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How to Target Customers With Location-Based Marketing


A comprehensive marketing plan is a key component to building and sustaining a profitable business. No matter what industry your business is in, whether it delivers a product, a service, or both, your marketing plan must competitively attract customers. 

One strategy to reach new customers is to develop a location-based marketing plan for your business. In fact, according to Jay Taylor of Search Engine Watch, about 40 percent of mobile device search queries are locally focused. Your business can take advantage of this mobile trend.   

In this tutorial, learn how to create an effective location-based marketing plan for your business. Discover the components needed to get started—step by step.

Location-Based Marketing Defined

As the name implies, location-based marketing focuses on marketing to consumers of a particular geographic area through their mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.), according to The 60 Second Marketer

To understand location-based-marketing’s flexibility, first learn what components go into targeting local customers based on passive (organic search engine results) and active forms of marketing (reaching out to existing customers and potential customers within your town, city or similar geographic location). 

Step 1: Planning and Establishing a Baseline 

Now that you have a better understanding of what location-based marketing is, there are some considerations and research you will need to perform. The following questions should be asked for each component of a location-based marketing campaign. This provides your organization with a good starting point to customize your location-based marketing campaign.     

Mobile-Optimized Website

Does your organization have a mobile-compatible website? 

Determining this is the first step to building a successful location-based marketing campaign because if they can’t read it in a mobile-friendly format (smartphone, tablet, etc.), they will move on to another business that has already created a mobile-friendly website. 

Keyword Selection Strategies

Determining a keyword strategy is the next component to think about. What keyword research tools are you already using, or not using? 

Take a survey of your existing research capabilities, including free and premium tools. Also look at your existing content’s keyword optimization. Are they currently geared more towards your product, service, or location? This will make a big difference in your location-based marketing campaign and whether it will garner more organic growth in search engine results.     

Creating Content 

What type of content exists on your website and social media? Does your content speak only to your product and potential customers? Does it include information about your local community, city, or town? 

Asking these questions helps determine what keywords, if any, are related to your business’ location. Depending on the amount of content speaking to your business’ location, it will help you determine how much you might need to emphasize your business’ location versus its product or service content.

Technology to Sense and Reach Customers

How important and relevant is a location-based marketing campaign to your business? Do you have a storefront in a busy shopping center or is it located on a side road?

If you have a physical location and you have little foot-traffic despite traditional methods of advertising (print ads, radio and television), then a location-based marketing campaign may be necessary. Similarly, a business in a heavily trafficked city or shopping center, with a lot of competition, may benefit from it.

Forms of location-based marketing include banner advertisements, social media and app engagement, and search engine optimization. The Next Web explains how variable location marketing can be customized geographically, with geo-fencing. For example, when a business’ mobile app has this technology embedded in it, through a company such as Plot Projects, business owners can target passer-by customers. Additionally, it can sense when a customer enters the city where the business is located.     

Now that you know what the main components of a location-based marketing campaign are, implementing them is the next step. 

Step 2: Implementing the Campaign

Mobile-Optimized Website

Depending on the size of your business and how much time, money and effort you’d like to invest in your mobile site, Marketing Land points out four different ways to have a mobile website live with respective benefits and drawbacks.

Option 1. The Fully-Hosted Mobile Site

This mobile version of the full desktop/laptop version is based on the original website, but is not necessarily the same layout. As Marketing Land points out, with a fully-hosted mobile site, visitors are redirected from the original website to the mobile version. 

Benefits include limited development and hosting fees, and minimal effort because only content from your website is necessary for work to be done. It can take less than a month to go live. Cons include only a few templates and if changes want to be made, you have to have a third-party developer do them, instead of in-house work. 

Option 2. Reverse Proxy Solution

For businesses looking for a little more control, reverse proxy mobile websites provide more, but not complete control. Automatically “translating” the desktop version into a mobile-friendly format, this option still requires hosting on a third party server. This option can also be completed in as soon as a few weeks, but does not provide complete translatability as a from-scratch mobile website. For example, content within Flash and other formats are not always transferable.

Option 3. Cloud Platform Mobile Site

Hosted on your own domain, a cloud platform mobile site,” permits developers to customize it with CSS3, JavaScript, and HTML5, along with automatic detection of different devices and their data display capabilities. 

While there is a cost to use the cloud-based service, your organization does benefit from using your own content as needed. However, it does require on-going updates and maintenance for each site, depending on your needs and discretion.  

Option 4. CMS-Driven Mobile Site

Marketing Land points out that for businesses with content management systems already in place, a template can be developed and put into place with an existing CMS setup. However, one draw-back is that an add-in is necessary to determine and customize to each device (smartphone, tablet, etc.) a user is viewing your mobile website with. 

Keyword Selection Strategies

The keyword selection process is not a complex one, but also cannot be taken lightly. It goes without saying that you want to use keywords relevant to your geographic area (city, town, etc.). These words will help Google steer your content towards your respective geo-fenced area. Crafting keywords and ensuring they are relevant takes more strategy.

You need to think how your customers think. As the Weidert Group explains, understanding how your customer thinks, and testing if you can think like them, with Google’s Keyword Tool, can help you target more customers organically. Using the keyword tool, multi-and-long-tail keyword phrases can be tested. By paying attention to the “Local Monthly Searches” field, you will determine which of your keywords are popular, and which are not.

From there, keywords can be naturally inserted into your articles, blog posts, and website content—any content that will be optimized for your mobile website presence. 

Technology to Reach Customers

Along with implementing a search engine strategy campaign—based upon a mix of location and industry/product keywords discussed above—location-based-marketing is accomplished through mobile apps, some of which enable check-ins and check outs.  

Mobile Apps

There are two approaches for your business to engage customers through apps. Whenever a customer approaches your pre-defined geo-fencing area, Marketing Land pointed out that their mobile app can automatically notify them of a deal, coupon, or promotion.  

The first, according to the Social Media Examiner, is to list your company in one of the following apps: Foursquare, Grocery iQ, Where, Pushpins, The Coupons App, and Cellfire App. 

Another way is to create a custom app for your individual business, have them sign up and download it from your website (or the Apple iTunes or Android Google Apps Marketplace). As Marketing Land points out, while “checking-in” is one method, using an app to reach out to customers may be more effective, especially when you let your customers set a reminder on the app for the deal, coupon, or other offer. Another way for your business to customize its notifications to each customer is to identify each customer’s mobile device by phone number or e-mail address and then ask them what type of deals they are interested in.

Depending on each customer and the types of products or services you offer, you can tailor a mobile marketing campaign to each of your customer.     

Step 3: Challenges Marketing Professionals Face

Companies are in different stages of growth, and that includes adapting their marketing plan to the fluid nature of business. There are two specific factors that owners and marketing professional implementing location-based-marketing plans face. 

Competition From Other Companies

This first challenge is what every company faces in every industry—their competitors. Whether you sell coffee, you sell phones or you sell groceries, competition is not going away. So, your marketing plan must adopt something that differentiates itself from the competition. 

While there are only so many ways to market to a potential customer, there are virtually unlimited ways to sell a complete experience, and not just a product. Examples include, instead of just selling a cup or a pound of coffee for X price, including a small pamphlet on it describing it’s journey from plant to cup. If you sell phones, let your customers make a test call or a test text to let them see if they like the interface, call quality or functionality.

Algorithm Changes

Google is always improving it’s algorithms to help consumers find high quality websites, including those run by small business owners. According to WordStream, understanding why “eBay lost 80 percent of its Organic Rankings” can help you learn what not to do and what to do when creating unique content for your location-based-marketing campaign (and your traditional website SEO campaign). 

Here’s what’s not to do. As WordStream says, “Why eBay Got Hit: Thin Content, Doorway Pages.” What does this mean for you? eBay lost a lot of content because there was little depth to their pages, there were a lot of advertisements, and the internal links were advertising eBay’s other listings. Google flagged it as spam because eBay was “pushing out millions of doorway and internal site search pages.” 

So, how can you avoid those mistakes and reach for high page ranking on Google and elsewhere? According to Titan SEO, making it as informative, relative and organized as possible is key to please your audience and Google’s Search. Make sure you are speaking to your customers, using keywords they would use to search for your product and structure each informative posts with eye-catching headlines, meta descriptions, titles, and headers with appropriate html tags.

Step 4: Importance as Part of Complete Marketing Plan

In 2015, more people in the United States will use their mobile devices to access the Internet versus personal computers. Data points to an increase in mobile device usage, as well as users including location in their social sharing: 

  • Research firm IDC predicts a 16.6 percent increase (compounded annually) in mobile device usage through 2015.
  • 30 percent of adult social media posts advertised their location in 2013, compared to 14 percent in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center Internet Project.    

These are both positive trends for location-based marketing. 

You can take advantage of marketing directly to customers in your store. Or reach them as they pass by your business on foot or while traveling down the road by car. Interacting with customers when it matters most is the strength of location-based-marketing. Combined with the already high, and increasing mobile device use rates, targeting customers with location-based marketing allows you to compete with businesses across your city.

Your location-based marketing can benefit passively from your search engine optimization (SEO) keyword practices. Implement location and demographic-focused keywords for neighborhood specific pages, such as your city and neighborhood names. When combined with a mobile optimized website, you increase the chances that residents and visitors find your business when they are looking for a place to eat, have a drink, or go shopping.

Step 5: Benefit From Location-Based Marketing

Your business, as in every industry, competes to get ahead-of-the-curve on the latest marketing trends. Put a location-based marketing plan in place in 2014. It will help your business take advantage of this fast growing technology segment and its benefits. 

As Marketing Land out, it is wise to keep up with current trends, location-based marketing provides a high return-on-investment. The website cites a 72 percent likelihood that customers will show immediate interest in direct, call-to-action marketing message when a customer sees the retailer in person. 

Making Location-Based Marketing Work

If you understand your needs, see what components you need to create and add to, evaluate, refine and keep monitoring, your location-based marketing campaign can be an effective arrow in your marketing quiver.


Graphic Credit: Target designed by Matthew Hawdon from the Noun Project.

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