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Chris Theisen

Chris Theisen Director of Digital Communications

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Do you treat your LBS marketing like Ron Popeil?

Location Based Services (LBS) are the talk of the online marketing world lately. Sites like Foursquare, Gowalla (with their latest release) and Facebook Places all offer a way to provide discounts based on criteria you select. The opportunities provided to market your business on these channels are as endless as the new LBS services popping up daily. The Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association launched a contest centered around SCVNGR, the latest hot topic LBS site on the market. Numerous "normal" websites are even adding checkin services to their platforms.

"Chris why should I offer a discount for checking in at my location?" Does your business utilize coupons in any shape or form? If the answer is yes (I hope it is, if not stop reading now) then think of a check-in discount as a coupon, but this coupon helps spread your name to tens, hundreds and even thousands of people online. Not only is a check-in discount a coupon on steroids its the ultimate word of mouth stamp of approval; I do business here and I trust them with my money. Pretty powerful stuff. If you are still reading and still dont have location based discounts, stop reading and go set them up on the platforms listed above. 

Ok for those that never left and those that now have discounts setup, whats next? Do you treat your LBS marketing like Ron Popeil does his Rotisserie ovens; set it and forget it? Or do you leverage the platforms and target users of the services?

Below is a screen shot I took of the Hare Chevrolet Foursquare account. Notice I dont use the account to check-in but to leave Tips at area businesses. 

Before you all start saying "Chris you are a genius!" I cant take credit for this idea. The best executive chef who moonlights as an online marketer, Russ Chargulaf of Houlihan's in Indianapolis was the one who had this idea originally. My other point for mentioning Russ; if you don't like the idea it was his not mine.

All of the businesses in the screen shot have a Foursquare location and are within a par 5 golf hole of our facility. When you check-in at a business within walking distance of Hare you see a tip stating that we are on the same platform and that we have a discount for checking in. Foursquare users seeing that a local business supports a platform they use and that business gives a discount for doing what they already do. How is that for targeted marketing?

Now to be fair I may be stretching the lines with accepted use of the platform. Tips are supposed to be about the location itself, not to market other businesses. Knowing this I've taken a light hearted approach to my tips and tried to make them relevant to the business itself. I also retweet and engage with every user who checks in and posts that check-in to Twitter. I also check the venue stats and send Facebook inbox messages to people who don't attach their Twitter account to Foursquare. That one is good for a few "how the heck did you get my info" messages back but all have been open once I explain. I've even cured some customer service related issues I never would have found out about before it was too late by sending these messages and asking how their experience was. How is that for reputation management?

While Foursquare is the big boy on the block currently due to its user base Gowalla made a major announcement recently and is poised to hop right in on all this LBS crazyness. How to leverage Gowalla? Use their trips feature. I am in the process of creating a trip that takes people to all of the Hare locations over the years and ends at the dealership. How about an LBS based cruise-in type trip where everyone is driving our cars around town for a day? Pretty inexpensive experiential marketing right. Also in the works is a trip that contains all of the local organizations that we help sponsor.

How to leverage Facebook Places you ask? Create a group discount and get people to bring friends along to unlock the discount. The holy grail for Foursquare users is the Swarm badge. Users earn badges by doing certain things or being in certain spots. A user gets a Swarm badge if they check-in to the same location as 50 other people at nearly the same time. Houlihan's and Scotty's Brewhouse has marketed the chance to get a Swarm badge if you attended a certain event. Both succeeded. Now what if you use that theory but give someone a discount for unlocking the group offer via Facebook Places. Foursquare is great but wouldn't you want your business marketed on the biggest social platform going?

My point is this (and it goes for all online marketing really) Don't just set it and forget it. Instead of asking what being on an LBS has done for you, ask what can you do to make your LBS work for you.

Eric Miltsch
Chris, Very nice proactive use of the LBS tools at our disposal. It's still an early concept for many, especially in our segment, but one that I love and remain confident it's rapid pace will continue. Consider adding the Foursquare tips embed code to your site as well - especially to your service page; those new buttons have the potential to be as useful as the Facebook like buttons have become. I can't let an LBS post pass by without mentioning CarZar. You can share pics of your own inventory, via the iPhone app or the web app & link your Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare & Gowalla accounts - several dealers across the country have already done this. If you really want to jump in deep, have your customers share their pics of the car they're test driving & tag it with the "Test driving it" status! What a great way for your customers to show off their new ride to their friends while giving your store a nice bump. Good stuff Chris - keep us posted on your successes!

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