In just a few short years, the mobile device and smartphone market has boomed, following the introduction of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android operating system. Compound this with society’s need for immediate gratification, and you’ve set the stage for reaching and attracting more customers. But if the thought of your customers connecting with your brand anytime and anywhere sounds a bit overwhelming, you’ll be comforted to know that the options for reaching consumers on mobile devices are growing larger and less expensive. Where can you begin?
First, let’s take into account:
a) There are about 4 BILLION cell phones in the world today. That’s 4 TIMES the number of PCs.
b) 20% of all U.S. households have snubbed landlines and now rely solely on cell phones.
c) In 2000, 17 billion text messages were sent; in 2001: 250 billion; in 2004: 500 billion; and in 2008: over 1 TRILLION text messages were sent worldwide.
d) The Millennial Generation (born between late 70′s to early 90′s) say that their cell phone is the most important device they own.
e) Over 95% of new phones sold today have web browsers and over 70 million US consumers use them regularly.
To make sure your business is accessible on your customers’ mobile devices, consider these 5 steps, and you’ll be on your way…
STEP 1. List your business.
Probably the most important step is to make sure you’re found on Google Maps. To do this, your business should have a listing on Google Local Business Center (now called Google Places). If you already have an account, make sure your listing is up-to-date. Include as much information about your business as possible. Add photos, videos, reviews, hours of operation, website address, coupons, etc. Think of it like a résumé. If there’s missing information, you’ll have a harder time convincing someone to “hire” you.
Don’t stop there! Get listed on other sites like Bing, Ask, City Search, Local.com, Yelp, Yahoo, Merchant Circle and others. The more the merrier! Also find out which sites are specific to your industry. For example, Urbanspoon is a website and mobile app that only lists restaurant reviews.
STEP 2. Get a Facebook and Twitter account.
Social media like Twitter and Facebook already have mobile versions. Having a presence on these platforms is crucial. But keep in mind that having an account won’t be of any use to you unless it’s updated on a regular basis. Post things like events and special offers to entice buyers.
STEP 3. Offer and accept mobile coupons.
In a recession-plagued environment people are constantly looking for deals everywhere they go, which makes coupon apps a must-have for mobile users. Mobile coupon apps, like Cellfire MobiQpons, and Yowza, allow users the ability to download coupons straight to their phones in their time of need.
Another interesting concept is Google’s use of bar code stickers. In 2009, Google mailed bar-coded window stickers to 190,000 businesses across the country. When scanned by a phone (which has the bar code scanning app), the code calls up that business’ Google Place Page – which can also incorporate a mobile coupon.
Other “geo-social” websites, such as Foursquare , Gowalla , and Loopt , offer businesses similar options for users to get special coupons via “check-in”. When people want to broadcast their location to their friends, they can “check-in” using these apps. People check into places for social reasons, but Foursquare and others are giving local businesses the ability to offer coupons and promotions whenever a user interacts with the mobile apps.
STEP 4. Decide if your consumers need a mobile version of your business.
The first thing to ask is whether your business needs a mobile application or mobile-friendly website (if at all). Always have your end-users’ needs in mind. The whole purpose of an app is to minimize typing, so users can get the info they need with as little effort as possible. For example, a banking app that allows users to find ATMs via GPS data offers a better user experience than going to a mobile website, typing in a zip code and navigating through multiple pages.
Unfortunately, apps only work on the phones they are designed for. Mobile websites, on the other hand, can be designed to work on any device with web browsing capabilities. Mobile websites are better choices for delivering content, portfolios, catalogs and shopping functions since that content is accessible by search engines.
How can you get your own mobile site or app? You can always hire your programming team to build them for you. There’s also a growing number of services that allow you to build them yourself (even iPhone and smartphone applications, using a template-driven approach). For instance, if you have a WordPress blog, you can easily create a mobile version of your blog by installing the MobilePress plugin.
STEP 5. Txt ads 2 yur customers.
Who lets a text message sit unread on their phone, anyway? As long as your customers opt-in (as well as easily opt-out) to receive text messages from your business, an SMS campaign can be a very effective way for your customers to stay connected with your brand. Below are a few ways businesses can market via texts:
- Retail Stores: Send slow-day offers, coupons, new inventory alerts, and seasonal messages
- Healthcare and wellness: Send appointment reminders or pre-procedural alerts
- Restaurants and bars: Announce special promotions and events, or offer V.I.P access
2010 may be the breakout year for small businesses to use the mobile marketing technologies that are available to them. With the rise of low-cost, powerful smartphones and widely available high-speed connections, your business can now be within reach of your customer’s pockets 24/7.