LBS in B2B: taking Events to the next level?

I touched on geolocation and LBS (location-based services) earlier this year just as it was breaking into the mainstream.

Gowalla, Foursquare, BrightKite, Whrrl, Scvngr and now even Facebook’s Places (see my less than stellar impression of this) are among the tech companies driving this wildly popular bandwagon.

There have been clear and useful leverage of LBS for B2C strategies both for large, enterprise-driven brands as well as small businesses as covered by a story in the New York Times.

To date, successful B2C efforts focus on reinforcing brand loyalty and increasing client base through active, frequent participation via check-ins and obtaining rewards in the form of discounts, give-aways, coupon redemptions etc.

As Foursquare demonstates adeptly, a game-oriented element is characteristic of LBS apps. This automatically serves as incentive for users (customers/prospects) imprinting a behaviour that becomes a natural day-to-day activity.

Smart, huh?

But how might one imagine applying these principles to a B2B model? Below are some thoughts that may give you reason to try it out—all of which involve embedding an LBS layer to events.

  1. Improve attendance / enhance participation: In addition to confirming attendance (typical email invite), have them check-in to the venue (your corporate office, a conference hall etc) and award swag or a complimentary product or 1/2-hour consultation service to the company with most check-ins (i.e., most number of attendees).Granted, the numbers may not necessarily be in the thousands. But this is why I think LBS use for B2B will need to be very targeted (i.e., done thoughtfully to events where active client participation is a key component such as an unconference, trade show or special event where there is more emphasis on networking than talking heads blasting content at participants).
  2. Extend brand visibility – complement your corporate blogging initiatives by posting a special event that centers around promoting a book launch by one of your authors or a product launch/refresh.Wanna get really creative? Announce a photo essay contest around the book/product launch on your blog and have attendees capture photos, provide commentary on their experience of the event itself (yes, this would be an indirect plug for @Gowalla and yes, it’s my preferred LBS app). And then do a follow-up post on the winner along with all other entries and feedback you received.
  3. Showcase CSR campaigns – in a similar vein as #2, imagine a community outreach campaign where you’d rally up volunteers—both from your internal employee community and the external public community—and get them to check-in at the event and have a scavenger hunt, photo contest, etc. Again, using a similar follow up process as #2.
  4. Internal employee engagement see #3 but use within the context of an internal culture shaping activity or morale-boosting exercise like a day long company-wide summer event or even regular get-togethers that encourage interaction, socializing and team-building.
  5. Brand distinction (AR component) if your org is really keen and want to push the envelope, why not consider making available an augmented reality (AR) element to an event (see Exhibitor Booths section – it’s an old post but one of the few that comes close to B2B application). But imagine if attendees had the advantage of knowing your booth is AR-ready: Innovate. Differentiate. Leave a lasting impression.

There’s only one thing: so far, most LBS apps appear to be mainly developed for (and the user experience conducive to) touch screen devices like iPhone, Android. A February post from ReadWriteWeb confirms this.

But perhaps these figures have since changed. And while RIM is the dominant enterprise tool, perhaps the majority of your B2B target audience prefer the “best of both worlds” and are looking for opportunities to explore and learn from location-based technology as well.

What do you think? Is LBS purely consumer-based and oriented to enhance the brand power of physical products?

Earlier in March another ReadWriteWeb article suggests LBS usage to penetrate enterprise within two years.

So I tweeted the question today and asked if anyone else has had specific success in this area. All I got: crickets.

Have you tried any of the above? What has your experience been? What else would you add to this list? How straightforward would it be to execute and measure? Lemme know.

images sourced from and respectively

11 thoughts on “LBS in B2B: taking Events to the next level?

  1. Interesting ideas, Autom! Great points about conference uses for LBS. I think conferences still have yet to master promoting a #hashtag. 🙂 The potential is certainly great. Also, see this presentation on “Digital Trends in Healthcare & Pharma Marketing.” Slides 52 to 55 demonstrate the possibilities for a smarter conference with RFID. B2B is even more relationship driven than B2C. The opportunity to provide a better experience by implementing novel ideas with these technologies will set those that lead apart.

    Thank you.
    Angela Dunn
    aka @blogbrevity

  2. This is a tough one for sure… For me, LBS must have a purpose; I don’t have time/care enough to use the consumer products currently on offer (Gowalla or 4Square) because I just don’t see the point…or benefit to me. Such is the case with a lot of executives I think; everything is judged on ROI. The LBS functionality that does excite me is along the lines of what the Toodledo GTD app is offering: location-based task prioritization. Like, if I’m driving past Home Depot, this thing will actually pipe up and tell me that I’ve got stuff to pick up as I’m driving by! Now for a busy guy like me, THAT’S value. It’ll also prioritize tasks based on location and route. But again, this remains B2C.

    For B2B I think it’s even tougher. What do I want LBS to do for my businesses? Well if you’re not talking strictly marketing, I suppose what I want is it to streamline a process which is currently labor-intensive. For example, if I ran a business that deployed service techs at client sites, then it’d be helpful to have a LBS that would check them in and out at the sites, and tie into our time/billing system to assist in accurate client time-based invoicing. I might be interested in a LBS that checked staff in and out of our offices when they arrived (though none of MY staff would consent to use it, and Kent would probably punch me in the face for even asking…).

    Ultimately it’s going to take a lot more than some swag to get me to go through the rigamarole of dragging out my iPhone and going through some process to tell everyone where I am (and we are talking about a guy who’s not crazy about people knowing where he is all the time). I will say that your first point above – checking into business events – is intriguing and appealing to me, especially if they’re bigger and draw a large crowd. I’d love to know who actually showed up at our Polo for Heart event or TIFF premiere…

    As with all new offerings, time will tell. I think for B2B to adopt and then drive, it has to be less gimmick and more substance than it is now.

  3. Angela – excellent examples on slides 52 to 55 and speaks exactly to my last bullet. although to your point, mastering hashtags, nay even the live-tweeting in events, is not a popular exercise—but perhaps it’s not meant to be(?) the relationship-driven nature of B2B is precisely why i thought further development and application of this type of tech would be worthwhile. thanks for sharing your feedback.

    Ryan – now now, Kent wouldn’t “punch you on the face” (i would) haha kidding (i’d force tapas on you instead) and of course the current forms of incentive are derived from what’s already been successfully done for B2C..i was just tweeting with Dave yesterday of the virtually untapped market for LBS companies to start developing for B2B, that is, if the apps were indeed meant to be a tool for enterprise and client relations. thanks for stopping and sharing.

  4. Autom,

    As you likely know, based on some of my tweets about this subject, I am of mixed mind about LBS. Yes, it can drive business and provides brand recognition and customer engagement, but many people (myself included) find the messages are often little more than social media/web 2.0 clutter (that is, to the person receiving the “I am here!” broadcast messages).

    That said, you offer a number of good ideas. Indeed, LBS can work in the B2B space and using prizes and game-type hooks to increase engagement can add special interest and excitement.

    Then, too, my devil’s advocate side says one drawback is that you are only dealing with a small subset of a given business community — those individuals who are LBS-enabled. A fair number of folks don’t want to deal with LBS and may be put off by having to download and use such an application in order to participate in a promotion, event or other business purpose.

    @dkasrel in the twitosphere

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  5. Deni – totally get the seeming ‘noise’ and clutter one sees from LBS-based posts. but i also wonder if ppl are aware (but have been subconsciously conditioned to ignore) that they have the option to share checkins and content *within* the network of a given LBS without having to ‘pollute’ the timelines of other social channels. the over-sharing characteristic of posts from LBS apps does appear to amplify the already seemingly exhibitionist trait of social networks..but what if developers enhanced these apps further so that they have specific uses for b2b? just throwing it out and in what direction technology evolves to cater to different types of users has always been an area of interest and fascination for me..thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  6. Hi Autom. I guess it boils down to the objectives from a B2B perspective. For B2C, it’s about building awareness, drive to retail/conversion, amplifying events etc. as you’ve mentioned. Events definitely have a place for B2B especially as it deals with twitter and hashtagging as you’ve noted above. But unless there is immediate impacts ROI-wise, it’s going to be hard to nail down the model for B2B.

    That being said, I definitely see it as a way to improve performance for sales or ops that function outside of the office. My former client, UPS, is always looking for ways to motivate drivers to increase their volume pick-ups per day, and hence (Average Revenue per Employee). If you create a contest using LBS coupled with incentive, that would be a great way to increase productivity. Just one example, but I suspect this is an area that could benefit the most from LBS within this sector.

  7. I’m a proponent of LBS! I think that there are some fantastic things that these tools can be used for and I love that you touched on the use of it on the conference front. It is something that is under-used as is the # for driving traffic and awareness to your events/booths. I however I would like to see the providers of these services be more pro-active about cleaning up the listings that they are gathering from users. Most businesses probably don’t realize that there could be wrong information about their business listing online because of these sites. When you deal with user-provided content you deal with general miss-information in terms of the spelling of a business name…their address and other information about a business. These things may not seem like a big deal to the user who just wants to “check-in” but to a business it could be a huge head-ache. Nope..I don’t work with data…whatever do you mean…

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