Businesses are always looking to find creative ways to target their audience, and geo-fencing fits that role perfectly. By setting up a geo-fence – or a virtual boundary – it allows businesses to access mobile device user’s WiFi/cell date/GPS to trigger push notifications, text messages, alerts, and even targeted advertisements, to deliver location-based marketing data.
Think of the possibilities. As a business you have the ability to potentially reach customers when they enter one of your competitor’s businesses and hit them with an offer they can’t refuse. You can literally aim your ads to customize your audience’s local needs, and this is key for not only sales but for customer retention as well.
Rich: He’s the managing partner at Propellant Media, LLC, a digital marketing and media solutions provider offering geo-fencing marketing and programmatic display solutions to organizations, agencies, and companies. I’m very happy to welcome to the show, Justin Croxton.
Justin: How’s it going? Thanks for having me on, I really appreciate it.
Rich: I’m really excited about this. I looked through the archives we have here at the Agents of Change and I couldn’t find that we had really talked about geo-fencing at any point. Before we get started, some people listening may not be familiar with geo-fencing. Can you give us an overview of what it is.
Justin: Sure, absolutely. So geo-fencing is a form of what we call “programmatic display advertising”, or “display advertising”. Essentially it gives you the ability as an advertiser to target people and serve ads to people based on the places that they go.
What ends up happening is they could go to our platform. The best example I can give is let’s say you’re a car dealership and you want to target other people that go to other car dealerships. We can go into our platform and build what we call “geo-fences” around just the other dealerships that you want to target. And when anybody walks inside those other dealers – or, hypothetically, those “geo-fences” – we’ve now captured the ID to their smartphone devices and we now have the ability to serve ads to those people both while they’re inside of the geo-fence, as well as for 30 days after they leave the geo-fence.
As you can probably imagine, all the different ways that you can target people online based on different websites that they go to, to the category of websites they go to, all those different things. Now with geo-fencing you can target people based on the physical places they go, not just the online places that they go.
Rich: Aright, let’s dig into that, because this is fascinating. My experience with any sort of geo-fencing have been up until this, basically Snapchat filters. We have a conference, The Agents of Change Conference, and while people were inside the conference and decided to Snap, one of the filters that would come up was from our conference. And that is some version of that. But I definitely want to dig a little deeper to the kind of stuff you’re seeing out there.
Do you get drawn into this emerging niche in mobile marketing?
Justin: Yeah. So it’s interesting, there are so many agencies that do a lot ranging from search engine optimization, to pay-per-click advertising, to even Facebook and Instagram advertising. I’ve had a number of friends of mine that have worked for a number of technology firms, and one of those is called, Simpli.fi. They’re really one of the largest providers of programmatic display advertising – or more specifically – geo-fencing advertising.
A lot of times in order to get onto some of those platforms you need to be spending at least $20,000 a month or more, and we were able to get to that point relatively quickly based on some pre-existing relationships that we had. We decided as an agency to offer geo-fencing to small or mid sized companies, depending on the situation. But specifically in this case. How we got into it, at first it wasn’t one of those things where I said it was a really amazing tool. But a lot of the leads that were coming in were primarily asking about geo-fencing, not specifically programmatic display.
At that point we said clearly there are so many different use points for geo-fencing, whether you’re a company that wants to offer it for trade shows, or if you want to target your competitors, or if you want to use it for a core customer loyalty type of situation if you have a brick and mortar store. So that was really the main way that our agency got into it. And quite frankly it is one of the most targeted means of digital advertising that we’ve come across.
Now we don’t – and I don’t believe personally – that geo-fencing is the penicillin to everyone’s marketing needs, it really does matter to have somewhat of a mix. So maybe you do some Google AdWords and focus on conversion optimization, but that’s sort of how we got into the geo-fencing space, if that makes sense.
Rich: I think it makes sense that you should never be putting all your eggs in any basket, especially something new, where the rules could change.
Rich: But I definitely see how it could benefit a lot of different sized businesses. What is the difference between geo-fencing and geo-targeting, another phrase I hear quite a bit?
Justin: Geo-targeting is more broad-based. Let’s take a great example, Google AdWords. You’re doing some form of Facebook advertising or Google AdWords and you want to geo-target a zip code, or a city, or a 5 mile radius of a particular location, that’s geo-targeting. Geo-targeting is more broad-based where you’re getting a larger area, layering on top of that if you want to target people in that particular area based on certain keyword types of things.
Whereas geo-fencing in my mind is very specific to an individual building or an individual location. Maybe it’s a very small neighborhood, it’s a retail center, maybe it’s a car dealership, it’s a trade show. Either way, you’re able to build what we call a digital geo-fence, literally a polygon around the location that you want to hone in on. And normally a geo-fence can go up to a mile but normally it’s way less than that. It’s usually just inches of a building in most cases.
And there’s the other question around what about beacons, because there is a distinction between beacon technology, compared to geo-targeting, compared to geo-fencing. But specifically that’s the biggest difference between geo-fencing and geo-targeting. Targeting is just way more broad-based and more expansive than fencing.
Rich: Since you brought it up, can you just give us a quick review of what “beacon” is?
Justin: So beacons are these physical devices next to or inside of your phone. Whenever someone walks by and they happen to have their notifications turned on they’ll see the push notifications from your retail. So the cool thing about beacon technology in general is that if you’re walking by that location you can receive notification, even if you’re within 50-100 feet, usually it’s about 50 meters, and you can receive a push notification.
Now, I could be off a little but I do believe you have to have certain things on your mobile device in order for it to work. The biggest challenge with beacon is that you will not receive those push notifications if after you leave that location. With geo-fencing you can receive ads or see the ads on different mobile websites both at the location as well as up to 30 feet after you leave the location. That’s one of the biggest distinctions between geo-fencing and beacon technology.
Rich: So if I can visualize this I almost imagine beacon technology being almost like a carnival barker yelling at you as you get close enough to him, but as soon as you move out of range there’s not much you can do.
Justin: Yeah, and thanks for saying that because we have so many people that reach out to us asking why can’t I do push notifications. And we always tell people there’s a couple challenges with that. First is that it’s very intrusive. Some people may decide if they want to keep their notifications turned on, but that doesn’t mean that I want you to send me a push notification telling me that there’s a special offer. I might not even be the right person to receive that offer.
Rich: I can imagine walking down the streets of New York City and if my notifications are on every single business that I pass is shouting at me. I can see that being completely irritating.
Justin: Yeah, it can be really, really frustrating. Whereas with the geo-fencing technology it’s less encumbering. The only time that a user will see an advertiser’s ads is when that person goes on one of the 600,000 or 700,000 apps that one of these agencies may have access to, or when that person happens to go on a website. So it’s less of me telling you come to my store, but instead I’m on Angry Birds or Weather Channel and I see your ad and the ad is compelling, and I choose, I decide to go to your website. In our mind that’s the beauty of geo-fencing, it makes it less of a encumbering process.
Rich: Right, that does seem to be a slight bit more opt-in from the customer standpoint. But before we dig too far into that, one thing that you mentioned is when I asked the difference between geo-targeting and geo-fencing, you mentioned AdWords and we can use geo-targeting there where maybe I only want to advertise my supermarket in the greater Portland area, for example. Or maybe on Facebook ads same thing, I might draw a territory.
But one thing I can do with geo-targeting is that I can layer filters. In Google it would be things like keywords, in Facebook it might be things like take home pay, or other likes and dislikes, gender, age, that sort of stuff. Are there any type of those filters for geo-fencing, or is geo-fencing basically a binary thing? You were in the space or you’re not.
Justin: Great question. So the answer is “yes”. WIth geo-fencing you do also have the ability to create additional filters. So for example you can create different demographic and behavioral filters, you can filter to websites based on websites and apps that a certain demographic would typically frequent. You can also do it based on different categories of websites as well, you can layer on a number of other things. Certainly just from a leering standpoint those capabilities are certainly still there with geo-fencing as it is with geo-targeting.
And within our platform, our programmatic display, you can do both. The biggest difference is that certainly with geo-fencing it’s a little bit more mobile-based than it is desktop and tablet. A person will still receive some ads through desktop and tablet, but the majority of the ads will come by way of mobile devices.
Rich: It was interesting, you mentioned briefly the car dealership and how you could target other people. And as you and I were talking before we got on the air, I’m going to speak in front of a number of yacht dealers and so if I’m a yacht dealer I might say I’d love to geo-fence the local marina that may or may not be selling alternate boats – or it may just be people that have boats – I would want to get in front of those people but I’d also want to make sure that they maybe have the money to spend on a $500,000 yacht.
Justin: Right. And I’ll be honest, I’ll say that it can be a little challenging to get all the way down to a specific income range. The hope is that when you’re picking these locations to geo-fence there’s already some thought behind this is a marina where the person is spending money and probably has a good bit of money. So you may decide to include just that entire marina versus trying to layer on other things like demographics or particular websites that people may go to. Those are the types of things that are very important for an advertiser to think through so that they’re not ultimately limiting their reach with their advertising.
Rich: Alright. So you kind of hit upon this on the difference between beacons and geo-fencing, but what are people exactly seeing when we’re targeting them? Obviously on geo-fencing their phone isn’t just lighting up, you mentioned apps and websites. So talk to me a little bit more about that, like how do our ads show and what are people seeing?
Justin: Sure. So let me just give everybody a use case example. So let’s say Hendrick Chevrolet is one of our clients and they want to go after other competitors, let’s say Nissan located here in Atlanta, Georgia, and we build a geo-fence around Nissan of Atlanta, anybody that’s shopping for a car that walks inside of that geo-fence, we’ve now captured the ID to their smartphone device and they can see the ads on their mobile device through two different ways. They’ll see the ads when they happen to be on different apps. So you think about Angry Birds, Words with Friends, the Weather Channel, PGA Tour app. There’s well over 600,000-700,000 apps that we have access to that if any of those individuals goes on any of those apps, we have the ability to serve them an ad on behalf of one of our advertisers that we have a relationship with.
In this case it would be the car dealership that’s saying, “Hey, get $250 off if you come visit if you’re in the market to buy a vehicle”, or a particular contest they’re throwing. So when someone happens to be on an app and any buyer that’s listening right now just take out your smartphone and look at all the different apps you have on your smartphone. Go to the ESPN app, go to the weather app, and you’ll scroll down and you will see a few different ads. And they’re different sizes. One size might be be 300×50 and another might be 350×250. But ultimately those are the main ways in which people will see those ads.
The first is through mobile apps and the second is through websites. It’s just like any website that accepts advertising, that’s the other way in which you’ll be able to see those ads. So again, it’s not a push notification, it’s not a text message, it’s more so that we know that you went to this location and if you happen to be on one of these apps you will then also have the ability to see one of our ads. And if the ad is enticing enough, if it’s interesting enough, hopefully you’ll click on that ad and come to our website, and then hopefully we’re able to get you into the car dealership.
Rich: Ok. You’ve been doing this for a while. Have you seen certain types of ads that are more effective? Can they and should they have movement, have you seen things where you’ve done split testing and having a person’s face is better than having a product? Any tips that you picked up while you’re doing all this?
Justin: Absolutely. I mean, just general static ads usually work well. So anything that’s a png or a jpeg works relatively well. We do like gif ads, gif ads work relatively well. And then the other one are HTML file ads do relatively well as well. So anything that has some form of animation because it draws the person’s eye to that ad versus you’re just able to glare over it because there’s no movement. So HTML file ads actually do work relatively well compared to individual static ads.
We also do have the ability to place a video within geo-fencing as well. Now video is going to typically be a little more expensive than standard static ads because the inventory is less and it’s also more valuable. So naturally the bidding and the real time bidding just bids up the cost per impression a little bit more than static ads. But that’s the first thing I’ll say as far as that’s concerned.
And then secondly, when you create an ad don’t just have it be “Hey everybody, I exist, come check me out”. No, no, no. You need to think about who your demographic is, what’s the psychographics of that individual, where are their pain points and what are their needs, what are they looking for, and put together some type of special offer, something that’s unique that really gives them a reason to check you out. Again, as I was saying in the beginning, you can’t just put your hands up and say, “Hey everybody, I exist”, because that’s not good enough. You try to make the most effective impact that you can from your advertising, and one of the best ways to do that is by having some sort of an offer or a special percentage off or a unique benefit that’s really special to you and any other folks that might be out there. Those are the ones that really win the day in my mind.
Rich: Alright, so we talked a little bit about the ads and what make them effective. We kind of teased the fact that we are wanting to send people somewhere, which we would call a squeeze or a landing page. Obviously besides the fact that these should be mobile friendly, because we’re talking about an audience that’s 99.9% on a mobile device at this point. What advice or tips do you have about that landing page? Because I mean there’s one way to design something for a desktop, it may be different for a mobile device, and it may be very different if somebody is following an ad that they saw because of geo-fencing.
Justin: Well definitely when it comes to the landing page it is very important that it’s mobile optimized for sure. I wouldn’t even run ads to a non-mobile optimized website at this stage. So that’s the #1 thing.
The second is there are some people who believe that it should be a seperate landing page that’s separate from the brand or separate from the actual companies. So in this case let’s go back to the example of Hendrick Chevrolet. I wouldn’t run an ad to awesomeatlantacars.com – and that happens to be a website owned by Hendrick – I would send it directly to Hendrick Chevrolet. Why? Because there’s a certain level of trust that’s developed with it coming from the actual brand itself.
And then secondly, the other thing that we like to do is through site retargeting as well. We want to be able to take advantage of those people who have been to the website, and one of the ways we like to do that is through site retargeting. So whether it’s through our platform, or through Facebook, or Google, or any of these other platforms, the site retargeting piece is important and you can’t really do that if you’re sending traffic to a seperate landing page versus sending it to an actual brand name. So those are the two things that I’ll say that relates to that.
But in terms of just what’s critical as far as having a well optimized landing page, I mean, the standard things. Number one, make certain that the same content and the text is followed from the ad all the way down to the actual landing page itself. So what does that mean? If you’re offering a $500 off when someone comes in to buy a vehicle, have that same language on that individual landing page as well. Very, very important.
Number two, you definitely want to have your phone number, email, maybe a form submittal, on your website. One of the things that we even do at our agency and we tell everybody to do this, is have a chatbox on your website. I cannot tell you how important it is to have a chatbox these days. There are a number of attorneys that now do it as a regular practice, but we see quite a number of attorneys that don’t. And if you think about that average customer value and how much money an attorney would make as a result of having a chatbox on their site, it just gives you the ability to engage with that person when they’re ready to have a conversation with you or when they’re ready to communicate with you.
So part of what we’re trying to do is give people as many options as possible to engage with our brand, engage with our company. So some people want to call you directly and they just call you, some people want to send you an email, some people want to submit a form, some people want to engage with you on a chat box. But whatever it is, these are things that you can implement that won’t cost you a lot more than what you may be currently spending on hosting your website or advertising in general. And these things are what will ultimately increase your conversion rates over time.
I hope I didn’t steer too far off the beaten path as far as geo-fencing, but that conversation of a landing page is very, very, very critical. Very, very important.
Rich: Alright. Now a lot of people – I’m guessing most people listening – have not explored geo-fencing, I’m sure one question on their mind is what is it going to cost? You mentioned there’s a bidding process. What can a small business get away with in terms of playing around with some geo-fencing ads?
Justin: Many of the larger platforms that are out there as I mentioned before, you have to be spending typically $20,000 to get them with geo-fencing. And then there are some other smaller, mid-size agencies like ours where the minimum may be $1,000-$1,500 a month. I think probably for everyone that’s out there, you can probably get away with starting off at $1,000 a month for geo-fencing advertising.
If you’re looking to do more of an event, let’s say you’re a business and you have a conference that’s coming up that you’re going to be exhibiting at and you want to connect with all those audience attendees, you may be able to get down to a $500 per month spend for just that particular event. So those are the minimum monthly spends themselves.
Now as this relates to the cost per thousand impression number that’s a different story. Cost per thousand impressions – and I don’t know if everyone knows what an impression is – but imagine that you’re on your mobile device and you happened to see one of those ads. The moment you see that ad, that counts as one impression. And so in our industry we call it “cost per thousand impressions”. So normally we charge $10 cpm, some go as low as $6 in some cases, depending on the situation. I’d say you can probably get away with somewhere between $8-$10 per cost per thousand impressions.
So let’s just say for example if you have $1,000 budget and the agency or the company is going to be charging you a $10 cpm rate, you’re going to get 100,000 impressions for that budget. You could probably get away with that and really get a sense of whether this campaign is going to be or is effective in terms of driving leads and driving traffic to my storefront or to my business or not.
And the one thing that I didn’t mention was this whole conversation around conversion zone tracking. So the ability to measure offline foot traffic to your storefront from people that have seen your ads online. I know that we have the ability to do that, but that’s another important thing that I wanted to mention to everybody because when it comes to just conversion rate optimization, you also want to look at both what your online conversion rates are, but also what your offline conversions are so you can get a sense of how effective this campaign is or is not producing in terms of whatever your main KPI is. So, not to get too much off track, but I felt it was important to bring that up.
Rich: That’s incredibly important and I know you and I had discussed it before. But just to be clear, so certainly we can be measuring whether or not a geo-fencing campaign drive traffic to our website. But what you’re telling us now is that we can measure whether or not a geo-targeting ad actually drove foot traffic into our store, correct?
Rich: And that is crazy awesome because you know I’m thinking of all the ways that people use geo-fencing. If I’m a restaurant I might geo-target all the movie theaters near me because people are spending time on their phone before the movie starts – and some annoying people during the movie – and so basically I’m going to tell them why not come over to my place and get a free pizza or buy one get one free if you come in after viewing the movie. But once they walk in that would be one way of proving, at least to me, that it was effective.
Justin: That is, that’s one of the best ways that you can prove that it actually was effective. And we use the same geo-fencing technology, the difference is that you place geo-fences around the movie theater and competitor restaurants that might be nearby, and then we will also build what we call a “conversion zone” around the actual storefront, a store that’s looking to attract customers and patrons. And then at that stage the only time that conversion will be counted is 1) when the person saw the ad, and 2) when they actually walked inside of your store. That’s how we’re able to track those conversions for companies.
Rich: Very interesting stuff, very cool technology. It’s almost like the Sims but in real life. Justin, this has been great. Where can people listening find more about you and geo-fencing online?
Justin: I appreciate that, Rich. My name is Justin Croxton, our agency is Propellant Media, and you can find us at www.propellant.media.com. We’re working on an ebook, it should be finished in the next week. What I will do is I will send it over to you and if you want to share it with anyone that has an interest, it really does lay out a nice, comprehensive gameplan as far as what geo-fencing does, what to look for, how to build the right geo-fencing strategy. And then other companies – not just our company – but other companies that also do geo-fencing if people are looking for some other options to choose from as well. So I’ll be sure to send that to you as well, Rich.
Rich: Perfect. And we’ll include those in the show notes. Just one more reason to go check out the show notes. Justin, I really appreciated this, I learned a lot. Thank you so much for stopping by.
Justin: Thanks so much Rich, you have a good one. Thanks everyone.
Justin Croxton helps businesses utilize the power of geo-fencing to target and keep their ideal customers. Check out the cool stuff his company is doing with geo-fencing and programmatic display advertising. And you’ll definitely want to check out the ebook he just helped put together to take the mystery out of geofencing and how to apply it to your business strategy.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and to prove that, he puts on a yearly conference to inspire small businesses to achieve big success. You can also head on over to Twitter to check him out, and he just added “author” to his resume with his brand new book!