If you're not involved in some type of mobile marketing, you're cutting yourself and your business off from engaging and communicating with a significant number of customers and prospects.
According to CTIA-The Wireless Association, the nonprofit organization representing the wireless communications industry, there are more than 320 million wireless subscriber connections in the U.S. alone. And mobile app downloads are predicted to hit an astounding 25 billion by 2015.
In other words, mobile is increasingly how your customers live and shop. When you factor in the low barrier to entry and the potential for high returns, having a mobile presence should be as much a necessity as almost any other kind of marketing your business is currently doing.
To help you get started if you're new to it, or to provide a reality check if you're up and running, here is some advice from the experts.
Multiple channels for engagement
"Mobile marketing can help small business get new people in the door," says Kim Dushinski, author of The Mobile Marketing Handbook. "It can help them increase the purchases from their current clients. It can be a customer service tool. There are a number of things [it can do], depending on what kind of tool they use and how they market it."
Familiar examples of these new tools include text messaging campaigns and QR codes. To enroll in the former, a consumer sends a keyword to a five- or six-digit short code established by the business.
A QR (or Quick Response) code is a postage stamp-sized, two-dimensional barcode that is typically arranged in a square, black-and-white pattern. Using an Internet-capable mobile device, a consumer scans it and is routed immediately to the company's web page or to a special micro-site; for example, a webpage with a discount coupon. The immediacy, speed, and convenience of QR codes enhance the chances that a browser will turn into a buyer.
To see these tools in action, check out the text and QR code-based campaigns waged by the arts and crafts retailer, Michaels. According to Dushinski, this company does a very good job of integrating their traditional, online, and mobile marketing. For example, consumers can scan codes on Michaels in-store signage, get taken to a mobile landing page, and choose the app they want.
"Mobile marketing has really become not so much a channel but channels, where you have things like location-based services [such as Foursquare], mobile-optimized websites, various apps and various ways to engage with the customer," says Mike Craig, co-founder of Missouri-based Ruxter Mobile Marketing, a provider of self-service mobile marketing applications. But whatever channel you choose, the goal is to build trust and engagement between the customer and the brand.
As a first step, Craig suggests that you look at your website on a mobile device through the eyes of your customer. The smaller screen size, compared to that of a laptop or desktop, forces you to figure out what you can put in front of them that they can review and understand in 30 seconds.
"You need to think about stripping out all the extraneous information about your business except for the most fundamental things that you want to get across," Craig says. Putting the top four things you want to tell a potential customer front and center is one of his mantras.
Know your audience
Another good place to begin—checking out your website's analytical data to see how much of your online traffic is coming in via mobile. The numbers may surprise even the most web savvy entrepreneurs. For example, when Dushinski looked at the analytics numbers for her own Colorado-based training company, she was shocked to see that mobile visitors had more than quadrupled—from 4 percent to about 18 percent—in only a year. A recent comScore report found that, overall, online traffic now accounts for nearly one in ten website visits and the rate is only accelerating.
Optimize your site for mobile
To capture and hold all that booming traffic, Dushinski says it's imperative to optimize your site so consumers can find what they're looking for on their mobile device easily.
To accomplish this, you could reconnect with the webmaster who developed your company website to create a mobile version. "They'll take care of making sure that when someone accesses your site, it will either give them the full-size site or their smartphone site based on what kind of device they're using to access," Dushinski says.
The key, Dushinski says, is to feature basic information customers would be looking for when using a mobile device: things like business location, directions, hours, and menu of services. "Put the phone number in a lot of different places where people can see it," she also emphasizes. "[The device] can turn from a webpage browser to a phone with just a click and that is so powerful."
Getting started in mobile is relatively cheap compared to other marketing channels, such as mounting a direct mail campaign. Some tools let you ‘mobilize’ your site for free, while others may charge modest monthly fees—anywhere from nine to 40 dollars a month.
Customized sites, however, can run into tens of thousands of dollars. Dushinski sees no reason to go that route when there are plenty of excellent low-cost alternatives. "There's a site called qrstuff where you can pay a very small amount to have the ability to track who's scanning your codes," she says.
Both Craig and Dushinski emphasize that mobile marketing is neither as hard nor as technical as some might think. That it is both cost-effective and quick to set up makes it very attractive for small businesses.
"If people can put the technology aside for just a little bit, plan out their strategy, then apply the technology to it, it all works so much better," Dushinski says.
- Since mobile is a permission-based medium, make sure you get the consent of the customer before you begin either a text or email campaign. One way to get permission is to have an opt-in page on your website. Another is to promote your mobile campaign on your in-store signs, bags, and printed material that directs the consumer to send an opt-in keyword to your shortcode.
- Because you're working with very limited screen real estate, construct a site that's easy to view and navigate. "Being able to present your ideas and your value proposition in front of the consumer in a way that they can quickly scan it, hit a couple of buttons with their thumbs, and get exactly what it is you want to sell them is really the key component that anybody needs to start with," says Ruxter's Craig.
- Provide the consumer with something of unique and relevant value. Giving them something that they won't find or see elsewhere in your marketing makes a greater impact than merely duplicating your existing incentives.