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Small and medium-sized businesses have two pressing needs they would pay to satisfy, according to a new survey: visibility in online searches; and actionable contact information on consumers who phone them.
Exactly half of US small and medium sized business (SMB) owners surveyed by Harris Interactive(R) on behalf of TARGUSinfo said they would pay $25 per year or more for "merchant profile management." The service makes local-business Web sites or listings more prominent in major search engines by letting business owners define their own search terms. Almost half of the respondents (48 percent) who indicated a willingness to pay for the service said they would pay at least $100 per year.
Fifty percent of respondents would also pay $1 per phone line per month for "enhanced call detail," a Web-based call log that goes beyond Caller ID. Enhanced call detail provides the contact information of every caller to the business, including full name and often address, making it easy for the business to re-contact the caller. Among respondents who indicated a willingness to pay for the service, 48 percent said they would pay at least $5 per phone line per month.
"As a small business owner, I am the marketing department and I am the webmaster," said Kim Golway, Vice President of Cardigan Kitchen and Baths of Crofton, MD. "So if you can automatically improve my online visibility, help me get more leads from the Web and help me penetrate my market, and do so at a fair price, bring it on. I would stay with a provider who could do that."
Merchant profile management and enhanced call detail are emerging services that companies can acquire from participating phone or cable providers. The services add value to commodity voice and high-speed Internet access and may lead to improved customer retention and acquisition in the $25 billion SMB segment, according to the survey.
Among respondents willing to pay $1 per phone line per month for enhanced call detail and $25 per year for merchant profile manager:
If one of these two services were only offered by their current phone services provider, it would make these SMB owners more likely to stay with that provider. Fifty-five percent said they would be either much more likely or somewhat likely to stay for enhanced call detail while 49 percent said the same for merchant profile management. If a phone carrier other than their current provider offered one of these two services, many of these SMB owners would switch providers. For enhanced call detail, 11 percent said they would be either very likely or likely to switch; for merchant profile management it was 13 percent.
"The SMB market is evolving, with cable operators making inroads on the voice and data side, phone companies retooling for battle, and subscribers demanding more than just speed and feeds from a provider," said Gartner Research VP Alex Winogradoff. "SMBs are increasingly looking for service providers who can solve their business problems, not just string lines into a building."
The survey of SMB owners was commissioned by TARGUSinfo, the leader in On-Demand Data services for identification, verification, qualification and location.
"The SMB market is crucial to the success of every provider, and the survey affirms that providers will win loyal customers by providing valuable solutions that improve their businesses," said Mark Barber, TARGUSinfo Vice President and General Manager for Communications Service Providers.
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