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When Glenn Allen cofounded OpenTable in 1998, one of the biggest problems the early team had was finding restaurants that would use the service. It wasn’t just a matter of getting the businesses to use their technology, but using any technology in general. “We had to give some of them computers, just to get them into what we were doing,” says Allen.

With that, he learned an important lesson about small businesses: Most of them don’t embrace technology. They just don’t.

Of course, it was still the late 90s and early aughts, and the Web wasn’t nearly the mechanism it is today, but the trend hasn’t changed all that much, he says. After OpenTable, Allen did some consulting work and found the same to be true. That inspired him to help found Glyder, a marketing service for small businesses. And that’s very small businesses – as in one or two or five people. These are often businesses like boutiques, masseuses, small coffee shops or sports and adventure services.

Glyder helps those businesses to create and push out messaging through different platforms like email, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Allen claims the draw is having a message that sounds and looks professional – with marketing savvy behinds the words and a slick visual style behind the art. Glyder also tailors each message to a specific platform.

For example, an email announcement and a Facebook announcement might have many of the same elements, but for Facebook, Glyder will convert the entire announcement – words, art, border – into an image, instead of separating the art and text like a normal Facebook post. Allen says past experience shows that format isn’t as engaging to a customer.

The service also creates a contact list culled from information on a business owner’s phone or email account or MailChimp, and pushes announcements through that.

This week, the company is announcing integration with CRM platforms – Salesforce and Highrise. This broadens the company’s target from just the micro small businesses to other slightly bigger startups – those sophisticated enough to already be running those platforms. Glyder, started in 2011 with CEO Alan Wells, has raised about $600,000 to date and is backed by 500 Startups. Other investors include original OpenTable backers.

The service is certainly a welcome help for the smallest businesses, and actually gives them a fighting chance. “In the service industry, we charge too much,” says Allen, who says small and medium-sized businesses spend about $33 billion a year to market to customers. “That immediately excludes the businesses that need the most help,” he says.

Glyder is free, with the messaging coming from templates that fit almost any type of small business. But companies can opt for a more customized campaign for $1 to $10, though most paid content ranges from about $3 to $5. Allen likens the pricing structure to in-app purchases in a video game.

The tools can do some real good for small businesses. While they are still slow to adopt technology, they have been more open to social media because it’s free. And if Glyder can help these businesses squeeze the most out of this kind of advertising while still keeping it free, it’s a win for the little guys.

[Photo credit: illustir]