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The Mobile Majority Wants Your Small Business

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mobile small business Remember when mobile phones used to be about..making a call? Neither do I. The explosive growth of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices over the past few years has drastically and permanently changed the way we socialize, work, and do business. The net-net? It’s imperative to travel with your customers and prospects wherever they go.

In fact, a recent report revealed that 28% of smartphone users and 55% of tablet users shop online: That means they are searching, evaluating, or making purchases—possibly all three in one fell swoop. That’s why small businesses—whether  a consultant, online site, or retail—are now expected to serve up discoverable, easy to navigate, and actionable content on mobile devices. If not, there is a gaping hole of awareness, customer and  prospect interaction, and the opportunity for your competition to grab business.

Consider these recent mobile device statistics:

Convinced?

Even though you know it’s the “right” move for your business, thinking about the effort required can be overwhelming, or perhaps you don’t even know where to start. The good news is that it’s easier than ever to position your business in the mobile marketing game without reshuffling your plans, allocating a huge budget, or calling yourself a tech-genius.

Depending on whether you have a store-front, are a consultant, ecommerce site, or other business model, you will have one or more content areas to mobile-ize. Additional factors to consider will be your overall marketing goals, tools you use to promote your business, and how often you communicate with your customers and prospects.

Let’s start making your content mobilicious:

  • Entice with easy-to-read mail: The great thing about optimizing email for mobile devices is that you’ll get a two-for-one: Not only will your email be easier to read, visually pleasing, and clear on what action to take, it will result in a better promotion on any size screen. Here are some rules of thumb:
    • Keep the text short and punchy: Edit. Edit. Edit. What email wouldn’t benefit from that?
    • Use time and space wisely with your Call-to-Action (CTA): Think discounts, free offers, and new services you want to promote.
    • Have few images but make them clickable: Streamlined but effective graphics can pull double duty by being touch-friendly to navigate and also prompting action, such as pointing to social media icons, or click to buy, to name a few.
    • Let the fingers do the walking: With virtually all smartphones using a touchscreen these days, make sure your email is “finger-friendly” to open, navigate, and zoom around the content.
    • Consider getting help: If email marketing is a big part of your business, think about hiring a vendor to do the heavy lifting for you, such as Movable Ink or BrightWave Marketing.

So is your small business ready to join the mobile majority? Yes, it will require some initial work, but taking these steps today will put you front and center with your customers and prospects wherever they are, now and in the future.

Once you get on the mobile marketing train, I recommend that you stay up to speed on the trends: Because it’s a growing and ever-changing technology, being ahead of the curve will help improve your chances for mobile marketing success. Check out resources on all aspects of mobile marketing. There are tons more online.

What’s next? Start thinking about blinging out your presence with apps, QR codes, video, texting, advertising, search widgets, which will be covered in my article next month.

Image credit: Bigstock

Mobile Marketing – Where Small Businesses Should Focus

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… by Navin Ganeshan

Working for a marketing services provider that focuses on small businesses, we’re always hot on the trail of anything that promises to deliver the one thing that small businesses value the most – leads, leads, leads.

In this context, to say that mobile marketing shows promise, is an understatement of biblical proportions. Mobile internet usage has grown to 120M users in 3 years, or as analyst Mary Meeker from Kleiner Perkins puts it in real-world terms, “faster than any new thing”. Half of all smartphone users have used their phone to buy products and services. 50% of all US shoppers (not just smartphone users) will use the mobile web to influence shopping decisions by 2014.

But despite these overwhelming trends, we find that small businesses remain confused and conflicted about the value of mobile marketing activities. In our own surveys via the Small Business Success Index, less than 7% have a mobile-optimized website. Over 60% consider mobile marketing to be “cutting edge” or “ahead of its time”.

So what’s the disconnect? Why is it that John Q the consumer is (supposedly) voraciously consuming mobile bandwidth searching, clicking, downloading and interacting, while the same John Q the small-business owner views mobile like it were quantum mechanics. So let’s hit reboot, or rather hold down the power button and flick the slider to off. Let’s run through some commonly mentioned (if not exactly used) mechanisms for mobile marketing.

Custom Apps
This seemed to be an obsession in 2010 for the few tech-savvy small business owners with money and time to spare. But unfortunately the jury is out, and other than bragging rights with your family and friends, spending thousands to develop a marketing app that is found by a few, downloaded by fewer and used by no one is probably not great ROI for a restaurant or dry-cleaner. With some exceptions – if you transact primarily in content (bloggers), there are cost-effective DIY App services like AppMakr that let you satisfy your subscribers (or feed your ego) for a few hundred dollars.

Mobile Display Ads
For now this is still dominated by larger brands and marketing campaigns, but newer services like WhereAds from Where.com show a promising future where for a small monthly fee, a restaurateur can target nearby hungry consumers with a real-time coupon that pops up while they’re listening to Pandora.

SMS Advertising
This is a well-established market with many cost-effective solutions. Usage continues to grow for now, but as with email marketing, its appeal is bound to wane eventually as customers get tired of SMS-spam and contextually irrelevant ads.

Check-Ins
Social networking app like FourSquare and GoWalla have also provided small local businesses a great new channel for cost-effective marketing by incentivizing visits and actions, as do rewards services like CheckPoints and ShopKick. A merchant can offer a free appetizer to new visitors or to loyal customers. But these share a limitation as a marketing channel – they are restricted to users or members of a specific service – the whole walled-garden dilemma.

And this brings us to the two most important but under-appreciated ways to market on mobile. Drum-roll, please…..

Search (simply showing up)
As Woody Allen famously said, “80% of success is simply showing up”. When mobile consumers search for products or businesses, they’re generally looking to act and act quickly, or in marketing terms, “intent is high”. Consider this – half of all mobile searches are considered “local”. And 43% of these local searchers actually walk in the door – that’s almost half! So if you don’t show up, you’re not in the game. It’s that simple.

Mobile consumers generally find businesses in three ways – (1) Search Engines (2) Maps and (3) Directories which sometimes come with their own location-based apps like Yelp, Urban Spoon or Trip Advisor. But with so many different directories, apps, review sites that track businesses, it can be challenge to cover all your bases. Local marketing or directory-submission services such as Network Solutions’ Local Search VisibilityTM help broaden the reach by submitting to hundreds of directories for a monthly fee – a small price to pay for omnipresence.

Engagement (making it easy to interact)
Once they find a local business, what next? Mobile users behavior and expectations are different from those online. So it’s imperative to have a website that is optimized for mobile users – basically this means skipping the elaborate animations and fancy graphics to instead provide key features or information that are no more than one click away – Click-to-Call, mapping/directions, menu, reservation links or any coupons or specials you can use as incentives.

But getting a mobile presence doesn’t mean creating a whole new site. Services such as Network Solutions’ goMobiTM or DudaMobile allow you create a mobile presence using your existing domain name and based on content extracted from your existing web-site. But the resulting experience feels more like a native app.

Another equally important aspect of optimizing your presence is keeping your profile up-to-date on directories and networks like Yelp, TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon, Facebook Places etc and ensuring that they have compelling information and content about your business. There’s nothing less inviting than a Facebook profile with a big ? as your profile picture.

To summarize, these are exciting times – we’re witnessing a renaissance for small business local marketing with mobile being at the epi-center of innovation. But the most important things to consider are still the basics – optimizing for search and enhancing the engagement experience.

Network Solutions® fosters small business success in the highly competitive online space by providing the tools and resources to start, grow and manage businesses online. Leveraging more than thirty years of pioneering experience, Network Solutions helps companies thrive in an increasingly digital world. To ensure our customers’ success, we support them with outstanding customer service and mobile web solutions that are simple, innovative and reliable. Additional information can be found at about.networksolutions.com. We are thrilled to meet with you at BlogWorld, come by and see us in the nsMobile Lounge (booth #109) to take your business MOBILE.

Navin Ganeshan, Chief Product Strategy, Network Solutions
In his role leading new product development and strategic-investments for Network Solutions, Navin attempts to make sense of trends and technology that is transforming small business marketing. Most recently, he ran NetSol’s Web-Presence business which included web- hosting, ecommerce and security product-lines. In his current role, he is shaping NetSol’s strategies for local/social marketing, Cloud/SaaS, social commerce and most importantly for mobile presence, marketing and commerce. He regularly represents Network Solutions and it’s massive small business customer-base at industry events, most recently speaking at AffiliateSummit,  SalesForce’s Dreamforce and the OpenXChange Summit. He recently hosted ProductCampDC – an “unconference” for product-marketers. He is a recovering gadget-head but still frequently sports the iTrifecta – (MacBook+iPad+iPhone).  He is @Nganeshan on twitter. Navin is speaking at #BWENY on Tue, May 24th, 3:45-4:45PM on “Mobile Marketing 101 for Small Business.

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