Originally posted on Blogworld.com
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.
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.
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.
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.