Swelby: New local marketing tool brings downtown online

NORWICH – “There’s an app for that.” Easy for you to say, if you’re a multi-million dollar corporation, or one of those tech nerds with endless programming hours under his belt. But what if you’re a small, hometown business? There’s got to be a way to reach your customers in a new and engaging way without breaking the bank.

Now there is. It’s called Swelby ... an affordable, online marketing solution for small to medium-sized businesses. And best of all? It originated right here in Chenango County.

Swelby (the name comes from an old Pennysaver tagline: Swap, Sell, Buy ...) is a new digital community that will help local consumers browse places, products, events, menus and deals on your computer, tablet or cell phone. Scores of Chenango businesses have already been introduced to the Swelby concept, and are on board for an early 2013 launch. Once its success is proven here, plans are to have the Swelby sphere of influence extend into Otsego, Madison and Delaware counties – and maybe even beyond.

But back to the beginning – where did Swelby start? This digital promotion tool is the brainchild of a group of entrepreneurs who are actually neighbors to The Evening Sun and its sister publication, The Pennysaver – Jeanne Brightman owns Swelby and its progenitor, New Media Retailer. Its two vice presidents – Joe Root (Operations) and Craig Ballinger (Research and Development) conceived and built the digital network from the ground up, complete with an expansive website and mobile app for the iPhone and Android markets.

“Swelby’s an online community directory that will allow people to see what’s going on with local businesses and organizations,” Root said in summing up his creation. “It opens up local content in new and instantly engaging ways.”

Bringing the downtown community together online is one of Swelby’s main goals. “The internet has made it easier for people to shop across the country than it is to shop locally,” Ballinger said. “Swelby levels that playing field,” he continued, because small businesses often don’t have the time or resources to build their own websites, much less mobile applications. “And we’re giving consumers direct access to who and what is available locally.”

An early adopter of the Swelby phenomenon is Julia Miller, marketing director for Blueox in Oxford. “Swelby is a fun, fresh way for local businesses to reach potential customers,” Miller said, adding how she’d been looking for a new approach to interact with Blueox’s client base. Like many small businesses, Blueox didn’t have the time or the resources to devote to developing its own online marketing solution; enter, Swelby. “For the first time, small businesses will have access to big business tools at an affordable price,” she said.

“We’ve been working with small businesses for nearly five years now on these new technologies, identifying ways to help businesses to meet their customers in new, exciting and effective ways,” Brightman said of her latest venture. “We honestly believe that Swelby will open new connections between businesses and consumers ... And even more importantly, give businesses and chance to reach new customers through web and mobile. This is a great program.”

While it’s clear that Swelby is a win-win for small businesses, what about you? For the average consumer, Swelby will present an opportunity to interact with businesses in new ways – by viewing their profile pages and offerings, accessing an extensive online business directory, getting instant notification of deals and sales, and even claiming digital coupons for themselves to be used in stores. Saving money with a free app? Another win-win.

“There’s a wide range of interaction,” Root explained, detailing Swelby’s many features, including location-based targeting of coupons, loyalty programs and other promotional offers. And best of all, it’s free. There’s no charge for a consumer account on swelby.com, and the soon-to-be-available mobile app will also be a free download. “You won’t get spammed with emails or offers that have nothing to do with you,” Root said, adding that Swelby will actually learn your preferences – where you like to eat and shop, for example – the more you use it.

For businesses and organizations, Swelby will put all their online tools under one roof. From a simple user interface, Swelby’s paying users will be able to update their websites and Facebook pages, and send offers directly to the customers who want them – all with the click of a mouse or a text message.

That’s a feature that got New York Pizzeria’s Betsey Baio excited about the prospect of using Swelby to grow her New Berlin restaurant business. “The most exciting thing for me is that with a simple text, I will be able to update my Facebook and web page,” said the busy entrepreneur. “I also love the fact that they are a local company, which keeps people working here.”

Swelby is still in the testing stages as promotion and sign-up ramps up, Root said. The marketing network is expected to go live early next year, but the time to get on board is now. The first batch of adoptees were entered into a contest to win a Wii U just in time for Christmas (that drawing’s today), and more incentives are coming down the line, he added. Again, there’s no charge to the consumer to take advantage of Swelby’s information and deals – all you have to do is sign up on the website – www.swelby.com – and, when it’s ready, download the mobile app. Watch for further information on Swelby in the print and online editions of The Evening Sun and Pennysaver.

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