Utter the phrase “location marketing” to any retailer, entrepreneur or marketer, and the first solution that pops into mind is “online map.” An online map identifies a location quickly and at a glance, giving visitors access to a street address, city, zip code, and general sense of nearby cross streets to find their way to a store or event. Easy, right?
Not so fast – especially if the goal is to bring customers directly and exclusively to you.
Commonly used Google maps often showcase content that can be counterproductive to effective location marketing by luring customers to nearby retailers. And who wants that?
- What business, for example, would intentionally publish an online map that prominently lists nearby competitors, similar companies, paid ads, or sponsored links to other businesses?
- Why should any retailer intentionally feature an online map that exposes website visitors to unsolicited, third-party consumer reviews – especially if the comments are potentially damaging, deliver questionable information or spread negative opinions?
Unfortunately, that is the situation brands and businesses often face when they rely on Google maps. It’s a situation best described as a leaky location marketing funnel – information that lures customers away from the intended location to somewhere else. Following are some best practices for brands to fix the leaky location marketing funnel by fixing the online map(s).
Funnels should bring customers to you – not away
Even though they are in common use by brands, Google maps can deflect customers elsewhere by exposing them to nearby competitors or potentially negative information. Why should brands embrace content that has the potential to distract customers, make them think twice or continue searching?
Similarly, creating a map is as simple as signing up for an account, typing in a street address or location, and then customizing and personalizing it with easy drag-and-drop features. A simple map can be created in 5-10 minutes – completely customized, branded and ready for online posting and social sharing.
Some best practices emerge around these new mapping alternatives. They include:
- Own Your Map:
Don’t cede an online map to a third-party vendor or search engine. Find a map platform with easy-to-use functionalities that put map ownership and creation into the brand’s hands. Embed it, own it and updated it regularly to keep it fresh and relevant.
- Brand Your Map:
Unlike Google maps – where every map has the same background, colors, and design elements – customized map platforms let users embellish and brand a map with colors, a logo or readily identifiable elements that extend the brand’s presence to the map. Sprinkle some creativity and create maps with flair, flavor and a unique sense of place. Add content to the map that reinforces the brand message, tagline, slogan or promise.
- Choose Content You Want To Showcase:
Give the map a name, upload an image/video/sound clip, phone number, social media accounts, and add a URL. Some map creation platforms make room for company descriptions and other catchy content. The easy ability to drop in location markers enables map owners to highlight nearby landmarks or amenities. A retail store’s map, for example, can highlight readily accessible parking lots, public transit stops, restaurants, parks, partner businesses or entertainment opportunities. A content-rich map can turn a trip to a store (or event) into an exciting neighborhood adventure.
- Make The Map Social:
Ideally, the map creation platform will make it easy to share the map across a variety of channels, including the ability to post it on a website, blog, Pinterest or LinkedIn, or share across Facebook, Twitter, email, or via text message. Update map content in real time to keep online visitors updated or to support ever-changing promotions or specials.
- Who Says A Business / Event Has To Be Limited To One Map?
Maybe a brand has more than one location. Maybe a retailer hosts numerous seasonal events, promotions or outside-the-store appearances (e.g. book signing, farmer’s market, community festival, cooking class, do-it-yourself workshop). Every location, every promotion, every event can benefit from its own map, and when creating a map is simple, go ahead…create. Try a spring-themed map for springtime promotions, a back-to-school map for the dog days of summer, and a holiday-themed map to drum up business or awareness. Content-specific event maps can be created for different audiences – one each for vendors, attendees, performers, sponsors, and volunteers, for example.
- Add A Level Of Discovery:
Help your potential customers find the nearest parking or parking that your store validates, the nearest public transport stop or simply the nearest coffee shop to unwind after visiting your store. This “value add” to your map helps reduce the friction it takes for your customers to reach your store.
Brands can be reassured to know that creating an online map doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and it doesn’t require “expert” programming or design skills. Easy-to-use, online map-creation platforms can turn anyone into a map creator, and a fully owned, fully branded map increases the likelihood that customers (current and potential) will be encouraged to visit – not enticed to look elsewhere.