Infusionsoft's ICON14: How to Thrive in the Connection Economy

PHOENIX—"The connection economy is fueling the success of all of you," author and entrepreneur Seth Godin told the crowd of entrepreneurs gathered on Day 2 at Infusionsoft's ICON conference. Networks like Twitter and TripAdvisor have created immense value, both for the companies themselves and the people that use them. In the connection economy, TripAdvisor is king, not American Airlines. "One is a bus company, the other is a network," Godin said. Through these networks, small companies can rise to the top or disseminate their messages differently: virally, or to audiences more specific than ever before. The mere existence of the Internet has changed who can create and market a small business. For both Infusionsoft and the customers it serves, this transformation has altered the possibilities of their businesses.

"The Internet lowered barriers to entry across the board for small businesses," said Marc Chesley, Infusionsoft's chief technology officer, in an interview with CRM. "In a matter of hours, you can create a Web form, collect leads, and process money, all without buying a server or having an IT professional. It's changed the playing field for small businesses to get in the game, and it's one of the reasons Infusionsoft is doing so well. Small businesses can play like only big businesses could fifteen years ago."

The three 2014 Small Business ICON finalists, as well as the best-in-class category finalists, represent the shift in the type of businesses that leverage CRM. When Infusionsoft first started over a decade ago, the early adopters were direct response–oriented Web businesses, Chesley recalls. Now their customer base represents a much broader array of businesses, offering products and services that encompass hundreds of government SIC (standard industrial classification) codes. One of this year's finalists was the founder of a soccer academy LeftFoot Coaching. Another founded a marketing company for salons based on her experience as a stylist. Holistic Veterinary Care used Infusionsoft's GroSocial to grow its Facebook followers from 300 to 14,000.

The winner of this year's contest, Australian janitorial company Cleancorp, struggled for years before Hamish Macqueen brought on his wife, Lisa, a former marketer, and then implemented Infusionsoft. They created an email and mailing campaign that gave a personal touch to a service, as they put it, that no one likes to think about. During their presentation, they highlighted the campaign that had the most impact on their business. Their cleaners felt unappreciated, and the service was anonymous. To address this, Cleancorp had its cleaners submit a photo of themselves with their families or doing what they love, along with their hobbies and interests. These were then mailed to their clients, who tacked them up on their walls. The clients started greeting the janitors by name when they walked in. Janitors finally felt appreciated, and it established a personal relationship between the client and the cleaners. Then there were the results: Revenue grew from $1.2 million to $3.75 million. Cleancorp went from two to eight employees, and its customer base doubled to 240 as the company embraced marketing automation.

As Infusionsoft continues to serve these customers, it has other plans as well. Chesley outlined the company's four areas of focus: making it easier to get started on the software; accelerating mobile; expanding the charter of its acquisition GroSocial, to other forms of lead generation; and finally, focusing on growing its app ecosystem, which will help expand the capabilities of Infusionsoft while letting the company focus on its core software offering. "We're not going to get to our current mission of 100,000 customers by end of 2016 unless we have a vibrant ecosystem of app partners," Chesley noted.

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