Marchex Launches Online Listening Tool for Small Business

Marchex has designed a product to allow small-to-medium-sized businesses to monitor what’s being written about them on the Internet. The tool, dubbed “Reputation Management,” was built to scour review sites, directories, and other Web entities for mentions of a company.

It compiles and organizes the information in a backend dashboard, which includes charts and graphs that can show how a business is being represented online. Charts that break down the percentage of positive, neutral, or negative reviews can be analyzed. As one example, a company can choose to only view negative reviews and come to conclusions about problems customers are having with its service or products.

By clicking a tab on the dashboard, the user can also learn what similar local businesses are doing differently in terms of their everyday practices. Marchex claims the system can help SMBs answer questions like, “Is my product overpriced?” Or, “Am I keeping the right hours?”

The charts can demonstrate levels of activity by reviews/mentions, giving customers the opportunity to tie feedback to changes in management or marketing during a selected period of time. And the dashboard can point out the keywords and phrases online consumers have repeatedly used to describe a business.

Using Marchex’s local search technology, the system can scan the Web for businesses’ listings, unearthing inaccuracies and determining whether they’re visible at relevant consumer destinations.

Ryan Fritzky, senior product manager at the Seattle-based company, said a majority of SMBs the company spoke with while developing the system were overwhelmed by the Internet in general and specifically by the chore of managing information online.

“They are trying to operate a business,” he said. “They don’t have time to know if they do or don’t have a profile on Yahoo. Or if their phone number is listed wrongly for a store location…The biggest [pain point] we heard was that they were using five different things to keep track of their online presence.”

Fritzky added that marketers can use the online reviews and chatter as fodder for marketing campaigns. A potential example that he offered: If the system shows that a spa has a positive reputation for its hot stone massages, and it is not highlighting this idea in ad copy and imagery, the business can use the data to come to the conclusion that they should begin doing so. In addition, the system allows marketers to share positive news, such as articles, blog posts, etc., with an audience via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and Digg.

“Reputation Management” will be available to a limited number of businesses during the beta period, which will end in early 2010. Targeted at SMBs in the restaurant, salons/spas, hospitality, pets, and automotive categories, pricing will range from approximately $40 to $60 per month.

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