Pokemon Go is now used as a technique for local business marketing

The Evolution of Pokémon Go in Local Business Marketing

Maybe you’ve been so geeked from the release of the Pokémon Go app that you haven’t slept, showered, or fed yourself in days. Or maybe you’re so sick of hearing and reading about this digital craze that you put warning signs outside of your yard to deter the hardcore gamers from your home or office. Or even still, you could be a closet nerd who plays in secret but hopes that everyone thinks they are texting on their phone and definitely not catching a Vulpix.

Regardless of who you are or how you feel about it, this cultural phenomenon is changing the technological world in more ways than one. Even if Pokémon Go itself proves to be just another fad, it’s shaping how businesses will be marketing to users of augmented reality for years to come.

In case you’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks, Pokémon Go is an in-app game for smartphones that allows users to interact with the public world around them based off of geographical location. This is probably why you’ve seen more mobs of phone zombies downtown than usual.

So how can a game with currently zero option for display advertisement possibly be the ticket for local business marketing? As a digital strategist for SWELL, I’ve already come across clients asking the same question; “How can we jump onto this thing and make it work for us?” Understanding how the game operates, who is participating, and what motivates players is the key to answering that. If you’re a local business the following is for you.


If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

The most basic thing you can do right away is to work with the popularity of the game, not fight against it. The first thing I would suggest doing is either joining the game yourself or having an employee join. This will give you a good layout of how the game works and what other game users (your potential customers) are experiencing.

You’ll notice that there are marks called “Pokéstops” on the game map highlighting real life areas around your town. These are important for businesses and you should look to see if your business is either one of these marks or if there are any in close proximity to your location. If either is the case – that is excellent news for you.

Dropping Lures

Assuming you’re a business that either is a Pokéstop or has one near them, you can use this feature to your advantage. Using your own pokémon go account you can then offer to drop what are known as “lures” for players nearby. This creates a 30 minute window for making rare collectable pokémon to appear. Active lures are visible from far distances to surrounding players which attracts them to that location.

Grand Rapids Public Library pokestop

In our city of Grand Rapids, Michigan the local public library uses this marketing tactic by blasting their social media with an announcement of dropping a lure at a certain time of day. The idea behind it is to attract visitors to the location in the hopes that while players are there they check out books or bring others along with them who will.  

Offer Discounts or Swag

Another popular tactic that is not dependent upon geographical location of your storefront is to offer discounts to players or free merchandise or swag (stuff we all get). I’ve seen local shops put signs out either advertising as “pokémon go friendly” or offering discounts on orders for certain team members. You could also find out what types of pokémon are available to “catch” outside your location and offer giveaways after showing proof of capture. The whole idea is to motivate gamers to play near you so when they are ready to make a purchase they are already near you. (Great tactic for restaurants!)

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Make Your Business A Part of the Conversation

Don’t make the mistake of turning your nose up at the “Go-ers”. While the franchise was popular in the late 90s to early 2000’s, it doesn’t mean the app is downloaded by only the millennial generation. 40% of adult pokémon go players are 25 or above and 60% of all app users are playing daily. This is important to understand because the demographic of players is cross-generational and often younger players are escorted around the city by their parents or guardians.  

Even if giving away free items or playing the game yourself doesn’t sound like a route you’re willing to take, just being a participant in the conversation online to show your awareness of the overnight sensation can benefit your local business. Social media, outdoor signage, or other marketing material can be the difference maker of where players may choose to do business.

What the Future Holds

The reason the augmented reality app is a game changer for local businesses is because it doesn’t solely cater to big businesses with display advertising. The game itself is literally tied to real life locations in every consumer’s daily life – motivating them to get out in the public world (near you) and “catch them all”.

As updates continue to release with the mobile application and further development occurs with the game, there will be many more options for local business to market with. I’m sure features much like the “lure” will come about to work with. So try to consider this gaming style an opportunity rather than an annoyance.  

For Social Media Success, Focus on Your Personality

So we’ve established that we need to get hip with the times and hop on the social media bandwagon. We need to tweet, post, instachat, linkbook… and stuff. It’s how we connect to our customers, it’s how we gauge their interest in us, it’s how we stay relevant and facilitate a conversation with the world about who we are and why we’re important. Let’s talk about the importance behind figuring out the who in this process.


When putting together your social media presence, think about the culture of your business and how to translate that into a social media personality. A business specializing in construction work is going to have a very different personality than an interior design firm. Think about who you will be online.


If your business were a person, what kind of person would they be? Do they have a sense of humor? What types of blogs or websites do they follow? Where do they find their news? Is their speech more casual or scholarly? What are their hobbies? What do they wear to a party? What are they an expert at? What kinds of friends do they have, and who are the people they want to hang out with?

It may be helpful to have a brainstorming session and work together within your team to understand across departments the type of personality you want your viewership to understand and encounter. Having a concrete personality will not only help when making decisions about social media posts and engagement, but this personality will permeate your work culture as well. Taking ownership of this persona will even help in decision-making at levels out in the real world. Your team will know what they are a part of, they’ll want to be a part of it, and invest this personality into their work.



Check out your competition. If you’re a small chocolate shop that’s been around for a long time but hasn’t yet made the leap toward a social media presence, you’ll want to check out what other chocolate shops are doing. What’s Coco Cathy in the next town over posting on her social media pages? Research other small chocolatiers to find out what they’re talking about, and take note. How are they connecting with their client base? How are they plugging into their community to facilitate positive relationships and presence in real life?

Within the competition, you’ll surely find some that stand out more than others. Feel free to follow them! We are beyond the days of stealthy spy-like moves when it comes to checking out the competition. If you “like” and “follow” other inspiring businesses in your industry, it fosters camaraderie and builds a network of support. Chances are, these trailblazers will reciprocate by following you back or even welcoming you(!) which only increases your opportunity to flourish. Don’t think of other businesses as something to conquer, but as an opportunity to learn and grow from one another.


Once you’ve compiled a solid idea of what the conversation is around chocolate on social media, you’ll know what to start posting and blogging about in order to draw an audience toward you. Of course you don’t want to copy everything, but checking out what others are posting and talking about is a great building block toward your own success. This gives you a foundation to build off of. This gives you a space from which to start thinking, “Okay, how are we going to do this even better? How are we going to stand out? How are we going to be a part of this conversation?”



Take a step even deeper. Who are the people engaging in your social media pages? You can look into Facebook’s Insights to learn more about the people following your page.

What are their ages, gender, geographical location? What do they click on, what are the posts they enjoy?  

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By doing some investigating you’ll be able to get an idea of who your audience is beyond just clicks, likes, and views. If you aren’t quite to a place where you can do this investigating within your own social media pages, snoop around a little to see who’s following your competition.

Once you’ve gathered this information, you’ll be ready to create what’s called an Audience Persona. You can check out a step by step guide here, but basically you want to really get into the nitty gritty of who your audience is. Just as you personified your business, personify your audience. It’s very easy within the world of social media and marketing in general to see people in terms of numbers and statistics through a screen. This is the downfall of many businesses in a world where people are asking for authenticity, honesty, and connection. Your audience consists of moms, students, lawyers, teachers, and more. They are people with real ideas, feelings, and interests. Make your audience real in your mind, because they are real.


By tapping into who you are and who your audience is, you’re better equipped to connect and engage. You’re now positioned to notice common threads between the types of people engaging in chocolate shop social media pages. You’re also set for tapping into those common threads by introducing yourself and engaging people in a new and different way. Cheers!

Rethinking Digital Connection

As a digital marketing strategist, I enjoy numbers. I love analytics, tracking conversion, reviewing comparisons and looking at success through the lens of data. In fact, at any given point in my day, anywhere on the planet, I can log in to our reporting softwares and find out EXACTLY how well one of our client’s campaigns is doing – in real time. I write about analytics; I train analytics, and I have built my career around devising actionable strategy from insights found in analytics.

No matter where I am, or what I’m doing, I can hop onto my laptop or iPhone and check social media, online news publishers, and sources to get the latest industry updates. Throughout my day, you can find me replying to emails, messaging with clients, and communicating with multiple connections online, because frankly it allows me to prioritize and multi-task, and I prefer it that way.

Despite all this digital connection – to albeit important things – it is often easy to forget what important connection looks like.

Today, I had a call scheduled with a client at 10:00 AM. Because of a miscommunication between two of their points of contact, I ended up getting an email at 8:15 AM they preferred for me to visit their location in person instead – across town. At first, I was a little derailed. I had my morning planned out and now my morning was going to have to be restructured if nothing else than for travel time. Even so, it only took me a moment to oblige.

You see, I truly believe face-to-face interactions, especially in today’s fast-paced world, are paramount to building genuine relationships. As I look back on my career, and for that matter – my life – my strongest personal and professional relationships started with eye contact and a good old fashioned hand shake. Without taking the time to cultivate these relationships, I would not be where I am today.

The further truth is, most of the conversations I have with people, in-person, are warmer, more enjoyable, and more productive.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about connection. With the millions of connection points online, all the data, the audiences, the emails, the messages, the likes, the follows, the shares, the reach, the impressions, the clicks, the conversions; it’s my job to recognize the good digital connections amidst it all. There are a lot of people that get jaded toward digital marketing, social media, email, etc. and write them off as fake and disingenuous.

So can “good” digital connections be genuine ones?

I believe they can be. And whether they are aware of it or not, my clients hire my team to cultivate those connections for them.

So, as a team, we’re exploring “digital connection” and what it means to generate genuine connection via digital marketing. Stay tuned and in the meantime, #rethinkconnection.

Person jotting down notes on marketing for a small business

6 Things We’ve Learned Marketing Small Businesses

If you do what you love, it won’t feel like work. If your work has a purpose, you won’t work a day in your life. These common sentiments carry huge weight for us as small business owners. And rightfully so. We’re the ones with the most passion, right? Well maybe not always the most, but we’re certainly the folks with the motivation to wake up at 4:00 am to do what we love. The people who haven’t taken a vacation in years. The people who, when we do take a vacation, can’t help but be only halfway away. We’re the ones with the dedication to do what we do, most the time, for the well-being of our employees and their families and sometimes to the detriment of our own.

You see, it’s the small business owners that find purpose not in profit, but in pride.

To look across our organizations, however small, and believe that what we’re doing is making a difference. We are tactful, resourceful, and scrappy. And our bottom line is not always our bottom line – it’s our integrity.

Our agency has been blessed to work with organizations of all sizes, from non-profit local community influencers to for-profit international game-changers. And I wouldn’t have that any other way. I know for a fact that my team is one of the best at finding an impact in every space we have the opportunity to work. Each and every person on my team understands that whether you’re solving the global water shortage crisis, or installing automated sprinkler systems in homeowner’s lawns; there is a purpose in what you do every day. And we’re proud to help you fulfill that purpose and achieve your goals.

Over the years, however, I have noticed a few trends in marketing small businesses, that can’t be found in quite the same way anywhere else.  

You Care About “Local”

You’ve started your business in town, and you’ve grown it within your local economy. Whether you want to work locally to give your hard-earned money back to the community, or simply because you want a partner with whom you can meet with face-to-face, your priorities are with someone born and bred in the same environment you and your business were. There is an unspoken connection in that for you. Letting that requirement go feels a bit like selling out. After all, you probably have national competitors that steal your local customers all the time, and you can name a million and one reasons why you would have taken better care of them. So you know the deal. How can you turn around and offer YOUR business to a national firm when there are perfectly good folks doing honest business here in town? Here in Grand Rapids, we have an awesome “local first” culture, and we’re proud to be a part of that.

You Are Skeptical

It’s not that you’re inherently distrusting. But you are protecting a serious investment – of time, of money, and frankly – of emotions. As a small business owner, getting burned costs more than the lost money. So you do your research. You ask around, and you ask the right questions. Often you’ll take a single referral of someone you trust over a thousand positive reviews from strangers on Facebook.

When someone is selling you something, it is not enough for you to trust the product or service – you have to trust the person selling it to you as well.

Going by gut instinct has always served you well, and if you get a bad feeling, you’re cutting and running. On the flip side, if you get a good feeling, it’s likely all you need to move forward.

You Are Loyal

Once your trust is earned and you’ve built a relationship with someone, you keep it. You are willing to pay more to someone you trust, who is still learning, than to a stranger with decades of knowledge. Your handshake matters and you would rather be held to a commitment of your word than with a contract. You know the value of a relationship. And when you find someone who cares about and believes in what you are doing (almost) as much as you do, you don’t let them go for (almost) anything.

You Recognize Hard Work

You’ve gone the extra mile for your customers. You’ve bent over backward. You’ve done every other cliche-ridden, above-and-beyond laden thing to make your customers happy. You’ve even gotten ridiculously creative with not-so-cliche solutions to problems to ensure complete satisfaction. Which means you know what it takes. You know what great service is, and you know what it means to appreciate someone’s business.  So when someone makes it a point to show you they’re appreciative of yours, it’s that much easier to see.

You’re A Real Person

You aren’t defined by your role as “business owner”. No matter how successful your business, you’re humble and grateful. You’re a person that works hard and believes in what they do. But at the end of the day, you’re a mother or father, husband or wife, best friend or PTA chair. You have hobbies, you might go to the gym, you enjoy a drink every once and a while and the occasional long walk on the beach at sunset. Whatever you enjoy, the point is, you’re a real person, and you value genuineness. You want to work with real people too. People that have families and hobbies, and put their pants on, well, on their legs I suppose. You know that sincerity is key to building lasting relationships and if you’re not a real person, sincerity will not come easy for you.

Results Matter

One of the biggest challenges we face as small business owners is investing in our own growth. We’re terribly guilty of this at SWELL. As small business owners, we often get so busy worrying about our clients and customers, or keeping our best employees around, that we forget our business is a living, breathing organism that needs to be nurtured and fed. In addition, with scores of advice on the internet and in books, there are so many possible things we could be investing in, that it becomes overwhelming to know what the best strategy is for our businesses. After all, you know how to run a fleet of lawn maintenance crews, or litigate a class action lawsuit – not develop and market a small business. Which means that if you ARE going to invest in something intended to grow your business, it better damn-well do just that. You better get results, and it better provide a return on your investment. Because otherwise, that’s money that could have and should have been put elsewhere.

We get it. We’re a small business too.

Here at SWELL, we have a core team of six. And call me boastful, but I’d put the work of my six up against the work of “their” 12 or even 120 any day. We are agile, talented, and we work together. Sure we have our weaknesses, and I’ll be the first to be honest about what those are if you ask. But they will never be our quality, our ability to be trusted or our dedication to providing results. Over the years of working with companies of every size and shape, we’ve learned a lot about our customers and a lot about ourselves. And we’ve realized that we care most about our relationships, working with real people, and earning the loyalty of our customers day in and day out.