published Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Small Biz: Atlanta-based marketing firm targets new Chattanooga residents, small businesses

  • photo
    Allen and Pat Smith opened a Welcomemat Services location in order to help small business owners target and reach potential customers who recently moved into the Chattanooga area.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

If Allen Smith has his way, every person who moves to Chattanooga will get a big fat envelope of local coupons in their new mailbox.

The franchisee is leading Atlanta-based Welcomemat Services' debut in the Chattanooga market. The company aims to connect small business owners to new movers through monthly direct mail campaigns, and then use QR-like codes to help small business owners track demographics and turn new movers into long-time customers.

"If you just moved, you need a dry cleaner, a doctor, a dentist, the local pizza restaurant -- and that's where we come in," Smith said. "We invite these new movers to try out local businesses. If you get an offer in the mail and you're new, you're likely to try out that place, especially if it's a $100 gift certificate to the dentist or $5 at the dry cleaners."

A longtime salesman before he was laid off in 2008, Smith invested between $40,000 and $79,000 to open the Welcomemat Services location in Chattanooga this November. He's focused on the Chattanooga, Cleveland and Dalton, Ga., markets.

Small businesses can pay as little as $50 or as much as $600 a month for Welcomemat.

"We're very affordable and we're very targeted," Smith said. "There's a bang for your buck the way we market your business."

But while the welcome-to-a-new-city advertising model has been around for decades, what sets Welcomemat apart is the customer demographic information Welcomemat gives business owners, said Brian Mattingly, Welcomemat CEO and founder.

"The whole idea is to help small businesses think more intelligently," he said. "We wanted them to have access to technology, and we realized the first step to helping small businesses is to help them find a consumer group that have a high probability of being loyal."

So Welcomemat tracks every coupon that's used and sends the data to business owners. Owners can build a database of customers and learn the average age, average income, typical neighborhood and gender.

Founded in 2003, Welcomemat started franchising in 2011 and now has 28 locations across the United States. Mattingly said Chattanooga is a good fit for the chain because of the growing number of movers.

"There's a lot going for Chattanooga but a couple things stick out," he said. "There's a big technology push, which is cool. You're getting some movement, some young people, some businesses coming in. And this is a chance to connect with these new people."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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