Is Your Road to Success Paved with Location Based Services?


Thanks to everyone who came out to our breakout session on Saturday at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, D. C. We had a blast, and thanks to some good questions afterward, I think we all learned something.

Here's a summary of the key points from my presentation.

Action-Triggered Donations (ATD). Most of the major location-based cause marketing programs have been ATD's. Your check-in triggers a donation from a retailer. This was the case in January with SCVNGR and American Eagle when an "action" in Time Square triggered a donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Badges. I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of a cause marketing badge! An attendee at our session from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital reported that their longtime partner Chili's Bar & Grill explored getting a badge for its annual cause marketing program for the hospital but the $15,000 fee Foursquare wanted to charge was hard to justify. Hopefully, we'll see a Foursquare cause marketing badge soon.

Loyalty Programs. Not all small businesses are ready for location-based services, but every business is eager to save money and build customer loyalty. LBS offers both. We recently helped a local bagel chain here in Boston replace its traditional card-based loyalty program with a social program led by Foursquare that will save them thousands of dollars. More importantly, we've helped create a location platform from which we can launch cause marketing programs. So don't limit your outreach to businesses that already use location-based services, or you'll quickly run out of prospects. Offer to share your expertise on LBS in a language they already know: building better and cheaper customer loyalty programs.

Mobile Payments. I really think mobile payments combined with location-based services will dramatically change cause marketing moving forward. However, the technology hasn't arrived. I'll be sure to keep you informed!

Use LBS as an Enhancer. Since my work is so mainly focused on offline programs, I look for ways to add LBS. I suggest you do the same. If you lead with LBS you won't see the type of return you need to justify the time and effort you put into it.

Use LBS as Is. Several knowledgeable attendees at the session confirmed what a lot of us had suspected: LBS, and especially Foursquare, just weren't in to nonprofits. We have to work with LBS as they are and not let the things they don't have keep us from using them. In practice, this means not getting caught up in special promotions and badges and other things you'd have to ask Foursquare for. Stick to check-ins, tips and mayorships, which you can control. Check out my Drive Thru Guide to Fundraising on Foursquare.

Use LBS with the Right Demo. Not every location is right for location. For example, if you live in a rural area and/or serve an older audience it may not be the right tool for you. But if you're focused on urban areas and young hipsters, LBS may be for you. You have to do your homework. And while it's alright to lead your supporters, you should confirm there's a good chance they will follow.

Use LBS to Build Credibility. This may be one of the most undervalued benefits of LBS. Some businesses get pitched on cause marketing programs all the time. A lot fewer of those pitches include any talk of social media. Even fewer include LBS. Elevate yourself from your competition by knowing all about the thing everyone is buzzing about but few can talk about.

Being in the know is the always the best place to be.