That useful little blue dot on your smartphone’s map is like a flame to a moth for location-based marketers.

But as I found out from Mike Schneider, VP of marketing at Skyhook, during our webinar “Drive ad revenue with precise location targeting,” if you focus on pushing offers, messages, and coupons to people based on where they are right now, you’re missing the point of having their location at all.

In fact, it turns out that not only are you missing the chance to discover that person’s affinities, you’re probably getting their location wrong while you’re at it.

“Let’s take a look at the old adage of ‘message, person, place, and time,’ and let’s assume that that’s the experience,” Scheider said. “Advertising has been a very ‘content first’ ecosystem. The way you do it now is you think about the content and try to get that in front of a person, in a place, at a time.”

He’s right, of course. When we’re advertising to a person right now, we think about the demographic of the average website visitor in the hope that we’ll hit the right person at the right time from a cast of thousands. That’s fine, but we typically fail to understand the location of that website visitor or their affinities. Too often we throw ever-increasing amounts of money at blanket campaigns rather than stepping back to understand the exact persona of the potential buyer.

That’s where location comes into play, but not just the most current location.

Targeting based on a single location is folly. The real magic happens when you understand a person’s journey over time.

The problem with many location-based marketing systems right now is that marketers use IP address as an indicator of location. That can be inaccurate in the extreme. A single IP address may reference as much as a six-mile square area.

If you were a courier delivering packages, it would be the equivalent of dropping all of them at the center of a zip code area, rather than delivering them by hand to each recipient’s mailbox.

Or, as Schneider put it, it’s like “your cardiac surgeon doing heart surgery on your liver.”

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And according to Schneider, 60 percent of marketers aren’t getting accurate location information.

Once you have an accurate location, and once you start attaching that location to real places, you can build a full picture of the person.

“If you have good location in the advertising technology space,” Schneider said, “you can understand [the customer’s] persona.”

By looking at good locations signals over time, you can determine if someone is a coffee lover, or a new mother, or a combination of any of the 50+ personas Skyhook understands from processing that data.

That is the way to leverage location-based marketing. Not from a single signal. Not by pushing ads to someone just because they are in a particular location (or in the general vicinity, if you’re using an IP address), but by looking at good location data over time to better understand the person, place, and moment to send the most relevant messages.

It’s a win for you because it helps keep your ad spend low while yielding high performance, and it’s a win for the consumer, since relevant messaging cuts through the noise and provides them information they might actually be able to use.

Dig deeper by listening to the entire recorded webinar now. Schneider and I delve into the strategy of tracking location over time to better target advertising, and we answer some super-relevant questions from our live webinar audience.