The story of the internet may come in two parts: In one telling, it created giants—the Amazons, Googles, and eBays. But in the other telling, it enabled an ocean of small businesses to promote themselves and connect with customers in new ways. Unfortunately, for this latter group, fully utilizing the resources of the internet has always been a struggle.
In this episode of UpTech Report, I talk with Christopher Marentis, the founder and CEO of Surefire Local, a company that’s trying to bring the online marketing power yielded by large dot-coms into the hands of local dentists, contractors, and accountants.
More information: https://www.surefirelocal.com/
Chris Marentis is the founder and CEO of Surefire Local, whose notable career spans the evolution of the Web. Chris has a superpower of being able to recognize innovative technology and implementing it to effectively bridge the gaps between traditional and cutting-edge digital marketing.
This mindset has led to Surefire Local creating an all-in-one local marketing solution that puts business owners in control of their unique story across all digital marketing channels; giving them the ability to see and strengthen all their digital marketing activities in one place so they can generate more leads and stop wasting money in under-performing programs.
As Senior Vice President of America Online’s Interactive Marketing group, Chris was a key force in creating the foundational blueprints for online marketing, e-commerce, and content branding. While CEO of Clearspring Technologies, he developed one of the most widely adopted venture-backed Web 2.0 technology platforms.
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Christopher Marentis 0:00
In today’s world, you need to get reviews. So you need review platform and be able to monitor those reviews as part of that organic credit that we’re talking about.
Alexander Ferguson 0:17
The story of the internet may come in two parts in one telling a created giants, the Amazons, Googles, and eBay’s but in another talling, it enabled an ocean of small businesses to promote themselves and connect with customers in new ways. Unfortunately, for this latter group, fully utilizing the resources of the Internet has always been a struggle. In this episode of UpTech Report, I talk with Christopher Marentis, the founder and CEO of Surefire Local, a company that’s trying to bring the online marketing power yielded by large dot coms into the hands of local dentists, contractors and accountants. Chris, I’m excited to hear more about surefire local, the the problems that you are intimately looking to solve with your platform and the issues of the businesses are having to deal with today, especially in today’s environment. To start us off, go ahead and describe your company in five seconds, what would you say to that
Christopher Marentis 1:15
we’re an all in one marketing solution to make it so super simple and easy for a local business owner that needs to generate new customers within a geography like a roofer or a dentist or a mover, you know, that wants to, you know, be able to generate new customers New Geography, to be able to, you know, manage and strengthen all the different channels that their business presences in one place.
Alexander Ferguson 1:46
Being able to manage all of those things in one place a part of a conversation in prep. Before this, we were talking about the need and desire for a local business to take back control of of their marketing, and their where they’re spending their money and how they’re they are reaching their end clients. Can you describe even further, just that that pain point, that problem that you’ve seen with local businesses?
Christopher Marentis 2:16
Yeah, you know, it’s really a pretty well known, you know, thing And study after study, whether it be Google or Facebook, or local ecology, which is local ologies, that sort of association for local businesses and such, that, you know, increasingly, local business owners are becoming frustrated, overwhelmed. And, you know, feeling like the, the agency solution isn’t working for them to in this current world. And it’s really because the think about marketing for them in the last 10 years, has really changed dramatically. It went from, you know, I could do some radio commercials and a couple of double trucks in the yellow pages, you know, and you know, a few other vehicles, and I’m done. And then I set it and forget it for the year to now there’s all these dynamic channels, you know, social and directory listings in your website, and, and paid different paid channels. And all of them require, you know, you know, updating and constant attention in order to stay current and have your messages current
Alexander Ferguson 3:35
is changed, where a business would, as you said, would just ask for an agency, just hey, send me some more business, and that agency would send them their metrics and their updates. But now’s the time where local businesses really actually need to have control and own the metrics and know the metrics themselves to be able to make more educated decisions.
Christopher Marentis 3:55
Yeah, and the truth is, is that the last 10 years has been about service frustrations reflected in the fact that chances are, they’ve probably been through a bunch of different SEO companies and a bunch of different paid media companies. And, and they, you know, they sort of, they’ll keep on hiring and firing them thinking that, you know, maybe the next one’s gonna be the answer. That’s not right. You know, so you can see the frustration expressed and how they go through that. And what happens, right? They get them no real consistency of data, where they know, I mean, how is their business performing relative to their competitors in search rankings, because every time they hire and fire a new agency, they’re, they’re presenting data in a different way to make them look better. They’re not necessarily benchmarking against competitors, and how well they’re doing. Same thing with paid, right. So by having software, you know, that they control and own across all these organic and paid channels, they’re now able to have a consistency. So if they want to hire some SEO person or some guy promises, and they’re going to do X, Y, and Z, they can hire him and then take a look at the data themselves instead of depending on them to show them data that, you know, that might not reflect the accurate picture.
Alexander Ferguson 5:20
It is kind of overwhelming, right now for for businesses to have to track and all these different places. And I mean, to do it without software is a little crazy to even think about. What’s What would you say that your, your target market size and demographic of a local business is to be able to utilize a platform like yours.
Christopher Marentis 5:46
The total addressable market is absolutely huge, we narrowed down our scope for local to be really services type businesses, professional services type businesses. So you know, certainly Home Improvement Home Services, certain types of medical practices where search and discovery is a big part of that. Movers. You know, you know, personal injury, you know, attorneys and different types of attorneys, yes. You know, accountants, professional services. And it sort of mirrors the old day of Yellowpages, you know, probably 20 years ago, those categories were the biggest and Yellow Pages, because that’s what people search for. They’re not referral based businesses, or they might be referral based business to some degree. But in today’s world, you need to get reviews. So you need review platform, and be able to monitor those reviews as part of that organic presence that we’re talking about.
Alexander Ferguson 6:52
What size of a company, can you use other indicators of they have certain number of employees or revenue size, that it makes sense to be able to invest in this type of software versus Hey, just figure it out. If you’re like a one two person shop, then you probably don’t need this, like, what’s the, the, and yeah,
Christopher Marentis 7:12
we have, you know, we have business owners of all different sizes, and we happen to have different packages, with different components of the software, where we can get you started out if you’re smaller company, and have smaller marketing budgets, and then you can literally add on modules as you become more successful, et cetera, the beauty of it, but really, sort of, I think the point you’re getting at, it’s, it’s really less around around the size of the business and more around the mindset of the business owner. Right. And, you know, is that business owner, you know, really in a growth minded, you know, sort of business mind, right, they do they do, they sort of have a vision for their business of where it is now, where they want to go over the next few years, and they want to grow, because there’s certain business owners that, you know, are happy with, you know, having, you know, four or five jobs and, you know, if they’re, if they’re interior remodeler, you know, four or five jobs a year, and they, they pretty much get those said to them through referrals of existing clients, and they don’t really need and want to grow their business. But if you’re a remodeler, for example, that you know, has a, you know, you know, six $700,000 business now, but you want to be a $3 million business in four years, you’ve got to think about how do you interact with customers across all these places? How do you develop a brand persona in these different places? How do you use things like, like, we talked about earlier reviews, or email marketing, paid media, you know, your directory listings, Google My Business, certainly a big piece of that. But you know, you’ve got to, you got to think about how do you have a coordinated strategy across all these places to get from, you know, 800,000 to 3 million or 5 million, or whatever your goal is?
Alexander Ferguson 9:13
What would you say is the best metrics that a local business owner should be paying attention to and monitoring?
Christopher Marentis 9:24
You know, number one, you know, today, it’s, I wouldn’t say, you know, metrics because there’s metrics in all these different channels, right, but there’s a tendency right now to, for business owners to really focus on their website and think, Well, if I have a great website, then, you know, all the rest is gonna take care of itself. Now, your website’s important, right? But there’s signals now that you’re like, for example, SEO is changed a lot in the last 10 years. And, you know, search engines, you know, use signals like Google use signals well, when the primary signal that Google uses is Google My Business, right? So you’re really making sure you have a coordinated strategy and spend a lot of time on your Google My Business Profile page. And, you know, tending to that Google My Business page by adding content in the form of reviews, pictures, ask and respond to questions now, doing things like that will help drive traffic to your website. Also, get the phone ringing just from Google My Business from people calling when they see that right. You know, so it’s really starting with the core of Google My Business in your website, and then starting to proliferate from that other directory listings.
Alexander Ferguson 11:03
What do you see the biggest thing that that businesses can take advantage of, of your current technology, as well as what’s on your roadmap of what you’re going to be able to help local business owners in the near future?
Christopher Marentis 11:16
Yeah, well, right now, we can help them literally lower their cost overnight, of doing digital marketing, by using software and, you know, being able to work into their workflow, simple tasks that they might have been outsourcing before. And I think in this environment, you’re you’re talking about that we’re, we’re having this conversation, the middle of the COVID epidemic, and we’re just starting to release a little bit, but I think everyone’s looking for ways to improve efficiency of what they’re currently doing, particularly in customer acquisition, we could help do that immediately. And be will actually probably do more in a more powerful way, which is really cool. So that’s the sort of the immediate thing, one of the things that we now know, one of the tricks of what we’re doing is because we’re bringing in API’s from over 100 different platforms, and visualizing that in one place, we’ve got all this structured data around performance, not only for an individual business, but for all businesses that are like that business. So we are now able to take that structured data and start to give you simple benchmarking. And now we’re getting into reminder, messages or, or automated like to do lists based on what we think you could get more efficient at easily right, with some basic machine learning. But as we get better and better at this, we’ll start to get into some real AI around this that really starts to get pretty sophisticated. But what’s cool about our platform is, you know, we don’t expect our clients to be, you know, sort of the rocket scientists understanding this stuff. We simplify it and literally bring it to bear in like a to do list on every page saying, Here’s the top three or four things you could do right now, to impact your business and get more customers, you know,
Alexander Ferguson 13:12
wow. So the ability for you knowing the general concepts of marketing and what a company should be doing at a certain stage using some basic learning to be able to say, Okay, you’re at this stage, this is something you should be doing so that they can move towards almost your own digital marketing assistance. That is exactly right. Be sure to check out part two of my conversation with Christopher, in which he discusses how his father’s Small Business served as the catalyst for sure fire local, and he offers his view on how AR and VR may impact marketing in the future.