The Future of Location-Based Marketing

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Aaron Strout is the co-author of Location Based Marketing For Dummies with Mike Schneider. It’s a book that can add tremendous value to any marketer’s library of ideas. I posed these five questions to Aaron:

1. Who should be doing Location-Based Marketing?

The simple answer is everybody. B2B, B2C, media, supply chain management, etc. can all benefit from reaching their key stakeholders at the right place and the right time. With that said, location-based marketing is obviously low hanging fruit for retailers and small businesses that own their physical locations. In particular, those that have high foot traffic can benefit the most through deals, recognition programs, experiential opportunities and other elements that build loyalty.

2. What’s the most important thing you think people should know about location-based services before adding them to their marketing mix?

My co-author, Mike Schneider, and I have five golden rules (in some cases, we expand this to 10). These are rules that speak to the “must haves” of any good location-based marketing program. In particular, there are really three that stand out for me:

  1. Set goals – It’s good to experiment but before long, you can get sucked into investing a lot of time in any new marketing/social/mobile activity. If engaging in that activity isn’t moving the needle for your business then you probably don’t want to waste time doing it.
  2. Have a compelling offer – This doesn’t mean you need to give away the farm and in fact, sometimes recognition (put your mayor’s picture up on your wall) and/or experiential (weekly coffee with the owner, VP of marketing, head of engineering) can be enough.
  3. OPERATIONALIZE! – Too many times, businesses jump into location-based marketing feet first and forget to sweat the small stuff. There is nothing worse than putting out an offer and not training your staff (or yourself) on how to redeem it. That “deer in the headlights” look is a killer.

3. Do you think Gowalla can overtake Foursquare?

Not a chance. Nor do I think they want to. Foursquare has done a pretty good job at establishing themselves as the de facto check-in service in the location based world.

With the launch of their recent 4.0 platform, Gowalla kind of zigged when everyone else was zagging. Their new platform is more about discovery and creating guides — think Zagat meets Tripadvisor. Not sure if they will keep their existing customers on board, but they are pursuing something that is true to the roots of their CEO and co-founder, Josh Williams.

4. What’s the next best thing?

There are two things in particular that Mike and I are bullish on when it comes to the future of location-based services:

  1. Passive check-ins – This doesn’t mean active checkins go away but as the technology gets better (hello geofences and smarter applications that run in the background), we can choose whether to activate pre-set controls that check us in everywhere, selectively or not at all and
  2. Reverse deals — See Mike Schneider’s recent post about this at Harvard Business Review  where he calls it reverse or inverted “because the customer acquires the deal by signing up for a service and pays for it later, rather than buying a coupon and then executing the deal by buying something.”

From a service perspective, I continue to be intrigued with Instagram and GetGlue.

5. What’s the key takeaway from your new book?

This is an easy one. At the end of the day, smart marketers win. This means taking an integrated marketing approach and not getting overly focused on tools or channels.

In the case of location-based marketing, it’s a way to complete the holy trinity of data:

  • Demographics
  • Day-part
  • And now location

However, not cross-promoting or “right-channeling” will make any aspect of your marketing much less effective. To that end, Mike and I spend a lot of time in the book talking about ways marketers should think about letting the world know about their programs and encouraging their customers to share their check-ins with their social networks.



4 Responses to “The Future of Location-Based Marketing”

  1. Aaron Strout

    Josh – thanks for this opportunity (and the great questions). Nice job on the instagram-ization of my pic as well. I need all the help I can get. ;)

  2. Drew Davis

    Thanks so much for the great insight into Gowalla. I really love their interface and I’ve been so confused by their transition to “stories” etc.
    I’m glad to hear they have a plan. I’ll keep watching their evolution.
    Great stuff and congrats on the book!
    - Drew

    • Drew Davis

      Whoa! I hadn’t seen that! What an explanation. That’s crazy. Thanks so much for letting me know. I’ll read the whole thing this afternoon. It’s long!
      I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one feeling lost.
      - Drew


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