Location-Based Services providers (LBS) such as Yelp, Foursquare and others let small retailers put themselves on the map. These services offer multiple options to encourage people to visit you – and tell others about your business.

Let’s say a potential customer is searching for a coffee shop, restaurant or computer repair store from a smartphone. Using the smartphone’s global positioning technology, the LBS provides a list of nearby businesses of that type. It’s not surprising that given their convenience, LBS providers have become one of the leading ways that shoppers find businesses today. In fact, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, 74% of smartphone users turn to LBSs to get directions to nearby services and shops.

Here’s how your company can tap into the traffic-driving power of LBSs:

Choose the LBS that your customers use
The best LBS for your company to use is the one that your prospects use. And the best way to learn which tool they use is to ask them. Speaking to even a handful of prospects about how they found you will provide invaluable information. You can also ask them on your website via an online form or survey; consider offering a coupon or discount for anyone who completes it.

Another way to learn how prospects find you is by tracking their online behavior. Many websites include a function to track where your site visitors come from. These site analytics can help you keep a close eye on how customers make their way to you – for example, which sites they came from and what search terms they used.

Once you’ve identified the LBS that most of your visitors use, focus on that.  It’s fine to devote most of your energy to one LBS; in fact, experts recommend not spreading yourself too thin.

Some of the most popular LBSs are Yelp, Foursquare and Google searches. There are several LBSs that focus specifically on restaurants: Google’s Zagat, OpenTable and Urbanspoon.

Use your customers as promoters
Many LBSs offer features and games to encourage customers to engage with your business and spread the word to others. For example, a common LBS feature is the option to “check in” to locations that a user visits in person – which spreads the word about your business. Customers who check in frequently can vie for the title of “Mayor” or “King” awarded to the most frequent visitors to a given store, restaurant or other venue. This is a popular feature; according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project study, about 18% of smartphone users use LBSs to check in to locations.

Search for yourself
Take a few minutes to explore the experience that prospects and customers have when they search for you. This exercise will make it crystal clear how you may need to improve or enhance your LBS listing. Is it easy to find your address, directions, hours and phone number? Are key selling tools such as your products or menu easy to find? For example, if you run a restaurant and you post a photograph of your chef’s daily special, does that image load quickly?

Fact check the basics
Regardless of which LBS you select, be sure that your address and phone number are front and center. Many potential customers use their smartphones to find small businesses on the fly.

Even if you focus on cultivating just one LBS, you should check how your company appears on all of the major LBSs. Your clients and customers may have created a profile of your company without your even knowing it.

Set objectives
Most LBSs have two types of services for businesses: free, which provides a basic listing, and paid, which pushes your listing to the top of search results. Knowing what you hope to achieve from LBSs will help you decide which LBS features to select.

Some other popular tactics include offering coupons that show up when a smartphone user clicks on your address or using a time-based incentive such as 10% off from 2-4 p.m. You can also take advantage of the social aspects of LBS by offering a reserved table for a handful of friends who check in together.


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