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Marketing_Mobile_body.jpgby Robert Lerose.


Americans have always been a people on the move. The frontier may be more settled today, but consumers are still in motion—and mobile devices are becoming more integrated into their daily lives. Small businesses need to develop a mobile marketing strategy to stay connected to their customers and prospects or risk losing potential sales. According to a 2013 survey by iAcquire, a content marketing agency, 40 percent of people will leave a website that is not mobile optimized. Here are some suggestions for putting a plan in place.


Customize the message

"Nearly every customer or potential customer has a cellphone and, through mobile, small businesses can take that cellphone and engage it," says Mike Wehrs, CEO and president of Scanbuy, which provides cloud-based mobile connection solutions. "You're putting an actionable item right in their hands on the device that they want to have in their hands 18 hours a day. You level the playing field with larger businesses that small businesses might be trying to compete with."


The first step is to figure out the goal of your mobile marketing plan, such as increasing store traffic, building customer loyalty, spreading awareness of a sale, or building attendance at a sponsored event. To get a higher return on your mobile campaign, Wehrs advises tying it to more traditional advertising, such as a newspaper advertisement.


Scanbuy also provides its own type of quick response (QR) code that can provide a customized experience for the consumer. For example, Scanbuy put their QR codes on merchandise for a small coffee store chain. When a customer scanned the code, they saw a short video that explained where the coffee beans were grown, providing a nice eco-friendly background. Returning customers also got a customized message thanking them for their patronage and offering them a 10 percent discount coupon if they bought the highlighted merchandise. If the customer scanned the QR code after lunchtime, the message automatically changed to 25 cents off any pastry with their purchase, since pastries would be thrown out later in the day.


Marketing_Mobile_PQ.jpg"Now you have what appears to the end user as a completely unique experience, but it ties to a very easy rule of what time of day it is when somebody scans something," Wehrs says. "The consumer has the perception that the store is really talking to them. It feels like a personalized offer."


Make the menus easy

Experts say that small businesses should not think of their mobile customers as separate from their other customers. Both groups want the same things, but there are some specific differences in the way mobile customers interact with a business. For example, mobile customers are three times more likely to act on the result of a mobile search than desktop or laptop searches, the iAcquire survey found. A site that is mobile optimized is key to those higher conversions.


"If someone has to zoom in to read some text or, worse yet, if they have to zoom in to hit a button, a lot of people will leave your website because it's a frustrating experience," says Luke Starbuck, director of demand generation at Mobify, which helps e-commerce retailers ramp up their conversion and revenue rates. "Being mobile optimized on a homepage is about having a clear option for the user to search. Search is more important on a mobile homepage than on a desktop."


The menus and navigation options should be clear and easy-to-use. For example, Starbuck says that websites that have an icon with three horizontal bars on top of each other is an easy way to indicate a simple to manage menu that often drops down from the top of the page.


Seeing what your competitors are doing can help you come up with your own mobile programs. "Pick up a smartphone or a tablet device and spend time browsing some of the biggest companies that are in a similar space or serving similar customers to see what works or doesn't work," Starbuck says. "Reach out to customers to understand what their expectations are. Ultimately you're really just looking to provide a great customer experience and meet their expectations."


Make consumers feel special

Campaigns that reinforce the immediacy of mobile marketing messages with reminders in your other marketing communications have the potential for generating the best results. For example: "[The text campaign could say,] 'Text Dave's Barbecue to 949494 to join our mobile list for exclusive coupon deals and store events,'" says Brendan Burnett, online marketing manager for Outspoken, which helps businesses leverage the power of mobile messaging technologies. "You can back that up with in-store signage, send it out on your emails, and put it out on social media channels."


Getting people engaged with traditional strategies—such as a contest—can work well in mobile marketing, too. Outspoken ran a successful contest at a trade show with a text campaign that generated a large number of new prospect leads. "Compared with trying to get someone to go to a landing page and sign up, it can be a lot more cost effective [to do mobile marketing]," Burnett says. "It's the closest way to your consumer."


Making the customer feel part of an exclusive circle of preferred members can drive engagement, too, as Burnett knows firsthand: "I've got this restaurant two blocks away from me that does text messaging and I just love it. They give me great deals and free desserts. It makes me feel like I'm in their mobile club, that I'm in the know."

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