EDITOR UPDATE (7/13): Now that FourSquare has passed 2 million users and many more people are familiar with location-based services, it is worth another look at Kipp’s thoughts on B2B applications of these programs.
We are just getting started in 2010 and aside from gadget announcements from CES, the subject with the biggest amount of buzz on the web has been location-based social networking applications. Much of this buzz was created, when one of the leaders in the space, FourSquare announced that it was opening up its platform to all cities around the world. With all of this buzz, it begs the question, do these location-based networks have use cases for B2B companies?
The short answer is yes, they do. The first round of businesses that will begin to leverage these location-based applications will be local establishments like coffee shops, restaurants, gyms and other types of consumer-based small businesses. The application of services like FourSquare for them is pretty straight forward. For these businesses FourSquare acts like a public loyalty program. A quick look at the page for a business location shows who goes there and with what frequency.
How do located-based platforms benefit niche B2B companies? I can think of three cases in which they may work in the future, as these applications and the technology that supports it grows.
Making The Case For Location-Based In B2B
1. Adding A Valuable Layer To CRM – Location-based applications like FourSquare are the precursor to enterprise level location-based applications. As location-based technology begins to work its way into the enterprise, one of the key uses will be to manage sales teams and add richer data to CRM platforms. B2B companies will have private location-based networks for their sales staff. Using the GPS functionality in most smartphones used by sales staff, smart sales teams will automate locations of sales visits into the CRM system for a more accurate log of sales and nurturing activity. Additionally, it will make it easier for executives to change a sales person’s schedule to go talk with a “hot lead” because they will be able to do it on physical proximity in near real-time.
2. Identifying Prospects and Facilitating Lead Generation – Any good sales and marketing team for a B2B company has a profile of what their customers are like, or customer personas. They have an idea about their personality, what motivates them, the types of activities they like to do. A significant part of who a person is, are the places they go and the people they spend time with. If you are in the business of selling software to engineers, then you can find the places in your sales area that engineers are likely to frequent and use location-based applications as a way to connect with them.
3. Tradeshow and Event Marketing – For many B2B companies tradeshows and other business events are all about lead generation. This lead generation has traditionally been conducted through giving away prizes or electronic RSVP information where data is collected. Location-based applications provide a new level of lead generation at events. Location-based applications would allow for more prospect information gathering and real-time offers and discounts pushed to attendees. Imagine you just announced a new product at a press conference, wouldn’t it by powerful to send a special discount for that product only to those people who were physically in that room for the announcement? Checking in on a location-based platform would be their application for the discount.
Are location-based applications going to see rapid B2B adoption in 2010? It is unlikely. Conversely though, they should not be immediately dismissed without thoughts to the potential application they have towards business objectives.
What are your thoughts on location-based applications? Do they have a place in B2B?