Colin Frost, Senior Business Development Manager for Business Catalyst discusses verticals, channels, and growing your business with some multi-site strategies.
Brent: Hi, this is Brent Weaver from HotPress Web and BC Gurus. I am here with Colin Frost, from the Business Catalyst team, just wrapping up our interviews at the Adobe offices here in San Francisco.
Welcome to BC Gurus, Colin.
Colin: Thank you, Brent.
Brent: Colin, what is your official position currently within Adobe Business Catalyst?
Colin: I am the Business Development Manager. So currently that involves helping partners verticalize basically. The main objective is to identify channels that we can do multi-site deals within, and helping partners achieve their success in that market.
Brent: So channels, multi-site deals, can you just define that a little bit?
Colin: Yes, one of the real opportunities with Business Catalyst is obviously it's an integrated service, as we all know, in terms of the actual offering to the small business community. One of the important aspects is the replication capability. We all know it is there, but how do you apply that in terms of a vertical market opportunity? Yet, the opportunity is to find that sweet spot, where you are providing a site that is a little more highly powered than the basic template site that you might get out in the market and be able to then offer it to a uniform market. That could be franchises, association groups, or industry vertical groups. In that process, we have offered those sites extremely affordably, but with a higher value proposition to that market and hopefully bring on hundreds, if not thousands of sites within that vertical, over a short period of time, which is good for the partner, and it's good for BC of course as well.
Brent: Very cool. We have been working on some of our own vertical stuff the last year, and that is definitely a very exciting thing for BC partners. I know that we have posted some content on the site regarding that. I would definitely encourage partners to reach out to you.
I definitely want to talk a little bit more about some channel opportunities in a minute, but what is your background with BC? When did Colin Frost come into the picture with Adobe Business Catalyst?
Colin: I was early on in the piece. I was actually the third person on in the company after Bardia and Adam. This was in about 2004 I think. In those days, we were bootstrapping, and a lot of my activity was literally on the phone cold calling, getting out to the web design community, digital consultants and the like, and trying to get them excited about what we had to offer and get them on board with the partner program. We did a lot of end-user work in those early days, as well, just to pay the bills. So a bit of that as well, but the majority of my time was spent focusing on those partners.
Brent: So you have been selling and sharing Business Catalyst and the whole ideology behind it for quite some time? You are probably the most experienced seller of Business Catalyst.
Colin: Yeah, in terms of the partner program, definitely. I have had some experience with the end user market, but I would say that you have far more experience in the SBO market than I do. But yeah, trying to excite people about what BC is, explaining it, and connecting the dots for those people is what I have become very good at, I suppose.
Brent: Okay. Very cool. With these vertical market strategies and those kinds of things, can you give us examples of where that has worked, or where some partners are at with that pursuit?
Colin: Sure. I can't mention too many names because of confidentiality and those partners not wanting me to mention those organizations that I might have done deals with, but a few I can mention, one is EmbroidMe, part of the United Franchise Group, which SimpleFlame has coordinated. In the American market, there are about 400 sites. They should be rolling out in the next month, and should close a large proportion of those sites within a quarter. Within 3 months or so, they should have 200 sites on board. Well, that is the hope anyway. In that scenario, it is supported by a head office. There is a whole lot of marketing support behind that. So there is a lot of buy-in from the top down, and that is an important thing to get in with these channel opportunities.
Brent: If I could interrupt you on that, EmbroidMe, you say 400 sites. I think for a lot partners out there that maybe have only a handful of sites on their partner pool, that seems like a very exciting opportunity. There is recurring revenue with every single one of those sites. There is potential for adding additional services to those individual franchisees. There are a lot of different facets of being able to turn some revenue off of that.
Colin: That is exactly right. The idea is to create a great value proposition with the offering you have, not to set the price for your implementation too high. Do not be greedy in that respect. Try to get them on the drug, as such. If you can get 200, 300, or 400 people within a channel going, then, as you say, you have the opportunity to overlay the consultancy revenue piece as well, be it SEO or SEM. services, copywriting, whatever it might be, there is a whole wealth of opportunity there.
Brent: I think one of the real magic buttons within Business Catalyst is this "Replicate Site" button. Literally, you can go in the back end with very little experience and you can click "Create Site" and "Replicate an Existing Site," and that is really what this whole thing is based on.
Colin: That is right. It is not just replicating a design. It is taking the full business functionality that you may have built with web apps, maybe with API integration elements.
Brent: Auto responders.
Colin: Auto responders. You guys are doing a lot of work in the content syndication side of things, being able to deploy content across all those sites instantly, overnight or otherwise. These are all powerful things.
The other aspect, which is available within the partner portal, is the centralized email marketing aspect, which was very exciting for EmbroidMe. They are going to develop their email marketing campaign centrally, and then deploy that to all the sites so that those individual franchisees can go into their email marketing tab, find that email campaign, choose their local operating database, and send it out to their client base very quickly. Very powerful for a small business that doesn't have the head space to come up with the content every month. It's managed by a marketing head office department and then distributed very easily.
Brent: Okay. I'll include a link in this post to information about how you syndicate newsletter content, because I think that feature is something that starts making this idea of verticals and the possibilities click a little bit, seeing some of those specific case studies.
What other projects have you seen where this has worked well?
Colin: Well, you, yourself, are involved in a number of them. You have some success with All About Honeymoons was 80 sites that rolled out literally in a month, I think, or less?
Colin: So that is pretty exciting for many partners, in itself. I know you are working in the education consultancy market. We have partners that are focusing on hotels. One in particular is integrating into an online booking engine for hotels and creating mobile sites in BC, for that channel, and then upselling them to full sites as part of their process.
We have another partner who is very focused on the legal fraternity, and building sites, again, template driven that are empowering for that channel. We have a partner in Australia that is very focused on the restaurant industry. They came from that background, doing a lot of marketing and discount booklets for the restaurant industry. They have a massive database. Now they are just expanding on that.
I think that is the key thing with these channels is you might be a BC partner out there and you might not have these contacts, but if you can find people that are connected and have these databases, and you can partner in JV with them, that is the main point.
Brent: Yeah, I think one of the things I have learned from the vertical channel projects that we have done is having that champion, that person that is already in the industry and already knows the ins and outs, has the big book of business, or a bunch of clients that they have been working with or the contacts. Somehow getting those people incorporated into your business model, so they have an incentive to help promote you. I think that is what the JV is all about, doing joint ventures with these types of champions.
Colin: Yeah, that is correct. The obvious ones are there, the franchises, the associations, but the less obvious ones are organizations that have independent consultants working for them, insurance companies or the like. They might have 2,000 independent consultants working for that corporation and can they empower these consultants with independent BC websites. Distributors for manufacturing groups, for instance, is another opportunity. We have seen some interesting ones come through in terms of opportunities, and it is really just thinking outside the square, and understanding where can we find a focus and where is there a need that we can match the Business Catalyst technology to and really give them a $5K solution for a few hundred dollars apiece, type of thing. That is what they are doing. These partners are selling these sites for anything from a few hundred dollars to free in some instances. When it is really uniform, the fact that you are replicating and deploying within 15 minutes, they are absorbing that cost and just giving the site away, plus the hosting, of course, with some margin. There are just so many opportunities out there. It is just a matter of coming up with them.
Brent: What are you doing, on an ongoing basis, to work with other partners, find these opportunities, and make these types of deals happen?
Colin: Well, there is an education process. The multi-site channel webinar, which I am just trying to educate partners about the opportunities and the tools that we have available to achieve this. Often, it is a matter of co-presenting. If they want to go out and present to a large group, we often get involved with our partners to co-present to that group and try and get a better cut-through in terms of the close.
Brent: So using some of the Adobe clout, the business connections that you guys have, and the brand reputation to help partners approach these associations?
Colin: Yeah, we are educating them, and hopefully they are out there finding them. To some extent, we are out there identifying some of the channels ourselves, as they might just come to us generally, in terms of getting to know our product and what would happen then is I normally align them with a partner that could facilitate that, because really Adobe BC is not going to be the people they are going to directly work with the channel. Our focus is the technology and ensuring that it is enhanced, improved, and supported.
Brent: What is your perspective on the product as a whole? You have been in the picture since 2004. You have seen it go from a tiny little office in Sydney to now part of this mega corporation. Has that been something that gives you a lot of confidence and you are excited about now that Adobe is part of the picture?
Colin: Yes. It is very exciting now. We had our teething pains during the transition, there is no doubt. I think many partners bore the brunt of that, but we have always had a great technology and a great concept. It has just been setting up for scale and the challenges we had in terms of launch and revenue and re-coding so that we could move forward strongly. But, really, we have a strong engineering team very focused on getting over those challenges we had and taking us to the next level. I think you have seen that happening already in the last few months. We have really started to get some traction in that respect.
Brent: Yeah, absolutely. So we have got the partners' attention. Anything else that you want to share with the BC partner community?
Colin: The other project I am on is a regional support partner program for non-English speaking countries. The idea is to have a partner in that region supporting the BC partner community in terms of questions in that local language. That is just another pet project of mine. A very significant project, actually.
Apart from that, the thing I am focusing on I believe is just standard that Marketing 101 stuff.
Colin: In terms of you're a business, you want to try to find the focus. It makes sense for your business to try to analyze your market, and then focus on that market in the most efficient way. To a large extent, rather than just being a web designer out there trying to appeal to a lot of SBOs, do try to find an area of expertise and become seen as the expert in that market. Even if you are working a few and then you see one or two take off, then you can realign yourself and leverage that opportunity. That is one of the suggestions I would make in terms of growing your business as it relates to what I am focused on.
Brent: So, really using Business Catalyst to find a niche and really become a scalable business on our own right as partners. Scaling our businesses up by focusing in on specific niches.
Colin: Yeah, absolutely, and as you scale, we have implementation partners out there that can help you. So it does not mean that you have to build everything and do everything. I know you guys, and SimpleFlame in particular, do a lot of work in supporting partners. We have Easy BC out there, in terms of implementation services. There are great resources out there where you don't to hire all these people to do the work as you grow that channel opportunity. Definitely look to outsourcing that as an option, and then focus on the strategy, on the client facing activity, maybe the creative design aspects, and let the basic roadwork be done by affordable resources offshore or whatever works.
Brent: Yeah, and I will include links in this post that link out to those different companies, those different resources. If you're already not aware of them, they are definitely some good companies to look up in the community.
Well nice. Definitely, Colin, thanks for spending the time with us today. Are you going to be at MAX?
Colin: I hope to be. The final list isn't in play yet, but I do hope to be there.
Brent: Okay, cool. Well, is there any way that we can get partners in touch with you that are maybe interested in the channels?
Colin: Sure, maybe if you can post the link to the webinar for our multi-site webinar, and I'll be happy to give you my email address, of course. Contact me anytime at email@example.com. I look forward to any inquires that you have.
Brent: Okay. Nice. Very cool. Thanks for tuning in and stay tuned for more content from BCGurus.com. Thanks.