Based on the capabilities of geo-fencing technology, it seems, on the surface, that this technology could be a great resource for DMOs.
So let’s dig in a little more:
What Is Geo-fencing?
As defined by Wikipedia, a geo-fence is commonly defined as a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area. A geo-fence could be dynamically generated—as in a radius around a store or point location, or a geo-fence can be a predefined set of boundaries, like school attendance zones or neighborhood boundaries. The use of a geo-fence is called geo-fencing, and one example of usage involves a location-aware device (think of a mobile phone or tablet) entering or exiting a geo-fence. This activity could trigger an alert to the device’s user as well as messaging to the geo-fence operator.
As it relates to the practical application of an academic exercise, the above is a bit of an oversimplification AND marketers beware: don’t let a digital marketing services vendor talk you into geo-fencing as a panacea for all things marketing! How a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) can actually SUCCESSFULLY employ geo-fencing for marketing purposes can get very complex. So, in an effort to understand geo-fencing’s potential for marketing a destination, the following is one example of how a DMO or CVB could utilize this emerging technology:
Practical DMO Use of Geo-fencing
Often in strategic Marketing Action Planning, meeting attendees are an important TARGET. Some of their typical ROLES are to attend meetings; generate room nights/extend stay; dine out; visit attractions; enjoy nightlife; shop; return and recommend. For the purposes of this geo-fencing example, we will focus on their role to return to the destination. Once you establish the BELIEFS that a typical meeting attendee needs to have about your destination in order for you to succeed with them (get them to accomplish the defined ROLE above), the PROCESSES of your marketing plan can be developed. One of the PROCESSES could be to employ geo-fencing technology to reach those meeting attendees who visited your destination and encourage them to come back for a leisure visit soon. This marketing effort can be started at a predefined number of days after they attended a meeting in your destination – think 7 to 14 days after you initially capture their device ID.
In our example, geo-fences could be established around locations that typical meeting attendees enter when they are in town for a meeting (your local convention center, hotel ballrooms, etc). As individuals enter these geo-fenced areas, their device ID is databased (note: this is not their phone number and it is impossible to relate this device ID to any information that can be used to obtain their contact information without the device owner actively providing that information to you through a follow-up effort). To capture the most relevant contacts (out-of-town Meeting Attendees) entering your geo-fence, you can establish rules that prevent device IDs from being added to the database if they do not meet the pre-set criteria. For example, you could monitor device IDs for specific dates and time frames that you know attendees will be in meetings while also limiting the addition of employee and local resident device IDs.
Once you have this database available for marketing purposes, campaigns can be set to start automatically delivering marketing messages in the form of digital display advertising to these devices as they begin browsing websites on those same or potentially related devices. If you are familiar with how digital retargeting efforts work based on recent website visits, this process is similar but related to devices visiting a very specific geographic area (and not being from that area).
So is Geo-fencing Right for Your DMO?
There are potentially hundreds of ideas that could be pursued with geo-fencing technology. BUT, keep in mind that this marketing medium (just like most others) can get very expensive to deploy and can have very limited impact on future room nights generated if it is not employed with specific goals and strategies in place to make success more likely. If your DMO has specific TARGETS identified, with defined ROLES that will allow your DMO to succeed with these TARGETS, and you have defined the BELIEFS these TARGETS must have about your destination in order for you to succeed with them, then you will be able to effectively evaluate and decide IF geo-fencing could be a viable part of an overall marketing program. And if you do decide geo-fencing technology is a viable marketing opportunity, you will be able to maximize geo-fencing’s potential for your community by having the ROLES and BELIEFS of these TARGETS defined.