American Express OPEN connects small businesses

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American Express OPEN, the small-business division of American Express Co., has spent the past year updating its website with new features to connect small busi- nesses. It has also featured small businesses in its advertising campaigns and card promotions. “Small business is incredibly important to American Express,” said Scott Roen, VP-digital marketing and innovation at American Express OPEN. “Small businesses in America drive two-thirds of the jobs in this country and about half of the GDP. So when you look at the economy and where we are today, propping that up is good for small business and good for American Express as well.” Last year, American Express debuted an integrated ad campaign called “Start Booming” that celebrates small businesses and highlights their role in revitalizing the economy. The campaign launched with TV, print and online ads featuring real small-business customers and has continued to evolve with new ads and promotions. The “Start Booming” campaign includes a microsite offering promotions for small businesses, such as discounts on purchases, membership rewards points and premium services. A key focus for American Express OPEN this year has been updating its website at with new features to help small businesses connect and thrive, Roen said. “We have spent a lot of time this year building out more social integration and mobilizing the information and connections we have,” he said. For example, small businesses can now log into OPEN Forum from social media networks, and can also push content out from OPEN Forum to various social networks. Also this year, OPEN Forum introduced YourBuzz, a free app that lets business owners monitor and contribute to discussions about their companies and industries in social media networks. In another effort to encourage its small-business members to harness the power of social media, American Express OPEN gave members the option of applying membership rewards points to Facebook advertising. “The mobile front has been very important as well,” Roen said. “The small-business segment does not tend to sit in the office. They are out and about, meeting with customers, partners and employees; so we need to make sure we have a good experience on the Android, iPhone, iPad and other tablets.” Last year, American Express OPEN introduced an iPhone app, and this year it rolled out mobile apps for the iPad and Android devices. In the first year since the iPhone app was launched, more than 1 million OPEN Forum pages have been viewed on mobile devices. Another new program is OPEN Forum Crash Courses, a partnership with tech company Veri that offers small businesses online marketing training through a social learning platform. Crash Courses launched with eight courses, including Facebook for Your Business, YouTube Marketing and Search Engine Marketing. Businesspeople can take the courses online in their own time and earn IQ points for material learned. Since Crash Courses debuted, the average time spent on the OPEN Forum website has more than doubled to approximately 13 to 14 minutes, Roen said. He said all these new tools and services are creating more engagement with small-business customers, which ultimately is good for business.
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