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  • 19 June 2014
  • Eric Michaels

How location-based services can boost your small business

It is officially a mobile world, and location-based services are becoming ever more important for small businesses. February 2014 marked the first month ever that U.S. Internet users went online using mobile apps more than desktop computers. Built into every smartphone that can access the Internet is an opportunity: with a GPS in most smartphones and consumers getting recommendations on the go, you have a way to reach more people than ever by utilizing location-based services. Here is how to execute an effective marketing strategy that zeroes in on customers in your area.

Becoming part of the index

Anyone who has used Yahoo! or Google to search for information on a mobile device has seen location-based services in action. Whether you are searching for the address of a corner store, boutique, or laundromat, a map will appear along with reviews of the establishment in question. Search engines index everything these days, which means you should have your business recognized for the specific services or products it provides.

Tapping into the power of location-based marketing is essential now that mobile Internet use has exceeded desktop as the primary method of access.

Business profiles appear on social sites in search engines whether or not you set them up, but there is usually an option asking for the owners of the establishment to claim the listing. To get started with location services, look for your business on all major search engines and find the option to manage your listing. Once you fill in the proper information, consumers will know exactly where to find you, your proper hours, and what services you offer.

Online reviews and location-based services

Even though the concept of reviewing a neighborhood laundromat may sound odd, the ratings (on a scale of one to five stars) say more than any words can. Sites such as Yelp and Google+ collect details about restaurants and bars while allowing users to post photos and leave reviews. Studies have proven that businesses gain an extra five to nine percent in revenue for every star they receive on aggregate Yelp reviews, so there is no way you can ignore the power of online reviews.

You are probably used to promoting your small business already, so here are some ways to spread the word you're on Yelp:

  1. Put a badge and link to your Yelp listing on your website using Yelp's review badges - they provide the code, you just paste it into your website. The review averages and counts even update automatically as new reviews come in!
  2. Put a "Find us on Yelp" sign in your place of business, on the front counter or window. These have even been spotted on business-branded vehicles. You can find some images on our Flickr page. (Don't alter these images or imply sponsorship, endorsement, or false association with Yelp, Inc.)
  3. Include a link to your Yelp business listing in your email signature with the words, "Check us out on Yelp!"
Social check-ins and couponing

Location-based services allow you to access a wide range of social media site tools, including the check-in feature found on Facebook. The overwhelming majority of mobile Internet users also have Facebook accounts and mobile apps. On the home page of someone's Facebook profile, there is the option to "check in" and let the users in the person's network know where that person is. Like other Facebook status updates, users publicize where they are to keep friends in the know. Your business will benefit from this type of exposure.

To get the most out of location-based services, customers have to use check-in features with regularity. Simply encouraging them to do so may drive numbers slightly, but offering them discounts or other incentives for checking in at your business will yield the best results. Groupon, the coupon site that has benefited largely from its strong mobile presence, is another useful tool. Consumers who are tired of "daily deals" flooding their inboxes have warmed to Groupon once again.

Offering coupons on sites such as Groupon can be tricky, but it is usually worth the investment and the quality reviews. Remember that while you cannot buy good reviews, you are likely to get one by offering the consumer a quality product at a discounted price. Before long, your business will have the boost it needs.

Tapping into the power of location-based marketing is essential now that mobile Internet use has exceeded desktop as the primary method of access. From managing check-ins and customer reviews to coupon offers, you hold the power in your hands.

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