Check out our new video that explains exactly how Signpost can help your business get and keep new customers!
This post is by Patrick Hazel who is one of the writers on our marketing team.
Two of the biggest shopping days of the year are right around the corner: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These two days make it easy for Americans to focus on the big box retail and online super stores. But, what most Americans are unaware of is that there is another day growing in popularity amongst the famous Thanksgiving weekend days better known as Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday was created by American Express in November 2010 with the vision of “shopping small is shopping big.” On November 24th, squeezed between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, businesses across the country will push to drive shoppers and customers to shop at the local, smaller stores- also known as the mom and pop shops. You may not be able to find a 42” flat screen HDTV for 70% off, but you might find that slice of apple pie you dreamed about last night, or a unique set of household items you just can’t resist or find anywhere else!
Small Business Saturday is important to us at Signpost because it is dedicated to what drives us: supporting small businesses nationwide. We celebrate this important day for small businesses and help our customers with simple and effective marketing campaigns to get even more local exposure and new customers throughout this period.
For you as a business owner it’s time to take advantage of the limitless opportunities this day will bring. Customers will be out shopping at small businesses at full force. Here are a few tips that will maximize your potential for Small Business Saturday:
1. Know Your Target Well
Many people will be shopping on Small Business Saturday, but there are people searching for specific things as well. Know what your customers want, and strategize to make sure you are aware of what a new wave of customers may want to see. This day is a great way to grow your customer base and get an added boost to your sales, so execute your game plan well.
This is also a big day to make sure your store looks great. Motivate your staff and encourage them to keep the windows and sales floor presentable and up to date. Remember, there will be many people getting a first look at your place, so make it a memorable first impression.
3. Different Kind of Shopping
Make sure you tell people that different is better. Small Business Saturday is a different kind of shopping experience. The day encourages people to get up, get out, explore, shop and eat in a comfortable, relaxing neighborhood setting. This day offers unique items that will not be seen anywhere else in the larger markets, which is what makes the experience that much more rewarding.
4. Promote…. Then Promote Some More!
Americans love small businesses. Entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency are held high and sought after. Now is the perfect opportunity for your business to get a new wave of customers. We know you are already promoting your business, but this week up until Small Business Saturday, it’s time to put yourselves out there like never before! Use local papers, social media outlets, and word of mouth to let people know your Saturday plans.
5. Hit Twitter Hard
With almost a week until the big day, now is the time to take to Twitter. Use the hashtag #smallbusinesssaturday to jump into the conversations. Remind your followers about any special plans you have for the big Saturday. Then inform those who don’t follow your business about the exciting sales and promotions for the day.
6. Don’t Forget About the Other Social Networks
Facebook and Foursquare are important. Post a couple of statuses, photos, and even videos on Facebook and encourage friends and colleagues to share and like. With Foursquare, it’s time to encourage people to come visit. Offer extra points and surprise discounts for checking in at your location, make people aware of your promotions- and most importantly, make your promotions worth sharing!
This week John Jantsch, the creator of Duct Tape Marketing and author of the new book, “The Commitment Engine,” was a guest on MSNBC’s Your Business. As always he had some great advice on how the right combination of marketing and service can be the basis for a longer-term relationship with new customers.
We want to give you an idea of the people on the Signpost team and highlight those helping local businesses stand out online and get new customers into their businesses. This post is by Pamela Jacobson who is one of the many skillful writers on our marketing team that creates the local advertising campaigns for our merchants.
Have you noticed? There are hundreds if not thousands of different websites, mobile apps and other local advertising services to promote your business. We realize it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a business owner to know which one will bring the best results for their advertising dollar.
Apart from the obvious financial savings realized in choosing Signpost, and the fact that we provide you access to most of these publishers through one simple account, there’s another thing you should know that sets us apart from all the others, a little thing we like to call the Signpost Difference: We get you.
Before we place your campaign on any of our top-tier publisher partners, we take the time to get to know you. We talk to you and better understand your business and advertising objectives. We look through your website to find out what it is about your business that you’re particularly proud of. We scour different review sites to see what your customers are saying about you, and what it is they like about your business. We research the service you’re offering, and what it entails. We look for photos – of your business, your décor, your customers, even your neighborhood.
We do all of this because we want to give a positive, yet accurate representation of who you are and what differentiates you from your competitors. It is our ‘integrity with a smile.’
We know you’re not making a profit by selling a bunch of discounted services. Your real goal is to bring in new customers who will come back again and again, and that’s our goal as well. We don’t want to send someone who’s looking for a ritzy hair salon to a mom and pop barber shop, and vice versa.
If a picture paints a thousand words, then it’s also true that a few well-chosen words can paint a picture. And by painting a very clear picture – taken in a positive light, of your business and your services, we appeal to the customers who are looking for exactly what you have to offer.
So you won’t find a bunch of schmaltzy, impersonal and irrelevant creative writing on Signpost. We’re not trying to show off how clever we can be. We want to put you in the spotlight so that your customers can find you. They get the experience they’re expecting, you get repeat business and everybody’s happy. That’s the Signpost Difference!
We were very proud to be featured in Fast Company’s Pivot Series. Read below for the backstory on how Signpost came to be. The original article is published here.
BY SIMONE BARIBEAU
The lovechild of Groupon and Foursquare was never meant to be. So Stuart Wall found another way to help small businesses advertise.
Who needs Groupon to find a good deal? New York’s markdown “mavens” already know how to sniff out the best bargains. And a community-shopping platform called Postabon.com that launched in 2009 was meant to harness that collective intelligence by allowing neighbors to organize the deals all in one place.
It made so much sense. Stuart Wall, the company’s cofounder, believed it was destined to work. And at first, it did. Residents found and posted bargains: free haircuts at Crops for Girls Salon on the Lower East Side, a 40% discount on Ralph Lauren togs in Soho, $1 off happy hour at Burp Castle in the East Village. Mashable called the website “a terrific idea.” CBS praised it for pinpointing “exact sales on exactly what you need in your neighborhood.” The year after the company was founded, Spark Capital, Google Ventures and others invested about $1 million.
But the “love child of Foursquare and Groupon,” as VentureBeat termed the business, was never meant to be.
Wall, who started the company months after graduating from Harvard Business School, discovered that even with 5,000 deals in the New York area, few people went online for discounts before going out to shop. People just didn’t look for bargains before leaving to grab Venezuelan cuisine with friends. (If they did, they could have paid only $12 for $25 worth of food at Williamsburg’s Caracas Arepa Bar.)
Instead, the Indianapolis-native discovered, discount deals were impulse buys. Consumers bought from Groupon, which was scaling up just as Postabon started, because the offers that would turn up in their inbox seemed like bargains. So Wall, who was never slow to change course when things weren’t working–after six months of being unhappy at a private equity firm he took a leave of absence to start his own company–adjusted. His company began sending out emails to advertise deals and relying on businesses to directly offer discounts, rather than on consumers to find them.
Wall was speaking at a July 2011 daily deal industry conference in San Francisco when he began to wonder if there was a problem with that model too. As more competitors–Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt City–flooded the market, he reasoned, customers were less likely to sign up for new email advertisements and more likely to ignore or unsubscribe from the emails they were already receiving. Marketing costs would go up, and revenue per customer would tumble.
He left the conference early and spent the afternoon modeling Groupon’s unit economics. According to his estimate, which he published on his blog the following month, Groupon was on track to lose 52 cents for every dollar they spent on email marketing. He called companies still looking to gain traction in that market in 2011 “idiots,” referring to Warren Buffet’s comment that in every market cycle there are innovators, imitators and idiots.
By some measures, he’s been proven right. Groupon’s share price has fallen by about two-thirds since it went public in November 2011 and Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the daily deal giant is refocusing on software products such as an online appointment-booking system and a loyalty program.
Wall, who had worked at management consulting firm Bain & Company out of college, needed to change course to avoid following the idiots’ path. And his inspiration for the pivot came from his sister, Christen, who also attended the July daily deal conference. She had a degree in computer science and four years experience as a software programmer, but wasn’t able to use the Google AdWords dashboard.
If she had more computer experience than any other merchant there, Wall thought, there was no way most small business owners could effectively use the available programs.
So, in October, Postabon became Signpost. For no more than $149 a month, Signpost lets companies avoid the complicated ad tools altogether, taking over their marketing campaigns and placing online targeted ads on more than 1,200 publishers, including Google, AOL, Digital First Media, and about 800 local newspapers in 20 cities. Publishers benefit too since they don’t have to pay a sales force to find businesses to advertise.
And unlike daily deals companies that would send the same deal to as many people as possible, relying on mass emails to generate relatively small numbers of sales, Signpost was able to work with publishers to better target the deals. Going through Signpost also means that businesses won’t have to pay as large a percentage of their sales when customers buy a product through the ad. Companies like Google Offers may charge businesses that negotiate directly with them up to half of the sales they generate. Signpost, which passes along commission fees but charges none of its own, pays only 15%.
The result, Wall estimated in a May 2012 blog written for the Huffington Post, was that businesses using Signpost had to pay only $16 to acquire a new client, compared with $28 if they used Groupon and $124 if they used Google AdWords.
And while most daily deal sites focus on getting as many new customers through the door as possible, Signpost also has the flexibility to modify a campaign to better suit a client’s goals. Some clients, for instance, are interested only in drumming up business for slow times, and Signpost limits the campaigns to those times.
That’s helped business owners like Humberto Toledo, who runs acupuncture center Premier Integrative Medicine. Toledo, who launched his business in 2009, wasn’t established enough to advertise through the first daily deals sites he approached: he couldn’t provide the required online reviews; he needed a campaign targeted toward the two days a week he was open; and he couldn’t afford to hand over half of the income generated to the sites. Then he ran across Signpost through a Google search. It was more flexible, cheaper, and more targeted. The deal–Toledo would charge $30 to $40 for a first time visit, which would typically cost $150–generated about 15 to 20 new returning customers every three months that he ran the campaign, enough business so that he’s never advertised through another outlet.
Seven months in, Wall’s pivot’s working. Google Ventures, Spark Capital and their other investors quadrupled down on Wall’s business, putting in $4 million. The company’s valuation is “more than double” that of Postabon and revenue is growing at 50% a month, though Wall declined to disclose the overall figure or give a precise valuation. He expects the business to be cash flow positive early next year. In retrospect, he says he wishes he’d pivoted sooner.
“Admitting that you’ve failed, that the original business concept is not going to be successful, too many people think of that as a very bad thing, ” he said. “Now that I’ve done it once, I think it’s actually a really good thing.”
This article by Signpost CEO and co-founder Stuart Wall was originally published on the Huffington Post and can also be found here.
Building a first-class sales team is neither easy nor cheap — just ask the dozens of local startups that have folded or cut their sales teams over the last year. As we grow our internal sales force at Signpost, we constantly focus on building an efficient, healthy work environment that delivers results. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned along the way.
1. The best sales reps are trained, not born.
Some will argue that sales talent is something you’re born with, but we believe coachability wins over natural talent and experience — particularly for a high velocity, low cost salesforce. Great salespeople listen, learn, and adapt. New reps can be trained through a highly structured and organized onboarding process. At Signpost, reps’ desks are set up when they arrive and the first training week is scheduled to the hour. It doesn’t stop there. Always be training. Training sessions should be consistent (ideally the same time each week), interactive (create a dialogue, not a deck), and based on buy-in from reps (recent roadblocks, new strategies, etc). At Signpost, we also strongly encourage lateral mentorship. Reps share tips with each other through email, IMs and Yammer.
2. Motivation beats micromanagement.
We believe motivation drives all other metrics. We’ve seen company morale drive huge swings in performance at a level that can’t be replicated through micromanagement, rules, or intimidation. We maintain an environment that keeps morale high — we play music, create teams, organize small activities to break up the day, and reinforce reps’ connection to rest of the company through cross-departmental committees and group outings. Contests have also proven to be extremely powerful. Competitions should be short, unpredictable, and fun. We like to build contests around all parts of the funnel (deals closed, leads created, talk time, etc) and incorporate physical activities (golf putts, ping pong). Rewards can be more creative than just cash: let reps leave early on a Friday, add them to a “hall of fame” when they break records, or give airline vouchers to use toward vacation.
3. Make selling a layup.
The first and most intuitive step, of course, is building a great product that’s easy to sell and drives a great ROI for the buyer. The next step is optimize every step of the sales process. Make signing up customers quick and simple. Lower the friction for internal technology and leverage outside tech tools (Leads360, Join.me). Prioritize leads, customize pitches, and structure the workday strategically: Who are your most valuable customers? What are their major pain points? When do they answer the phone? Use every piece of data you have to bring call-to-close time down, and call volume and hit rate up. Don’t waste time having sales reps prospect or nurture after closing — prospecting provides excuses not to call, creates redundancies, and leads to fighting over deals. Account management also distracts from building new business: reps are hunters, not farmers.
4. Manage your managers.
The player-coach paradigm does not apply to the rep-manager relationship. A sales manager’s job is to make sales reps’ lives easier. In order to do so, they need the proper amount of span and control. 10-12 reps per manager is an ideal ratio, as it gives them enough work to justify the role, but not too many shoulders to look over. Managers should constantly be surrounded by reps, listening on calls, and training on the spot when necessary. In a perfect scenario, they are almost invisible except for during formal training. In fact, you can judge the strength of a sales team by how it performs when the manager is away. We’ve also learned that sales reps are not necessarily the best sales managers. You should therefore structure the promotion track wisely. Don’t make promises around timeframes that you can’t deliver — this will only hurt your credibility as a leader and even worse, lower collective expectations. Also avoid creating a labyrinth of layered hierarchies: this will raise your overall CPA while allowing for communication gaps and cultivate an unproductive kind of competition between reps.
5. Transparency drives performance.
Perhaps the most powerful thing we’ve done at Signpost over the last six months is track goals visually in real time. We’ve found extraordinary success through our sales dashboard, which adds a bit of gamification, holds the team accountable, and clearly quantifies the distance to upside. Reps know by looking at the dashboard exactly where they are at any given point in time and how far they are from hitting bonus numbers. Accordingly, bonuses should be straightforward, justifiably fair, and effectively communicated from the outset. In the event that quotas aren’t reached, a brief grace period or performance improvement plan can be instrumental in giving reps an opportunity to improve over a finite period of time. At the end of the day, it’s easier on both parties to hire fast and fire fast. When a rep is let go, communicate the change quickly to the team and hit the positive. Highlight the difference between terminations and layoffs, and reinforce the importance and collective benefit of building a team that’s strong all around.
Signpost’s own marketing guru Jacco de Bruijn contributed the guest post below, which represents Part 1 of a three-part series on online marketing metrics. Check back in the next couple of weeks for Parts 2 and 3.
As VP of Marketing for Signpost I find myself in a great position to leverage my passion: I am not just helping our company market itself, but I have the exciting opportunity to do the same for the thousands of local businesses like yours on the Signpost platform. I realize you are in the same situation as we are; you have a vision of where you want to be in a couple of years from now, but right now your focus is on attracting new customers to keep your business growing.
As your one-stop-shop for online marketing Signpost wants to take the burden of attracting new customers off your hands so you can concentrate on making sure they turn into long-term customers. That said, it’s important to understand three crucial aspects of online marketing regardless what marketing methods you choose: the conversion rate, the cost per new customer, and the lifetime value of a new customer. This post covers the conversion rate.
The Conversion Rate
The conversion rate is defined as the percentage of people that end up purchasing your service or product after engaging with your marketing. The classic “AIDA” marketing theory categorizes potential customers based on their level of engagement and likelihood to purchase: Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. Converting consumers from being aware of your business to taking action (by purchasing) is what marketing is all about. The more consumers you can convert, the higher your conversion rate, and hence the more effective your marketing is.
I know from my experience managing marketing for big national brands, startups and local businesses, that in the end it is all about getting new paying customers and keeping them. However, especially for local businesses, there is usually neither enough money nor time to test out different marketing channels and see what works.
Local Business Marketing
Over the past year I have been helping a local NJ hair salon, Guci Image, with their online marketing to attract new customers. When considering potential marketing channels, we always ask: how many people will we reach and how many new paying customers will we gain? New Customers divided by Reach will tell you the Conversion Rate.
Guci Image has been running multiple marketing campaigns on our platform with great success, mainly due to the high conversion rate. At Signpost the conversion rate for local businesses is higher than pretty much any other marketing available. That is because we are focused on marketing that drives an online transaction. There are many ways to pay for traffic to your website, but the challenge is converting these visitors to paying customers. With Signpost you actually get new customers that pay before they enter your business. And the best part is, we do all the work for you so you don’t have to spend time creating and optimizing your campaign.
So before you decide to invest in new marketing you should always consider what the conversion rate is likely to be for that effort. For example, if you’re working with a sales person, ask for detailed estimates on the reach and number of new clients you can expect, or research benchmark numbers online if you are using a self-serve platform.