Zaarly connects small businesses with prospects via mobile alerts

The site, available in about 250 U.S. cities, alerts companies when someone from their local community may require their products or services.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Many small businesses see the value of outbound marketing services focused on connecting with potential customers via their mobile devices.

Zaarly is a marketplace that also looks at that proposition in reverse, providing a means for small businesses to hear about qualified leads and prospects that are specific to their neighborhood or local community.

I spoke with Zaarly CEO Bo Fishback about the service, which is currently in a beta test in approximately 250 cities around the United States. Here's how the platform works:

  • Would-be buyers make requests for specific services, anything from housecleaning to computer repair to house renovations.
  • They disclose how much they are willing to pay and where those services are needed.
  • Small businesses that are signed up with Zaarly are sent alerts -- via test messages, email or other preferred notifications methods.
  • If a business is interested in the job, it can respond accordingly.

It doesn't costs anything for a small business to list itself on Zaarly for these alerts, Fishback said. The way the site makes its money is by charging a 9.5 percent transaction fee to the buyer for jobs that are brokered and billed through its system. Why would someone pay this fee? In a sense, because it is being connected with a known entity. Seller profiles include recommendation fields and people can flag or ignore certain offers or connections if they choose. If the transaction is handled outside the system, there isn't a fee, but the transaction isn't covered by the same satisfaction and security services. Sellers can also list products and services for sale on the system.

"What I really care about is that you have a good experience and that you come back and do other things," Fishback said.

Zaarly is working to strike the right balance between products (currently about 60 percent of the requests on a site), he said. The rest of the requests are for services or what Fishback described as "experiences" (such as backstage passes for a concert).

The top city for Zaarly transactions when I spoke with Fishback several weeks ago was New York, followed by San Francisco and Oklahoma City, Fishback said.

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