If you are a local business that you think Foursquare is your salvation in these challenging economic times, think again. It may just as easily breed mediocrity your business mindset and create an opportunity for your competition to get a hand up on you. As a local business you need to treat every one of your customers, every day, like Queens and Kings. They need to feel special all of the time. Believing that you can simply concentrate on the few customers who use Foursquare to build your brand, and business, is a mistake. Yes, it may give you a little bit more visibility, but the question is how effectively this translates to your bottom line?
For those who don't know, Foursquare is a website and application that runs on your location aware smart phone to enable users to "check in" when they visit your establishment. When a user checks in to an establishment they have chance of collecting "virtual badges" and possibly becoming "the mayor" of your establishment. They are in competition with other customers to become mayor and collect badges. This competition for badges and to become mayor is based in gaming theory and used to drive adoption. Anyone can add your business to Foursquare and once added people can check in and become mayor. When they check into a location, they can broadcast that fact others in on Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook and other social networks. It certainly may increase the visibility of your business, but remember your business is local and a person’s social networks are often highly geographically dispersed. As a business you have the opportunity to sign up with Foursquare and reward your mayors with specials, or whatever you want to offer them. The gaming aspect has proven to be fairly addictive and fun for certain demographic, namely techies, early adopters, and the younger social crowd.
So here's the rub. Foursquare is a tactic; a tactic that relies on a few loud customers who are more concerned about collecting virtual badges than they are in evangelizing your business. They are advocating your business as a secondary effect rather than a primary purpose. Everyone on Foursquare knows this, they know that people check in because they want to collect badges and become mayor, and many maybe get something free of the. Yes, of course, they probably like your business or they wouldn’t go there in the first place, but checking in really doesn't tell anyone that your business is special.
While it is true that Foursquare can connect local businesses to tech oriented and younger customers, it misses the boat with women, most importantly “moms” – the demographic that controls 85% of local purchases. Women account for a staggering amount of consumer spending, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, writing for the Harvard Business Review points out that “Globally, women control nearly $12 trillion of the $18 trillion total overall consumer spending”.
Now, I do know moms who use Foursquare, but they are the exception to the rule. There are two reasons why moms are likely to be very reluctant to adopting Foursquare.
If a location based service wants to attract moms it need to offer real value everyday, and not broadcast their whereabouts to the world.
Dave McClure, a highly visible Silicon Valley VC, believes that $5 is the opening bid. He talks about it in his article Check-Ins are Coupons. Game Mechanics are Bullshit. Show Me The MONEY or Go Home
It makes perfect sense to add Foursquare to your marketing mix if you are targeting the techie and young social adults. If these demographics make up a decent portion of your customer base, and for a good counter point to this article, take a look at Olivier Blanchard’s article Do you know who the mayor of your business is
From what I can tell, Foursquare may be a great way gain visibility and loyalty among a targeted demographic, but I don’t think it is the next big think everyone is hyping nor do I think it can easily crossover to other demographics. I have never heard anyone who is not either a techie or scenester rave about it! Have you?
If you want to generate positive word of mouth, deepen customer loyalty, and cultivate customer evangelists, you need to be an exceptional business in the hearts and minds of your customers. Not only do you need to offer great products and services, but you need to consistently provide great experiences.
Treat every customer like they are special, every day. Learn their names. Tell them you’re really glad they stopped by any hope to see them again soon. Give them a reason to come back; tell them "by the way, I know you like brand X, a new shipment is arriving on Tuesday. I should have it out on the floor by Wednesday”. Think other creative ways you can make customers feel special that are particular to your business. If you are a flower store, your customers usually for someone else; give them one for themselves.
Make this part of your company culture by making your employees feel special. If for some reason you have a hard time doing this, get new employees; find ones that you really feel are special. Believe me your customers sense when your employees are happy and feel good about working for you. It makes them feel better about doing business with you and keeps them coming back. Exceptional employees are one of your biggest assets.
If possible, survey your customers by asking them at the end of their visit to write down the first three words that come to mind when they think about today’s experience with your business. This will give you some great insights and, at the same time, tell your customers that you care. Collect these words, group similar words or feelings together, and keep a tally. This will give you a good idea of your brand, areas in which you excel, and areas that you can improve.
Throw them a customer appreciation party. Invite them to your employee appreciation party. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate. Even if your customers can't attend, the fact that they know that you are having a customer appreciation party will affect how they feel about you
Remember customers are not Mayors, they are Queens and Kings; be grateful to be able to serve them!