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3/9/2011
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SinglePlatform Helps SMBs Manage Online Presence

With an emphasis on driving calls instead of clicks, online marketing vendor offers a unified portal for restaurants and other local businesses trying to keep up with the complex Web of social, mobile, and location-based sites.

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Cerilli said that SinglePlatform developed customization capabilities that would allow a business to pick and choose which sites to send their updates to -- not unlike how an individual might manage their online personas with TweetDeck or Ping.fm -- but the company didn't roll out the functionality.

"No one cared," Cerilli said. "They were like: Why would I not want to have my content on these sites?" What gives a restaurant owner indigestion, according to Cerilli, is when a customer comes in and says that their menu is out-of-date on site X or their phone number is incorrect on site Y.

Businesses pay between $100 and $200 to get set up with SinglePlatform. From there, the only upsell is a pay-per-call program that Cerilli said has proven wildly popular -- more than 95% of the company's 3,000 customers opt in. SinglePlatform provides its API and its content -- in other words, its customers' menus, phone numbers, photos, and other digital collateral -- free of charge to publishers. If a site such as Menuism or Merchant Circle -- or any other publisher -- chooses to feature a SinglePlatform customer on its site, the business pays $1 for each call longer than 30 seconds that results from the prime-time placement. SinglePlatform assigns unique phone numbers for tracking purposes.

Pay-per-call is fundamental to SinglePlatform's business, Cerilli said, because its customers want their phone to ring -- in the end, Web traffic means little to them. SinglePlatform experimented with a pay-per-menu-view service, for example, but found little interest. Even more fascinating: The company's interface includes a full analytics dashboard -- Facebook followers, Twitter followers, Foursquare check-ins, menu views, Web site views, and so forth -- and "none" of SinglePlatform's restaurants and other local businesses are using it, according to Cerilli.

"They just don't really give a [hoot]," Cerilli said. "They want people picking up the phone and calling them."

Smartphone adoption and the corresponding boom in mobile marketing and advertising - which Cerilli calls "huge, especially with restaurants" -- could put even more local business focus on calls rather than clicks.

"I don't think it's about being unsophisticated," Cerilli said. "What [local businesses] want is something where they can draw more of a direct line to their cash register, and they can do that with calls more so than they can do that with hits on their Web site. Anyone can just drive hits to someone's Web site."

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