Lee Odden

17 Location-Based Marketing Tips To Drive Word of Mouth & Referrals

location based marketingNote from Lee: When I heard from Aaron Strout that he and Mike Schneider were writing a book, Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, I knew it would be a great resource. We often do book reviews here on Online Marketing Blog but Aaron and I decided on this format instead, focusing on specific tips and tactics you can use today.

Writing a book takes a lot of work, but with the work is done, it’s satisfying to look back and read all the content that got created. One downside to writing a physical book, however, is trapping all that content between two covers, especially for anyone that decides not to read the book. Rather than let that happen, we are unlocking 17 of the best tips from Location-Based Marketing from Dummies.

Before diving it, we should probably start by explaining what location-based marketing is. In short, location-based marketing is the art of engaging your customers and prospects using services like foursquare, Yelp, SCVNGR and Gowalla to drive loyalty, word of mouth marketing and referrals. While the tools (location-based services) may be new to some people, the approach and execution behind creating a good campaign are not that disimilar to that of any other strong marketing program.

Now that you have a little bit better sense of what location-based marketing is, let’s dive into the tips. As a frame of reference, these tips appear in the order they occur in the book and range from the strategic to the tactical. For any of you that already have the book (or plan to pick up a copy), we’ve included the page numbers next to the tips if you’d like to read more about that particular topic:

  1. Align your goals with the right platform: Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, and understanding the platforms allows you to pick the right platform for a campaign or tailor your marketing campaign around a platform (p. 42).
  2. Make sure your business is set up correctly on Google Places: Because one in three Google searches is conducted with local intent, and Google Places Pages are prominently displayed in Google results, claiming your Google Places Page is vital to your online marketing (p. 64).
  3. Ensure your own location(s) are “check-in” worthy: Would you check-in to your own location a second time? While it’s always dangerous to form a focus group of one, nobody knows your business better than you. Is your check-in experience as good as other memorable experiences (p. 69)?
  4. Need help merging multiple foursquare venues? Get a superuser to do it: If someone else set up your company’s venue(s), you may need to edit the details or even merge multiple venues into one. Look no further than the list of foursquare superusers or active users who have been designated with special administrative powers. Request a venue merge/change by a supersuser here (p. 79).
  5. Create a Budget for your campaign: This may sound like we are stating the obvious but like any good marketing program, creating a budget for your location-based marketing campaign will help you stay focused and measure your success over time (p. 85).
  6. Make sure your employees are ready: One of the most important things you can do when you set up a location-based campaign is to make sure your employees are prepared and aware of the rules. Sometimes printing up a one page cheat sheet with all the details can be a great way to ensure everyone’s on the same page (p 86).
  7. Encourage employee participation: While you don’t necessarily want your employees owning the “mayorship” or other top designations awarded for those that check-in the most to your venue, you also don’t want to discourage their participation. In fact, some of your best “tips” and overall campaign suggestions may come from your employees as they are the ones that know your day-to-day business best (p. 87).
  8. Surprise with badges: Not all offers need to cost money. In the case of several location-based services, there is a “badge” option which rewards things for a first check-in, check-ins at several similar type establishments or multiple people checking into the same place at the same time. (p. 99).
  9. Transform loyalty programs into social loyalty programs: By incorporating location-based services into your loyalty program, you give customers additional ways to earn points, rewards and recognition. You also provide them incentives to share their check-ins across other social platforms like Twitter and Facebook thus broadening your reach (p. 104).
  10. Understanding the difference between paid, earned and owned media: Understanding the differences between paid (advertising), owned (your website, Facebook account, etc.) and earned (media coverage or conversations about your company on the web) is key to any good integrated marketing campaign. Understanding how this “holy trinity” of media affect your location-based marketing campaign are equally important (p. 119).
  11. Create an ambassador program: Tap some of your best customers (particularly those that check in regularly) to form an ambassador program. Get them together regularly — monthly or quarterly are good frequencies — either on the phone or in person. Ask them to help you create the best offers and program possible (p. 125).
  12. Learn from what other businesses have done: The saying goes that “mimicry is the highest form of flattery.” That being the case, why not check out what some of your peers are doing for their location-based marketing campaigns. That can be as simple as walking around your downtown and checking in OR if you’re using foursquare, you can see some examples of brands using the service here (p. 125).
  13. Specify which geographic areas you cover in Google Places: If you’re a service business that travels e.g. a plumber, you can specify on Google Places which areas you cover. This is also helpful for pizza/food delivery businesses (p. 131).
  14. Review your favorite LBS “places” database: Every location-based service has a location database called the “places database.” This places database lists every variation of your company’s name; you need to search for each variation to extract all the data pertaining to your business (p. 158).
  15. Monitor your competitors traffic: This may seem a little shady but keeping an eye on your competitors check-in traffic can give you a sense of how many people are checking in and what they are saying. This is fairly easy to do using a tool like Tweet Deck or Hootsuite. (p. 161)
  16. Think about which key performance indicators are critical: Any good program should have key performance indicators that it tracks. These include metrics like daily check-ins, check-ins cross-posted to Twitter, comments and tips, photos, offers/deals redeemed (p. 165).
  17. If your business is a restaurant or bar, think about table tents and placards: Many businesses fall down when it comes to cross-promoting their location-based campaign with other types of marketing and advertising. If your company is a restaurant or bar, you should absolutely remember to print table tents and placards describing your program — remember to include which service(s) you support, what offers and how to download the app if necessary (p. 221).

What location-based marketing tips do you have for businesses? Be sure to include them in the comments. As a bonus, we will randomly pick one of the “tips” to receive a free copy of the book.

Mike Schneider is the senior vice president, director of digital incubator for allen & gerritsen. Aaron Strout heads location-based marketing efforts at WCG.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Nice post !… Congratulations on this fine compilation and many thanks for thinking so highly . I just came across your page in my travels  to Washington D.C.   and want to congratulate you on a well-assembled post . Thanks for putting it together for everyone!.

  2. Lee – thank you so much for this opportunity. Hopefully your readers find it helpful. You are a class act my friend.

    Aaron | @aaronstrout:twitter 

  3. Thanks for this great marketing tips. In addition to this  An endorsed relationship is one of the effective way and as a marketing tool. You endorsed mail shots and emails return could be up to 90% positive response rate.

  4. i am about to get my first smart phone and this is great reference for me to get started

  5. I’ve been spending more time on foursquare.  I find it amazing how many times people are checking into client establishments.  Promoting their location.  All the new opportunities on foursquare make it easier to manage. 

    Google places has also been a great driver of traffic.


  6. I’ve been with Foursquare from almost the beginning and as of 2 months I changed my marketing company’s focus to Location Based Marketing and signed 10 new companies in 2 weeks.  Love this stuff and just got the book a day ago.  This article is make me even more to excited to read the book.

  7. Thanks for sharing. Frankly, this is my first time to come across ‘location based-marketing’ . Seems like all of us are depending on Google now. 5 years from now, when the algorithm changed, I guess a new marketing term would also surfaced. One question, would this book serve me any purpose? I don’t run any offline business, just internet marketing.


    • @Zelot66 – Mike and I tried to write the book from a marketing perspective versus one that is tools-centric. You can scroll through some of the contents online by looking on Amazon. That might help you make your decision. http://amzn.to/lbm4d

  8. People nowadays are eyeing on internet marketing because it’s a profitable business but before plunging yourself in this venture, you should consider things that matter most.

  9. I’m up in Northern California and although you would LBM would be hot here, it’s not. I see that a small subset of my social graph is interested in using the tools. On the other side not that many businesses, other than large ones, are interested either. I use Foursquare and find it pretty easy to become the Mayor of places, which ends up getting me nothing since the biz isn’t plugged in. 

    Now Google Places and Yelp are definitely on the radar of more businesses and those tips are helpful to many. I think more businesses should take the time to post videos and photos on their Places pages.

  10. This is a great article. Location promotion is at the top of my list of ‘hot trends’ that can be used to benefit marketers. Thanks for the great article, Lee!

  11. Great Article. Lots has been written about location based marketing but not particularly about how to maximise business participation which I think is vital