As technologies mature, two nice things typically happen: the price falls and capabilities rise. Soon almost everyone can take advantage of it.
Consider cell phones. They were expensive, bulky status symbols when first marketed, but 4.55 billion people will use better, cheaper phones this year, according to eMarketer. Computers? Over the past 20 years, the price of a medium-quality PC has fallen from about $2,000 to a few hundred dollars. And today's computers are much better.
So it shouldn't come as a terrible shock that a Software-as-a-Service startup is now offering a marketing automation system with basic cross-channel customer relationship tools for $200 a month, or $180 if you pay in advance. The company's target? Mom and pop businesses.
Since its founding in 2010, New York City-based Signpost has attracted more than 15,000 customers and expanded its operations to Denver and Austin,Texas. "We've always had at least double-digit monthly growth," VP for Revenue Christopher DePatria boasted in an interview with CMSWire. "We don't think there would be a problem to scale beyond that."
The potential market is huge. The Small Business Administration estimates there are 23 million small businesses in the US, accounting for 54 percent of all sales.
"We do marketing automation for local businesses," said DePatria. "We capture every interaction for that local business. If anyone emails them, calls their business or swipes a credit card, we capture that information and use it to bring in new business, do remarketing and bring back customers, over and over."
DePatria said the company's best customers are professionals -- dentists, physicians, chiropractors and such -- but it also has a generous number of yoga instructors, hair salons and other small service-business owners. A few franchises and agencies fill out the client list. DePatria said Signpost may target retailers in the future.
The company is adding more than 1,000 customers a month, he said, and "only a handful have dropped off the past few months."
Signpost, which DePatria said is well along the road to profitability, raised $10 million in a series B financing round last November, bringing its total investment capital to $15 million. It plans a C round in the spring. Backers include Spark Capital, Google Ventures, OpenView Venture Partners, Scout Ventures and angel investors Jason Calacanis, Thomas Lehrman and Jack Herrick.
Keeping It Simple
One key to its success has been Signpost's internal sales and customer experience staffers. Another is the simplicity of the system.
Signpost signs up most of its customers over the phone. Then a CX worker conducts an on-boarding call to get the new customer set up. During that half-hour call, Signpost links the client's email, phone and point-of-sales systems, relying on its own patented technology.
After that, the system if fully automated so that it can run on its own. If a consumer calls the business, the system can send a follow-up text, offering 10 percent off on an initial purchase.
"If someone comes in three times, we'll ask them for a referral or a review, " said DePatria. If the review is good, the customer gets a suggestion to post it on Yelp along with the link they need to do that. If it's bad, the business owner can contact them to address the issue.
"We make [the service] automated because we don't assume they're going to log in and do all that work. We do it for them," DePatria said.
"They could always go in on a Friday night and shoot out a text message if they want with a custom message to their audience. But assuming they don't do that, we automate it for them."
Signpost also collects all the data and presents it in a simple dashboard (left) so that the client can view their top customers by spending or frequency. They also can monitor a day-by-day breakdown of credit card transactions.
To be sure, Signpost's SaaS-based tools aren't yet on a par with enterprise systems costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. However, Signpost may live up to its name if it can provide insights into what lies ahead on the road to ubiquitous, affordable marketing automation.
Title image by Tom Myers / ShutterStock.