StreetFight Summit: In Local Marketing, How Close is Close Enough?

fight-9-9At the 2013 StreetFight Summit for local marketing, Duncan McCall, CEO of PlaceIQ, encouraged attendees to take a look at their phones and see how many apps are using location data.

I did, and it was 17. Seventeen! Not just the obvious ones, either, like Google Maps or Seamless. My video apps, shopping apps, travel apps and music players all know where I am, too. We have truly entered the era of the local web, even if we (as both consumers and marketers) don’t yet fully take advantage of all it has to offer.

Ostensibly, all of these apps want to know where I am so they can deliver me more relevant content, ads, and offers. And I’m sure they do. But wait a second… I live in New York City. Most apps with location filters or ad networks with geo-targeting capabilities get down to a 5-mile or 1-mile radius or a zip code. “Nearby” in NYC is 0.2 miles. A neighborhood can be drastically different from one block to the next. So just how local does “local” have to be to be meaningful?

Moreover, my neighborhood is pretty diverse; there’s a good chance that my tastes vary drastically from those of the couple living down the hall. In fact, I know they do, because they order Indian food almost every night from the place down the street (from a place that keeps sticking flyers under my door, even though I never buy).

Is location a strong enough data point on which to build a marketing plan? Of course not. We know that location is just one point among millions; all are necessary to build a complete profile and achieve the holy grail of the right person, the right message, and delivered at the right time.

Still, I’m reminded of the geofencing craze we’ve seen over the past few years, in which retailers are eager to send coupons to consumers within a 5-mile radius of their physical stores… and most IKEAs back up into a highway! Many of those “local consumers” won’t be persuaded to get off the highway to go to your store, no matter how great a price you offer them on a Malm bureau; it might be the right location, but it’s the wrong time.

Or think of the businesses that are thrilled to be able to drive foot traffic to their stores by targeting consumers on their mobile devices when they’re in the parking lot. Cool technology, but chances are, if you’re in the parking lot, you’ve already decided to go! Spend your money on messaging that drives greater cart value and loyalty for those consumers, or send deals based on past purchase behavior. Or, shift the budget to reach more customers who aren’t already at your doorstep.

However, before a business can even think about converting me into a customer, I have to be able to find them. Back in the early days of Google, we used to liken not having a web presence to having customers come to your store, ready to buy, only to find the lights are off and no one’s there. Today, I’d take it a step further: if your store information isn’t up-to-date and available across all the platforms where consumers are looking to find you, turn off your paid campaigns. It’s a waste of money.

And yet, a shocking number of businesses are still undiscoverable digitally. According to Local Market Launch’s Angela Tan & Tessa Brown, only 25 percent of the 22M businesses in the US have a visible online presence. For the other 75 percent, go create your Google Place and claim your listings on Bing, Yahoo, Yext, Yelp, and YP immediately (disclosure: my firm, K-Squared Strategies does consulting work for YP). The only thing worse than not reaching a potential customer is sending them to the wrong address.

Once you’ve covered off on the basics, turn your attention to the new local marketing platforms, some of which may surprise you. “This will probably raise some eyebrows,” said Jamie Tedford, CEO of Brand Networks, on a panel at the StreetFight Summit. “Facebook is a local platform. But we have to help national brands learn to use Facebook to market locally.”

Tedford offered up the example of Starbucks. In the past, each barista made a Facebook page to connect with customers, then Starbucks (a brilliant digital marketer in its own right) built a national presence in order to control the message. Now we’ve come full circle and the brand is helping the barista find its voice on the platform again. We’ll see more and more of this as franchise-agents come online and use the social web to drive local engagement.

Facebook itself is now branching out into offers and reviews, adding the layer of social recommendations on top of the existing location data. As Tedford suggested, Facebook would like to become the “operating system” for product and business discovery.

However, as Rajen Ruparell, SVP of Global Sales at Groupon, points out, “There’s a difference between liking something and being engaged in it.” You may “like” yoga on Facebook, for example, but Ruparell is using external data combined with CRM to help marketers target the people who actually booked yoga retreats in Boise, Idaho over the past six months and are members of a fan group in Boise. That’s a great target audience for Lululemon, and it has a high propensity to buy. When you combine sales data with inferred and explicit location data, things start to become really interesting.

The underlying change that makes all of this possible is the proliferation of mobile devices. The majority of us now carry internet-connected, geo-locating devices with us at all times, providing a wealth of new data for marketers to collect, analyze, and use to inform their plans.

With 50 percent of all sales on Groupon and 40 percent of all searches on YP now happening on mobile, it’s imperative to start connecting the dots and use the overall picture to help drive your business’s profitability. Maybe once even small businesses can connect the dots, that Indian restaurant down the street will figure out a new way to entice me to order (or stop wasting paper).

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