The Local Presence Service Enablement for Agencies Interviews – Part II.
Exploring Listings Management Options for Agencies & Their Brands with Local Market Launch
Vice President, Sales – Jeff Hoyer & Local Market Launch CTO – Travis Purdy
Part II. Tech Talk
In this two-part series we discuss how agencies can add local listings management as an additional service for their clients to build a greater relationship with their client, drive better ROI and fulfill a foundational and critical piece of a complete digital media strategy. In Part II, we talk tech. We sat down with Local Market Launch CTO – Travis Purdy to discuss the Local Market Launch platform and our white labeling solution for agencies.
Q: Tell me about your background in IT and what brought you to Local Market Launch.
Travis: My background is somewhat unconventional as I have had no formal CS training. I graduated with an astrophysics degree and decided after two years of solid physics I wasn’t going to pursue that at the time, so I started up my own company. I was doing website design which led to deeper technical integrations like shopping carts and interacting with shipping carriers and payment gateways (which wasn’t as easy then as it is now), so that was really my first introduction into the world of backend technology. I did that for a number of years, and then I co-founded a company where we created what we called a “social marketplace,” like a combination between Amazon, eBay and Facebook. We built the entire platform, mobile app, the whole thing and, like so many startups, ran out of money before we had a chance to gain much traction. When that fizzled, someone I had worked with there called me and said “Hey, I know you’re looking
for a job, and there are these smart and experienced guys, I don’t know what they are doing but you should give them a call.” So I called and ended up talking with Brian Coryat. He told me about the company, his vision, and the problem he was trying to solve for small businesses and I remember getting off the phone that day thinking “I think I just got a job, but I’m not quite sure what it’s for or what I will be doing.” My first project was to build an order form for this idea they had to go door-to-door and sell listings management to SMB’s (small and medium sized businesses). So that was my introduction into Local Market Launch.
Q: Tell me about the evolution of the platform since that time.
Travis: So when I started there was no platform, there was a form and a website, and the form really didn’t go anywhere. We were using Salesforce to manage leads and the first obvious step was to get the order form information into our CRM, so we connected the two and that was really our first integration. Once all the data was then in Salesforce, we started building on top of it to handle orders, tracking, fulfillment and such. We went down that road for a while and when it got to be cumbersome, we thought, “Well, now we need our own platform.” That created the impetus for what we now call TrustedSearch, which is our data platform. That’s when we started building our API’s which allow to send us locations and track changes programmatically. We built up our database to store everything and we migrated everything over to get off of Salesforce from an operations perspective. So we now had our own platform where we could fulfill orders and run reports, and there was this powerful backend platform managing the core functions. At every step along the way, and still to this day, our partners helped us define how the platform should evolve. We had some partners that wanted the nitty-gritty details, so we built a high level of detail in the reporting for them and we had some partners that wanted to take a quick look and just make sure everything looked good so we catered to both of those. Along the way the front end started to develop and it turned into a portal that allowed a business to have visibility into every aspect of their local presence, and that’s where the evolution has been going the last two years or so.
Q: As the platform started to come together, what were the integrations you needed to enable?
Travis: Parallel to the development of the data platform and portal we pulled the trigger on an automated platform which is a combination of API’s and other proprietary systems where we can effectively receive an order, automatically categorize it across all the publishers and push out that data in real time. We have a number of API relationships with data syndicators and major listings directories and for those that don’t allow integration directly, we have automated tools that interact with their website to get data into and from their site. At the end of the day, what we’ve have to build is a system to make-up for functionality that the publishers haven’t built (or have broken) or have built in a way that isn’t sophisticated and keep abreast of their constant flow of change. The tools we have been building really allow for us to dynamically integrate with publishers in a way that no one else in the industry can.
Q: How does the platform work for agencies?
Travis: Most agencies are working with brands and we find that working with brands in many ways is easier than SMB’s as they generally have an up-to date list of locations with standardized images and
descriptions. They can upload that data seamlessly via the API or via our portal. Once everything is in, we perform what we call a “baseline snapshot” which lets us know, for each location and for all the publishers “Where are you now? Are you there (measure of presence)? If you are there, what is the description? Do you have the right hours? How complete is the listing (measure of completeness)?” Agencies can also run this audit for brands on a presale basis to give them a baseline and say to their client “look how much you need this.” It’s also used later from a performance perspective to say “look, here’s where you were then, here’s where you are now” and that’s always interesting for brand managers to see. Depending on the order we will also run a citation report: basically where that location is mentioned, be it in a blog, or a review site, wherever … we scour the internet for a location’s information and aggregating that gives an indication for how unified their data is. Google, for example, looks for references like this and consistency of the listing to help determine the value of the location data in their rankings. We can also offer reputation monitoring for all the major publishers offering reviews. We will report on each location individually and we’ll roll that up for the location manager or a higher aggregation for the regional or corporate office.
Q: If an agency wanted to show the reporting on presence and completeness to their client, is there an agency branded visualization we can provide?
Travis: Much of what we do for agencies and their clients happens with a white label solution we provide for the agency. Our dashboard can be white label branded for the agency, it can be domain branded as well, like dashboard.AgencyABC.com. We can also accommodate multiple tiers of partners and sub-partners, so if it’s an agency holding company with multiple agencies, we can white label for each individual agency and assign different permissions to each. We can send emails to the agency’s clients from an agnostic vanity domain, or we can have the agency do some configuration from their side and send the emails from their domain with their own branding and custom content. All the emails are automated until and just after the client completes verification of their locations, so it’s very much turnkey for the agency. This is all a part of critical functionality we have built into the platform to automate verification. This is where I’d say where our technology is way ahead of the curve is with regards to verification. Some publishers require verification by phone call or postcard and we have built a proprietary system we affectionately call the Wizard to manage that in the most automated fashion possible. It’s a tool that allows a merchant to see all the places they need to verify. The Wizard guides them step by step through the process of verification for each publisher. For example, if Google+ requires phone verification, the merchant would go to the Wizard and click “Start Verifying” which would ultimately trigger a phone call from Google to the merchant’s business line. They then click the button in our Wizard, the phone rings, they get a 6-digit PIN and type it into our Wizard. In the meantime our system is interacting with Google on the backend, verifying the process as it happens and updating the rollup interface so the client can do it all in one shot rather than logging in for each location in the Google interface. To support this process, we have a live chat support team to jump in and assist at any time and these processes can be white labeled as well. We’ve really crafted a solution for agencies that show their best face to the client, supports their client’s needs for local listing management and does all the heavy lifting. Initial implementation for an agency can happen quickly, and depending on the technical expertise of the agency we can provide them the ability to integrate directly through our API’s. We offer packages in multiple programming languages that their tech team can use to easily integrate with us or they can simply output a CSV file, go into our portal and upload the client data directly. Either way, we can do everything for them as their proxy. Essentially, we can find a way to help them provide this service to clients regardless of the technical ability on their end or the available resources they have in-house.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the future of the platform and where the development is headed?
Travis: For our platform, the primary focus is on providing tools directly for the partner: making the onboarding process simpler, adding deeper reporting, making it so they can use their existing templates to upload their clients’ data, adding additional ability to configure white labeling, visualization and reporting on their end – really just adding more control over how they want to experience the tools we provide. We are continually upgrading the Wizard, making it more adaptive and adding the ability to provide real-time feedback. In general, in the past we were focused on building our fulfillment and operations processes for scale via integrations with listings providers and, now that we have that dialed in, we have strongly turned our attention to improving on an already excellent user interface and user experience and making sure the platform is the best in the industry for agencies, brands, channel partners and SMB’s.
If you haven’t already read Part I. you can find the link below.