The Right Way to Use Location-Based Marketing

When done well, leveraging your customer’s physical location is a powerful marketing tactic.
Use your location to market your small business. (Photo: zimmytws/Shutterstock)

For a small business looking to gain every bit of leverage in a challenging economy, every new marketing tactic is worth investigating. These days, few are hotter than location-based marketing.

What is it?

“Location-based marketing means something different to just about everyone you ask,” said Mark Montini, CEO and founder of marketing firm Promio. Pretty much any strategy that leverages a user’s location qualifies.

There are several common approaches to location-based marketing.

Perhaps the oldest is geo-fencing and geo-targeting your advertising efforts, something easily done through Facebook ads and pay-per-click advertising with Google AdWords. Online review sites like Yelp and social media check-ins through apps like Foursquare and have also grown in importance. Apps and services like SnipSnap, RetailMeNot and Groupon that push notifications and deliver offers based on a customer’s location have also taken off.

There’s an emerging category that takes place within a store. Some retailers are experimenting with IoT (“Internet of Things”) apps that provide information about products during the shopping experience using tools such as beacons, in-store Wi-Fi and radio frequency identification (RFID). Said Montini, “Boutique stores can highlight the unique qualities of their products, not unlike the way you can get guided digital tours in a museum.”

Choose a focus

You can’t do everything well. Decide what location-based marketing tools seem right for your business, and pursue them.

Phil Lang, co-founder of New York City real estate brokerage TripleMint, keeps it simple with Yelp. “We rely on Yelp to establish trustworthiness. Nowhere else on the Internet is there a free, public and impartial customer review based ranking system. This has allowed us to compete with older and larger brokerages from day one.”

Lang said there’s nothing magical about his location-based strategy. “Great service leads to great reviews, and great reviews will lead to more revenue. In short, success begets further success on Yelp.”

While location-based discounts — the Groupon approach — remain popular, Montini advised small business owners to consider using location technology to deliver convenience instead. He said discount-chasing customers aren’t the kind you really want. “They’ll respond,” Montini said, “but they won’t help you build a business.

“If you’re a dry cleaner, rather than offer a dollar off, use location-based notifications to remind them to drop off their dry cleaning when they’re nearby,” he suggested.

You can also get creative. Taking a cue from beacon-enabled apps at music festivals like Bonnaroo, you could let customers receive store maps, restaurant menus or workshop schedules.

One of the most important elements of location based marketing is making sure you’re visible to customers in your local market. Take advantage of Google My Business. A free listing integrates your business hours, contact information, map, reviews and Google+ social media posts across all Google products. Once you complete your profile, your info will be visible in search results in Google’s knowledge panel.

Keep your messaging consistent

Montini said it’s important to make sure your messaging is in sync and consistent across all your geo-aware directories — Yelp, Foursquare, etc.

“Increasingly, consumers are in multiple channels and comparing your listing,” he said. “It’s like having a billboard and ad campaign and using different colors and typefaces and messaging. People would say that’s crazy.”

Wendy Weinstein Karp, director of marketing at Paola’s Restaurant, offers a solution. “Employ a service platform such as Yext that can help a small business centralize and manage the local marketing effort.” Yext updates all your location-related info dynamically.

Have a mechanism in place to capture the customers you reach. “Location-based marketing is never going to make sense if you can’t leverage the customers you attract this way,” said Karp. Your retention strategy could include staying in touch via an email newsletter, operating a loyalty program or building a Facebook community, for instance.

Push with care

Today’s consumers are wary of push notifications, and there’s potential for location-based pushes to annoy.

A 2014 report from Kahuna showed a majority of users won’t opt in. Those who do want pushes that are relevant, time-sensitive and valuable. To Chris Post, Founder and CEO of Post Modern Marketing, this means businesses should look to deliver value while customers are on the premises.

“A restaurant that offers you a free drink when you leave a Yelp review is much more likely to get engagement than any sort of fancy online promotion through Foursquare.”

Go all in

When you choose to market yourself via a local-based social channel, in the words of Montini, “make sure you own it.”

If you want your customers to use Foursquare, for example, incorporate your Foursquare messaging throughout your premises. If you own a cafe, put it on tents on the tables, hang signs on the walls and have your servers talk about it with patrons. If you’re not doing so, in Montini’s view, your Foursquare strategy isn’t going to succeed.

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