"Pokemon are for paying customers only." It's a statement several small business owners have made this week off the back of the phenomenal success of Pokemon Go

The augmented reality app has revitalized the anime craze that millennials grew up with. It's virality, with more than 15 million downloads in one week, has made it increasingly difficult to turn anywhere without hearing about Pokemon Go or seeing swarms of people glued to their phones in weird spots like at beaches trying to catch a Squirtle.

When it comes to viral sensations, many entrepreneurial minded people are quick to figure out how they can make it work for their business. And while some crazes can be blips on the books, if leveraged right, they can help boost cashflow, foot traffic and brand awareness. 

The game, which has already been named one of the most viral mobile apps of all time, has established a highly engaged and excited user base with some outlets reporting many people are spending more time using the augmented reality heads-up display of the real world, than they do on Facebook.

This highly engaged subset of mostly millennials   are out and about, searching for nearby Pokemon, Pokestops and Gyms, most of which are found in or near businesses or landmarks. It's an opportunity prime for small business owners to jump on.

Know your audience: Deciding if viral marketing is right for your business

It's understandable that some businesses are trying to keep non-paying Pokemon Go patrons away, considering they may just be using up valuable space in their store; but why not take advantage?

As a small business owner, generating interest in your brick-and-mortar store can be difficult, especially if you have limited resources. When competing with bigger retailers, you're up against a larger customer base and often more polished marketing campaigns. When you don't have the numbers (or the budget), why not ride on the coattails of someone else's viral success and become your own marketing champion?

By knowing your target market, there is the potential to turn viral crazes into quirky marketing material for both your business' physical location and social media channels. Some businesses have taken to placing sandwich boards advertising what types of Pokemon have been caught at their store and advertising their status as a Pokestop. 

Doing the same on social media also offers an opportunity to develop your brand's voice. Small businesses have been able to leverage the app's success and attract customers by offering discounts for players on social media and by purchasing Lures to increase the number of Pokemon in the area.

Millennials: gotta catch 'em all

The release of the game has come at a prime time, despite being almost two decades after the height of Pokemon's initial popularity. The children who were obsessed with Pokemon are now adults. They have their own money and don't have to ask mom to buy them a starter pack or to take them to see the Pokemon movie, or you'd like to hope so anyway. 

With millennials representing more than one-quarter of the population in the U.S., connecting with young consumers may be an important part of developing your brand recognition. Although viral trends like Pokemon Go generally pass, getting involved with the conversation will potentially help people remember your business in the future. 

To use another example, by purchasing Lures in the Pokemon Go app, there is the potential to increase your revenue for mere dollars an hour. A Reddit user gives an example of how they unwittingly attracted customers to a local business using Lures. 

"There's a stop outside the bar four blocks from my house. My [girlfriend] and I went in there at 10pm on Sunday night and the place was dead," the user said. "She threw down a Lure and within 10 minutes there were over a dozen new people in the bar. The bartender was unaware of the game, but when we showed him how it worked he immediately downloaded it and said he's going to start throwing out Lures on slow shifts to bring in business."

What is viral today may be gone tomorrow, but the decision on whether or not these trends are right to leverage for your business is ultimately up to you.

Published on: Jul 14, 2016