9 Ways B2B Companies Can Use Location Based Services

CheckinsMany marketers look at Location Based Services (LBS) as being a consumer-focused marketing tactic. Consumers check in, and in return, receive offers (sometimes), get to see what their friends are doing and can enjoy a gaming aspect by receiving badges, collecting items or other rewards.

What many marketers fail to see is the value of the data being aggregated by location based services. LBS data can allow marketers to see what their contacts are doing beyond the interaction with their brand. To date, this opportunity has been minimal at best. You may gather some of this information through focus groups, surveys or social media monitoring, but LBS offers a much more complete picture than ever before. Of courseĀ  you may need permission or user authentication to access this data, but LBS users may be willing to provide this in exchange for rewards or more personalized offers.

Once LBS becomes more ubiquitous, mining this data will allow brands to reveal insight about how clients or consumers interact with their brand, as well as their competition and other local businesses. For B2B marketers, this could open a lot of potential marketing opportunities.

1. Partnerships
If your B2B contacts are frequenting other non-competitive local businesses, it would open up opportunities for business partnerships.

2. Sponsorships and Advertising
If your B2B contacts check-in regularly at certain types of locations (entertainment venues, stores, etc.) then you may want to consider potential sponsorships or advertising opportunities with that business or venue.

3. Incentives or Rewards
Knowing what your contacts like to do will give you insight on ways you can reward them. If you see a large percentage of your contacts checking into coffee shops each morning, you may want to consider gift cards as a possible reward for an upcoming incentive program.

4. Event Marketing
Are you seeing a lot of your contacts attending certain business events? Whether it’s a local tweet-up or a major conference, this knowledge could be useful to help you plan what events you should sponsor or where you should set up your next booth.

5. Lead Generation
Identify potential new relationships. See who is checking into your business. See who checks into your competition. See who checks in to the business events that your existing contacts attend.

6. Thought Leadership
If you know your contacts’ real-life interests, you could use that information in your marketing efforts.

7. Branded Entertainment
Leave tips where your contacts go (maybe similar to what History Channel does on Foursquare). Create a trip in Gowalla (see what Whole Foods or Toms Shoes is doing) or create a society in Whrrl (check out USA Today’s society). Obviously these are more B2C focused examples, but there’s no reason a B2B focused company couldn’t take a similar approach if they know their audience well.

8. Understand the Competition
Understand how users are physically interacting with your competition, and if so, what they are doing before and after those visits. If you notice any trends, you may be able to position your brand to cut-off a potential visit before it happens.

9. Stronger Nurturing and Relationship Building
During lead nurturing, you could use LBS data to better understanding your contacts’ interests and use that to your advantage. LBS data can not only give you information to drive the relationship, but you can also use it to identify your sales reps with similar interests and partner them with the prospect.

How else do you see Location Based Services becoming more valuable for B2B brands?

Reviewing Our 2010 B2B Social Media Predictions

Before we start looking forward with predictions for 2011 in B2B social media, we thought we would look back at our predictions for 2010. It is worth looking at these predictions not to determine our skill at predicting the future, but to see how quickly or slowly various aspects of social media were adopted or ignored by B2B companies.

1. Sales Staff Get Social Media Savvy
This is something that definitely started to happen in 2010, but not to the extent that we might have thought. The first steps of this occurred, which are the education and awareness of the benefits of social media to a sales force, and a big part of that is through the growing online conversation about sales 2.0 and social CRM.

2. Inbound Marketing Gets Cash
Spending is definitely increasing around areas that bring customers to online destinations, including social media. According to the CMO Survey, social media spend is expected to be around 10% of the marketing budget for B2B companies within one year, and up to 18% within five years.

3. Location-Based Fills In The Gaps
Location did not happen for B2B companies in 2010. The value of the check-in, and even the growth of location-based coupons, did not adapt well to the complex relationship-building process for B2B social media. Even Foursquare, the leader in location-based applications, acknowledges a consumer retail focus and prevents non-retail businesses from claiming their venue on the site by stating “we’re trying to limit foursquare specials to places where people meet, socialize and linger. Think: cafes, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, museums, theaters, etc.” This limits experimentation of non-traditional approaches of checking in.

4. Social Media Lead Generation Becomes Common Place
While social media lead generation is definitely happening across multiple platforms, this is not a common occurrence. Many B2B companies are still challenged how to move beyond engagement to lead generation.

5. Social Media Publishing Gets More Multi-Media
The growth of audio and video content has been huge in 2010. While every successful campaign like the Old Spice Guy encourages clients and bosses to ask for viral videos, causing marketers to cringe (because you don’t make viral, it happens), they do increase the awareness of video as compelling online medium.

6. Influencer Marketing Gets Even More Important
With the decline of traditional media, marketers are looking for other ways to share their messages, and influencer outreach is definitely a growing approach. With sites like Klout to measure online influence, as well as other determinations based on site page rank or offline industry influence, many in the B2B space are learning who to reach out to.

7. Mobile Can No Longer Be Ignored
It is hard to find any statistics that don’t point to the growth of mobile in the US and around the world. Look at growth of smartphones, sales of iPhones, the growing Android platform and even a Gartner report from earlier this year that says the number of mobile phones that can access the web will exceed the number of PCs by 2013. More B2B marketers are understanding the importance of a mobile experience, especially as it relates to communicating on social networks and driving traffic back to their content.

8. Corporate Web Sites Get Social
Some B2B companies who understand the importance of connections through social media have made corporate web sites more social. This is not something that has gotten very pervasive, but there has been a large adoption of social media follow badges and share buttons across many B2B sites.

9. Social and Real-Time Search Drive B2B Social Media Adoption
More B2B communicators became aware of the importance of real-time information and the required response using social media and other outlets. Google, Twitter and even Facebook pushed the notion of real-time to the top of their platforms, which helps B2B companies see the importance of social media adoption.

10. B2B Gets Smart About Social Data
Most B2B companies are still overwhelmed with the amount of user generated content created around their customers, prospects and industries, and there just have not been good solutions for mining this data for actionable information. The beginnings of this are happening with social CRM platforms, but it is very early in that space.

11. The Firewalls Start To Come Down
Many B2B companies started 2010 by blocking access to social sites on their corporate networks. Not much has changed in those instances, but as social media matures, B2B companies will start to understand the business value of employees accessing sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. If companies are worried about employee productivity or inappropriate online comments if employees have access to social media sites, that is an employee problem, not a social media problem. And with the continuing growth of mobile, employees will bypass corporate networks entirely when searching social sites for business recommendations or polling their networks for information.

How does this compare to what you have seen in 2010 in your B2B companies? Let us know in the comments below. And look for our 2011 predictions next month.

BlackBerry Apps for B2B Marketing

Sometimes, it feels like iPhones get all the app lovin’ – especially when you’re one of the 21 million people using a BlackBerry smartphone for work and/or play.

As the top mobile phone for businesses, it makes sense B2B marketers would be on the hunt for apps that make their jobs – and lives – easier. Unfortunately, as this blogger puts it, the BlackBerry App store can seem like a pawn shop that only sells used 8-track players, as app development for the BlackBerry hasn’t experienced the same fast and furious push as the iPhone.

Still, the BlackBerry was made with businesses in mind, and its applications can make B2B marketers’ jobs more efficient on the go. Here are a few that touch the platforms marketers are already – or should be – using to connect with customers:

1. Twitter

Twitter has changed the way companies market themselves, 140 characters at a time. There are many great examples of savvy B2B marketing campaigns set to the tune of Twitter, but not nearly as many useful apps to help marketers use the microblogging service on the go. Last week’s announcement of an official Twitter for BlackBerry app may change that, but it is not in full release yet. The app many BlackBerry users are familiar with is TwitterBerry, which was recently rebranded as OpenBeak. Despite the rebrand, the service’s clunky features have placed it behind newcomers with more features.

UberTwitter has become the Twitter client of choice for most BlackBerry users, including myself. This client lets you switch between multiple accounts (a plus for those juggling personal and professional accounts), see Twitter users near you and navigate through a clean, uncluttered interface. TwiXtreme earns points for its colorful layout (tagline: The first BlackBerry Twitter client that makes you happy) and Seesmic for BlackBerry is a good choice for users familiar with the Seesmic desktop version.

TweetGenius ($7.99) comes with a hefty price tag, and even heftier features (including a bit.ly URL shortener, extensive options menu and built-in themes) many users have deemed worthy of its cost.

2. Offline to Online Networking

Much has been made about the importance of online to offline networking, but what about taking “real life” encounters and sustaining them online?

After a day’s (or night’s, weekend’s or week’s) worth of meetings, conferences, trade shows and social events, business cards of potential customers can start to add up. CardSnap ($4.99) takes photos of these cards using your phone’s camera and converts them into contacts stored in your phone.

3. Blogging

Whether you write an in-house B2B blog for your business or contribute case studies, commentary and best-practices to a B2B industry blog, there are BlackBerry apps available for many of the most popular blogging platforms.

WordPress for Blackberry allows users to write posts, upload photos and videos, edit pages and manage comments from its mobile interface. Both WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress (2.7 or higher) sites are supported. TypePad users can blog on its mobile BlackBerry application, while Blogger users are stuck with posting via email or text messages (SMS and MMS).

4. Location-based apps

They’re still a work in progress, but location-based apps and services are poised to be the next must-add to a business’ marketing mix. According to this article, there are now more than 6,000 location-based iPhone apps, 900 Android apps and 300 BlackBerry apps, putting BlackBerry users in the minority when it comes to becoming familiar with the platforms their clients and potential customers may be using. In addition, nearly half of the location-based service apps in the BlackBerry app store are paid clients, keeping adoption rates even lower.

Foursquare, a leader in the location-based app world that was called “the next Twitter” by Mashable, just introduced a free beta version for BlackBerry 8000 and 9000 series users. The service combines location updates with a user point system, and it has attracted the attention of businesses looking to reward and connect with loyal customers.

Loopt, a similar service minus the gaming aspect, also has a BlackBerry mobile version, and, while not an “official” in-house app, myKite for BlackBerry (previously known as BrightBerry) takes Brightkite on the road.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at other BlackBerry apps that help public relations pros and sales teams better compete in the B2B space. What BlackBerry apps have you found helpful when it comes to managing your marketing mix, engaging on social sites or keeping up with the industry and competitors?