Reach mobile users with your marketing. That’s 2011’s great idea, because more and more people depend on their phones for finding what they want when they’re out on the streets, ready to buy. Restaurants, bars, bakeries, ice-cream shops, and fashion and accessory stores have been successful with promotions sent to cell phones whose users were in the vicinity.
Why not your company, too? If your business is an actual place to which customers come, aka a brick-and-mortar company, chances are you often feel at a disadvantage compared with online companies that can seemingly do more with less. Here’s how you can leverage smartphone technology in your favor.
Create a special offer and use a service like foursquare—one of the most successful services that connect businesses and customers via smartphones’ GPS technology—to send the offer to nearby cell phones.
Foursquare and similar apps send your offers to users for free, and free advertising isn’t something to be sneezed at. Although it is structured for consumers as a social-media game, with competitive aspects and badges to earn, foursquare knows how to bring businesses into the game. When people using the foursquare app are within a few blocks of your business, they will see the offer you have created pop up on their phones.
Foursquare and other location-based services (another is SCVNGR) provide a way to entice new customers to come in right now, or to entice existing customers to return—today. Thus, the services act as both business-development tools and customer-relationship tools. They give you a way to reward loyal customers, and they provide information about who is responding to your offers (and when).
A foursquare special appears on smartphone users’ phones when they click the “Places” button. And your offer will pop up. Couldn’t be simpler. For you, the merchant, it all starts when you go to the Foursquare Merchant Platform1 and click on “Quick Start Guide.” You’ll be guided to claim your venue, create a special, track customer foot traffic via the “Venue Stats” dashboard, and promote the special. For best results, promote it via Twitter, signs at the cash register, and window clings (eye-catching items that can be affixed to your window to let people know they can “check in”).
The special you create will, of course, affect your response rate. You don’t want to be too generous or too complicated.
Drinker’s Tavern in Philadelphia offers a monthly taco at a discounted price to social-media users who join its Taco of the Month Club—Just check in (show your cell phone to a waiter or hostess) to get the deal. The bar/restaurant promotes the special on its website, on its Facebook page, to foursquare users, to SCVNGR users, and via Twitter. Reid Benditt is the marketing manager for Four Corners Management, which has five bars/restaurants in the Philadelphia area, including Drinker’s Tavern.
Foursquare is “working well for us,” he said. The numbers aren’t huge, “but we see a steady increase in numbers every month.”
SCVNGR is different from foursquare in that it involves challenges. Foursquare is typically about merely checking in. With SCVNGR, a customer has to do something to get the reward, such as make an origami sculpture out of the tinfoil that comes wrapped around his burrito. Statistics for SCVNGR users are available, and business owners can track visits, unique visitors, and visits per person. For example, SCVNGR tracked 863 visits to El Pelón Taquería in Brighton, Mass. The establishment’s most popular day is Thursday, according to SCVNGR.2
With more than 10 million foursquare users worldwide, the results for your company could be great or negligible. How will you know? Foursquare has built a “Venue Stats” dashboard that shows you how many people have checked in at your location and when. This information can help you create a special to bring people in during slow times (Drinker’s Tavern once had a “Tic Toc Taco” on foursquare that was available during a two-hour window). Foursquare suggests you use the fine print, set an end date for a campaign, and be sure to train your staff members so they will recognize foursquare users and deliver the rewards or specials that brought the customers in.
The mobile-marketing world is a fast-changing one. Some of the “Find a smartphone, find a customer” sites that existed six months ago are now out of business, or they have morphed into entities with a different purpose. SCVNGR’s developers are now putting their energies into a pilot program called LevelUp. Facebook Places has debuted and is taking off.
Our advice: Get into this type of marketing now on at least a couple of services. After all, you have nothing to lose.
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