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Smartphone location tracking apps next wave is B2B

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These days, I’m hearing more and more that Location-Based Services (LBS) are transforming the smartphone Industry, but only for consumers. So far, it’s been focused on people wanting to find nearby shopping specials and friends (Shopkick and Foursquare). Entrepreneurs need to look more broadly into the business-to-business (B2B) space for more lucrative opportunities.

Segments that come to mind include product tracking, navigation, safety, security, local business search, and payments. Beyond mobile phones, the same concepts can be applied to embedded systems, portable navigation devices, and laptops.

As outlined a while back by Adam Holden-Bache on Social Media B2B, I’m convinced that business-to-business has more money and more untapped opportunities, still waiting to be found:

  • Find strategic partnerships. If your B2B contacts are frequenting other non-competitive local businesses, LBS data could point you to more lucrative business partnerships. “Coopetition,” or strategic cooperation with a competitor is another angle.
  • Broadcast sponsorships and advertising. If your B2B contacts check-in regularly at certain types of locations (entertainment venues, stores, etc.) then you may want to consider potential sponsorships or advertising opportunities with that business or venue.
  • Channel incentives or rewards. Knowing what your contacts like to do will give you insight on ways you can reward them. If you see a large percentage of your contacts checking into coffee shops each morning, you may want to consider gift cards as a possible reward for an upcoming incentive program.
  • Provide focused event marketing. Are you seeing a lot of your contacts attending certain business events? Whether it’s a local tweet-up or a major conference, this knowledge could be useful to help you plan what events you should sponsor or where you should set up your next booth.
  • Inexpensive lead generation. Identify potential new relationships. See who is checking into your business. See who checks into your competition. See who checks in to the business events that your existing contacts attend.
  • Targeted thought leadership. If you know your contacts’ real-life interests, you could use that information in your marketing efforts. Here we tread on that fine line between value delivery and individual worry about privacy invasion.
  • Branded entertainment. Leave tips where your contacts go (maybe similar to what History Channel does on Foursquare). Groupon’s purchase of Whrrl suggests that Groupon will soon be leveraging location based social networking or "check-ins" on their popular group coupon site.
  • Track the competition. Understand how users are physically interacting with your competition, and if so, what they are doing before and after those visits. If you notice any trends, you may be able to position your brand to cut-off a potential visit before it happens.
  • Stronger nurturing and relationship building. During lead nurturing, you could use LBS data to better understanding your contacts’ interests and use that to your advantage. LBS data can not only give you information to drive the relationship, but you can also use it to identify your sales reps with similar interests and partner them with the prospect.

If you think location-based services are a long way from mainstream, take a look at the new Digby® report that 87% of retailers on the STORES’ Top 100 list provide mobile applications that help fans locate stores through location technology. And comScore tells us that there are already 140 million smartphone users in the US, which now exceeds 60% of the population.

Juniper Research forecasts that by 2014 the global opportunity for LBS will reach $13 billion, and Global Industry Analysts projects that by 2015 the global LBS market could be $21 billion. These numbers and the B2B applications are more than enough to catch the attention of venture capitalists and angel investors. All you need is an innovative idea and viable business model to get your startup in line for the real mainstream.

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