New York-based Signpost, a startup offering local businesses a one-stop online marketing platform, announced an expansion this week that adds a significant analytic component to its merchant backend, letting business owners see how their own advertising efforts created through the site stack up against Google AdSense and Facebook campaigns, and also against similar efforts by other businesses in their area and industry. It’s another step towards putting sophisticated tools normally available only for large national brands and retailers in the hands of local entrepreneurs.
For Signpost, it’s also the next step in the company’s evolution, which began when the company originally launched as “Postabon” back in 2009, then changed name and direction to become Signpost in 2010. Early on as Signpost, the company was actually another early entrant in the local deals space, which focused on user-submitted offerings rather than pursuing merchants via a salesforce like then-competitor Groupon. However, about a year ago, Signpost saw the writing on the wall and switched gears, becoming a platform designed to serve local merchants’ online advertising needs in a much more broad sense.
Signpost CEO Stuart Wall explained to BetaKit what the site now provides to its members, who pay a flat fee of $99 per month for Signpost’s services. “We want to provide a one-stop shop marketing platform, where we create a series of campaigns for merchants, with something like a discount or a special event or something like that,” he said. “We then take those campaigns and push them out to 1,500 publishing partners, that range from Google Offers, to AOL, to the Yellow Pages mobile app.”
In terms of how it’s different from online advertising options, Wall said that Signpost is aimed at providing directly measurable value, so it focuses on campaigns that promote some kind of advanced purchase. In other words, businesses will know right away whether a campaign has borne fruit, since in most cases, they should result in an immediate conversion if successful.
The new tools that Signpost introduced this week add more transparency to the process of online advertising, which is something Wall said that the company has been hearing a lot of requests for from users.
“We found that a lot of advertising solutions aren’t really communicating what’s going on, it’s very ‘black box,'” Wall told us. “So in Signpost we know show information about where clients are coming from, and comparison metrics. We also show them how their business is performing relative to other businesses like theirs.”
Other new features introduced to the site this week include tools to help merchants easily share their campaigns on Facebook, in Mailchimp and ConstantContact, and also help encourage customers to positively review their businesses on sites like Yelp, by offering rewards for that kind of engagement and social sharing.
In terms of what the future holds, Wall said he definitely sees a lot of opportunity in helping the current crop of social local mobile apps find advertising inventory that’s relevant to their customers, and he pointed out that the company has an API for app developers. It’s a smart strategy; location-based apps, especially ones that offer marketing opportunities like location-based deals and targeted content are becoming prime acquisition targets for players in the bustling mobile payments sector.
Signpost has seen a lot of changes, but it has a strong investor pool, including Google Ventures, Spark Capital and Jason Calacanis. The changes the company has made reflect an ability to stay nimble in light of problems with the daily deal model currently facing Groupon and its ilk, and also a maturing understanding of what local businesses want in an online presence for their offline storefronts. Wall’s new goal of providing merchants with access to the same kind of marketing tools that large firms have long had at their disposal in terms of online advertising may well help Signpost outlast the companies it once drew comparisons to.