SignPost, an eight person New York-based deals company that has received $1 million of seed funding from Google Ventures and others, is banking on “deal scouts” to originate time-sensitive deals with local merchants and services. The company has deals available around the country, but currently focuses on New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. There are 303 active deals on the site today.
There are currently 70 scouts on board. They are equipped with flyers and other collateral, and act like FourSquare’s “Ambassadors,” except they get a healthy chunk of the action. Not only do scouts receive a portion of revenues from deals they help originate, they will continue to receive remittances for as long as their merchant provides deals on the site.
CEO and founder Stuart Wall, who founded the company in 2009 as part of a Harvard Business School competition, says merchants and services can also create deals at any price point. The site is using AdWords to advertise to them. It also sponsors Meetups and other promotional events.
Consumers will be drawn to the deals via deal affiliates, local shopping bloggers and others, he adds. Friend to friend referrals get $10 credits. And deals are tailored via a recommendation engine after opt-in email users fill out an introductory survey. “We are not spending money on email marketing,” he emphasizes. Active Signposters can receive $5 “Karma credits” if they amass enough points.
Wall believes in SMB self-serve to a certain extent, but is really counting on the scouts to act as the site’s evangelists. The vast majority of deals will ultimately come from scouts.
There are basically two kinds of scouts, notes Wall. The first are the college students and homemakers who will do it as sort of a hobby. The second kind are people who sell POS devices to businesses or engage in other B2B or B2C sales. It is easier for the professional group to convert the merchant because they are used to asking for the sale, he says.
Whether deals are originated by merchants or scouts, merchants and services pay a significantly lower commission on sales than other deal sites, he says. Services are especially motivated to use the site because, as a self-serve site, they can better control deal flow. A barber may only have 20 slots in a given time period, for instance.