Last Updated: November 15, 2020

Have you ever visited a store on a whim and wished a discount would pop out of nowhere? For some consumers, this wish has been fulfilled: Companies are increasingly doling out price breaks on the spot for those of us who always forget our coupon books at home.

Bluetooth-enabled or Wi-Fi enabled devices, such as smart phones allow companies to advertise and send promotions directly to consumers while they shop. Stores send consumers text messages offering discounts for certain goods or services. If they respond with a “yes,” they give the company permission to send out more messages with special offers.

These messages and discounts are a form of close range marketing, a fairly new way marketing professionals are spreading the word about the businesses they represent and their offerings. Such campaigns use wireless communications technology for targeted, exclusive messaging at a local level. In turn, consumers receive discounts or supplemental information, such as a restaurant’s daily specials or a map of a shopping mall.

Close range marketing campaigns target consumers who are within a certain radius of a business or venue and have activated their phones to receive media from marketers (See also Proximity Marketing). They will receive messages either on their phone or on a nearby digital sign. In addition to text messages and digital coupons, close range marketing can include video, maps, games, surveys, and Web links.

Also known as proximity marketing or “hyper local” marketing, some of these campaigns prove more effective than messages that are sent to a broader audience. If the media is sent at the right time and place, the people receiving it will be more likely to pay attention. Casual shoppers at a women’s clothing store, for example, are more open and attentive to a marketing message while they are browsing than when they are quickly going through e-mail messages at work.

While the ultimate goal for marketers is to encourage interest in their business, many close range marketing campaigns provide useful information. They may push out fun facts at a football game, promote the cocktail hour at a trade show, or provide a handy map to tourists.

However, marketing professionals are mindful that close range marketing, if used too much or irresponsibly, can backfire. Consumers may view initial messages from a company as spam, and many of them are unlikely to agree to receive additional messages. Because of lower response rates compared to other types of marketing, close range marketing can be challenging.

Who employs close range marketing campaigns?

A large range of businesses use close range marketing campaigns to give consumers new information and promote their goods and services. This includes large corporations whose franchises want to convey a more local feel to passersby or an art house movie theater looking to attract a new demographic of moviegoers.

A store nestled in a shopping plaza will send out messages when they need to grab the attention of people going to other stores. The concept works at other venues as well; basketball stadiums may send out a schedule about upcoming concerts during a game, hoping that some basketball fans in attendance like music too.(See also Promotional Marketing)

Some other examples of businesses and organizations open to using close range marketing campaigns include:

  • Airports
  • Banks
  • Hotels
  • Travel agencies
  • Gas stations
  • Restaurants
  • Retailers
  • Conventions
  • Night clubs
  • Universities
  • Subways

Digital Deals

Close range marketing gives consumers access to special information and rewards at their fingertips. Examples of content that marketers send under this category include:

  • Coupons: Unlike coupons consumers cut out of their Sunday newspapers, these coupons appear on their phone screen and can be scanned at the cash register.
  • Helpful content: A trade show can blast out a map of a hotel, a car shop may provide a schedule of basic maintenance, and a supermarket chain could share recipes.
  • Promotions: Retailers will show a picture of a new clothing line, and a recently renovated restaurant could share its “after” pictures with people who walk by.
  • Loyalty programs: Marketers may use the above campaigns to cultivate a following and expand their list of contacts. Returning customers may receive exclusive deals by signing up.

What kinds of customers are effectively marketed to in close range marketing campaigns?

The most effective close range marketing campaigns target the type of people who will be receptive to a new, often unsolicited message on their mobile devices. These people are technologically savvy and knowledgeable about all of their smart phones’ functions. Some campaigns include posters asking people in the vicinity to turn on their Bluetooth technology to receive a deal or incentive. (See also Targeted Marketing)

Once they get over that initial obstacle and a consumer agrees to receive more messages, marketers can build up a loyal customer base. A coffee-store chain, for instance, may send a returning customer who has bought six espressos over the last week a coupon for a seventh drink. That person will likely be more open to additional messages sent to their phone, such as an advertisement for a new breakfast sandwich or a prompt to download an application that will show the chain’s other locations wherever he travels.

For potential customers, marketers face a more challenging task. It is important to be careful with timing since they want to reach people who are not overly busy but have a need for more information. At a conference in a hotel, for example, attendants far away from home may be open to receiving data about a nearby restaurant or a company’s booth in an exhibit hall. Similarly, people attending a record-release party may welcome a music video sent to their phone.

In general, Americans have been slower to adopt new mobile technologies, and more closely guard their privacy than residents of other countries. For that reason, adoption of close range marketing has been slower in the United States. However, marketing agencies that specialize in the practice believe close range marketing will gain traction as the technology to carry out these campaigns continues to improve and consumers get used to the concept.

The Rise of Opportunities

Consumers continue to buy smart phones, tablets, and e-readers at an amazingly quick pace. The proliferation of these devices creates more opportunities for marketing professionals who use close range marketing to reach more people. According to CTIA-The Wireless Association, which represents the wireless communications industry, the number of active smart phones and wireless-enabled PDAs (personal digital assistants) rose 43% between 2010 and 2011. Almost 95% of these devices can transmit wireless data, meaning they are able to accept close range marketing materials.

Rising Number of Active Wireless Services Subscriptions:

Source: CTIA Semi-Annual Wireless Industry Survey

How is a close range marketing campaign developed and implemented?

Before beginning any close range marketing campaign, marketing professionals must decide what the goals of the campaign are. Does the company want to reconnect with old customers? Are they looking to branch out and find new customers? Defining particular goals for a project allows a marketing team to tailor their marketing campaign to specific customers. For example, a campaign that includes sending time-sensitive texts with daily coupons or buy one get one free offers would attract both old and new customers.

Knowing when to advertise is one of the key components of close range marketing. To decide on timing, marketers will have to rely on their knowledge of consumer behavior (See also Time Marketing). For example, they may set up a digital sign in a supermarket to show a certain brand of diapers in the morning, if that’s when women with young children are more likely to shop. A digital sign at an airport could show a restaurant’s menu specials on Monday mornings, when many business travelers are on the go.

Another important aspect is to follow up with customers. In a texting campaign, after sending out the initial coupon, it is important to send out additional texts to advertise upcoming promotions or offers. This is an excellent way to get repeat customers and continue to generate interest in a product or store.

Evaluating the campaign’s success is the final step in the close range marketing process. Coupons and other offers are easy to track and offer data to analyze how effective the promotion was. If the response numbers are low, it might be best to alter the deal to make it more appealing. If the response numbers are too high, the deal might need to be changed to another day or another coupon altogether.

What types of careers work with close range marketing strategies?

Mobile Marketing Managers

What do they do?

What type of salary should I expect?

  • Marketing Managers
    Median pay: $112,800
    Top earners: $166,400
  • Account Managers
    Median pay: $90,186
    Top earners: $111,658
  • Marketing Specialists
    Median pay: $52,728
    Top earners: $70,074

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics,

These marketing managers oversee all of a company’s marketing campaigns that are transmitted through mobile devices. Their work includes close range marketing for reaching existing and potential customers as well as other more traditional marketing techniques. Working with other departments, they make sure the projects that use close range marketing stay on schedule and are consistent with other marketing materials the company sends out. These managers have to continually create new ideas, keep up-to-date with wireless technologies, and may need to lean on an outside agency for assistance.

Education and Skills

Generally, a marketing manager needs to have at least a bachelor’s degree and sometimes a master’s degree in business administration. They tend to have at least five years of experience, either in sales or marketing, before earning their title and have shown they can work with various departments to get projects completed successfully.

Account Managers

What do they do?

Account managers’ main responsibility is maintaining customer relationships. They are the liaison between their marketing agency and the clients that are using close range marketing. It is their job to keep clients apprised of changes in the technology used to transmit close range marketing materials and keep them interested in such campaigns. In addition to keeping projects on schedule, they share clients’ input and feedback with the rest of the marketing team.

Education and Skills

Account managers have a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience in a related field, such as sales. They have usually held a leadership role.

Marketing Specialists

What do they do?

At marketing agencies, marketing specialists design and execute marketing programs, which include close range marketing campaigns. They work closely with account managers to pitch ideas to clients and prepare proposals to potential clients. Part of their input may include data about how other companies have successfully implemented close range marketing projects. These specialists may often provide administrative tasks, such as handling minor client requests and keeping status reports about various campaigns.

Education and Skills

These marketing professionals usually have at least two years of experience in an advertising or marketing agency, often in a sales role. They are adaptable to change since mobile technologies change frequently. Marketing specialists will generally have a bachelor’s degree in marketing or something similar.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

To determine whether a close range marketing campaign will be successful, marketing professionals have to first understand the business of marketing. Marketing schools provide the most up-to-date tools used in marketing, as well as the history of the profession to recognize the most current and well-researched ideas.

In addition, marketing professionals must have a strong understanding of business and management. They will need to manage the finances of their close range marketing campaigns and be able to work in conjunction with their company’s finance department to receive funding for projects.

The technology involved in close range marketing will continue to change, and employers want to know their marketing employees will adapt. Professionals that choose to focus on this type of marketing can take classes to learn the basic principles of how wireless communications work. It is important to be able to communicate with information technology departments and programmers within their department to ensure their marketing efforts will be received and readable.(See also Internet Marketer)

Marketing courses also give potential marketing professionals a chance to test their knowledge and put together sample close range marketing campaigns. They can look at case studies of older marketing efforts and discuss with their classmates how a close range marketing campaign would have benefited the companies. Students can also use their time in school to go through the process of proposing campaigns in mock pitches to clients. This practice will help potential marketing professionals perfect how they talk about close range marketing’s benefits with actual clients.

Contact schools offering marketing degree programs to learn what they can offer you.

At Close Range: A way to reach consumers where they are

In a 2011 white paper touting the use of close range marketing, iSign Media Corp., a proximity marketing company, gave the following statistics, to show its specialty’s growth:

  • Consumers per month who see digital signage: 71 million
  • Spending on digital advertising (primarily signs), outside of homes, increased approximately 15% between 2009 and 2010
  • Overall spending on proximity marketing in 2010 totaled approximately $200 million
  • Such pending is expected to reach $6 billion in 2015