7 ways to start using mobile in your company

Often times the place to start is not as clear as the you would hope and when looking at the multitude of entry points for bringing mobile into an organization, it can be very overwhelming. Getting into mobile doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.

Here are 7 simple places to start.

Monitor mobile activity around your brand

People are talking. They are talking about your brand, your products, your locations, your customer service (or lack thereof), your bathrooms, your product selection – everything. They are checking in to your locations, friending your products, looking for discount coupons and even sharing their experiences and perceptions of your brand with their friends. Are you listening?

Mobile is an incredible way to gauge activity around your brand and take action on it. Something as simple as finding people who have checked in to one of your locations and being able to communicate with them is the power of mobile. Use the mobile information from customers to build campaigns and create a deeper relationship. They are already in your stores, in your cars, staying in your hotels, going to your conferences, waiting in your offices or in line at your bank. Engage where they are and add value to their experience.

Build a mobile web site

This is a very safe and increasingly important option when venturing into mobile and should be the first mobile endeavour – the low hanging fruit. The first step is to make sure your website is mobile friendly. This means that the version of the website people view on their smartphones is built expressly for mobile devices and not the same site they would see while visiting from a browser.

For a simple way to see this, head to www.futureshop.com on your desktop browser and then from your smartphone. They are the same site. Then go to Amazon.com on your desktop and smartphone. You will see the difference.

From the above examples you see the difference between a website built for mobile versus a normal website being viewed on an iPhone. You also see that one is usable and the other is not finger-friendly. The takeaway is that you don’t need to recreate your entire website for mobile – you just need to include the most relevant and contextual content that the site visitors want.

SMS

Interacting with your brand shouldn’t be hard and SMS is a ubiquitous and simple option to begin sharing and having a conversation with customers and suppliers while also offering a mobile solution for the majority that still carry a feature phone. SMS doesn’t have to be complicated – it can be a simple way to gather customer feedback, vote on products your customers would like you to carry in your store, offer specials to valued customers or even send directions to your store or allow customers to get more information about products or services you sell.

With SMS you are tapping into an established and accepted mobile norm – over 4.5 billion people will use SMS in 2011 and resides in 60% of all the pockets on the planet. How can you add SMS to enhance your business?

Be a part of other software

Why spend the resources building your own closed gated community when you can leverage someone else’s efforts and user base to help your business? That’s the question millions of businesses asked themselves as they jumped onto established and growing platforms such as Foursquare, Yelp!, Facebook Places and the like to help get involved in mobile while spending very little money.

If you’ve ever thought of a way to extend your business into the mobile space, there is quite literally already an app for that. Checkin software is the dominant player today but things are evolving very quickly – so quickly in fact that the checkin has become the new dial tone and innovative companies are moving beyond that today. Dovetail the efforts that other companies have put into creating a platform, use that platform to extend your brand (most are free!) where there is a good fit and build up some momentum

As companies similar to YellowPages move away from print and into the mobile world — and even open up their data for other developers to leverage in their own products — ensuring company data is accurate (down to location) and displayed properly will become more an more important. If you are already using these services, all the better.

Offer a reward

It is always much more expensive to find new customers then it is to reward and keep existing ones. We all know that. The question is why do most companies offer coupons and incentives for random people checking into their establishments instead of creating a relationship, built over time, and then reward that customer for loyalty? Just because you can offer discounts and coupons to everyone, doesn’t mean you should. It can become a very expensive initiative and establishes a relationship that is tenuously built on cheap prices and not quality of product.

Who are your loyal customers? If this is something you already know, mobile can help deepen that relationship and keep your customers coming back again and again. If you don’t know who your loyal customers are, mobile can help identify them pretty quickly with the right incentives and the right tools to track. A great way to start is to use a combination of your email list and SMS or even mobile application similar to Foursquare. Don’t reward everyone, reward the right ones.

Advertise

Mobile as an advertising platform is where the web was 10 years ago – new and shiny. The difference is that you have a greater ability target your key customers while building on the network effect. In-app advertising is an option for companies with budget and are targeting users that are not part of a broad user base (gamers, for example, is way too broad a category to target).

There are many different platforms to look into – simple banner ad display networks all the way to pay-per-action networks and Apple’s own iAd platform. The decision to use one over the other comes down to budget and desired outcome. Be aware of your options and explore each based on what you expect to see in return.

Things to be mindful of when getting involved in advertising is your call to action – it needs to be something that can be effective on a mobile device. For example, don’t just link to your standard mobile website from a banner ad, this has very little to no value and can’t be measured beyond a click. Instead, link to something of context based on their phone type or their location or the number of times they’ve clicked through your ads. It needs to be actionable and relevant from where they are and what they are doing or you will lose them quickly.

If you are already advertising in traditional media (web, print, radio, television, billboards, etc) it is very easy to add a mobile call to action – an SMS short code, a QR Code or even mobile web site URL. This is a simple way to start immediately but remember, you’ll need to offer unique contextualized offerings when someone invokes these calls to action.

Build an App

Mobile applications are, well, popular, these days. There are no fewer than 700,000 mobile applications available on all the various app stores so making the decision to get into this game is not one that should be taken lightly or influenced by other companies. Building a mobile application is building a piece of software with all the same issues around building a web application or a piece of desktop software. Support, marketing, updates

If you’ve never considered building a software application for your business – to enhance a customer experience for example – then you have to decide if building a mobile application is the right choice. Do you have the technical capabilities? It may be easy to find a company to outsource the development but do you have someone who understands how to translate business requirements into the right mobile solution? Are you building software to support existing customers or find new ones? If you are doing it to expand your market, do you have the budget necessary to make it rise above the rest?

Never underestimate the cost of building and supporting all platforms, across all operating systems – including feature phones that don’t allow apps to be installed. This is a huge endeavour and requires deep thought and strategy to ensure it works for your business. But if done right, building an application to extend your brand can become a huge competitive advantage.

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of UNTETHER.tv and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

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