Affinity Offers Enhanced Marketing Services for SMBs

By Devin Comiskey | Posted January 20, 2005

Optimal search engine placement is foreign territory for non-Web savvy small business owners. Where a site shows up in a search can mean the difference between a flood of visitors or hearing the sound of crickets chirping. What's a business owner to do?

Affinity Internet, a Web services provider for small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs), last week debuted a new "deluxe version" of its ValueTraffic online marketing service — aptly named ValueTraffic Deluxe. Affinity is one in a growing field of providers offering to unload the burden of online marketing from small business owners' shoulders.

Affinity's ValueTraffic Deluxe service guarantees that a client's ad will be seen at least 50,000 times, or that the ad will get at least 250 clicks each month, for $500 a month. Affinity claims this gives SMBs with greater online marketing needs and budgets an enhanced level of service (if the monthly guarantee is not met, the client is credited for that month).

That guarantee, however, does not include an increase in sales.

"ValueTraffic Deluxe is an extension of our focus on giving small businesses access to the same experts who drive marketing for the enterprise," said CEO Peter Chambers. "This high end service allows us to meet the marketing needs of our clients who want to maximize their traffic, but don't have the resources to hire a dedicated staff of professionals."

ValueTraffic Deluxe includes a dedicated, professional account manager, Web site and marketing analysis, and creation, execution and management of the client's online marketing campaign. The ValueTraffic marketing team analyzes the client's Web site, advises on improvements, identifies targeted sites on which to advertise, develops the ads and purchases advertising on the client's behalf.

Part of the ValueTraffic Deluxe service promises to develop targeted keywords aimed at search engine optimization. Affinity claims this gives small businesses the power and expertise of a seasoned marketing department. The result is the chance for meaningful month-to-month results.

What's not clear, however, is whether or not these services are worth the cost for SMBs. Guaranteeing a minimum of 250 clicks for $500 per month translates into a hefty $2 per click through rate — whereas a Google AdWords campaign can run as low as $.05 per click.

Derek Vaughan, senior director of marketing at Affinity, explains the new service isn't for seasoned Internet users, but for small business owners who don't have time to dedicate to Internet marketing and research.

"It's important to understand who the target market is. There are many people out there who understand search engine and keyword optimization and how the Web works. Our target market, they don't know anything about all that. These are bricks and mortar businesses that are just getting online. These are smart people and could probably do the research. Their time is better spent managing their business," said Vaughan.

He added that Affinity's marketing services are surprisingly high in demand from its own customer base as well as from new customers.

"We're approaching 200,000 hosting accounts between our Affinity brands. Like all companies, we're constantly looking for products in our core business areas. This particular service was something different than what was out there. The hosting business is quite crowded and is now a commodity market. This particular product really wasn't being offered anywhere else. It's unique," said Vaughan.

"Because it's so different from what hosting companies offered, we weren't sure it would pan out. We were surprised to find there was demand for it. It came about as a result of customer demand. We've been successful with our customers, but we're also getting many new clients are not being hosted by us. That's exciting in itself," he said.

Affinity is not the only player in this emerging market. Interland, another large hosting and site-building provider, launched its own Pay Per Click (PPC) service called "EzClicks" in October (See "Interland Launches Pay-Per-Click Service for SMBs").

Mr. Vaughan, said since the initial launch of ValueTraffic in October, Affinity is approaching 1,000 active clients.

Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com, part of internet.com's Small Business Channel.

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