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Bring in More Locals with Location-Based Marketing Tools


As a business owner, you know how important it is to connect with local customers. Over the last few years, location-based services (LBS) have helped millions of businesses harness trends in consumer tech to grow a local following, boost revenue, and thrive. But how are these businesses using LBS, and what can you learn from them?

Non-techies need not fear. You don’t have to be an iPhone-wielding, social networking addict to take advantage of location-based marketing. All it takes is a willingness to experiment and unwavering confidence in the quality of your product or service.

Build It, And They Will…Leave A Positive Review.

Many businesses marketing with LBS never spend a dime. Consider All Day Records in Carrboro, North Carolina, a storefront business that uses popular social networks like Facebook and local search apps like Foursquare for what amounts to free (and almost effortless) advertising.

“We’re always meeting people who found us through Foursquare or our Facebook page,” says Nick Kirkman at All Day. The record store also benefits from foot traffic generated by nearby establishments, “although a lot of those are restaurants using Urbanspoon,” he says.

Listing your business on the same platforms All Day uses (Foursquare and Facebook) makes you visible to people using those networks to look for businesses like yours. In Foursquare’s case, new customers might even find you when the mobile app recommends you to them! It’s like having a digital brand ambassador that lives in your customer’s mobile device.

The same can be said of Urbanspoon (now Zomato), which lets restaurant patrons leave reviews for eating establishments, and Yelp, which boasts 132 million monthly visitors and is the web’s most popular crowd-sourced review service.

When customers leave positive reviews recounting the fantastic experience you provided, word gets around. All you have to do is list your business and wait for the accolades to roll in. Or if it’s taking a while to rack up reviews, you can get the ball rolling by encouraging longtime customers to write something nice about you.

“We get a lot of people coming in who found out about us on Yelp,” says Miranda Higgins of Straw Valley Food & Drink in Durham, North Carolina. “They’re convinced by the reviews, which are consistently and overwhelmingly positive,” she says.

Grouponing Your Way To The Top

Besides maintaining profiles on LBS-powered social networks and user review sites, many businesses are taking a more active role in their LBS marketing. One way they do this is through services that let local customers “try you out” at a discounted price – services like Groupon.

According to Lilly Phillips, a manager at Ladies Workout in Asheville, North Carolina, Groupon is consistently effective at bringing in new business. “It’s been a fantastic success for our fitness facility,” she says. “We’ve used Groupon for three years now.”

Discount services like Groupon generally only charge you when your business meets a specific sales goal through the service. If lots of customers use a Groupon to get a discount, the LBS provider takes a cut of those earnings.

The advantage, of course, is that you’ve broadened your local customer base and created a buzz around your brand. For businesses like Ladies Workout, it seems to be working.

Another way to actively motivate customers is through local advertising with services like Facebook or Yelp, both of which offer paid options for businesses that want to extend their reach.

Yelp ads target local customers searching for the sort of thing you offer. Selling espresso beans? Jugs of antifreeze? Packs of stationery? Yelp makes sure that when locals search for those products in your area, your business pops up first. Facebook ads work similarly, except that Facebook targets local users whether they’re actively searching for businesses or not.

Ultimately, an active approach to LBS marketing improves on old-fashioned “everybody sees it” advertising. Ads directly target people whose online behavior suggests they’ll be interested in your business – and they’ll be close enough to stop in, too.

Find this and other articles in the Spring 2015 issue of Storefront magazine.

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