Last week in Control Shift, I discussed why mobile phone market share figures matter to your business.
It built on an earlier column a few weeks ago looking at five key reasons why the mobile-first internet is particularly interesting for businesses, especially when compared to earlier media forms.
In response to that most recent column, one reader asked what the value is in developing apps while on a limited budget:
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What I often wonder though, given the prevalence of small businesses worldwide with modest tech budgets, is whether there is ANY value in building apps for this market segment. I’m not sure the cost or the approval hoops are worth it.
Back in April, Dennis Benjamin listed five key benefits of choosing to develop a mobile app as part of your business marketing strategy. His main reasons for opting to develop an app were convenience for your customers, awareness, revenue, customer service and branding.
In addition, mobile apps can take advantage of location data, the notifications panel on most smartphone platforms, and tie in with other information and files people store on their phones. An app can also access features of a smartphone (such as the camera) that cannot be accessed from the web browser.
Of course, whether or not these benefits are compelling for your business will vary from business to business and industry to industry.
The good news is, even if you decide not to develop a mobile app, there are still some highly effective – and cost-effective – ways you can market your business directly to your customers through their mobiles. Here are four key examples:
1. Having a mobile optimised or responsive design website
Last week, SEO expert Jim Stewart warned that Google says it will punish websites with faulty redirects for mobile devices. In layman’s terms, what this means is that unless your website is accessible to mobile users, the amount of visitors Google directs to your website is likely to start falling.
Aside from what Google is doing, unless you have a mobile-accessible website, you are losing potential customers who use their mobiles to search for websites.
There are two solutions here. The first is to develop a mobile optimised version of your website.
The second solution is to get a responsive design website, which simply means the layout of the site will be displayed differently on a smartphone than it is on a tablet or desktop PC.
2. SMS text messaging or mobile messaging marketing
SMS text messaging, in tech terms, is now an old technology. In a lot of newer articles on mobile marketing, it tends to get overlooked.
However, if used effectively, it remains a highly effective way of reaching your potential customers.
Think about the times when, for example, you’ve received a reminder from your dentist about a regular check-up, or when a business you frequently visit sends you a text message informing you of a discount they’re offering.
If you include a unique tracking number in each message, you can also track the effectiveness of your messages by asking your customers to quote the code in order to get the discount.
The important thing to remember, as with email, is to not spam your customers – no one wants to be bombarded with messages they’ll never read. That being said, used diligently, text messages are a potential communications tool that shouldn’t be overlooked.
3. An effective social media strategy
Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube are increasingly being used on smartphones rather than from desktop PCs.
What this means is if your business maintains an effective social media strategy, you are also reaching users on their mobile devices.
Likewise, when creating your social media posts, it can be worthwhile keeping in mind that a growing proportion of your audience will be seeing your posts and responding to them from their mobiles.
4. Industry specific apps and directories
Just because you don’t have an app doesn’t mean your business can’t be featured in one.
There are a growing number of review, marketplace and directory service apps out there. Some examples include Wotif for hotels, through to Yelp and Google Maps for Restaurants and OneFlare for trade services.
Perhaps the most important one to be updated in these days is Google My Business, which launched in Australia in June.
Tapping into these apps can be a cost-effective way to reach a mobile audience without going through the hoops of developing an app yourself.