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OPEN Forum Offers Helpful Business Solutions

 
By Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D.
February 24, 2011

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It’s a well-known business adage that it costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep existing customers happy. A number of credit card companies are taking this to heart and launching online initiatives that go beyond their core business model in order to engage existing customers and attract new ones.

A noteworthy case in point is the award-winning OPEN Forum by American Express — an online community targeting business owners. In the cyber world — where content is king and social media and user interactivity come in a close second — the American Express OPEN Forum is content marketing at its best: an educational Web site and online community offering users a real service. The OPEN Forum joins the card issuer’s many other consumer-oriented projects, including the environmentally-oriented Take Part Members Project.

American Express positions the OPEN Forum as “a community designed to help business owners grow their business.” While the OPEN Forum has been around for awhile, American Express transformed and relaunched OPEN a few years back after the 2008 credit crisis and the ensuing economic downturn. The goal was to provide an online destination for small business owners, and, in the words of American Express, to signal to business owners that “we’re here to help.”

The OPEN Forum has already raked in numerous awards, including the 2009 WebAward for Outstanding Achievement in Web Development, a 2010 Silver Effie Award and a 2010 minOnline Best of Web honorable mention for best Custom Web site.

What’s causing all the stir? The American Express OPEN Forum contains top-notch educational and interactive content that is useful to business owners. The OPEN Forum Idea Hub, for example, features articles and videos with experts and thought leaders on topics ranging from innovation and marketing to lifestyle and technology. Business owners and managers can join the conversation and get ideas from panel experts or other OPEN Forum participants.

Have you ever wondered how to find government contracting money that targets female entrepreneurs? Or, are you looking for ways to achieve business success in the post-recession era? Or, perhaps you are desperately seeking a way to tame the social media beast. Well, it’s all there in the Idea Hub, courtesy of contributions from leading business and technology experts, such as Guy Kawasaki, Adam Ostrow of Mashable, Henry Blodget of The Business Insider and Johan Jantsch, author of “Duct Tape Marketing.”

Other types of high-impact content include a frequently updated Small Business Spotlight, as well as Project Re:Brand — an in-depth marketing section that features educational videos with real-life examples of small business brand make-overs and video series on effective marketing, luxury branding and designing winning Web sites.

In addition, the American Express OPEN Forum contains several interactive features, such as the Connectodex tool that matches business owners with similar needs and interests. The tool is similar to LinkedIn. Users can search for other members who are offering a business service they need, or they can post information on the services they offer.

The Web site also advertises American Express Business Solutions tools, including SearchManager, American Express’s search engine marketing service; AcceptPay, an online payment and invoicing solution similar to PayPal and InsuranceEdge, an online service that enables users to compare business insurance options. OPEN also partners with businesses and organizations and offers “real-life” events, such as business matchmaking opportunities, trade fairs, educational workshops and more.

The OPEN Forum was originally designed just for holders of American Express business credit cards, such as the American Express Gold or Platinum business cards or the coveted but pricey American Express Plum card. However, large parts of the site are available to all users. Only the more interactive features are reserved for American Express OPEN business cardholders. Members of LinkedIn can also log in as “Guests” and gain access to large parts of the community.

American Express business cards have long been branded as the business credit card to have, and the OPEN Forum succeeds in adding to that gilded American Express image. The American Express OPEN Forum is a great example of strategic brand marketing that creates a win-win situation for both company and consumers. OPEN offers value for business owners, while subtly advertising American Express’s growing number of auxiliary services targeting businesses. And chances are, if you don’t have that coveted American Express Plum Card yet, while visiting OPEN, you might just fall for the temptation to click on one of those strategically placed Plum banners.


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