Discover these simple tips for how your small business can use location data and targeted marketing to enhance any online marketing strategy.

It doesn’t take more than a glance when you’re out in public to know the majority of Americans use smartphones. In fact, about 80 percent of internet users now regularly turn to their mobile phone to access the web. We rely on our mobile devices for directions, to search for well-reviewed restaurants, to read news stories, and even to deposit checks.

This dependence on mobile technology presents a huge opportunity for businesses. Those GPS- and Bluetooth-enabled devices produce location data that tell us where consumers go, and when. They make it possible for marketers to target potential customers based on the physical location. For small or medium businesses (SMBs), that means you can send an ad to a consumer when they’re a block away from your brick-and-mortar store, in a position to walk inside and make a purchase on the spot.

Brands are already imagining the possibilities of that kind of location-targeted advertising. Here are some of the strategies they’re adopting and how you can apply them to your own marketing plan.

Location Data for Driving Foot Traffic

A Quick Guide to How Location Data is Transforming SMB Marketing — Driving Foot Traffic

Image via William Perugini.

One of the most practical ways to leverage location data is by incorporating it into your mobile ad campaign. According to research from BIA/Kelsey, marketers will invest more than $20 billion in targeted mobile ads this year alone.

The idea here is that you can pinpoint a consumer’s location via their mobile device and show them customized ads that are timely and relevant, to up the odds that you’ll get a response. That response can range from more foot traffic to your store location to actual in-store sales. There are many companies that offer this type of technology, including Verve, NinthDecimal, and GroundTruth (formerly xAd).

Last year, Taco Bell used this approach to sell a specific type of taco. Some of the proceeds from which sale went toward the fast food brand’s college scholarship fund. The two-week campaign coupled location data with audience targeting — which involves using existing consumer data based on factors like recent visits to specific stores — to serve ads with directions to the nearest Taco Bell. According to GroundTruth, which provided the technology for the campaign, the location-targeted ads resulted in more than 170,000 visits to Taco Bell stores.

This type of targeting is becoming increasingly effective, in part because of the advertising industry’s efforts to standardize location-based marketing. Last year, the Media Ratings Council (MRC) released a set of guidelines for using mobile location data for the purposes of marketing. For vendors and content publishers, this includes rules like obtaining permission from mobile device owners to use their mobile data. It also means publicly posting clear privacy notices about how and where that customer data will be used.

It also extends to best practices for measuring GPS data. In its coverage of the new guidelines, Advertising Age offered an example that puts this into perspective. “To prevent conclusions that thousands of people spend all day at a Starbucks when it just happens to occupy the ground floor of an office building,” AdAge wrote, “the guidelines suggest accounting for altitude, not just ground-level location.” The MRC’s recommendations will help to regulate this burgeoning industry for the benefit of businesses as well as consumers. The more accurate the targeting, the more relevant the ads will be to mobile users.

Geo-Targeting Through Social Media

A Quick Guide to How Location Data is Transforming SMB Marketing — Targeting Through Social Media

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If you’re like many small businesses, you’ve already worked social media into your digital marketing strategy. But are you taking full advantage of the geo-targeting capabilities offered by companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?

It used to be that advertisers had limited options when it came to targeting specific locations on social sites. You could zero in on your city or state to make sure that only consumers in your region saw your ads, but it wasn’t always possible to go deeper than that.

That isn’t the case anymore. On Facebook, for example, you can now target by country, region or state, city, designated market area (DMA) — areas where Nielsen measures TV viewing habits — zip code, and business address. You can show your Facebook ads to people who live within 10 miles of your store. Or, you can expand your reach if you have an e-commerce site.

You can also use mobile data to determine whether they were recently in the area or are just traveling through. This can come in handy when you’re promoting a special event, extending a time-limited offer, or trying to capture tourists’ interest when they’re passing through town.

Location Lets You Take on the Competition

A Quick Guide to How Location Data is Transforming SMB Marketing — Take on the Competition

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Competition can be tough for SMBs. But just as location targeting can be used to connect with customers when they’re near your store, it can also convert your competitors’ customers into your own.

This approach, sometimes called mobile app conquesting or geo-conquesting, identifies mobile users when they’re in range of a rival business’s location. Delivering ad creative that offers a coupon or special deal can lure consumers away from the competition and into your store. For instance, marketing company Tyler Media Digital created a campaign for a physician’s office that used a mobile conquesting strategy. The company showed video ads promoting the physician’s cosmetic treatments to potential customers in specific locations. To lure in new customers they offered a click-to-call button to make it easy to book an appointment right away.

In another example, a hospital used location technology for recruiting purposes. NPR reports that Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida targeted specialized nurse practitioners while they were at work and delivered ads inviting them to apply for a new job. The campaign produced three to four new potential candidates every week, whereas prior to launch the hospital was getting “almost none.”

As mobile technology continues to infiltrate our lives, the related marketing opportunities will only multiply. When it comes to promoting your SMB, location data is simply too valuable a tool to pass up.

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