Last week I received a great Facebook message from Michael McCarthy and it got me thinking a bit. Essentially he’s starting his own retail business after apparently leaving Nestle USA and asked me for some insights. He was looking for some form of technology that was a “one stop marketing portal that will help manage all his marketing efforts: logo creation, bix cards, miscellaneous printing (on demand), POS, flyers, signage, website builder/onlinme marketing, buying local ad space–and the ability to measure/track results.”
So here’s his question:
Does there exist an online web-enabled single source marketing tool that essentially aggregates great marketing providers like: spot runner, zoomerang, dotster, logoworks, homestead and/or template monster?
I don’t really think that there is a “one-stop shop” that is out there that will accommodate all the different systems that you use from a small business perspective – and I can imagine that there are a lot of them, right? At the very least you’re looking at web hosting, email marketing, online advertising (SEM & PPC), market research tools, and probably dozens of others. A dashboard approach would be really helpful if someone can do this – and this happened to be something that I had a conversation about a while back at a Microsoft event. It seems to me that it’s quite possible but you’d have to have a couple of things (nay, scratch that) several things to consider, such as:
- How will you determine what systems to link up to in your dashboard? Some people probably prefer using a specific program so how will you be able to account for every possible selection?
- Does all the sites that you want to link to in your dashboard have an open API? I would imagine that in order for you to have the dashboard be a monitoring & maintenance tool, you would need to find a way to link to the data in more ways than by simply including a link to the login page. The API, or application programming interface, is the back-end developers door to link it up so it looks rather seemless.
- How robust will the dashboard be? You probably won’t be able to specialize in everything web related, right? I think the point of the dashboard was to be generic yet specialized, but it’s probably impossible to gather the experts in house to help you understand how to effectively create this tool.
- Can your hosting handle such bandwidth and will you need to be able to enter into agreements with the systems to import into your dashboard? I can only imagine that by having that much traffic and activity going on, you might need to make sure your product’s hosting provider can handle it. And what happens if you’ll need to go into maintenance? Or what if there’s a non-maintenance issue going on with one of the providers you linked to? How will that get resolved?
So what exactly will you need in your dashboard? I would imagine quite a plethora of different web “professions” including, but not limited to, link ups with: web hosting providers, email marketing vendors, search engine marketing tools, online marketing programs, web analytics, content management systems (including blogging platforms like WordPress, Blogger & Typepad), social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Upcoming.org and countless others.
Overall there’s a lot of work that would need to go into the creation of this dashboard. I, for one, would love to see something like that, but unfortunately it probably won’t happen for a while. However, it should be noted that there are different specialty dashboards out there. Take hosting providers, for example. They are able to offer a slew of services besides domain registration and hosting. As part of the package, you can sign up for some small time help with online marketing efforts (SEO and search engine marketing) and also even some providers will throw in email marketing (either through their tools or through an additional partnership with a email service provider like Blue Sky Factory, Constant Contact, etc.). Or, you could have a dashboard just for your online marketing efforts and that would be through companies like Yield Software. If you’re interested in monitoring the entire web spectrum for buzz or mentions about your product, you could try using sites like MightyBrand or ScoutLabs and watch what’s going on with their dashboard.
The point in using these above services and probably countless others that offer a “dashboard” approach, is that everyone has their own “specialty”. They are able to understand from their own little niche what is best for the customers and what is important in that respective field. Having someone in the online advertising field create a dashboard for email marketers is probably not a great thing because they might not be aware of SPAM best practices or perhaps how to create a template, etc.
Unfortunately I had to tell Michael that I was not aware of one that complex that would handle his needs but there are other services that will help cluster some of the things he is looking for. There is not a “killer” solution that will help consolidate everything into one tiny box. Until that day comes, we must resign ourselves to finding products that can help us mitigate the amount of time spent and the work needed to monitor our online brand presence.