During the 80s and 90s Sierra On-Line was at the top of the personal software charts, with a long string of computer game, educational software and home productivity hits, including Half-Life, Kings Quest, Leisure-Suit Larry, Print Artist, and The Incredible Machine. Sierra’s founder and CEO, Ken Williams, is now trying to do for small business what Sierra did so well for the home market. “Talkspot.com, is 100% focused on small business. Our focus is on finding innovative ways that the internet can be used to help our customers do two things: raise revenue and lower costs,” said Ken Williams.
“Our first product is positioned as a ‘website maker’ but that radically undersells what we’re up to, and what we bring to our customers. We’ve been at this for five years, and have built over 60,000 websites, but have been trying to fly under the radar. It’s a tough category with a lot of strong competitors, and we started from nothing but an idea. It’s a very simple idea, which is nothing more than that I have always had a core belief that the internet is radically transforming the relationship between businesses and their customers. How customers learn about a business, how businesses create awareness, how they communicate, how they support their products, and in some cases how they deliver their products, are all going through great-wave change. We do offer small businesses a website, but in our vision of the world, the website is only a small part of the relationship between a business and a customer. Our R&D focus is on thinking of the website as a platform from which we can empower small businesses to market their products more efficiently, and then support and retain customers at lowered costs.”
“Talkspot.com is a subscription based service, costing only about $70 per year. We don’t nickel-dime our customers with constant harassment for up-sells. I don’t like hard-sell sales tactics, and our customers prefer our all-inclusive pricing. For just $70 a year we throw in everything; the businesses’ domain name (if they don’t already have one), hosting, email, site design (pick from one of our 100s of pre-built websites), site editing tools, SEO, mailing list management and much more. Even though it costs Talkspot real money to set up a new account, we charge new customers only $1 for their first three months. I don’t believe in long-term agreements. Any customer can cancel at any time if they aren’t 100% satisfied with our product. I’m confident that if people try us, they will stay.”
“One of our key goals is to keep prices low. Internally, we have a saying: ‘If we raise our customer’s bottom line by dollars, they won’t mind pitching us some pennies.’ Money is tight now. Few small businesses can afford to hire an ‘expert’ to design a custom site for them, plus not all independent designers and hosting firms are of consistent quality. Some are great, and some come with ‘surprises.’ With our system, a small business person can pick one of our pre-built sites, already matching their business, and with just a few clicks, their site is online. They can then customize it if they wish, and anytime they wish. Everything is do-it-yourself, and the vast majority of customers require no hand-holding. If they do want assistance, we have support people, on chat, who guide them through our system. Or, if they really want to do as little as possible, we do have designers who can tweak their websites. Even our custom designers are inexpensive. Because they are using our Talkspot system, and starting with a working website, most custom designs are done for $750 or under. And, as I said, the vast majority of our customers just ‘do it themselves.’”
“Talkspot is widget based, and we are constantly adding new widgets. Over the past year we added a full retail store, for our customers who want to sell online, including the ability to take credit cards, paypal and Amazon payments. We also added widgets allowing small businesses to collect monthly payments via their website. Want to charge $30 per month on a subscription basis for lawn care? No problem. And, as usual, there is no extra charge for any of our widgets. We have some incredible ideas for boosting revenue, boosting product awareness, delivering products, cutting support costs, and more. We’ve shown that we can exceed expectations in the past, and plan to continue doing so. Even if someone already has a website, I’d encourage them to sign up with Talkspot anyhow. Put a dollar at risk. I think they’ll be surprised at what the difference between Talkspot’s focus on the website, as the hub of a business communications platform, and anything they may have seen before.”