HopStop Offers Free Geo-Targeted Ads for Small Businesses Over a 30-day period, ads will appear at no cost within the directions results provided to HopStop's 55 million users.

By Jason Fell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

HopStopSmall businesses around the U.S. will soon have an opportunity to test-drive an advertising opportunity that's targeted directly to commuters in their respective cities. HopStop, the online service that provides door-to-door subway and bus directions for major cities in the U.S. and abroad, has kicked off "HopStop AdLocal," a new program that offers businesses up to 12,500 free advertising impressions over a 30-day period, a value of $250, the company says.

Here's how it works: Business owners can sign up for HopStop AdLocal online and build their own ad -- including business name, address and advertising message. After choosing a start-date for the 30-day trial period, their geo-targeted ad will appear within the directions results provided to HopStop's online users, tailored to the specific neighborhoods they are traveling to. HopStop plans to expand the program to users of its mobile apps by mid-2012.

The idea, according to HopStop CEO Joe Meyer, is that consumers will be likely to make purchases on their travels between destinations, specifically when walking to and from transit station stops. "If a HopStop user is headed to the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, for example, and there's a cupcake store there, we'll give that store owner the opportunity to advertise directly to our user who's headed to that neighborhood," he says. "As a result of our core service of providing point-to-point directions, we have knowledge of people's whereabouts -- their current location and the location of their destination. … It seemed like a no-brainer to start working with local merchants."

Meyer says HopStop AdLocal was created after several months of fielding requests from small businesses about how they can advertise on the site. Until now, HopStop's stable of advertisers has included larger-market companies including Starbucks, Bank of America and CVS.

After the 30-day period expires, business owners will have the choice of dropping out of the program or signing up for one of the program's three paid options: one day for $250, one week for $500 and one month for $1,000. "We didn't want to treat local merchants as though they are big-budget advertisers," Meyer says. "We realize that every dollar is very meaningful for them."

There is no purchase required to qualify for the free trial, HopStop says. However, the company does require that participating businesses post a free HopStop direction link on either their main Website or mobile Website. "It's really another free service," Meyer says. "Say you go to a site's 'contact us' page or directions page, where it shows their address and gives directions, if that business is part of our program HopStop will power that directions link for free."

HopStop isn't alone. Last month, Facebook said it was offering free ads to small businesses.

So far, HopStop AdLocal is only available to business owners in New York City. HopStop plans to roll the program into other northeast cities in the coming months and nationwide after that. HopStop says it gets about 55 million users annually.

Have you experimented with locally-targeted advertising? If so, what have the results been? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Jason Fell

VP, Native Content

Jason Fell is the VP of Native Content, managing the Entrepreneur Partner Studio, which creates dynamic and compelling content for our partners. He previously served as Entrepreneur.com's managing editor and as the technology editor prior to that.

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