Today’s guest post has fascinating and surprising insights on how Foursquare and other location based technologies can be used in B2B settings. The author is Travis Drouin of Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico, a large CPA firm catering to emerging growth companies.
Travis: I’ve been saying for well over a year that “normal people” don’t check in using location-based services (“LBS”). Everywhere I go, I’ve gotten myself into the habit of checking in to places using a service and mobile app called Foursquare. Why? After over one year of doing it, I’m still not 100% sure how to answer that question when it’s posed to me. I can say, however, that I have had a sufficient number of positively reinforcing events that encourage me to continue the habit of checking in everywhere until something better and more interesting comes along.
Let’s back up first. What do I mean when I say “check in”? I find that I still meet a great number of people that have no idea what I’m referring to when I talk about LBS. You can read the link to the Wikipedia description of LBS in the previous paragraph, but basically it works like this: I create an account on my LBS service of choice, I install their mobile app on my smartphone, and then each time I arrive somewhere I click the app, let my phone’s GPS locate me and I “check in” at my current venue. There are a number of LBS services out there, and frankly the category is much broader than just the services that allow one to broadcast their location, but I’ve limited my discussion herein to just that. According to a December 2010 post on Fast Company, the most popular location-based applications are: Foursquare (4.5 million users), Gowalla (350,000), Loopt (4 million), Google Latitude (3 million), MyTown (2 million), and BrightKite (2 million). The list goes on, and even Facebook has gotten in on the action with Facebook Places. Along the way, you can tie your LBS check-ins to your social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to let all your followers and friends know exactly where you are and possibly what you’re up to.
Sound creepy? I bet! Most people’s first reaction is “I don’t want everyone tracking me or knowing where I am at all times!” I also hear the complaints and concerns about further invasions of personal privacy, as if Facebook and Twitter haven’t already degraded those enough already. I also hear comments like “people don’t care to know where I am at all times” or that the whole idea sounds a bit “narcissistic”. So why do I continue to do it? It’s simple …
It makes business sense for me to do so. You may ask how broadcasting my location can benefit my business. I am a CPA, and in one of my many roles as an audit partner in the practice, I spend a significant amount of time with business development activities. I’ve already spent time with tools like LinkedIn and Twitter building up my personal brand, tying it to our corporate brand, and cross connecting my fields of expertise, which float between the technology industry and the public accounting industry. I may not be a teenager checking into a local mall or a twenty-something checking into a bar or nightclub, but in my role as a business developer, it does serve my purpose to check into another service provider’s office that might also serve the same industries as MFA – Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico. If done strategically, the old axiom “guilt by association” can work to your advantage because association with other strongly branded firms and individuals can help to affirm one’s own brand.
To explain what I mean, consider my visit with Tim O’Loughlin at Eastward Capital Partners. As I arrive, I check myself into Eastward Capital on Foursquare. Of course, I have some “friends” on Foursquare, but as I check in, I also allow Foursquare to send a Tweet to all of my Twitter followers, which broadcasts my location to them. My Twitter followers are a hodge-podge of tech company founders and CEOs, CFOs and finance/accounting types, the requisite marketers and recruiters, and many others; some of them may be my target audience, but many may not be. Take this another step further … I also permit all my Tweets to show as status updates on my LinkedIn profile. Now consider that my LinkedIn connections consist only of people that I have met personally and “know” for real (versus my Twitter connections); these are my true business connections. Back to Tim … when I check into Eastward Capital, and my business connections on Twitter and LinkedIn see where I am, I don’t expect they’ll all get in their car and pay us a visit. What does happen, though, is that I walk out of my meeting with Tim and find that I have three emails from people saying things like the following:
“Hey, I see you were at Eastward today; I know [so-and-so]. Who were you meeting with?”
“I’ve been dying to meet Tim over there. Can you introduce us?”
“We’re a client of Eastward. They’re fantastic. What are you doing with those guys today?”
The point is that by simply checking in and broadcasting my location, I’ve created a reason for people to reach out to me that I enjoy hearing from but possibly may not have connected with recently. I now have reasons to interact with them on a new subject, possibly help them, and sit down for a “how are you doing” meeting over coffee or a meal.
If this doesn’t yet resonate with you, let me share one more example. I started working with a new client last summer that, in part, I attribute the successful “win” to a single Foursquare check-in. I did not mention why I was there or the nature of my meeting; simply that I was there. It was a company outside of our normal geographic area, and thus the MFA brand is not as well known there. The referral was strong (having come from the potential venture investors that were considering an investment in the company), but I was still behind the eight ball in terms of timing and brand. When I concluded my meeting and looked at my phone during my walk back to the car, I found three emails and a voice mail from trusted sources each stating that they know the company very well. One of those messages was from the founding CEO of one of my closest clients who happened to go to college with the founder of the company I just met with; they even incubated their companies together when they got started. Needless to say, I instantly had a short list of very highly qualified referrals to provide to my prospective client that would resonate with them. Within a week’s time, I had a signed engagement letter in hand! Admittedly, the price had to be right and we had to pass their other “sniff tests”, whatever they may have been, but with the power of knowledge yielded from a simple check-in I was able to “tip the scales” in our favor and move the needle enough to get the win.
Do I expect everyone reading this to rush out and start checking in everywhere? No, I don’t. However, I do expect that over time the common misconceptions that surround LBS services will slowly be reconsidered. With creative and strategic thought on how to make them work for you, there is absolute value to be derived and they’re not to be overlooked. This is still a nascent market and still overly dependent on early adopters and techies, but like many nascent markets, these services will evolve and eventually normal people WILL check in. Imagine the possibilities now, and you’ll find yourself well ahead of the curve!
By: Travis M. Drouin, CPA, CIA
MFA – Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico, LLP
On Twitter: @TravisDrouin
On LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/travisdrouin