Sunday, July 22, 2012

As I work with small businesses, the ultimate goal is simple: drive traffic through their doors. Yes, things like brand awareness are important, but ultimately, you need customers to come through the doors and make purchases.

With that in mind, I think it’s time to revisit the concept of location based services and checking in, specifically with Foursquare and Facebook Check-ins and Deals. Unfortunately, Foursquare went like gangbusters early on, but by the time it matured, a lot of folks weren’t paying attention. Now it’s time for small businesses to take a long hard look at using both of these services as a way of driving customer traffic.

Since most small business that are using social media are using Facebook as part of that mix, creating check-in deals on that platform is almost a no-brainer. With Facebook, you can only offer one deal at a time, but they give you options for four different types of deals.

Each of these four types of deals has it’s own purpose and benefits, plus you can customize the deals in a variety of ways, including limiting the number of people that can cash in on the deal, as well as setting a time frame and expiration date.

With Foursquare, and its new interface, you can offer multiple deals at a time, to take advantage of the different types of customers and their purchasing habits all at the same time.

Earlier this week Gini Dietrich did a great job of summing up some great ways that you can be using Foursquare (and they apply to Facebook as well), but here are some other key elements to running a successful location based check in campaign.

1. Think mobile – remember, these deals only exist for those who are using smart phones and mobile devices. But with the rapid adoption rate of mobile technology, we are now at a tipping point for mobile Internet usage overtaking stationary Internet usage. Take advantage of your customers being on the go and making last minute decisions.

2. Entice new customers – Both Facebook and Foursquare are great for offering rewards, but one thing all businesses want are new customers. The right deal for first time check ins could bring new people through the door to check you out and sample what you have to offer. I’d suggest making that deal for first time visitors something that really helps them get to know you better, perhaps a discount on your signature product, or even free if it’s not too expensive of an item.

3. Reward loyalty – Too often small businesses focus their marketing and advertising efforts on new customer acquisition, and too often social contests are designed to reward new people. The problem with this is that you never want to forget your loyal customers who have been with your over the years, and come in regularly. They are the keys to your word of mouth marketing, so make sure you offer something special for them. Perhaps it’s special rewards for a certain number of check-ins over time, or something unique for the “Mayor” on Foursquare to promote some healthy competition.

4. Offer Multiple deals at once -Since you have the option of one deal on Facebook at a time, and multiple deals on Foursquare, I would say offer a variety of deals at the same time, some for new customers, some for repeat customers, and perhaps something for your hardcore fans. This way there is something for everyone, and you can treat each deal as an experiment to find out what works and what doesn’t.

5. Mix it up – There might be some deals you want to offer over time, but I think it’s best, especially with Facebook, if you offer them for a limited time, perhaps monthly, and change both the reward and the requirements (i.e. number of check ins). Remember, not all of your customers are usually there for the same things. We all have our preferences within the scope of what you offer as products or services, so make sure you switch it up from time to time. Besides, we get bored easily; we like variety

6. Choose your rewards carefully – This is really important. Whatever you offer, whether it be a discount or some sort of merchandise, it needs to be something that makes people want to check in. If the reward is too small, no one will come to your business to claim it. And yet, while it needs to be of great enough value to attract customers and check ins, make sure it isn’t too big of a reward. You certainly don’t want to break the bank and lose too much money on the deal. In some cases you might not mind losing some money on a short term deal, if you know the long term payoff will be greater in terms of future purchases, but in general, find the right balance that works for you and your customers.

7. Be strategic – Have a plan. I just spent a few hours with a client mapping out a strategy for this in order to do it right, and we’re not done yet. But by planning it out, you minimize risk while maximizing the return. Don’t just slap an offer together and throw it out there.

8. Promote, promote, promote – I can’t stress this enough: it doesn’t do you any good if you offer great deals but don’t tell anyone about it. If you us any sort of traditional media to promote your business, why not promote the check in deals that way. If I’m putting an ad in a magazine or newspaper, you better believe I’ll mention our check in deals as an incentive to come in.

9. Just ask! – Since location based marketing is still new to a lot of people, it hasn’t become second nature for them. As a result, we need to educate our customers as to what these platforms are, how they work, and what the benefits are of checking in. I’m working with several clients right now to use signage reminding people to check in. This is a perfect place for a QR code because these check ins are done via mobile devices anyway.

10. Inform your staff – Don’t create deals without letting everyone know internally. You don’t want your staff to be caught off guard when someone tries to claim a reward, and you also want them to be able to explain the deals to people, as well as talk them up. Your staff can encourage people to check in to take advantage of the deals. Remember, checking in is a new and learned behavior. We need to get people in the habit of doing this.