Small Business: Developing a mobile strategy

Equipment for using smartphones are being developed rapidly. Equipment for using smartphones are being developed rapidly. This is a system for using a credit card that was on display this past month at the Mobile World Congress, the world's largest mobile phone trade show, in Barcelona, Spain. (Feb. 27, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Jamie Herzlich Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday. ...

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Consumers are becoming increasingly mobile and accessing more information on the go.

In 2017, there will be more U.S. consumers accessing the Internet through mobile devices than through PCs, according to Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp.

If your business isn't developing a mobile strategy, then you could be losing market share, say experts.

"It's the preferred method of consumers to engage businesses and brands, especially small businesses," says Dan Giacopelli, CEO of Skoop! Inc., a Deer Park mobile marketing firm.

Businesses are using mobile in many ways, including: mobile websites, apps, loyalty programs and contests, mobile coupons, text messaging campaigns, location-based marketing (e.g. Foursquare), QR codes (two-dimensional bar codes that can be read by a mobile device), surveys, appointment scheduling and mobile commerce.

Developing a mobile strategy doesn't mean having to adopt all of these.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

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"Like any marketing program, you have to understand your audience first," Giacopelli explains. Decide who you're targeting, and know their demographics and how they're receiving their information.

How much you can spend is also part of the equation. For instance, a mobile website can be much more economical than a customized app.

A custom mobile app could range in price from $5,000 to $50,000-plus to develop and implement, versus $500 to $2,000 to build a mobile website, says Mark Simmons, co-founder of Durham, N.C.-based consulting group Mixed Digital.

At the very least, consumers today expect to be able to access a company website easily via their mobile device, he says, noting a mobile site generally offers simplified navigation.

Some consumers aren't comfortable making a purchase on a mobile site yet, but it can "act as a springboard for capturing additional information," Simmons says. For instance, they might sign up for a newsletter, contest or giveaway via a mobile site.

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Growing customer interest led Robyn Elman, president of In Home Pet Services Inc. in Bellerose, Queens, which offers pet sitting, dog walking, in-home boarding and pet first aid and CPR classes, to create a mobile site about two years ago.

More clients were contacting the company -- which has four of its eight franchise locations in Nassau County -- through email from their mobile devices rather than making traditional phone calls to make appointments, says Elman, who worked with Skoop!

"We felt it would give us a leg up on the competition," she says. "Everybody is using mobile devices."

And if customers want to find your business, they'll search on their smartphones, and if your site's hard to navigate or slow to load, they'll go elsewhere. "You need to pull them in as quickly as possible," notes Simmons.

FIND YOUR TARGET

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In addition to mobile websites, geo-targeting via mobile devices using the GPS function in smartphones has become popular, says Zsolt Sapy, president of Rapid Response Mobile Marketing in Garden City.

This enables a business to send customer incentives and offers based on a consumer's location, he says. For example, if a customer who's downloaded a company's app comes within a certain range of the business, they would receive notification on their mobile device with a coupon or offer attached.

Mobile marketing lets you get that specific, says Sapy, who has seen an uptick in business. "Instead of marketing to the masses, you're marketing to the people that actually want your specific offers."

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