Small Business Mobile Marketing Strategies That Work

Monday Mar 25th 2013 by Vangie Beal
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Successful small business owners share mobile marketing strategies they use to acquire new customers and increase sales. It's actionable advice for your own small business.

Mobile technology constantly changes the way we do business. From mobile-optimized websites to marketing via text messages, successful mobile marketing strategies will see you attract your fair share of today's smartphone and tablet-wielding consumers.

Mobile Marketing Helps You Acquire New Customers

A recent survey from the Web.com Group found that 69 percent of small businesses consider mobile marketing crucial to their growth in the next five years, but a majority of these small business owners have yet to fully embrace mobile marketing.  Of the small businesses that have joined the mobile marketing revolution, the Web.com Group says 84 percent have seen an increase in new business activity due to their mobile marketing efforts.

To put mobile marketing strategies into perspective, Small Business Computing spoke with business owners who have integrated mobile into their marketing plan in the past year and have seen an influx of new customers and increased sales as a result.  

In reading these small business success stories, keep in mind that another small business owner's experience is actionable advice for your own business. You can take what they've learned to leverage specific mobile marketing techniques and to improve your own small business marketing.

No Billboard Space? Try Mobile Search Instead

Rons Auto Repair Center has been a permanent fixture in Ames, Iowa since 1982. Lisa and Richard Martens purchased the business in 2007 and, like many small business owners, have tried traditional marketing methods -- print ads, bulk email and direct mail marketing -- with little results.

mobile marketing for small business

Figure 1: Unable to use large billboard signs for advertising because of residential zoning, Rons Auto Repair Center turned to mobile marketing instead.

One big problem for the Martens is the location of the shop.  Rons Auto Repair Center is a half-block off Lincoln Way, the main street in Ames. "You can drive along Lincoln Way several times a day and never see our business. We're invisible from the main street and heavy traffic area in Ames," says Lisa Martens.  The five-bay service center is also in a mixed commercial and residential zone, so they are not allowed to place more than three small signs to advertise.  

Lisa Martens describes Ames as a college town with a lot of students. "I don't carry a mobile phone, but it's something I notice that our customers do.  I've always been interested in Facebook and trying to get a better listing on Google, but I'm not up on new technology to do these things myself, "she said, describing a scenario that's common for small business owners.

Martens found service provider Yodle, a local online marketing platform, and says it piqued her interest. Yodle is basically a service to help small businesses with mobile-optimized websites, listings on Google, Yahoo and Bing maps, and paid-search services across multiple desktop and mobile outlets.

Martens likes the fact that she doesn't have to be mobile or tech-savvy to take advantage of these technologies for the business. Using a unique tracking number, Rons Auto Repair Center can tell where calls come from and see how many of them are a direct result of online and mobile marketing spending.  After five months of using the service, Martens says they currently track $9,100 in new sales each month back to their mobile marketing efforts.  

"We see 23-28 new customers per month with an average bill of $326. We have new customer repair orders, and we're seeing previous customers from 2009-2011 return to our shop this year because the Rons Auto Repair Center name is front and center in mobile search, "she says.

Merging the Arts and Mobile Technology

On Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada, John Morris is a very busy small business owner. He is the founder and owner of Morris Code, a Web development firm, and co-owner of HG Mobile Marketing. He also owns Lens Make a Picture, a photography services company.

By employing Internet and mobile technologies for his own small business endeavors (and for his clients), Morris says he knows first-hand how important mobile marketing will become for small business owners.  "2013 is going to be a huge year for mobile. Every year there's something a bit new with mobile technology -- it's already big, and it just keeps getting bigger."

One of the unique ways Morris has used mobile marketing is with Lens Make a Picture, where his photographs are produced as prints, postcards, magnets and stock photography.  Last November, Morris was invited to showcase exhibits of his work, and given his extensive background in technology, he says he wanted this exhibit to be "a little more technology-driven than most."

With only a week to prepare for the show, Morris purchased an account with his partner company, HG Mobile Marketing to add an interactive element to the exhibit.  In the gallery he placed signs encouraging visitors to text a message to vote for their favorite exhibit.  

He also used another mobile technology -- QR codes -- to draw more attention to his photography collection.

"Visitors could scan the QR code with a mobile device, which would then take them to a website showing a YouTube video of me talking about the photograph on display," says Morris. "In some videos I'm actually lying in the spot where I took the photograph and talking to the camera for the people viewing the exhibit."

Merging art and mobile marketing added an interactive element to the gallery, and Morris said people loved it. "At the same time, of course, people could purchase the exhibit print using their mobile device."

Dishing Up Mobile Marketing Messages the Right Way

Mobile marketing has also provided positive results for small business owners in the restaurant business. Steve Wright, owner of Rok Bistro in Sunnyvale, Calif., offers a unique service: All the entrees at Rok Bistro come sizzling on a volcanic rock, and the customers get to complete the cooking process. It's an idea that creates a special dining experience for customers.  The idea was so popular that Wright also supplies other restaurants with the equipment for rock cooking.

small business mobile marketing

Figure 2: The Rok Bistro offers customers mobile coupons for entrees served seared and sizzling on a hot volcanic rock.

Like Rons Auto repair, Wright says he invested in every type of marketing imaginable --television, radio and print ads, coupons and Groupon. You name it, and he's tried it.  He says he's always used email and mobile texting for marketing campaigns, but this year he's increased his effort to market on Facebook and to improve the restaurant's visibility in Google search.

Wright recently partnered with social media and mobile marketing company, FanMinder to consolidate mobile and social marketing for the restaurant. He prefers to use a single-service provider because it's easy and takes less time to create the marketing message in one place and send it out on all channels including Twitter, email, texts and Facebook.

"It's easy to manage and frees up a lot of my time to do other things," he says. "I can sit down at the beginning of the month to schedule a few offers, and I don't have to think about the mobile and social marketing tasks again until next month."

Mobile coupons have turned out to be a good marketing tool for Rok Bistro. The coupons, which are trackable through FanMinder, allow Wright to see how many people click the offer and redeem it at the restaurant.

Going mobile with coupons also makes it easy for the servers. When a customer shows the server a coupon on his or her mobile device, the server simply clicks a button to redeem it.  In the restaurant, customers can also scan QR codes or send a text message to get an immediate discount and sign up for the Rok Bistro mailing list.

Wright plans to open a new restaurant, and says he will incorporate technology -- mobile included -- even more by going with a wireless handheld POS system. All servers will have a mobile device (like an iPad) so they can market right at the table -- servers can show customers pictures of the dishes they are ordering, and it will provide an opportunity to market the daily specials, as well.

"Embracing technology and mobile technology is the way to go," says Wright. "It's a great opportunity to reach customers and run your business more efficiently and cost effectively."

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has been covering small business, electronic commerce and Internet technology for more than a decade. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

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