Mono CEO: In local marketing, the US is maybe 5 years ahead of Europe

Since its creation in 2007, Single solutions aims to offer SMEs a complete package – from website creation to help with online visibility, customer interaction and online business.

With the company’s recent launch of its new Mono V5 white label site builder, Street Fight recently sat down with company CEO Louise Lachmann to talk about the evolution of Mono, the differences between SMB services in the States States and Europe, and what these solutions mean for SMEs here and abroad.

Tell me a bit about the evolution of Mono Solutions and how what you do sets you apart from others in the industry?
We initially launched with a DIY website builder, thinking we could solve the problem for small businesses because we had this really great tool for building a website. What we quickly realized was that even if you have the best tools in the world for building websites, that doesn’t necessarily solve the small business problem. It’s not about how easy it is to use the tool, so it’s not necessarily barriers to mastering the technology that are in place, it’s also about understanding what their needs and what their world looks like.

Today, 97% of local searches are done online. there’s no question that businesses need to be online — they just don’t necessarily have the time to do it. What we realized was that we had to partner with big companies that were already serving the needs of small businesses.

Traditionally, if you look back five or seven years ago, it was mostly in the directory industry — they traditionally owned the small business budgets. In 2010 we partnered with Yellow Pages Australia, and since then we’ve expanded our offering and where we really stand out is that DIY is probably a great way for a small business to get started. They know they need a website, they walk in and sign up and suddenly realize they need to fill in some SEO tags, they need good search engine optimized copy, they need to put in place a video, they have to do all the social integrations and if you look at the small business lumascape today, it’s extremely complex to navigate and figure out how to do a really good job. And that’s why these partners we work with are involved. They also offer a Do-It-For-Me solution.

What are your strong points ?
You have a lot of great DIY builders and DIY is a great way to get customers started, but once you progress through the customer journey and start to understand the needs of a small business, you need to have partners who can do it for them.

This is really the problem we are solving with our solution. We have an outstanding DIY builder you can come in and build a website, but we also offer a number of tools for our partners so they can build at scale as well. We don’t just have a simple site builder, with our version 5 we offer all the features you would find in tools or software normally used on platforms like WordPress. And while WordPress is great for building custom websites, you can’t really give control back to the SMB. There’s this disconnect and that’s the gap we’re bridging. We accompany the customer journey from the very simple start and perhaps just the resolution of a simple “I want to be visible online” to “I want to actually interact with my customers and do business with them online”. This complete customer journey to e-commerce. This is a very important question that takes into account this space.

You are based in Denmark, but expanding to the United States. What’s the biggest difference between how businesses approach local digital marketing in Europe and the US?
In terms of local, the United States is maybe five years ahead of us in Europe. For us going to the US with a very advanced next-gen website offering, we can come in and replace older template systems with a really good value proposition in the US, but we can also learn a lot from things that will help us with the partners we have in Europe.

From a product perspective, it’s more about how the markets are different. For us, it has always been important to have a user-centric approach. We come from an agency, so it’s extremely important to always have SMB at the heart of everything we do. We are proud of the partners we work with today. We have very big brands. We host over 300,000 sites with partners. It is always in the memory of the small business epicenter that is close to our hearts. It’s something we’re bringing to the United States and we’re getting really good feedback.

It seems that many companies start by serving verticals within the hyperlocal/local space (payments/ads/booking etc.) and then feel compelled to add additional services and solutions – to be kind of all-in-one solution. for the technology needs of small business owners. A number of big players like Square, GoDaddy and others have been working on this more horizontal approach. Are you looking to grow in this way or are you planning to network with distribution partners?
No, in the US we have a strict channel model. Its very important for us. We do not compete with our partners, it is not our strategy at all. All of our partners who work with us can rest assured that we will not try to steal from their customers afterwards.

Plus, everything is 100% white label. That’s why we know we have a little reward saying it’s the world’s best kept secret, that’s how it is when you’re white labeling. We don’t appear anywhere – only at B2B conferences and events and people know us in local media circles.

Do these horizontal surges indicate an upcoming consolidation in the industry?
I think about that all the time. If you look right now at some of the industries that we work with and have traditionally worked with, a lot of them are struggling, going bankrupt, because you’re seeing new companies coming in and having a lot more to offer. The challenges that these different segments face are numerous.

We see different things working with different types of partners. The telcos we work with, and over the last two years we’ve had several, the reason they want to go out and offer online services to their customers is that they historically owned the coverage. For them going out and bundling phone plans, mobile plans, website with that, or domain and email, they want to put more glue on their customers so they don’t switch to the next provider of mobile telephony. It is their incentive to go into business.

If you look at yellow pages and directories, their rationale is that over time more and more telephone directories are going to disappear, so they are looking to replace the business. If we look at it from MasterCard’s perspective, they’re not looking because they want to be a website company, they want to own the transaction. They all have their reasons for going there.

Do you think the fragmentation of services reflects a large market, or do you think a few players will “win”?
It’s hard to say, because there are so many other factors that come into play. Who will really succeed in professionalizing this industry? I think it’s a bit more confusing and it’s emerging now because in terms of different conferences and different partners that we work with, I can see there’s some overlap.

I think whoever will win this game is whoever really, really wants to be on the side of small business and who wants to understand that need. You can’t be a DIY supplier, you can’t be a Do-It-For-Me supplier. I think you have to understand that there is a DIY space, there is a Do-It-For-Me space and now the SME wants to take more and more control there will be the Do-It- space With-Me. You need to find a way to address that need and the whole customer experience. you can’t just watch it from the product you have. That’s what it takes to win. I can’t wait to see who will win, I don’t necessarily think a great player will win.

What’s the hardest part of creating technology solutions for small businesses?
The hardest part of building is that you then have to go out and bring it to them. Recognizing the fact that DIY no longer works and the need to partner up to spread it.

Obviously, we control that last piece and for us as a company, that’s our biggest challenge. In terms of small business loyalty – we have in Denmark, we have a direct offering where we go out and have direct contact with customers, we get a lot of feedback, and we use it as a way to demonstrate and to us ensure we fully understand the requirements, as working with partners in building software can sometimes make the information a bit fuzzy. If we get feedback from partners on SME needs, it can get a bit colourful.

Otherwise, creating software for small businesses is a great need: they know they need it, but they don’t necessarily want to use it. This is sometimes the real big challenge. That’s why we solved it with our go-to-market model.

Liz Taurasi is a contributor to Street Fight.