Perhaps the more appropriate question would be “why are there no affordable marketing analytics apps that deliver actionable information for my small business?” (I’ll get to who we are in a minute). If you’re an enterprise marketer, then it’s a different situation. There are big products out there to meet your big needs. But those big products are overkill for SMBs. They’re complicated, expensive, and seem to be impossible to configure without an army of consultants. I know, because I’ve beenthere. Many times.

My name is Rick Carlson, and I’m the founder and president of SharpSpring. I’ve also been CEO of CyberPatrol, President of Panda Security’s US operations, Managing Director of AVG’s US operations, and founder and CEO of Aluria (an anti-spyware company acquired by Earthlink). So I’ve spent a lot of time in the SMB world. I’m a sales and marketing guy, so I know what I need – and I know when I’m not getting what I need. And it’s not just me.

SMB sales and marketing toolkits have for years revolved around CRM systems (usually – which will henceforth be known as SFDC, for ease of typing, if nothing else) and Google Analytics. Both of these can tell you a lot about the effectiveness of your inbound online marketing and account management activities for not a whole lot of money. The effectiveness of your offline and outbound activities, not so much. And that’s where a lot of SMB marketing dollars get spent.

This gaping hole in the market has become more and more apparent to me over the years of managing SMBs. We’d be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on outbound marketing activities to drive leads to the sales team, but we’d have zero visibility into what was working and, more importantly, what wasn’t. So we started looking at the analytics in a different way and developed a whole different approach to tracking results. The transformation was nothing short of stunning. Within a month, we were able to cut our cost per lead in half and within three months sales were up 80%. Plus, we could see exactly where we were getting the best return on our marketing dollars – and it wasn’t costing us a fortune to extract that information.

So we jumped at the opportunity to build our ideas into a full-blown solution that could bring the same low-cost, high-value results to other businesses, and do it in a way that let you see how well it’s paying for itself as you’re using it. With SharpSpring, you decide what it’s worth to your business to have the kind of analytics Google gives you for shopping cart activities but applied to sales team-based operations, trade shows, print ads, and call center teams as well as online marketing activities.

Of course, it’s not just me making this whole exciting venture happen. My partners are Travis Whitton, CTO, who’s an incredibly innovative and inventive technologist, and operations whiz Richard Kohn, who’s been with me since the Aluria days. We’re starting to build out the team, and are particularly excited by the partnership opportunities we’re working on with the University of Florida here in Gainesville.

My goal is to bring you weekly updates via this blog, as we get closer to our first full availability of the SharpSpring platform (it won’t be long now!). I’ll also be writing in more detail about the marketing challenges faced by SMBs, ways I’ve found to overcome those challenges, and how SharpSpring will make your life easier. In parallel, you’ll see us producing short (3-4 page) primers that go into more detail than there’s room for here.

So download today’s primer, What Do You Really Need to Know About Your Marketing ROI?, and I’ll be writing more soon.

Lindsey Sherman