Constant Contact announced its acquisition of CRM company Bantam Live.
When Gail Goodman and her partner started Constant Contact (then Roving) in 1998 (ironically one year before the domain Smallbiztechnology.com was launched) it was “just” an email marketing company.
Today, with the purchase of CRM vendor Bantam Live, Constant Contact offers a full suite of tools helping small businesses stay in constant contact, but also to manage those relationships – with customers and others important to you.
Unlike Borders, which has declared bankruptcy and was late to change its business model of just books sold through brick book stores (minimal online strategy, no ebook development), Constant Contact has evolved.
It has seen that social media (it purchased NutShell Mail, event registration and management (it developed a tool to compete with EventBrite) and now CRM (with its purchase of Bantam Live) are all important products and services that it should offer its small business customers.
Constant Contact has amassed a huge number of users (almost 500,000) – most of them using Constant Contact’s email marketing service. So now Constant Contact (CTCT) will buy products and services to expand its portfolio of offerings to small business.
Like any smart company would do, its acquisitions are likely going to be focused on one (or more) of three things:
1. Buying expertise (such as their purchase of NutShell Mail). They bought a team who knows social media and can help CTCT grow more into this space. Of course the free NutShell Mail users can be marketed to also buy more fee based CTCT products and services.
2. Buying products. CTCT developed in house their event management tool. However, they went “outside” and bought tools for social media and CRM.
3. Buying an audience. Constant Contact continues to massively advertise through mainstream media (which includes online) so I think just about every business professional on the planet knows who Constant Contact is. Their regional marketing managers such as Wendi Caplan-Carroll in the NY area are also a big part of this plan of local engagement.
What does this mean for you?
Constant Contact is no longer just an email marketing company, but is increasingly growing to be a company that provides a full suite of services to constantly contact your customers. Right now it’s “only” email marketing, social media and CRM. I see no reason why that within the coming months they will not offer web site design, a more robust social media tool (they already have a deal with Hoot Suite), blogging, mobile, online advertising and more.
As a small business owner – and many of you are already customers of Constant Contact – you must decide if you stay in the Constant Contact ecosystem or use them for one or more services and turn to others for other things.
CRM – Batch Blue, Infusion Soft, ZOHO CRM all make great tools to help you better know who your customers are. With the power of CTCT behind Bantam Live, this changes things quite a bit. So will you explore?
What’s interesting about Constant Contact is that they could provide a seamless experience for small businesses to LISTEN to customers through social media, MARKET to customers with email marketing and social media and SEGMENT and better KNOW their customers through CRM
This is not an earth shaking decision you have to make but as you use online tools to know your customers and market to them you must understand who the companies are that are providing these services and where they are going.
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