The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Startups looking for investors are asked almost immediately: What’s the “pain point” your product or service addresses that will convince customers to pay for it?

A recent survey of businesses from Bank of America just happens to give a new Durham startup a boost with its finding that small and medium businesses want to find ways to spend less time and money while at the same time improving lead generation, thus sales.

BoostSuite just happens to fall into the niche.

Aaron Houghton, fresh off the sale of e-mail marketing services firm iContact which he co-founded along with Ryan Allis, is out to address the need of businesses to better manage marketing services and to turn leads into sales with what he calls web optimization tools

“You might help SMBs have to devote less in way of financial resources and time to other marketing activities?” the Skinny asked Houghton, referencing the Bank of America survey.

“You got it,” Houghton replied. “BoostSuite will help make these small business owners more effective in the time that they have to do marketing. They spend much of the time that they’re currently spending stuck and frustrated because they don’t know exactly what to do.”

BoostSuite is off to a fast start as it begins working with beta and initial customers. NC Idea has already granted Houghton and partner Daniel Smith with a non-dilutive grant.

Smith was a “silent partner” in Houghton’s new venture, having worked with Houghton at iContact. The two and a small cadre of co-workers are laboring in the American Underground at the American Tobacco Historic District to create what they hope will be another venture like iContact that can be sold some day for nearly $170 million.

“BoostSuite represents a whole new way to attract new users to a website, even if you don’t know where to start,” Hougotn says. “We are changing the skills necessary to be a successful online marketer.”

According to Houghton, BoostSuite will help clients not only increase traffic but also turn more visitors into buyers.

Smith, who was product marketing manager at iContact, signed on with Houghton as co-founder, chief marketing officer and chief operating officer. Both also are investors in BoostSuite. There are no other investors at this point. Smith also runs Trigger Marketing, a web services firm that aims to help Fortune 100 companies maximize websites.

In BoostSuite, he sees real opportunities to help smaller businesses.

“In a nutshell, BoostSuite is a product to help small businesses make their website a channel to acquire customers,” he says. “Web sites don’t actually do much.

“BoostSuite will help make websites essentially a profit center and revenue channel, not cost center.

“The next wave of the Internet—big data—is a problem small and medium size businesses can’t participate in. They are not analysts.

“There are people on their websites, and we are looking for information. We believe BoostSuite removes the analysts’ layer action on what the data says.”