Boston-based CitySquares, which just celebrated its second anniversary, is getting about 70,000 unique visitors per month and now has a base of 700 advertisers, averaging $1,200 per year, reports CEO Ben Saren. He believes they have even more potential via upsells such as video, sponsored/display ads, etc.
Roughly a third of the existing advertiser base is in the downtown Boston area, while the others come from adjacent communities, such as Jamaica Plain, Cambridge, Brookline and Somerville. As with most other city guides, the best categories are restaurants and vanity sites — beauty salons, spas, etc.
The hyperlocal company, which has raised under $2 million, has seven full-time sales agents and has really built up a well-known brand in Beantown, says Saren. He believes a large part of the recognition is due to innovative advertising efforts, such as local event sponsorships, quite a bit of viral marketing and an exclusive deal with Boston Pedicabs. There are 17 Pedicabs cycling around Boston all day and night, and a CitySquares banner is on the back of each one — shared with various CitySquares advertisers, which help foot the bill.
To Saren, the high awareness factor puts the company in a good position to “own” the market. He says, in fact, that it is a fallacy that local advertisers are being deluged by a wide group of hyperlocal opportunities. Sites associated with major local media and directory firms, such as The Boston Globe’s Boston.com, GateHouse’s Wicked Local and Idearc’s Superpages, never come up in conversations with potential advertisers, he says. Yelp and Outside.in don’t either. Only IAC’s Citysearch comes up, and Saren believes he is gaining a lead on it.
CitySquares is currently looking to expand its hyperlocal approach beyond Boston’s “Route 128” divider. Starting June 16, the company will launch automated versions of communities throughout New England and New York, easily accomplished using its data feed from Localeze and maps from Maponics.
Saren acknowledges that the “expansion” won’t be fed with feet in the street and local editorial staff, at least initially. Those will be restricted to Boston. But if Manchester, New Hampshire, suddenly starts giving us a lot of traffic, he says, “we’ll start a direct marketing campaign and provide prelaunch discounts to advertisers.”