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So the headline-grabbing, first-mover, element of surprise is gone.

Starbucks has went ahead and made a PR splash with their recent announcement offering Mayors a discount at locations nationwide.

Is it time for small businesses across America to pay attention to location-based marketing applications?

Maybe. Probably. What do you have to lose?

But it is still very early in the product adoption curve for location based marketing applications like Foursquare, Gowalla and Loopt. TechCrunch recently reported that Foursquare hit 1 million users — which means 99% of the population have yet to adopt “checking in” when they go somewhere.

But wait.

Did you catch the last part of the TechCrunch article? The part where it mentions:

It took Foursquare just over a year to get to a million users. By comparison, it took Twitter about 2 years to get one million users. Of course now, two years after that, Twitter has over 100 million users. Foursquare, undoubtedly, would love to see that type of growth — assuming they don’t sell first.

That means that even though there is somewhere less than 1% of the general population currently using location based check-in services, it is possible that many more people will be using it soon.

And using these services means that a conversation is being had – right in your very business – by customers using these services.

And since product adoption velocity seems to be increasing – if you are a small business, you may not have as long as you think to “wait and see how it goes”.

Are you a small business thinking about offering a Foursquare special at your business?

It’s Free.

And if you do it right, you might be surprised to hear not only what your customers are “shouting” in your business, but also what kinds of Foursquare specials they prefer.

Currently, potential Foursquare specials include:

  • Mayor Specials: unlocked only by the Mayor of your venue. Who’s the Mayor? It’s your single most loyal customer! (the user who has checked in the most in the last 60 days)
    (“Foursquare has deemed you the Mayor? Enjoy a free order of french fries!”)
  • Check-in Specials: unlocked when a user checks in to your venue a certain number of times.
    (“Foursquare says you’ve been here 10 times? That’s a free drink for you!”)
  • Frequency-based Specials: are unlocked every X check-ins.
    (“Foursquare users get 20% off any entree every 5th check-in!”)
  • Wildcard Specials: always unlocked, but your staff has to verify some extra conditions before awarding the Special.
    (“Show us your foursquare Swarm badge and get a free drink!”)

Is it time for small businesses to pay more attention to location-based marketing applications?

Only if they like building loyalty and listening to the conversations about their industry and business.