Location-based marketing is a perfect example of the opt-in revolution: your campaign can target users down to the store they’re visiting in a mall, but only if they let you. For the first time, consumers have near-complete control over the messages they hear.

The upside? Those who do see your location-based campaign are much more likely to be receptive to its message. Compared to the pre-smartphone days, when targeting meant taking out newspaper ads and hoping you placed them in the right section, it’s a heck of a change.

Extra value

Shoemaker Adidas’s recent work with digital performance agency iProspect went way deeper than pushing ads to a nearby customer. Using a combination of metrics, math and data pulled from customer searches on their mobile site’s store locator, the companies were able to assign a value for mobile to in-store conversions. The increased store locator views meant even more conversions, which in turn became more cash. Unlike other forms of location-based marketing, this idea didn’t require the customer to download an app or do anything else out of the ordinary; instead, Adidas and iProspect used location data to find what worked, then capitalized on it.

Many alternatives

Not every company will have such an easy path to location-based marketing enlightenment. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean the medium’s not worth tackling. Social apps like Foursquare and Yelp are obvious places to consider. Facebook’s Places feature also has potential. It’s all a matter of finding your strengths, thinking up an interesting way to communicate them and using an available platform to do it. Retailers, for instance, might want to come up with an incentive for checking in at one of your locations. If you’re a service company, or foot traffic isn’t your primary way of drawing customers, you may want to focus efforts on promotions like coupons or loyalty rewards.

Beyond the check-in

Other apps offer location-targeted marketing without the social media upkeep requirements. Even then, they perform functions so varied that it’s hard to believe they all fall under the same umbrella. Keeping up with every advancement can be a hassle, but the payoff is knowing exactly which platform works best for your needs.

Some, like Shopkick, reward customers for making purchases — or simply walking in a retail location — with no extra effort required on their part. Others use location technologies to push ads or marketing messages directly to users’ phones: Bytelight, for instance, employs device cameras to send content directly to mobile screens. Apps like Shazam even use sound clips as a sort of audio QR code, taking users to relevant content as soon as the app “hears” something.

As with Adidas’s research, applying a service to an existing need or question is better than creating a new one to fit the format. If your business relies on return customers, your campaign will likely be a lot different than one geared towards a new location’s grand opening. To quote a Mashable article on the subject: “to be effective, you need to set specific objectives.” If you’ve ever seen a company that shouldn’t be on Twitter posting tweet after tweet of dull marketing copy, you undoubtedly understand why.

Keep an open mind

Creating a location-based campaign is a lot like creating a smartphone app: the best ones take advantage of the platform’s existing features in new and exciting ways. Don’t think your business wouldn’t benefit from a new marketing arm just because it doesn’t have a storefront or your competitors haven’t figured out a way to use it properly. Sit down, study up and above all else, be creative. You never know when that next killer marketing idea’s going to come — and you’ll never get inspiration from a platform you didn’t bother to learn about.