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On the weekend I went to a locally marketed franchise store to pick up an ice cream cake. When I arrived, I checked in to Foursquare, a location-based app on my iphone. Bonus! The store had a Foursquare offer for a mini-cheesecake. I showed it to the employee behind the counter who said I needed a physical coupon or a printout before they will accept it.

Local Marketing on FoursquareI explained to them that a customer need only show the Foursquare offer at the counter to redeem it. They still wouldn’t accept it even though there was a Foursquare sticker right on the cake display.

Obviously, the employee didn’t receive information or training on how to handle Foursquare specials. After an awkward few minutes of back and forth, the cashier gave in and their attitude became defensive.

In another part of town a cafe had a Foursquare sticker that said to check in for specials. I did and no specials appeared. Thinking it may take a few visits, I continued checking in every time I went there. Nothing.

Another store had outdated offers. These didn’t expire a few days or even a week ago… They expired three months ago!  What message does this send to their customers? It says they’re unorganized and didn’t make a full commitment to their local marketing program.

What offers have you put out there and do your staff know how to process them?

Avoid missteps with these six tips:

  1. Train employees. Before creating an offer, make sure you have everyone on the same page. Don’t let your employees be like the cake cashier. If you own a franchise with multiple locations, tell the store managers about the program so they are prepared to honor the specials. Or use a smart point-of-sale (POS) system that allows you to program in your local marketing campaigns so it’s easy to charge customers correctly.
  2. Show specials on every visit. When people check in at your store, let them see your specials, even if they aren’t getting anything on that visit. One cafe has an offer that says, “Free cup of coffee with every 3rd check-in.” It also has a counter that helps you keep track of check-ins. Displaying something on every visit encourages customers to visit again so they can claim their reward.
  3. Create timed specials for slow periods. Is there a time or day of the week that’s slow in your business? Persuade people to come in by using a timed offer. Here’s one: “Check in here on Foursquare between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and receive a complimentary desert (maximum value $12, limit one per table). Offer valid only on day of check-in.”
  4. Monitor your offers. An out of date offer sends a bad message. It’s better not to have offers than to have expired ones.
  5. Keep your specials simple and clear. Unfortunately, some customers love to abuse specials. Keep it unambiguous, such as a “small soft drink” instead of “drink” where customers may interpret that as a large energy drink.
  6. Look beyond Foursquare and Facebook. You could run a contest on Pinterest or Instagram, where people post photos taken in or around your restaurant for a chance to win a free meal or a $10 coupon.

It only takes one employee with a bad attitude to lose a customer forever. And not honoring coupons sends a poor message to your customers. When done right, local marketing helps local businesses build relationships with customers and encourages word-of-mouth, as customers will share specials with their friends. Isn’t that the whole idea?

What other tips do you have for local marketing? What experience have you had with local marketing and how can we help you start a local marketing campaign?