Last Updated: November 18, 2020

You’ve probably heard about the three most important words in real estate—location, location, location. More specifically: Where a property is, and what other properties and services are near it, is of paramount importance.

Marketing for other industries often follows the same rule of thumb. Knowing where to pitch your tent, open a new branch, or expand into a brand-new regional or international market is typically the difference between wild success and abysmal failure.

What is geo-marketing?

Geo-marketing is not a short-term marketing strategy, nor is it a campaign by itself. Rather, it is a tool marketers use to determine strategies and create campaigns—a method of handling data that creates powerful and actionable insights into the market environment.

Applications of Geo-marketing

  • selecting a website for a new business or branch
  • identify prime locations for advertising
  • display website content specific to a user’s origin
  • provide online advertising tailored to a user’s location
  • identify the distribution of a particular customer segment in a given region
  • establishing service networks

Geo-marketing is the use of location knowledge to frame marketing efforts, using digital mapping to organize and display data for review and decision-making. The digital map allows marketers to analyze data by geographic region (such as a suburban area bordering a major city) or specific physical location (such as a particular store). Today’s digital technology, with location data available through social media and mobile devices, will only help this marketing approach continue to increase in power and capability. (See also Technical Marketing)

Who implements geo-marketing?

The companies best situated for using geo-marketing are those that have the most access to location data, such as cell phone companies and other mobile-service providers (See also Marketing Mobile Phones). Nevertheless, geo-marketing can be used by virtually any business, since digital technology has made it affordable for even small companies to implement.

Geographic Information Software (GIS) can be purchased for geo-marketing analysis; and data to feed this software can be collected through business activity. Meanwhile, large firms already engaged in database marketing can apply most of their existing data to geo-marketing, since every bit of data tied to a customer address or zip code can immediately be connected to a digital map.

What kinds of customers does geo-marketing reach?

  • Local customers. When a business—for example, a furniture store—is looking to advertise a sale, it can use geo-marketing to identify the customers within an hour’s drive for the purposes of sending flyers. Meanwhile, when a business is looking to expand to a new location, geo-marketing can tell them what areas show the most demand for that business’s products or services. Yet another business may use geo-marketing data to determine the best places for purchasing billboard advertisements, based upon the residences and traffic patterns of their customer base.
  • Internet customers. Online shoppers transmit their computer’s geographic location through their IP address. Company websites can use this information to display their pages in the language of the user (for example, after detecting a German IP address, the company displays its homepage in German instead of English). Search engines can rank certain results based upon proximity to the user’s location. Contextual ads can make sure that users in San Francisco are targeted with ads for San Francisco restaurants instead of restaurants in New York.
  • Mobile device users. Consumers can receive discounts, e-coupons, and other marketing based upon their location at any given moment. AT&T’s ShopAlert program, for example, detects when a subscriber’s mobile device is brought within a certain “geo-fence” surrounding a participating location—a donut shop, for example—and then sends them an offer.
  • Social media users. Many social media platforms allow users to “check in” to various locations, such as their local coffee shop or restaurant. These businesses can then send special offers to such users.

How does a business use geo-marketing?

In a geo-marketing plan, customer data is stored in company databases. Collected from a variety of sources (online transactions, mobile devices, club cards, sales leads, mail responses, subscriptions, warranty cards, third-party sources, etc.), this data is applied to one or more digital maps. Different maps can focus on different attributes (e.g., a zip code map, a street map, or a location map) and be layered so that analysts can review any aspect of the information they require.

This data is then analyzed according to specific business goals, such as pinpointing the location of existing customers for a new promotion, or identifying regional variations in results for an established promotion. By applying different analytical tools, and through careful association of data sets, market analysts can identify key opportunities for market strategy, and easily export that information for review by other decision-makers. (See also Market Analyst)

Such spatial analysis of data can promote multiple goals. Geo-marketing shows where customers are, how different customer segments are distributed in a region, what distribution routes are working at capacity, what kind of market share a company has versus its competitors, and more. An effective campaign will apply this information to multiple levels, including

  • identifying new markets, and establishing/dividing sales territories,
  • logistic organization, such as plotting delivery and distribution zones, and
  • planning locations for new stores, billboard advertising, wifi towers, ATMs—almost anything.

To be effective, geo-marketing systems must be maintained. Maps need to be regularly updated, customer data needs to be kept current, and quality-control measures need to be employed to ensure that the data is accurate. Many companies contract out these tasks to groups that specialize in geo-marketing software and development.

Geo-marketing and data collection should be integrated with online media. Geo-listings—that is, local business listings—on search engines may include offers, coupons, consumer reviews, photos and videos, and more. A company needs to manage and maintain each of these components. The same integration should take place with mobile devices, including mobile versions of the company website, subscription-based short message service (SMS) texting, and other applications (See also Close-Range Marketing). Providing value to these services (such as by offering exclusive promotions) increases the subscription base—and consequently, the database for future geo-marketing analysis.

What career titles work with geo-marketing strategies?

Marketing Managers

Marketing Managers use geo-marketing data to advise and make decisions regarding a company’s marketing mix.

What do they do?

What type of salary should I expect?

  • Marketing Manager
    Median annual pay: $116,010
    Top earners: $187,199+
  • Market Research Analyst (including Database Marketer)
    Median annual pay: $60,570
    Top earners: $111,440+

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • promote geo-marketing as a fundamental tool, and integrate it into various marketing campaigns
  • use geo-marketing data to develop contextual marketing, or identify ideal locations for guerrilla marketing campaigns
  • work with production and sales teams to improve business performance based upon geo-marketing data
  • use geo-marketing to evaluate a firm’s market position for a given region, and make adjustments to pricing and placement strategy accordingly
Education and Skills

Most marketing managers have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or business management, as well as substantial field experience in marketing, advertising, and/or public relations. Education preparing them for this career includes classes in marketing, market research, and business organization. Most marketing managers begin their careers by pursuing and completing an internship while in school.

Database Marketers

Database Marketers collect and analyze huge volumes of data, including (and especially, in this case) geographic data.

What do they do?
  • integrate company databases with geo-marketing software
  • propose marketing solutions based upon data collected and analyzed through database and geo-marketing software
  • convert raw data into actionable information
  • maintain quality control of collected information, ensuring accuracy and privacy
Education and Skills

Database marketers often have a bachelor’s degree in marketing and/or information technology. They must have a solid understanding of the computer hardware and software involved, including GIS systems. Both technical and communications skills are important, in order to communicate with both the marketing department as well as database operators and service bureaus.

Market Research Analysts

Market Research Analysts gather data about regional markets.

What do they do?
  • apply various analytical tools to raw data to yield actionable insights
  • identify the demand for a company’s products in a particular geographic area, and estimate the price the product can sell at, taking into account local competition and particularities of taste
  • associate different data sets, including geographic and demographic information, in order to segment groups of consumers
  • investigate why particular patterns emerge among consumers in different geographic regions
Education and Skills

Market research analysts need at least a bachelor’s degree in market research or a related field, such as statistics or computer science. Many jobs also require a master’s degree, particularly for leadership and senior analyst positions. For the purposes of geo-marketing, they must also have some experience with GIS systems as well as with general database systems.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

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  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

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

Geo-marketing can be a powerful source of data; however, the data is only meaningful if you already have an understanding of marketing principles. A marketing school will equip you with that understanding, so that you can turn data into high-return investments of money, time, and energy.

You’ll begin with the fundamentals of marketing, including developing the marketing mix. You’ll learn about economics, business management, product development, and advertising. Courses in market research will teach you how to gather accurate and actionable data, how to sort data according to its value, and how to associate data from different sources in order to create new insights. You’ll then be able to apply this data to your business management and marketing mix strategies.

But learning how to analyze data and make business decisions is only part of the program. Effective communication is core to all marketing, so likewise, developing communications skills will be a core part of your marketing program. A marketing program will not only train you in speech and presentation skills (including organizational communication) but will also require you to practice and develop your communications and presentation skills in all your classes. Additionally, you’ll learn how to act upon feedback to adjust your message and/or delivery. You’ll learn how to use both verbal and graphic messages, and how to direct your communication to your target audience effectively.

To learn more about what a marketing school can do for you, request information from schools with degrees in marketing, and put yourself in a new location for your future.