For businesses that want to offer check-in specials and offers, there are a number of commonly offered deals that businesses offer their guests for checking in.  (Foursquare and Facebook provide a great overview of the specials they offer.)   Here are the types of check-in specials that are particularly appealing to business owners:

1. First Check-In Special

Offering a special on a customer’s first check-in is a great way to attract new customers to try your business.  (Example: Free chips and salsa on your first check-in.)  When customers are deciding where to go eat or shop, offering a unique special that customers can immediately use may be enough for them to choose your business over another.  First check-in specials aren’t great at generating long-term loyalty, but they can help new customers discover your business.

2. Frequency Specials

These are the bread and butter of a typical loyalty program.  Frequency check-in specials provide guests with rewards after every X number of check-ins.  ”Free dessert every 3rd check-in” is an example of a frequency special.  Frequency specials should be offered by any business that wants to reward customer for  multiple visits.

One thing to keep in mind when offering frequency specials – they must be attainable, and they must be meaningful.  Earning a reward on a third-check-in is much easier than earning a reward for every fifth check-in.  Guests want to have the feeling of being “only one check-in away from my next reward.” Additionally, customers will want to earn something meaningful in return for their loyalty.  10% off isn’t meaningful.  A free pitcher of margaritas is.

3.  Limited-Time Specials

Deals and specials can also be offered to fill an empty house.  Is your store typically half-empty on Tuesday nights?  Offering a check-in special, such as “Free Dessert” that is only valid on Tuesdays, can be a great way to fill your store with customers.

4.  Mayoral Specials

Foursquare has popularized the concept of a mayor – the person that has checked-in most frequently at your store over the last 60 days.  Many business offer specials that only mayors are eligible for.  (Example: Mayors always receive 50% off their bill.)  The idea being that the exclusivity of mayoral special will create game play among your patrons and encourage people to battle to become the mayor of your business.

However, these specials have recently become controversial.  With the rapid growth of Foursquare, many users feel that they don’t have a shot to become the mayor of their favorite venues because of existing users that are entrenched as mayors.

Other Special Ideas

There are many other ways you can reward guests for checking-in, including offering rewards for:

  • Contests
  • Group check-ins
  • Surprises

Additionally, business should consider how to personalize their specials and offers to individuals, so that they’re able to offer the right specials to the right people.  For example, consider offering a bounce-back special that would automatically be sent to guests if they haven’t checked in at your venue within 60 days.

What are other specials businesses can offer?  How else can you use check-ins to attract customers?  Let us know in the comments below!