We were very proud to be featured in the Technology section of Crain’s New York. Read below how Signpost helps small and medium businesses grow. The original article is published here.
BY JUDITH MESSINA
Funded by Google Ventures and Spark Capital, this 75-employee automated marketing firm is finding a foothold in the small business market.
Marketing automation companies have been on fire lately. Cambridge, Mass.-based HubSpot, whose software helps companies attract consumers and turn them into customers, has raised a whopping $100 million, and Silicon Valley-based Marketo went public in a high-flying IPO last May. But those firms mostly focus on midsize to big businesses.
Enter Signpost, a 75-employee company that pivoted two years ago from a daily-deal type of business model. It now helps small businesses create and run marketing campaigns, offer deals and “get found” on 1,200 sites, mobile apps and directories from AOL to Yahoo to Yelp and everything in between. Revenue is growing 20% a month, the company says.
With $5 million in venture capital from Spark Capital, Google Ventures and angel investors, including one of the early chroniclers of Silicon Alley, Jason Calacanis, Signpost this year has opened offices in Denver, Austin, Texas, and Santa Barbara, Calif., and inked partnerships with Google Offers and eBay. It’s also likely to raise more money in coming months.
Using three-year-old Signpost, small business owners can automate their marketing efforts—launching and managing campaigns on hundreds of sites—as well as track their success and retarget leads and customers.
“[Marketing on the Web] is complicated and confusing,” said co-founder and CEO Stuart Wall. “There are dozens of sites that matter, but small businesses don’t have the time or expertise to use them.”
Gregory Serdahl, owner of Massage America in Union Square, said he had no idea how difficult it was to find his company on the Web until Signpost reviewed its exposure online.
“We were shocked,” said Mr. Serdahl. “Half the social-media sites I didn’t even know existed.”
The daily-deal sites that promised to help businesses of all sizes draw in customers haven’t been the solution everyone thought they would be. Living Social just announced that it is overhauling its business and moving beyond daily deals. That’s after laying off 400 employees. Meanwhile, Chicago-based publicly traded Groupon is trying to diversify and convince investors that its $2.3 billion business is sustainable.
Merchants have been frustrated with the customers the deal sites produced, typically bargain shoppers who took advantage of one deal—and didn’t come back. When the Davide Torchio hair salon opened on the Upper East Side four and a half years ago, for example, co-owner and manager Fabrizio Borg avoided daily-deal sites, concerned that they would bring in customers who not only paid less but who would walk out dissatisfied. He eventually signed up with Lifebooker, but when Signpost knocked on his door last spring with a new way to offer deals, he was intrigued.
“They have a different approach,” he said. “Signpost focuses on getting new customers.”
Signpost has 10,000 clients like Mr. Borg, who said his business has increased 10% by using the company. He also knows, thanks to Signpost’s analytics, what it takes to get to that 10% or more. Of more than 1 million people who viewed one campaign, 100 purchased a discounted offer for a blow-dry.
Business owners pay $150 a month to subscribe—a revenue model that is a lot more predictable than daily-deal commissions—and get a team of writers to help manage their profile, a database of customers and interactions, and the ability to flip a switch and turn on a marketing campaign to go after new consumers or repeat business from existing customers.
Keeping customers coming back
“There’s a big dropoff between people seeing an ad online and showing up,” said Mr. Wall. “We capture information from people viewing online and remarket them.”
Mr. Wall won’t disclose Signpost’s revenue but said it is approaching seven figures.
The trick, though, is to keep customers buying the service. With small businesses, that’s not easy. Mr. Borg said he signed up only after Signpost’s salespeople were “very persistent calling me.”
“If people try it, it’s almost as if a light goes on,” said Signpost investor Todd Dagres, a founder and general partner of Spark Capital. “Small business owners are not used to that level of information and power. The challenge is getting people to pay attention and try it.”