17 Location-Based Marketing Tips To Drive Word of Mouth & Referrals

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location based marketingNote from Lee: When I heard from Aaron Strout that he and Mike Schneider were writing a book, Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, I knew it would be a great resource. We often do book reviews here on Online Marketing Blog but Aaron and I decided on this format instead, focusing on specific tips and tactics you can use today.

Writing a book takes a lot of work, but with the work is done, it’s satisfying to look back and read all the content that got created. One downside to writing a physical book, however, is trapping all that content between two covers, especially for anyone that decides not to read the book. Rather than let that happen, we are unlocking 17 of the best tips from Location-Based Marketing from Dummies.

Before diving it, we should probably start by explaining what location-based marketing is. In short, location-based marketing is the art of engaging your customers and prospects using services like foursquare, Yelp, SCVNGR and Gowalla to drive loyalty, word of mouth marketing and referrals. While the tools (location-based services) may be new to some people, the approach and execution behind creating a good campaign are not that disimilar to that of any other strong marketing program.

Now that you have a little bit better sense of what location-based marketing is, let’s dive into the tips. As a frame of reference, these tips appear in the order they occur in the book and range from the strategic to the tactical. For any of you that already have the book (or plan to pick up a copy), we’ve included the page numbers next to the tips if you’d like to read more about that particular topic:

  1. Align your goals with the right platform: Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, and understanding the platforms allows you to pick the right platform for a campaign or tailor your marketing campaign around a platform (p. 42).
  2. Make sure your business is set up correctly on Google Places: Because one in three Google searches is conducted with local intent, and Google Places Pages are prominently displayed in Google results, claiming your Google Places Page is vital to your online marketing (p. 64).
  3. Ensure your own location(s) are “check-in” worthy: Would you check-in to your own location a second time? While it’s always dangerous to form a focus group of one, nobody knows your business better than you. Is your check-in experience as good as other memorable experiences (p. 69)?
  4. Need help merging multiple foursquare venues? Get a superuser to do it: If someone else set up your company’s venue(s), you may need to edit the details or even merge multiple venues into one. Look no further than the list of foursquare superusers or active users who have been designated with special administrative powers. Request a venue merge/change by a supersuser here (p. 79).
  5. Create a Budget for your campaign: This may sound like we are stating the obvious but like any good marketing program, creating a budget for your location-based marketing campaign will help you stay focused and measure your success over time (p. 85).
  6. Make sure your employees are ready: One of the most important things you can do when you set up a location-based campaign is to make sure your employees are prepared and aware of the rules. Sometimes printing up a one page cheat sheet with all the details can be a great way to ensure everyone’s on the same page (p 86).
  7. Encourage employee participation: While you don’t necessarily want your employees owning the “mayorship” or other top designations awarded for those that check-in the most to your venue, you also don’t want to discourage their participation. In fact, some of your best “tips” and overall campaign suggestions may come from your employees as they are the ones that know your day-to-day business best (p. 87).
  8. Surprise with badges: Not all offers need to cost money. In the case of several location-based services, there is a “badge” option which rewards things for a first check-in, check-ins at several similar type establishments or multiple people checking into the same place at the same time. (p. 99).
  9. Transform loyalty programs into social loyalty programs: By incorporating location-based services into your loyalty program, you give customers additional ways to earn points, rewards and recognition. You also provide them incentives to share their check-ins across other social platforms like Twitter and Facebook thus broadening your reach (p. 104).
  10. Understanding the difference between paid, earned and owned media: Understanding the differences between paid (advertising), owned (your website, Facebook account, etc.) and earned (media coverage or conversations about your company on the web) is key to any good integrated marketing campaign. Understanding how this “holy trinity” of media affect your location-based marketing campaign are equally important (p. 119).
  11. Create an ambassador program: Tap some of your best customers (particularly those that check in regularly) to form an ambassador program. Get them together regularly — monthly or quarterly are good frequencies — either on the phone or in person. Ask them to help you create the best offers and program possible (p. 125).
  12. Learn from what other businesses have done: The saying goes that “mimicry is the highest form of flattery.” That being the case, why not check out what some of your peers are doing for their location-based marketing campaigns. That can be as simple as walking around your downtown and checking in OR if you’re using foursquare, you can see some examples of brands using the service here (p. 125).
  13. Specify which geographic areas you cover in Google Places: If you’re a service business that travels e.g. a plumber, you can specify on Google Places which areas you cover. This is also helpful for pizza/food delivery businesses (p. 131).
  14. Review your favorite LBS “places” database: Every location-based service has a location database called the “places database.” This places database lists every variation of your company’s name; you need to search for each variation to extract all the data pertaining to your business (p. 158).
  15. Monitor your competitors traffic: This may seem a little shady but keeping an eye on your competitors check-in traffic can give you a sense of how many people are checking in and what they are saying. This is fairly easy to do using a tool like Tweet Deck or Hootsuite. (p. 161)
  16. Think about which key performance indicators are critical: Any good program should have key performance indicators that it tracks. These include metrics like daily check-ins, check-ins cross-posted to Twitter, comments and tips, photos, offers/deals redeemed (p. 165).
  17. If your business is a restaurant or bar, think about table tents and placards: Many businesses fall down when it comes to cross-promoting their location-based campaign with other types of marketing and advertising. If your company is a restaurant or bar, you should absolutely remember to print table tents and placards describing your program — remember to include which service(s) you support, what offers and how to download the app if necessary (p. 221).

What location-based marketing tips do you have for businesses? Be sure to include them in the comments. As a bonus, we will randomly pick one of the “tips” to receive a free copy of the book.

Mike Schneider is the senior vice president, director of digital incubator for allen & gerritsen. Aaron Strout heads location-based marketing efforts at WCG.

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How Small Business Can Get BIG Online with Content Marketing

February 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing, Small business

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small business online marketingFor small businesses, looking “big” online isn’t so much about appearing as a large company when they’re not. Its about being a big resource for prospects and customers.  As the popularity of content marketing and brands as publishers heats up with large companies, many small businesses still have the advantage of being nimble and adaptive to new ways of engaging customers.  That ability to experiment and implement quickly as well as creatively can be a big advantage.

Here are a few ways small businesses can use content marketing in combination with some SEO and Social Media Smarts to be a “bigger” resource for their  online customers.

1. Blog – A blog is an easy to use content management system that also offers numerous social and SEO benefits. For example, our client Marketo started a blog as soon as they launched their website and start-up business. That one blog has now grown to 4 blogs and a dominant position in Google and social search results for the solutions their customers are looking for most. In part by using a blog as a useful resource for prospective and current customers, Marketo is attracting business at a faster rate than most of their larger competitors with a 10 year head start.

2. Newsletters & Email Marketing – Email newsletters are great ways to connect directly with prospective customers and stay connected to current customers. Newsletters can be published as blog posts for discovery via search engines and can provide a great segue from social relationships on social networks like Facebook or from a blog to more commercial relationships with prospects. Newsletters provide a way to offer useful and targeted information to nurture leads and provide opportunities to find out more on products and services.

Our client J&O Fabrics has been providing customers with an email newsletter about fabric for many years offering tips, how to articles and information about new products. That newsletter was the inspiration for a very popular fabric blog which led them to implement other social media efforts through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

3. Media Coverage & Contributed Articles - Word of mouth is priceless for all businesses, especially small businesses. Getting mentioned in the local business media and trade publications can boost awareness, credibility and directly generate new business. Make a list of local business publications, writers and editors as well as popular trades and bloggers. Send them relevant news about your company in a concise and compelling format.

Getting an email directly from the CEO or a VP of a small business creates a direct connection that many time pressed journalists appreciate.  If they blog, make comments that add value, then follow up with more detailed, useful information. Provide “hooks” that give perspectives and insights not normally thought of. Stand out and tell a compelling story. Follow up but don’t stalk! Many of the relationships we have at TopRank Online Marketing with journalists came as a result of sending an email offering 1-3 abstracts for potential contributed articles. Now many of those news sites contact us for quotes.

4. Resource Center - One way small businesses are beating their larger competitors in search and in building authority is to be a better resource for customers through useful content. Common formats for helpful information about buying, using and related information on products and services include articles, videos and podcasts.  PRWeb (a TopRank client) has done a great job building up a news release resource center that has generated a very nice footprint in search engines.

5. Social Networks & Media – In the way that customers expect a toll free number, web site and blog, they’re beginning to expect the brands they buy from to be social. That means having a presence in the social networks that are most relevant to customers. It doesn’t need to be a lot of time, but a small amount of time consistently spent on interaction and relationship building can go a long way at developing a community.

The key is picking the right platform. It might be a LinkedIn group, Facebook Fan page, a Forum added to your site or creating a niche social network of your own using a service like Ning.com. Content created on the newsletter, blog and resource center can be cross-promoted with social networking and media sharing. While it’s new and a work in progress, Imagine Lifestyles, a TopRank client that rents exotic cars, luxury homes & yachts does a good job at cross promoting blog content on their Facebook page and YouTube channel.

6. Events – Networking for small businesses is as old as word of mouth marketing itself. Events are a great way to connect with prospective customers, marketing partners, new employees and influentials in your industry. They’re also a great place to create content. We’ve shared many insights into how to get the most out of attending conferences, especially when it comes to content creation.

Liveblogging, interviews via video, audio or text and photos are not only great content to be shared after the event, but more importantly, serve as an excellent ice breaker to connect with others during the event. That content can be used in many of the tactics listed above.

As a small business, should you do all of these things? No, of course not. Wearing many hats and slim resources means all of these tactics won’t be practical. But you can start small and adapt with more or different content according to what’s working vs. what’s not.

What are some creative ways your small business has been able to achieve “big” results with customers on limited resources?

Want to learn more about Content Marketing?

If you’re attending OMS in San Diego next week, be sure to sign up for SES Accelerator on Feb 10th. I’ll be giving a presentation on Content Marketing Strategy that will provide both high level and specific, tactical advice on how companies, large and small, can boost their online marketing results with content.

If you’re attending SES London, I’ll be giving a presentation on Content Marketing & Optimisation Feb 23rd followed by a presentation for OMS London: Integrated Online Marketing: Search, Social & Online PR on Feb 25th.  I hope to see you there.

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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
How Small Business Can Get BIG Online with Content Marketing | http://www.toprankblog.com

How Social Media Really Works for Small Business

January 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Small business, Social Media

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SMB social media marketing

One of the most common questions small business marketers are seeking to answer is, “How can I really benefit from social media?” Social media has certainly changed and improved how small to mid-size businesses can carve out space and connect in an extremely crowded marketplace. When companies participate on the social web in a meaningful way, it helps create a personal connection between customers and the brand.

One of the greatest benefits specifically for small businesses is that access to potential customers has increased tremendously. Rather than strictly focusing on paid advertising, word-of-mouth referrals, and in-store promotions (or a wacky mascot standing outside) businesses can now directly find customers  that may be interested in their products based on profiles, active discussions, keywords or expressed interests. This is especially key in the early stages of a business life-cycle when cash is at a premium.

If you think of the analogy of a party where you don’t know anyone, social media is the equivalent of a one page bio stapled to everyone’s coat. Instead of being stuck talking with the reclusive butterfly hunter who only leaves the house  in search of the rare Palos Verdes Blue, (yes I did have to look that up) you can quickly find the person that likes to shop, travel, and enjoy great conversation. Can you imagine all the time and awkwardness saved if you could have done this your whole life?

How is successful social media marketing done and which small businesses out there are doing a good job? How is it they avoid the pitfalls of social media? There are a lot of great examples out there and I’ve outlined just a few success stories available online below.

AJ Bombers
AJ Bombers is a burger joint in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that ramped up in a very tough economy in large part by a high level of creativity around the social media space. They have invested the time to build a personality across a number of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and YouTube. However, they haven’t fallen in love with the tools for their own sake. The business understands it needs to drive people to the actual location and have done so with social media. The quote from owner Joe Sorge in the Forrester post highlights his smart approach,   “Customers are becoming the business,” he says.

Baby Sitters Directory
Baby Sitters Directory is an Australian company that helps parents find the right care for their child. It’s a huge market and one that also requires a tremendous amount of faith in the service as child care is a very personal decision for each family. Creator Ann Nolan recognized the overall business need but also identified the importance of online engagement via social media, particularly with women, after reading a study highlighting the high use in that demographic. Through its use of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging the company has created a base of useful shared content for parents as they work through a significant choice.

Enhance Me is a specialized portrait company that creates custom photos placing kids in magical settings and has done very well in using social media to spread the word of their unique creations. Victoria Dixon has embraced Facebook, Twitter, and a blog (though not as heavily as the other channels) to promote the business and build relationships with bloggers and customers with measurable results like getting the company endorsed by customers on verygoodservice.com.  Dixon notes that her three top tips to consider when jumping into social media include: focus on your goals, platform selection, and time commitments.

There are many small businesses out there doing great social media work to stand out from the millions of options that consumers have. The connection in these cases is be the foresight to identify and commit to using social media marketing in a creative manner with specific goals in mind. One of the great benefits of social media is that small businesses can be unique in executing a successful plan once they establish goals and metrics. Are you aware of other small businesses using social media to succeed? What’s their secret for success?

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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
How Social Media Really Works for Small Business | http://www.toprankblog.com

Vote Now for the Small Biz Discovery Contest

June 3, 2010 by  
Filed under General, search engine optimization, Small business

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Bruce Clay is a heavy hitter in the SEO industry. He has long been setting the pace for the rest of us. So, when I saw the chance to participate in a contest on their site I jumped on it.
We were told to create an article for small business owners in one of three categories: […]