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Check-in services are no longer considered to be just a fad. With check-in platforms having morethan 10 million users as of October 2011, those who say that it is just a fad would be hard-put to justify it.

It is now imperative for local businesses to be on check-in services and location-based services. Not only did these services become hot in 2011 and continue to be a topic of interest this year, but it would also help you local business gain more customers.

But how do you make sure that you are doing it right? Here are the things you need to do to make the most out of check-in services.

1. Make sure you have a venue for your business.

While mobile search is practically dominated by Google, your potential customer may discover you through foursquare, other location-based services, and similar mobile apps.

2. Claim your venue.

Like Google Places and Bing Business Portal, there is nothing much you can do if you do not claim your venue. You can only offer specials and get valuable statistics and analytics if you claim your venue.  You basically have no excuse in not claiming your venue because it is very easy. For instance, foursquare allows you to claim your venue in just three steps!

It goes without saying that you should fill out your profile completely, if possible, making sure that you have contact details, the right address and other information that you would want your customers to know.

3. Offer specials to find new customers.

The beauty of check-in services is that they allow you to run specials for different kinds of people that you want to attract. For example, if you want to attract somebody who is near your store, you can run a special for the first time somebody checks in.

Take a look at what The Music Story in New York City did for Valentine’s Day:

4. Offer specials to boost sales and engage your best customers.

Give out a discount for a purchase that they make, or perhaps give a free item. You could offer a special that gives them $5 off if they purchase $100 worth of merchandise, or they get a free t-shirt for every $50 purchase.

You could also have some sort of special to encourage repeated business. Something like “Buy Item A and get $10 off your next purchase.”

You can also engage your best customers with a special. Offer free stuff on their fifth check-in.

5. Offer badges for your best customers.

On foursquare, at least, you have the option to offer a badge for your customers who check in a certain number of times. Reward them by giving them something if they get this badge. It is not free to create a badge on foursquare, but you will have a great loyalty program or rewards program in place!

For example, Starbucks came up with its Barista badge to reward customers who have checked into five different locations.

6. Check your analytics.

Sometimes location-based and check-in services offer you a wealth of information by providing you access to the analytics that they have. For foursquare, you could easily check out:

  • The total number of check-ins
  • The average number of check-ins per day
  • The number of new and unique visitors.
  • Estimated social reach: how often was your venue sent to Twitter and Facebook.

This is really valuable in determining how to fine tune your marketing and your business.

7. Extend to Twitter.

If you have a new special, you might want to promote it on Twitter where it would go out in real time. For example, you could come up with a one-hour only special that offers a whopping 70% discount on everything inside your store. Advertising that special on Twitter would mean that you would have reached people who are not close by and would have no way of knowing that you are offering a limited-time special.

8. Remember that to some, it’s also a game.

One of the things that made foursquare very popular is its gamification features. You should encourage fun and friendly competition.  Create a mayors-only special to reward the winner.

9. Check out the tips left by your customers.

Check-in services also allow people to leave comments on the business. In foursquare, this is found in the Tips section.

Regularly check the tips left by your customers as this will give you great insights into what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. For example, if somebody leaves a tip like “It’s not on the menu, but the Squid Ink Pasta is GREAT.” Acting on this tip, you could just add the squid ink pasta to your menu, or have your waiting staff suggest it to your guests, or highlight it on table tops.

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Posted by Chris Barnwell

This post is brought to you by Chris Barnwell of SEO Inc., a locally owned search engine optimization company located in sunny Southern California.  If you’re an establishment where people come to your location, then check-in services can help get you new customers and keep your regulars coming back.

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