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Tools to Help Your Brand Bridge the Mobile-Local Divide
By: Ted Curtin
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If you think mobile is changing everything, mobile and location will REALLY change everything!

Location-based marketing enables brands to customize marketing messages based on a prospect’s location and preferences. By linking data about your customer’s preferences with the location, it makes the data richer and the message more relevant — and the richer the data, the more relevant the message, and the more likely you are to connect with your prospective customers.

Stephanie Tilenius, Google’s VP of Commerce, explains that the combination of smartphones and technologies like Near Field Communications, WiFi, and Geo-Targeting have enabled a new level of meaningful one-on–one dialogue with customers. Just as mobile is social, mobile is also local.

Companies are using location-based marketing in a number of ways to connect with customers. Some tend to stick with one tool to keep things simple, while others employ a combination of technologies to be able to deliver the most relevant and meaningful messages to the right people, at the right time.

Let’s start with a few key rules of location-based marketing:
  • You have to connect. Connect with the people who check in to your location the most. Whether they’re mayors, ambassadors, leaders, grand poobahs, or whomever.
  • Be inclusive. Create valuable offers that apply to all of your customers.
  • Continuously fine-tune your program. Test, measure, and optimize. The risk is low and potential for return is so high.
  • Educate your staff. Make sure all your employees are aware of your offers. Don’t frustrate your customers with deals your staff isn’t aware of.
When we can use technology to create messaging that takes into account place and purpose, it doesn’t even feel like marketing to the end user.

According to a recent Google Usage Survey, 92% of smartphone users have used their device to search for local information. 50% of those searches result in some form of personal follow-up, be it a call or a visit, of which 1 in 5 results in new business. That speaks to the importance of matching place and purpose. It’s not hard to see why location-based marketing is so important for brands looking to meaningfully engage their customer base.

The field of location-based mobile tools is constantly evolving, but one of the more dominant location-based apps currently is Foursquare. With over ten million members and more than three million check-ins every day, Foursquare is easily the most popular of all the location-based platforms. The system features check-ins, badges, status rewards, and points for accomplishments. It also has a comprehensive specials platform for businesses.

Part of the platform’s popularity is based on how easy it is for users to share details with their friends by automatically posting check-ins to their accounts on Twitter, Facebook, or both. But many small and midsized businesses are still not taking advantage of Foursquare’s popularity. For retailers and restaurants, it’s critical to make sure you claim your venue by going to join.4sq.com. Once you’ve claimed your location, go into your profile page and optimize your venue with photos, descriptions, contact info, and anything else you think would be appropriate for your business.

You can then add and update specials and monitor your stats. Some metrics that might be smart to monitor include: daily check-ins, check-ins cross-posted to Twitter, comments and tips, photos, and number of offers/deals redeemed.

Check-ins aren’t only for physical businesses. There have been many successful examples of virtual businesses, or service providers, partnering with complementary retail businesses to offer services and support to consumers. If you have a virtual business, what would you consider offering to loyal customers of a complementary local brick-and-mortar business in your vicinity?

S-C-V-N-G-R is another popular location-based app, but where Foursquare promotes the static presence in a single location, SCVNGR focuses more on multiple locations in a more game-like setting. SCVNGR lets you set up elaborate scavenger hunts. Aside from traditional scavenger hunts, it's ideal for creating a series of activities that act as a template to show users how to experience your brand.

SCVNGR also has a rewards platform that allows you to give users incentives to do these tasks. It works as a great icebreaker for meeting new people, and introduces the participants to different locations by having them complete challenges at each location for rewards.

Regardless of the mobile app or platform, here are some key points to consider regarding location-based, check-in-style apps:
  • Make it fun. Nobody wants more chores and if you make it fun, you increase participation AND sharing.
  • It’s all about friends. Remember that mobile is social. Presenting opportunities for people to meet and connect is key to successful check-in programs.
  • Give your users an opportunity to recommend and promote. Just having been somewhere isn’t enough.
  • Allow users to keep track of their activity.
  • Seed your programs with rewards, both virtual and real, like discounts, special offers, and occasional freebies.
The popularity of location-based marketing is only going to continue to grow with the increasing number of smartphone activations and added-value that businesses can deliver to customers. Are you giving your customers a reason to check in and share with their friends?

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About the Author
Ted Curtin is a recognized strategic marketing leader with over 22 years experience covering online and offline marketing channels. Follow him on Twitter or at TedCurtin.com
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