Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

During economic recessions, while there’s certainly attention to how to cut costs, many businesses also look at how they can better serve their customers. And in an age of social networking, plenty of solution providers have launched blogs, become active on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter, or continued to rely on the tried-and-true e-mail newsletter as means to reach out to customers.

Recently direct market reseller PC Mall took that one step further with the launch of a social network of its own designed to serve its small business customers. PC Mall, as a DMR, isn’t in the practice of high-touch customer service that so many smaller solution providers are able to provide. But looking to provide more benefits to its SMB customers, the 20-something-year-old DMR is creating a peer group for them to be able to help each other.

Participants are awarded points that can be used toward purchases, says Pete Freix, president of PC Mall sales.

“This is something similar to a Facebook for small business,” he tells Channel Insider.

PC Mall hired some designers, ran some focus groups and created the site that allows small businesses to participate in discussion groups with peers, pose their questions to marketing and sales experts and share things privately in a private community.

After one week and a soft launch, PC Mall said it already had 1,000 small businesses signed up for the free service. Participants earn points by participating in blogs, discussion groups and by inviting new members to join.

“From a stickiness standpoint, that will help a lot,” says Freix.

The launch marks PC Mall’s first formal social networking effort.

“The goal is to help our customers be more successful in their businesses,” Freix says. “They may have an uncle who is in business so they call him up for advice. Now they can join up in vertical discussion boards. Real estate people can link up with other real estate people.”

Members of the community receive a discount just for being members. Plus, points can be used toward discounts or free items, says Freix.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]