Let technology managers fret about mobile devices, the consumerization of IT and how the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon is rewriting the rules of IT management. Small business owners should welcome runaway smartphone and tablet adoption with open arms.
Earlier this year, Web.com and Lab42 surveyed 500 U.S.-based small businesses about their mobile marketing experiences, and the results were eye-opening. Among those that used mobile marketing techniques to drum up sales, a whopping 84 percent reported an increase in new business.
Increasingly, the way to attract new customers is through their mobile devices. Here are three tips to help you get started.
Mobilize Your Website
Among the biggest gripes about surfing the Web on a tablet or smartphone are sites that are not optimized for mobile devices.
When potential customers are on the go and getting dangerously close to the data cap on their mobile carrier plans, the last thing you want them to do is continuously reload and pinch and zoom to get the info they need. As a business owner, it's your job to make it easy for prospective customers or clients to get what they need from your website, especially if they're viewing it on a smartphone with limited screen real estate.
That means itty-bitty font sizes and navigation elements are out. All the important details about your business -- particularly your phone number for smartphone users -- should be front and center and easy to spot at a glance. (Bonus tip: While you're at it, make sure your email newsletters and promotions render well on mobiles, too.)
Earlier this year, Vangie Beal said it best in her Small Business Computing report, "Online Marketing Trends for Small Businesses to Know in 2012." She writes, "…This means a small business website that's optimized for mobile devices is a necessity for success. To be successful, you have to make it easy for consumers with mobile devices to find information or place an order on your website."
Now those are words to prosper by.
Localize Your Search
Every small business needs to attract new customers in order to grow and flourish. Chances are that the bulk of them will come right from your neighborhood, particularly if you have a physical storefront that relies on foot traffic.
That means you have to stand out. Fortunately, accomplishing that in an era of tablets and smartphones overlaps somewhat with our previous tip.
While you're making your company's site mobile-friendly, it's a good time to brush up on search engine optimization (SEO), all the while repeating a real estate agent's favorite mantra: location, location, location.
Make sure that during your SEO efforts, your business' address, service area and the products and services that you offer are well represented. This will help you rank well in mobile, location-specific searches. By the same token, fill out the location-related fields in your social media pages completely and accurately.
Lastly, while contemplating your online and mobile ad spending and strategy, research your geo-targeting options. Apart from cost and reach, keep an eye on the levels of geographic precision that your ad network offers.
Get Social Media
You know that friend who checks in at every coffee shop, grocery store and local dive on Facebook or Foursquare? As a small business owner, don't just condone this behavior, encourage it!
For starters, claim your business at Foursquare at the company's business resources area. That opens the door to updates and special offers for local users. Similarly, invite visitors to connect via Facebook, follow you on Twitter and even share their experiences on Yelp.
Admittedly, it takes some work to build social media momentum and to keep it going, but it's worth it. Not only can you get great insights into your customers and their expectations -- oftentimes unfiltered -- you can also get the network effect to work for you every time a customer or loyal super fan checks in.
Still unconvinced? Take a look at the mobile apps that cling to the top of the charts on the iTunes App Store and Google Play. Social media apps consistently rank high, a sign that they're must-have tools for users as they venture out into the world with their new smartphones and tablets.
Wouldn't you rather those tools point in your company's direction?
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