(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
We love our dog.
So much so that I overpay for “nutritional” food, “all-natural” snacks and “safe” toys. I don’t know if any of these claims are true of these things make a difference. But only the best, you know?
My wife and I buy all this from a great local pet store. But as great as it is we would spend even more there. Yes, we’re suckers. A great new toy to make him happy? Sure! A grooming? Why, I didn’t know you even did that! Anal gland expression? Hey, why not! Oh, you mean for the dog? Uh, sure, that too!
All of these products and services are offered by our local pet store. But here’s the thing: we don’t know about them. We don’t hear from them unless we physically go to the store. If we did, we’d go to the store more often. We’d spend more money. And what about all the other people who may want to check them out but can’t find out much online? Why doesn’t the store owner make more of an effort? Is she independently wealthy? Maybe. Maybe not.
Companies like Signpost are trying to make this kind of marketing easier for the small merchant through CRM. And they’ve just raised $52 million to aid their efforts.
Signpost’s system, when setup, automatically imports all of the names and contact info of the store’s customers from their point of sale, phone and email systems and continue updating as new purchases are made. It then tracks history, interactions and preferences (our dog is a little Yorkshire Terrier with a big personality). That’s the first part.
The second part is true CRM. If we haven’t come in for a while we may get a gentle text or email. If there’s a gap in the grooming schedule we may get alerted. Or if we’re up for a new grooming we’ll get a reminder. If something special comes in that a small dog may like we may get offered a promo coupon. Hey, we may even get a holiday card with a cute looking Yorkie (but not as cute as ours) thanking us for our patronage.
But the most important part of Signpost’s technology addresses what I think many CRMs ignore: online reviews. When we buy from the store we’ll get a text asking us to rate the store at Google or Yelp or some other online service with direct links to do so. We give it five stars with a nice comment, people see that and more customers show up. My nice comment gets noticed by Signpost, the store is notified and now I’m a “favored” customer that’s even more loved (oh, and asked for a referral or two).
Signpost is one of a growing number of CRM apps targeted at the small merchant. But the company’s emphasis is using its CRM capabilities to improve the number and quality of online reviews customers give.
“The turnkey setup and level of automation in Signpost’s platform, as well as their ability to follow through on reviews and engage the modern customer well beyond their first interaction is what really sets them apart,” Brian Peters, Managing Director at HighBar Partners, one of the investors in the latest fundraising said in a press release. 82 percent of smartphone shoppers “conduct ‘near me’ searches and 90% are likely to click on the first set of results and of those, 76% call or visit the business within 24 hours.
I’ve never been asked by my pet store for an online review. If I was, and the process was easy, I’d do it. Yet that one review could be a significant financial help for the store’s owner. She shouldn’t worry – my wife and I will always keep shopping there. But without a CRM like Signpost who knows how many other customers would be as loyal, or even find them in the first place?