Gini Dietrich

The Time for Location-Based Marketing Is Now

By: Gini Dietrich | August 2, 2010 | 

Last week Mashable did a story on how few people are using Foursquare and that, perhaps, business owners should wait to do any marketing through the location-based program. At the time, I was in a hurry and tweeted it with, “Not sure I agree with @mashable on waiting until later to do location based marketing.”

I’ve had some time to think about it and now I’m really sure I don’t agree with the story…or rather, the study that prompted the story. The study was conducted by Forrester to show that only 4 percent of Internet-using adults use Foursquare and, of those people, only 1 percent check in to a location at least once a week.

Let’s put this into perspective.

Worldwide, nearly 2 billion people use the Internet and, in North America, there are more than 265 million. If 4 percent use Foursquare, that’s 80 million people worldwide and nearly 11 million people in North America. If you break it down even further and say you only want to reach the 1 percent who check in at least once a week, that’s still 800,000 worldwide and 106,000 people in North America.

And, let’s think about this…likely the 800,000 people who check in at least once a week are early adopters of technology, which means they’ve built communities on one or more of the social networks and are looked at as people who are influencers. People who will tell others they should check out a business because of some special they just received. Does it really make sense to wait until later to adopt some location-based marketing?

I believe it was Seth Godin who said, “If you wait until there are case studies in your industry, you’ll be too late.” Using location-based marketing is a free tool and you have the opportunity to create extremely loyal customers. WHY would you wait?

Danny Brown guest blogged here about using location-based marketing and provided some great ideas.

I have a few additional ideas:

* Rather than making me carry around a loyalty card, why not offer me the same program via my check-in on my phone?

* As Danny suggests, offer specials to people who are not just Mayors.

* Offer something unique to people who come by your booth at a trade show and prove they’ve checked into your location.

* Give away something free for the 10th time I come into your store.

* Provide freebies and/or specials if I bring in friends and they also check in.

There truly are tons of ideas for location-based marketing that won’t cost you much more than brain power and some freebies. The time for location-based marketing is now. Do you still think 800,000 people (or even 106,000 in North America) can’t make a difference in your business?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Great post!

    The nice thing about being an early adopter is that your business can play around with what specials and deals to use. Some will work to increase traffic to your place of business, some won’t. It’s a little risky to be an early adopter, but I think it will pay off long-term.

    The bring-a-friend idea is great because it spreads word-of-mouth, and the loyalty-program idea is something I see being used by many brands in the future.

    Users want to feel special for being early adopters as well, so businesses can use that desire to make those users feel like part of a “secret community.”

    I love using Foursquare and I expect to see its use skyrocket in the near future. Hopefully, businesses begin to see its advantages.

    Tom Miesen

  • Great article. I like all the numbers and how you put it into perspective.

    I absolutely love Foursquare and I am constantly thinking of new ways that businesses can implement the game. I think that the adoption of Foursquare will skyrocket once businesses show an interest in it.

    Think about this, what if you got a penny put into a savings account every time you checked into your bank. Unfortunately, Foursquare still allows me to checkin across the city and until this is fixed people are going to game the system. Thereby, preventing businesses from putting greater incentives behind checking in.

    • But what if the bank handed you a penny when you showed them you checked in? I wouldn’t turn it down.

  • Totally agree with your thoughts Gini. Now is the time to test and refine location based marketing. The longer companies wait, the more likely they will be hidden in the noise of other companies/marketers who are already there.

  • Gini, good post. I’ve been telling clients not to wait until they notice any of these Social Networking sites becoming what they think is mainstream, because they will be missing a great deal of interaction, relationship-building and the ability to get ahead of competition. By all means, if yours is a location-based business, start learning as much as possible about location-based tools!

    Also, your point about giving rewards to those who are other than Mayors is not to be taken lightly. What better incentive to keep coming, and to strive for those Mayoral appointments 😉 than to be given incentives along the way? Many people reward, or even interview, their “top” clients to find out what to do better. My mantra has always been to go deeper as the middle and lower layers of clients might some day be your “top” clients too. Always think of ways to bring the up-and-coming clients, or Mayors, in this case, along.

  • Great post Gini!

    I couldn’t agree more that now is the time to jump on this bandwagon!
    Even with the 1% you mention this is still a powerful tool, and being in its infancy, now is the time to play, explore and see what works for you as a business owner. As mentioned there is no cost associated, and all you have is customers and loyalty to gain.
    I would not be surprised to see a large jump in users within the next 1-1.5 years, and to get the jump to already be established as a business and have a model that is working for you is key.

    We re just starting to unlock the potential in location based marketing, and the options are endless. Remember there is no reward without a little risk. Have fun, try new things, and see what happens.

  • Great post, Gini…

    Minimal risk and minimal investment. Why wouldn’t you?

    BTW…great quote from Seth!

    Have a great week!

  • What if we could find a way to get more location based businesses aware of and to promote FourSquare. Thanks Gini for a really thought provoking blog to kick the week off with.

  • Gini – I agree with your premise – get out their and lead – as an ol’ sled dog told me in my youth: If you don’t lead you’re going to see the same ol’ butts every day.

    That said, I urge those who are diving into LBS marketing and engagement with their customers to think through the entire sequence, to include the privacy of their customers and their activities and factor that into the execution.

    As always, I read your pieces and gain.
    All the best,

  • Dammit, Gini, you literally took the words right out of my mouth – I was going to blog about this today, haha!

    You’re bang on, of course. When I saw that Forrester report I smiled – talk about blanket statements…

    The great thing about any analysis is that it’s one person’s opinion after looking at figures. But it’s the marketer’s job to glean the gold from these figures, and that’s why marketers should take this report with a healthy pinch of salt.

  • Of all your suggestions I particularly like the one about leaving your loyalty card at home and using the smart phone instead. Huge cost saver for the retailer and frankly cuts weight out of my handbag. Reduce the expenditure on custom printing and employee time keying in customer details for those w/ smartphones. You’ll end up with an agile program and more time to serve the customer’s needs. Do you still need a physical card – yes, if some of your customers don’t chose to use location based tools. Your program needs to fit more than 1 customer profile.

  • Another possible idea on how to use it: “Tier” your specials based on how much the user is sharing. For example, 50 cents off if they only choose to share to their foursquare friends, $1 off if they choose to share to foursquare AND twitter/facebook, and $2 off if they choose to share to all three.

    Users would be rewarded for sharing their location with more people, giving the place of business a wider reach.

    The more exposure the restaurant/bar/business gets, the better, so why not layer your specials based on how much info they share?

    Just a quick thought that popped into my head!

  • Gini, Loyalty programs and local marketing is nothing new; the tools and opportunities are, and for the right business, worth adding to the mix.

    More than leading the way, getting there first or whatever growth it will have in the future.. location based marketing to your marketing mix is smart strategy. And as you said, like so many other good social media tools it’s “free.” 😉

    For those playing the numbers game, so what if only a small percentage of your customers are using location marketing tools? It’s the old standard: If just 1 Foursquare loyalist brings in 10 people, and just 1 (not on FS) of those 10 brings in 10 different people and just 1 of those 10.. voila, you have hundreds of new loyal customers.

    That said, for now at least I see this having much more success in major markets. I also agree with some of the comments, like Christoper’s point about privacy, and Patrick’s about minimal investment, as there are costs associated with any marketing program, even using free tools. FWIW.

  • Dave Sims

    Unfortunately the original article is the one everyone read and killed any momentum I’m guessing a lot of people like me had in getting started with some sort of LBS efforts. C-level went from no opinion of foursquare to having one – and it became “we shouldn’t do this”. Quite a setback.

  • Gini, the one area that I see as a big gain for marketers in this space is with charity events. Instead of doing the traditional donation, call out a check in to the event. For instance for everyone that checks in using X application, company Z will donate $5 up to 100K. That way they get the feel good we donated vibe, however they help crowd source it and can offer direct deals to their store as an offer in the application. People checking in not only get to help raise money for using social media, but they also can say I was a part of this when it blew up or made company Z donate X dollars.

    Its a win-win-win. The charity gets buzz and money, the business gets to be seen as a charitable thought leader and the folks checking in, well they get the benefit of being their and raising funds for the charity.

  • I couldn’t agree more. The space is a lot bigger than just Foursquare, too. I published a whitepaper on this topic a week before the Forrester report: I pointed out the scale and fragmentation issues. They are real. But there are solutions.

    Here’s the thing, as you point out: The channel is as powerful as they come. So it’s incumbent on brands to not just participate but activate it. That could be through Foursquare or Gowalla. It could be through Twitter or their own check-in app. Location is where it’s at.

  • Also wrote a post about Geolocation is Changing the World (for good):

    The bottom line for marketers is that consumer attention is shifting to smartphones and mobile apps. Which means it’s shifting away from other channels like digital out-of-home and billboards. The same thing happened with social media. CMOs asked, “What’s the ROI?” Well, I can’t tell you exactly, but I do know this is where consumer attention is shifting. And if you want to align your brand with consumer attention, you need to engage in social media.

    Today, when I place my order at a Starbucks, I’m not browsing the store. I’m on my iPhone. So if Starbucks wants to sell me a mug, they better make it part of my iPhone experience.

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  • Love the way you deciphered the numbers, Gini.

    I love FourSquare and Gowalla – and offered an interesting perspective on location based social media last week on Social Media Notebook.

    If I were a business, every person counts. Heck, I’d even find out ways of getting people to fly in to my business from wherever they are!

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  • I totally agree! I just moved to Venice, FL and it’s amazing to me how many businesses here are not using it (based on how many venues I’ve added and / or become mayor of in two check-ins).

    I have a client in WI who is working with businesses to get them “up and running” on FourSquare so they can get in early ~ IMHO we are at the cusp of it becoming as “popular” as Facebook and the likes.

  • Great read – absolutely agree with your points – I am just starting my own business here in Toronto – will take some of your ideas and see how to incorporate – will be back.

    Thank you.

  • Howdy neighbor!

    This might be an isolated incident but on several occastions we’ve tried creating deals (for Lakeshore and for clients) without success. A while ago we were able to submit a deal for a client, but it was never approved. Recently, Foursquare will just redirect us to the homepage when trying to create a deal.

    Though I’ve scaled back my personal use, we’re all big fans of Foursquare, but find it very frustrating when we can’t create programs with it for our clients.

    • Brandon if you need help let me know and I can get you what you need with specials on foursquare.

    • Brandon – Gini is correct, you totally want to connect with Jason at HTMLgraphic designs as he has ability to do things that Foursquare currently doesn’t have for just the “regular” person. Anyhow, if you are on Twitter Jason is @gegere and if not, here is his URL for Foursquare stickers , etc.

  • Tom, love, love, love your idea of tiering specials!

    John, I totally agree with the not being able to check in if you’re not actually there, but I love the idea of the bank giving you a penny every time you check in. Now if we could fix it so my friends stop trying to become the Mayor of Arment Dietrich from other cities (cough, Abbie Fink).

    Nancy, as we’ve discussed, I’m super irritated that the Mayor of my Starbucks is the barista. For a while there, I was competing with one another guy and we’d steal the crown from one another daily. Now neither of us get to compete because it belongs to an employee. Which is why I think they should reward me for coming in every day and checking in. Yes, I am there every day.

    Jason, “there is no reward without a little risk.” EXACTLY!

    Richard, how are you seeing location-based marketing usage in the UK?

    Christopher, the only time I can think that you wouldn’t want to lead is when the same old butt is mine on the bike. HAHAHAA!!

    Danny, FINALLY I BEAT YOU! But then you went and wrote a brilliant post about mining your comments for gold.

    Rob, if you haven’t seen Danny’s post last night, go to it now – You’ll see you made a cameo appearance.

    Carla, I have a little secret. If you have the iPhone, download the CardBank app. But that doesn’t undermine my idea for using Foursquare (or Gowalla or any of the others) for loyalty.

    Davina, great point about it being more successful in major markets. I sometimes forget I’m in a marketing bubble in Chicago.

    Dave, one blog post at a time, my friend. One blog post at a time. Hopefully we can gain some traction to offset the setback.

    Jeff, as you know I LOVE this idea!!! Thanks for taking the time to post it here for all to see.

    Kapil, a few years ago we did some work with a five star restaurant. Part of our strategy is just what you say – finding ways to get people to fly to Chicago just to eat there. The idea that you can offer global “specials” to your business is brilliant.

    Michelle, I read your comment as you just moved to Venice (Italy in my head) and I thought, “That darn girl! When did she do that??”

    Brandon, it sounds like you need to talk to Michelle’s client!

    • Now Venice Italy would be fun too! I’m going to send Brandon a separate note with my client’s info (my client has arrangement with FourSquare and can update those things that Brandon mentioned he can’t do recently)

  • Great post. I’m working on addressing two of your major suggestions (I listed below) with my site: and a soon to follow iphone app.

    Would love your feedback.


    1.Rather than making me carry around a loyalty card, why not offer me the same program via my check-in on my phone?

    2.As Danny suggests, offer specials to people who are not just Mayors.

    • Josh – thank you for commenting and providing information on Check In Deals. I looked at the site and I’m intrigued.

  • Awesome!

    I actually tried it again today and instead of being redirected to the homepage, I now see that, at least for our company venue, we can’t create a deal because we’re not a social type venue. It’s not a big deal for us; we were planning a pretty silly deal, but had a legit plan for an old client.

    Thank you Michelle and Jason! May be reaching out to you soon.

  • I wrote about this very topic recently, though prior to the Mashable story and from a news organization’s perspective. Foursquare offers an intuitive loyalty opportunity, and it is surprising so little has been done with it. Hello, Groupon?

    For my scatter-brained thoughts, check out

    • Alex, I wonder if it’s not intuitive to people who aren’t marketers by nature? We think it seems so easy.

  • I’ve decided that I’m going to write about this topic in some of my monthly contributed columns. Dave, maybe we can get people to take the little bit of risk with more than one blog post at a time!

    • Dave Sims

      Here’s a thought… Maybe alll of the smart people on this chain of comments collaborate for a case study. Pick a fictional company that sells, let’s say vitamins and sports nutrition products, make up a name like say, GNC. And so now you “own” social media for this fictional company with over 5,000 retail locations and you’re trying to figure out how to best deploy a location-based service in that fictional company. Wouldn’t that be fun for a group of social media gurus to do? All fictional of course…

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  • I’m loving FourSquare. There’s something satisfying to checking in and finding out what tips others leave. If I’ve had great service or terrible service then I leave a tip immediately to share my opinion before I’ve even paid the bill. Businesses need to get wise to location apps such as FourSquare or they will get left behind.

    I can’t wait for more businesses to get behind it and offer special offers and incentives. We’re already recommending it to our clients and they can really see the potential.

    Think it also has potential to link up with the likes of vouchercloud for specials too.

    • Laura – you’re much more sophisticated than me when you use Foursquare. I really just use it so businesses can see how often I frequent their stores and then they give me freebies.

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  • Integraphix

    Like Lakeshore down there, I myself have had a bit of trouble using Foursquare for Deals depending on the type of client we’re using it for. It’s a little frustrating on top of that when the program just quits working all together.

  • Like Lakeshore down there, I myself have had a bit of trouble using Foursquare for Deals depending on the type of client we’re using it for. It’s a little frustrating on top of that when the program just quits working all together.

  • Like Lakeshore down there, I myself have had a bit of trouble using Foursquare for Deals depending on the type of client we’re using it for. It’s a little frustrating on top of that when the program just quits working all together.

  • Like Lakeshore down there, I myself have had a bit of trouble using Foursquare for Deals depending on the type of client we’re using it for. It’s a little frustrating on top of that when the program just quits working all together.

  • Like Lakeshore down there, I myself have had a bit of trouble using Foursquare for Deals depending on the type of client we’re using it for. It’s a little frustrating on top of that when the program just quits working all together.