No matter what type of advertising campaign you’re running, making sure those ads are placed in locations that will have the most impact is obviously an important component for success. In online advertising, there are numerous options for location targeting, and one of the more recent options is called “geofencing.” This sounds very similar to geotargeting, and they do share some characteristics, but mean different things.
The term geotargeting, with respect to paid search or display campaigns, is usually used to define the geographic location where you want your ads to run. For example, in Google Ads you can specify country, state, city, ZIP code, etc. It’s a pretty broad term, but it’s important to make sure your ads are running in the right place – particularly if your location shares a name with a location in another state. The thing to keep in mind is that you will be showing ads to everyone in that area. So for example, you have an office in Orlando, it would make sense to geotarget your Google Ads campaign to Orlando.
Geofencing on the other hand, is more of a targeting method combined with a particular ad campaign style, and it’s only for mobile devices. Using GPS targeting, you set up your “fence,” which is more of a radius actually. When a user enters this defined zone, they’re shown highly relevant ads on their phones. This method is hyper-targeted, in some cases using a GPS point and a radius measured in feet or yards.
One of the best examples of geofencing would be big box stores and coupon apps. When you enter a store that they have defined in their fence, you see ads for deals specific to that particular store, or products carried by that store in the coupon app on your phone. Obviously it’s highly advantageous to be able to get your product or offer in front of a consumer when he or she is in the purchasing frame of mind. So, this is a very powerful marketing method for retailers or companies trying to differentiate themselves from similar products on the shelves in those stores.
It becomes a little more difficult when it comes to using geofencing for legal marketing. What is the “point of purchase”? Is it something that can be correlated to a specific location outside your office? What ads could you send to someone’s phone at exactly the moment they enter the “fence”? Because this is a relatively new technology, these are all questions that don’t necessarily have concrete answers.
Many ideas may look good on paper, but we have yet to see any case studies with verified positive results. Some examples include targeting hospitals or automotive repair shops if you handle car accident cases, or targeting police stations if you handle DUI/DWI or other criminal defense law. There are undoubtedly more, but it’s important to note that a a large portion of the reason why this is effective for retail may make it less effective for legal. These are pretty obvious, but there is a component marketers are missing when they decide to target these types of locations or situations with geofencing.
To be successful with geofencing, it’s not only about the right location, but also mindset and behavior – what Google refers to as “micro-moments.” Micro-moments are when “people reflexively turn to a device — increasingly a smartphone — to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something.” Do people call a lawyer from the ER waiting room? Do people start looking for representation as they are walking out of the police station? The ethical implications of targeting an emergency room or trauma center aside, we’re not sure people begin their search for legal advice quite so soon.
However, this doesn’t mean it can’t be used creatively, and if combined with other channels or campaigns, it could still be useful and effective. Firms should always be encouraged to get involved with local groups and community activities. Not only is it a good thing to do, but it can be good for public relations and social media. Getting your name out there and associated with a good cause is a positive thing. For example, there are certain school districts that have orchestrated a donation program with their local grocery store. The school sends out coupons, and on a certain day – usually a Saturday or Sunday – when you hand in your coupon the store will donate a percentage of your total purchase amount to the school. It encourages more people to shop at that particular store, and the store gets good PR for donating to the school.
A big drawback to this would be those who forget to take their coupon when shopping. It’s very easy to misplace a flyer coming home from school with all of the paperwork that gets dumped on your counter daily. A possible solution may be to geofence the store and send ads that say, “We’ll make a donation to your local schools. Click here to get the coupon,” and then direct users to a page with a scannable barcode.
How does that relate to your law firm? Easy – instead of the store sponsoring it, your firm does. Or your firm matches it. This would enable you to list your firm name on all the promo items, create social media posts, possibly a press release, and help out people in your community.
It’s an interesting technology, and with a little creativity there may be some ways to effectively use it to promote your firm. Careful testing is advised before making a big commitment of time and/or money, but you never know – you may find that perfect combination of micro-moments in a geofence and get big results.