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A year ago the conversation on Location based services focused on check in apps. Foursquare vs Gowalla. And then SCVNGR. And then Facebook Places. And now there are 9,017 check in apps (I think I counted that right).
It is nice to see that the ecosystem of that discussion today, is much more mature.
Today when we talk about location based services, the number of apps and websites that we are talking about reaches far beyond the Foursquares of the world. Though it is important to note that Foursquare continues to lead the pack of check-in apps, separating themselves as the largest (10 million users) and most business friendly of this still crowded space.
Moving Beyond The Checkin
The options available to businesses to market themselves locally and the options consumers have to access local information from their mobile devices have grown into rich value buffets. Allowing both businesses and consumers to pick and choose among several tasty options that work for them.
There is no clear winner or silver bullet in local marketing as there has been in social networking with Facebook.
However, there is still a large education gap for small and geographic focused businesses. We have all heard the horror stories of small businesses being overwhelmed by the number of Groupons they sold. This comes mainly from a lack of marketing maturity and education on the side of the small business. They see a quick win and take it.
The Location Reality Is Nuanced
Only 4% of consumers are using check in apps like Foursquare and Facebook places according to Edison Research. But with a significant percentage of the population now using smart phones everyday.
Services like Google maps and Yelp are seeing a large push in usage by consumers on the go. Both of these apps are pure location bases services.Facebook also comes into play here, with more and more small businesses getting onto Fcebook and publishing content to their local fans.
5 Areas To Focus On For Local Marketing
If a business is trying to improve the way they use location based services to reach customers in their town, where should they start? They should think about how the consumer uses their mobile phone to find local businesses to spend money at. AND they should think about how they use their desktop computer to find local businesses.
Consumers are getting savvy with their use of location tools and businesses need to follow quickly or lose out to their competitors that are already there.
Here are the 5 areas of location based services a local business should look to for their marketing machine. Experiment in all of these channels to find the right
We search for specific businesses and services all the time. Many consumers have a first stop for different types of searches. When I need to find the closest Starbucks I use Google Maps. Some businesses are not even checking that their address is in Google Maps or that it is the correct address. When I need a Hilton hotel in a given city I use Bing travel search to start off. And when I am looking for a brunch spot I can’t remember the name of, I use Yelp.
Survey your customers, look at the most used channels, and figure out how your potential customers are searching for businesses like your. Optimization of these channels is a huge marketing win for local businesses.
We love reviews. We like to feel assured by unbiased (we hope) strangers giving us their straight talk of why they love or hate a place. A good review can easier help steer me to try a new restaurant or choose one hotel over another. For restaurants, Yelp and OpenTable are great repositories for consumer reviews. TripAdvisor is the same for hotels. And sites like Angie’s List pool consumer reviews of local service companies.
Companies should be aware of their standings on these sites. Local businesses can optimize these channels by responding to bad reviews and encouraging their happy guests to leave good reviews. Don’t cheat the system, but be aware of it. These resources drive a ton of consumer behavior.
Foursquare is one of the better discovery tools out there. Yelp as well. Even Google Maps can be an amazing tool for discovering new places to go. Other smaller location tools like Foodspotting (for food photography) and Untappd (for beer) are amazing discovery tools for these niche communities. Is your business even on the radar when people are looking for a new place to go to using these tools?
This may not seem like a local channel, but content and publishing can be a huge location tool for businesses. Using a Facebook page when your customer base is local works really well. Creating a blog that is relevant to your geography can both help your search results and aid in keeping local fans of your business tuned in. Post interesting tips or info about your local area on Foursquare as a business account. Do video tours of the neighborhood on Youtube for people new to the area.
Content puts your potential customers in a fan loop. Look for ways to create and distribute content locally and your fans will love you for it.
Coupons are a controversial new customer acquisition tool. Groupon has led the way and they have both huge success stories from businesses and horror stories of shops getting overwhelmed or losing money.
But this growing ecosystem of services like Groupon, Living Social, Facebook Deals, and Google Offers can still be useful. If your business has a slow time of the week or year, these services can help even out business. If you are launching a new business, they can be great ways to get awareness out there and kick things off with a bang.
Businesses have to be aware that these are investments with a cost, just like any advertising or marketing channel. And there are enough of them out there now, that a small business can shop around and find a coupon service that fits them.
How is your local business looking past checkin services to use location?