Online Social Marketing (Networking) Series: July Topic-Foursquare

    When the economy is tough, the tough gets creative. One of the easiest ways to increase sales is to “market” to your current shopper visiting your store, Web site and yes, even through your social networks. When I say “market,” I mean connecting through education, relationship-building events, sales promotions, merchandising and rewarding your loyal shoppers in a myriad of ways.

    According to Dave Williams, vice president of business development for Living Naturally, LLC, “Loyalty programs have become increasingly popular over the past few years as retailers see the increased need to better connect and have a more personal relationship with their consumers.”

    True. Retailers in our industry understand handshake marketing, however the “canvas of communications” (you can quote me on that description jewel) is changing and understanding consumer trends and how consumers are looking to connect with retailers is very, very important.

    Consumers are choosing how that want to connect based on their preferences. They are looking for information and the amount of interaction on their terms. This is considered “inbound” marketing.

    Putting an ad in the Yellow Pages (“outbound” marketing) alone just doesn’t make the grade anymore. When was the last time you let your fingers do the walking through those pages? How about your last Google? According to, Google logs two billion searches a day. That’s about 300 million people use Google a day. Times are changing and that’s my point.

    So, let’s jump forward and look at another hot new social communication (marketing) program: foursquare. It’s a social networking, location sharing application or service that supports local businesses by encouraging users to visit while in the neighborhood and earn points (rewards) for doing so.

    foursquare badge examples.

    Within foursquare’s model users can earn badges and recognition awards, interact amongst friends…plus, it gives businesses an opportunity to encourage word of mouth sharing by joining and supporting the network.

    THE TIP: Getting Started with foursquare

    STEP ONE: Go to and search for your venue to see if your business is already listed. If so, you can click on the “Are you the manager of the business?” link. If not, you can “sign up” (upper right hand corner) and begin listing your business by following the simple directions. foursquare will verify that you are a legitimate business and then you can start creating your program and offerings.

    TIP: It’s really important to have someone selected to manage your social marketing communications keeping it current plus have your staff trained on how to respond to social network participants visiting your store for the first time, and how to answer their questions. I’ll share some helpful tips on that topic in next month’s blog post.


    Once your business has been approved by foursquare, you will be given a link to its business dashboard. In this area, you will have access to marketing tips and tools designed to help you promote and get connected to foursquare participants in your area.

    The first thing you’ll need to do is create your rewards points system and any special savings that you might like to offer. Think of creative ways to reward your customers–how about a free sample of something?

    See example: Get a FREE 16oz Black Tea Lemonade with every 10th check-in on foursquare.

    An example of how retailers can integrate foursquare into their promotions.


    Invite manufacturers looking to promote new items to work with you over a specified length of time. You can create an entire promotion around it that connects with your regular shoppers as well as foursquare participants.

    The business dashboard offers you access to real-time statistics about your customers including:
    •    most frequent visitors
    •    the times of day people check in
    •    total number of unique visitors

    Did I mention that there us no fee for the foursquare loyalty program?

    STEP THREE: Share that you are a foursquare participant and encourage your shoppers to check-in so that they can start receiving reward points. Add the foursquare icon to your flyers, shelf talkers, newsletters, websites, eNewsletters, bottom of cash register receipts, POS customer screens, into Twitter and Facebook pages, and the list goes on and on. Post a “check-in” sign in your front window and in your café. How about at your cash register? 

    Sample Window cling.

    Since this is a new and growing program – you might actually be the first to get a group started with your customers and then they will connect with their contacts via word-of-mouth encouraging people to visit their favorite natural product retailer…you!

    FINAL NOTE: Opportunity is knocking. Understanding and participating within the “new canvas of communications” retailers are discovering new ways of connecting with current consumers, their friends, plus future shoppers of the natural products industry.  It’s all okay… go have some fun!


    Debby Swoboda, president of Debby Swoboda Marketing Solutions, has over 22 years experience in the Natural Products Industry developing and executing effective marketing and merchandising programs for independent retailers. Debby enjoys teaching retailers how to utilize partnerships and seize opportunities to maximize sales and profits. Her passionate support of independents led her to create “,” a destination resource providing education programs, free down-loadable shelf talkers and templates, label branding program, and a host of other items designed to support retailers.

    Debby is noted as an "expert contributor" to industry publications, writes a featured Marketing Tips article and presents "live" TeleTrainings (webinars) as part of Tree of Life’s Knowledge Center, is a guest "blogger" for The Natural Foods Merchandiser, and is a national presenter at national and regional shows. Debby is an active board member of the Southeast Natural Products Association and serves many clients including retailers, distributors, manufacturers offering proven business solutions.

    For more information, visit, call Debby Swoboda Marketing Solutions, (772) 287-9559, or follow Debby at


    Published in WholeFoods Magazine Online, July 12, 2010