Marketing with a Personal Touch

By Bradley Osburn

The problem with most websites these days is that they’re often just passive pages with no real chance for interaction with visitors. Your sales team might be the most productive team in town, but if all you have is a questionnaire on your site that visitors can fill out, there’s a 50/50 chance that you just lost a potential client. SharpSpring hopes to change that.

SharpSpring is one of a new type of software that’s designed to allow business owners to track real-time analytics on their sites, whether that’s tracking the number of site hits over the course of a day or individual users over the course of their visit. It is tailored specifically to marketing companies, enabling them to effectively utilize the Internet to bring in new clients and serve existing ones.

The company is only a couple of years old, said founder Rick Carlson, but it’s signed dozens of clients and is signing more all the time. SharpSpring consists of Carlson, his chief technology officer, Travis Whitton, and six other employees. Carlson’s background is in sales and marketing for Internet security companies like AVG and Panda Security. His undergraduate years were spent in journalism and communications, and he has an MBA from the University of Florida.

Carlson said that 98 percent of visitors to marketing websites don’t fill out any forms or initiate contact. They don’t do this because they aren’t interested, he explained, but because odds are they’ve visited and looked through several websites and are likely to just fill out a contact form on the last site they end up on.

SharpSpring identifies those potential clients through a reverse IP-lookup tool called VisitorID, which he stressed does not identify an individual’s information, just companies. It also tracks current clients on return visits to enable sales representatives to reach out about new needs.

“If you came to one of our sites we would see search terms you used, where you came from — like Bing or Google — what pages you visited on our site, and if you’re anonymous we have a good chance of IDing you.”

Through a suite of digital automation and analytics tools SharpSpring delivers targeted emails about services and scores leads based on user behavior. Scored leads allow a limited sales staff to work on leads that are the most relevant. These tools make it possible to track return on investment on everything the staff does.

Carlson is adamant about their emails not being spam, but something that the recipient is actually interested in. The problem, he said, is in the idea of having to be in contact with clients at all times.

“It’s not about constant contact,” he said, “it’s about relevant contact, and sending out exactly the right message at the right time. Ultimately we want to make sites intelligent and responsive instead of passive bulletin boards.”

Prices range from free to $399, depending on usage levels, with enterprise plans for larger businesses; affordable compared to other solutions, Carlson said, but not where SharpSpring’s value actually lies.

“If you’re a marketing firm you ought to be able to track everything that’s going on, send relevant communication to clients, and drive more leads,” he said. “Marketing firms are being asked more and more to prove ROI, drive more leads with the same marketing dollars, and to make sure those leads are nurtured through a sales process. And that’s what SharpSpring enables people to do.”

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