get on the phone and get 10 to 20 people to sign up. What's more important to them is, how long is the deal live?
BtoB: Where do you get your lists?
Slack: Right now, Bizydeal.com, like most b-to-b deal sites, is very horizontal; and most offers are broadly appealing to all verticals. With our supply-side seller partners, we've had no challenges in recruiting seller partners because our agency works with a lot of companies that market to small businesses. The real challenge is getting small businesses to sign up to receive your emails. That takes time. Our total list is relatively small but growing. We have media partners, like SmartBrief, and they have helped us get the word out with their newsletters.
BtoB:What's next for Bizy?
Slack: The future for Bizy is going into verticals. We powered a daily deal program co-branded with the National Restaurant Association for their industry show in May; and in early October we launched our newest vertical, a co-branded program with SCG Horizon called HousingZone Deals—a year-round vertical industry deal site aimed at the residential construction industry. We're also in discussions with a significant entity to launch a commercial construction industry deal portal and an agricultural industry portal aimed at agriculture verticals. What is b-to-b? It's a collection of hundreds of verticals and thousands of subverticals. Most businesses think of themselves in terms of verticals—restaurateur, farmer, retailer, etc.—not as a small business.