“AdSense For Local Commerce” Signpost Raises $3.75M From Spark Capital

Local advertising startup, and recent Google Offers partnerSignpost is announcing its Series A funding round this morning to the tune of $3.75 million, led by Spark Capital. Other angels also participated in the round, but the company isn’t disclosing names. This new round is in addition to previous funding of $1.25 million, which included an investment from Google Ventures.

The company is also announcing a new hire today: Christopher DePatria, who most recently served as a senior director on AOL’s Patch inside sales team.

DePatria started his career at Yahoo, where he was the youngest director at age 25, managing a sales team of 40. Just prior to joining Signpost, he worked at Patch, where he scaled the sales force to 80 reps. (Patch and TechCrunch are both AOL properties). And before Patch, DePatria was at Yodle, where he was involved with direct sales, sales management and planning. At Signpost, DePatria’s title will be VP of Revenue, putting him in charge of its sales operation and revenue strategy, which includes overseeing and scaling the sales force.

That sales force is about to grow quickly, too. Signpost’s CEO Stuart Wall says the company is adding 25 to its sales team (now just seven folks) during this quarter alone. For a company totaling only 24, that’s a big jump.

For a bit of background on Signpost, the startup is focused on operating what’s basically an “AdSense for local commerce.” Businesses use Signpost for access to its 1,200 partners (including Google Offers), to run their marketing campaigns on both web and mobile.

Wall notes that around 93% of merchants renew with the service monthly, a testament to the success they’re seeing with the product, which is more about bringing in “quality” customers than it is about targeting them with daily deals. Wall says merchants on Signpost are moving away from daily deal outlets, like Groupon and LivingSocial. “There’s a realization that you might get a thousand customers from one of the daily deal sites, but probably less than a hundred of them ever come back. So that’s not worth the investment,” says Wall. “We’re increasingly focused on platforms that reach a more targeted group of consumers, which means lower volume but higher quality,” he says.

In addition, Signpost is focused on helping merchants with so-called “utilization offers,” meaning offers that are targeting customers during slow periods. The offers run online and/or on mobile, depending on the businesses’ needs. However, with this latter category, mobile offers make sense, given access to location-based services on mobile devices.

Prior to closing the funding round, Signpost recently rolled out several new features targeted towards its merchant customers, including a new website, cleaner emails, and a more powerful merchant center with improved analytics reporting. The company added comparison metrics for viewing Signpost’s performance alongside averages from other services, like Google and Yelp. Also new is integration with Constant Contact and MailChimp, support for rewarding customers for their Yelp reviews, and a feature that lets Signpost add a tab to a company’s Facebook page.

With new funding in tow, Walls says the focus is now on improvements to the publisher side of the business. While he couldn’t get into specifics, the overall goal is making the process easy on their side, with little to no technical integration, a good user experience, incremental monetization, and no need to build a sales force.

Signpost doesn’t talk total merchant customers at this time, but says that since January (when it shifted to the monthly subscription plan offering), it has added 3,500 merchants. And while there is a bit of churn, says Wall, “the majority stick around.”