6 Location-Based Marketing Strategies for Small Business Owners

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More consumers are using location-based services to share their whereabouts with friends and locate real-time deals than ever before — but many small business marketers are have yet to fully utilize this new technology. Roughly half of all smartphone users are now finding offers and discounts based on their current locations, according to a 2012 report by Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive, however only 9% of small businesses are taking advantage of popular location-based networks like Foursquare to promote their brands.

Without a background in digital marketing or a thorough understanding of how location-based technology actually works, it can be difficult for a small business owner to know where to begin. Here are six tips from leaders in the location-based marketing field about how merchants of all sizes can use location-based technology to promote their businesses.

1. Find out where your customers are. Consumers used to read the paper and watch TV. Now they read Facebook and check their Twitter feeds. When it comes to LBS, marketers should focus their efforts on the apps and services that their target consumers are already using. This can be scary, since most people spend almost all their time using a very limited set of apps, but doing the necessary research beforehand can prevent a merchant from wasting time on a campaign that very few of their customers will see. (Lenny Rachitsky, Localmind)

2. Don’t stick with just one platform. Location-based tools function better as ecosystems than silos, and businesses can increase engagement in their mobile initiatives by making LBS tools work together. For example, brands can repurpose customer-generated content from Foursquare and Instagram—such as tips and geo-tagged photos—and publish them on corresponding Facebook pages. Marketers who tweet the Foursquare users who originally posted this content and let them know that their photos or tips were posted on the company’s local Facebook page may get even more re-tweets and likes on Facebook. (Joergen Aaboe, MomentFeed)

3. Put the consumer in control. Location-based marketing initiatives should always be run on an opt-in basis. Ideally, consumers should be able to set preferences that dictate the maximum number of offers they wish to receive per week, or select offer categories that are relevant based on their personal interests. Finally, it should be just as easy for a consumer to opt-out of a location-based campaign as it was for the person to opt-in. (Anne Bezancon, Placecast)

4. Give people a reason to care. Marketers need to give their customers a compelling reason to visit their establishments. Generic ads that run when people are located nearby a store can help eliminate wasted impressions, however they usually aren’t enough to get people to take the next step and come inside on their own. The more effectively a merchant communicates with customers and explains why they should check out his or her business, the higher the chances that the location-based campaign will be a success. (Eli Portnoy, ThinkNear)

5. To increase conversions, make offers valid for entire product categories. The discounts and special offers that merchants promote as part of their location-based campaigns should be applicable to entire product categories at their stores or restaurants. In some cases, it may even make sense to apply discounts to the customer’s entire basket, above a certain value. These types of broad offers are likely to increase conversions once consumers come into the store. (Anne Bezancon, Placecast)

6. Be willing to tweak a campaign as necessary. Location-based marketing campaigns are rarely perfect from the get-go. With that in mind, it’s important for merchants to set aside time to track and review their campaigns. Experienced managers know that most advertising needs to be tweaked and optimized to be successful. This is even more critical for businesses running hyperlocal campaigns. The variables of location are not always well understood, and it may require some trial and error to find the optimal fit for a specific business. (Eli Portnoy, ThinkNear)

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.