How to Use SCVNGR to Grow Your Business

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Seth Priebatsch, founder, CEO and "chief ninja" of SCVNGR, Inc., describes SCVNGR as a game about "going places, completing challenges and earning points." In SCVNGR, players complete challenges to earn points that ultimately enable them to unlock and redeem rewards at businesses like yours.

Think discounted coffee, a free month's worth of SaaS, half-off on conference registration fees, a free night's stay at your bed & breakfast, or just about any other type of discount or reward that you -- a participating business -- can imagine and are willing to offer.

With SCVNGR downloaded and installed on their iPhone or other smart device, players pick a location-based challenge that you create and pay SCVNGR to power, and they work toward completing it. 

Based on what you determine ahead of time, players might get one point for checking in to your business and another point or two for taking and publishing a photo of your storefront. Solving a trivia question about your business earns them another point. For five more points, they can complete a company-sponsored survey or download a whitepaper. As soon as a player accumulates enough points, the promised reward is unlocked and available. Priebatsch calls this exercise, "building a game layer on top of the world," and he describes it as giving people an experience outside of their normal lives. He's drawing people away from their computers and Xboxes and transitioning the game to the streets. In the process, he's driving traffic to businesses online and off. This is the sort of game that really hooks players.

As Priebatsch says, SCVNGR is a gigantic experiment in building a mobile game together. And, he's right to think that it will only work if you, the business owner, build it alongside him and the players of the game. (Yes, SCVNGR players can build challenges centered around your business, but ultimately you decide whether those challenges are actually offered or not.)

To make all this happen, SCVNGR, Inc., -- which is backed by a $4 million Google Ventures investment -- designed a powerful online platform that's easy for businesses to use. Anyone who runs a local store, a restaurant, user conference, or any other business or enterprise, can use SCVNGR to build and promote challenges (quick fun things to do at places), rewards (free things players can unlock by doing things at places), and treks (themed sets of  places). Here's how it works:

1. Businesses begin by registering as a Builder on

2. With an active account, you can build challenges and rewards (here, Sam creates a challenge at SCVNGR's headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.):


3. Businesses can view and maintain their challenges, treks and rewards in builder view:


4. Others can friend and follow you as you build on your profile. This page shows where you build and play as well as some fun user stats:


5. Here you can view interesting and useful stats, all on one easy-to-use password-protected page:


Tip: Watch SCVNGR - How To: Build for step-by-step instructions on building SCVNGR challenges, treks and rewards.

SCVNGR currently boasts 12,000-plus participating businesses and organizations and more than 500,000 consumers with the SCVNGR app in use on their iPhone or other smart device. This initial success in less than 25 weeks seemingly flies in the face of a Pew Research Center survey released just last week (see Use of Geosocial Services is Underwhelming -- for Now). That report claims only 4 percent of American adults who go online on a regular basis use any form of geosocial or location-based services. And only 1 percent of those who use Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places do so on a daily basis.

When asked about the Pew study, Chris Mahl, senior VP and "chief brand alchemist" at SCVNGR, agrees the new survey is a pretty tough stat for some of the strictly check-in services. However, Mahl says, the Pew study is probably already a little out of date, adding, "They started working on it before Facebook Places really got rolling, and given the growth we've seen, it's a stat that's changing rapidly."

He says SCVNGR -- which partners with large national brands including the Boston Celtics,  as well as local businesses like the Pan Pacific Hotel in Seattle, Wash. -- works with each business to create an "extra awesome [experience] at the locations they care about." SCVNGR provides the framework, but it's the business or enterprise that sets up custom challenges and rewards that give them licensed ownership of the game layer. "As a result," Mahl says, "businesses feel comfortable inviting their audience and ours to play SCVNGR at their locations."

That means the target audience for SCVNGR is both the people who play and your businesses' existing audience. This union (both the business and the audience) rather than the intersection (just those who play Gowalla and happen to be at a certain location) is what has the potential to make SCVNGR a powerful tool for businesses and brands that want to engage with the largest audience possible.

"While our growth is going to change the Pew number drastically, our strategy is also one that uniquely enables us to be relevant, engaging and powerful," Mahl says. "Target those who are playing, but make it customizable and accessible to those who are not."

That's a winning strategy and that's what SCVNGR's done so well in a relatively short amount of time.

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