How to start building your customer-facing mobile strategy

This is part 3 of a multi-part series. The first 2 can be found here (Why you NEED a mobile strategy) and here (What is your “internal” mobile strategy?).

Most companies are looking to mobile these days for outward-facing initiatives and for good reason. A high majority of the 1.5 million apps out there are either new business ideas, reinventions of classic business models (and businesses) or existing brands looking to extend the conversation and relationship they have with their customers onto their phones or tablets. And, by proxy of those devices, gaining access to their living rooms, offices, bathrooms, bedrooms cars, vacations, malls, restaurants, coffee shops and so on. You get that.

The first almost universal approach when mobile entered mainstream was for companies to build an app. Just like the early web days, the inclination to rush in for early adopters was rife with unknowns and lead to disappointment for many. While the money that was spent during the early days will not be made up, the lessons the companies who were there learned have given us all a clearer path forward. Chief among those learnings was that mobile needs to be at the core of business – it is not just another screen or channel and it is not a bolt on to a current strategy.

So how do you know where and when to bring mobile into your organization? How can you figure out the proper entry point that will drive your business forward. What are the possibilities of an outbound mobile strategy? And how do you know it has been a success?

Do you need mobile in your business

The short answer is yes. Mobile encompasses so much more than just an app. The problem is you can get lost in the possibilities if you don’t have an idea of what you want to achieve in the first place. So, yes, mobile fits into most businesses on the planet right now but its the degree with which you embrace mobile that matters more.

What exactly is an outward facing mobile strategy?

Most businesses are a mix of sales, marketing, customer service and delivery. There is a complicated dance that happens between these 4 pillars but they eventually terminate at a customer of some sort. Any interaction your business has with a customer is outward facing. It could be something as simple as the facade of your business (i.e. is the grass out front cut or the windows washed), the smile at the counter, the pep in the support person’s voice on the phone or the quality or craftsmanship of the product. This is business.

Outward facing mobile strategies simply add a layer of deeper connection to each of these four pillars. For example, what does lawn maintenance have to do with mobile? Great question! We all know that the state of a building is an important first impression today. Customers decide to walk in or walk out based on the cleanliness and comfort of a location. Say you own a multiple location business – across the city or in different cities, states or provinces. How can you ensure each property is up to your stringent maintenance spec? Using a mobile service such as Gigwalk, a location-based mobile temporary workforce service, you can hire local residents who normally walk by your location(s) every day already and pay them to take a photo of your business. Those photos are uploaded to you and, presto, you get a form of quality control that you never had before and at a price that would have been prohibitive before mobile. This kind of service has also been used for silent shoppers who ensure customer service and food quality are up to par in restaurants as well. If you start thinking about the possibilities there really is no end to how you could use such a simple yet effective service.

This type of situation works because we all carry these devices and because there is benefit for both parties: You get your picture, the person taking the photo monetizes down time. The value is matched and you’ve just brought mobile into your business.

So how much “mobile” do I need?

Don’t get wrapped up in the terminology or the technology. As we’ve gone over before, first pick your mobile metric – the thing that you want to succeed at because of mobile. That will be your astrolabe. Quickly remove the words “app” or “mobile website” or even “responsive website” from your vocabulary for now. Let’s start from the ground up and end up there. Not the other way around.

Your first foray into customer facing mobile initiatives should be natural extensions to what you already do. Begin where it makes sense and can have an impact. Start looking in one of these four areas if you are lacking ideas on where to focus first:

1. Customer support / satisfaction
2. Deepening the relationship with existing customers
3. Finding new customers
4. Building new products for your existing audience

Technology is obviously secondary to what you want it to do. Once you’ve made that decision there is most likely an existing solution to what you need done. One caveat here is to NOT shoehorn your mobile strategy into a solution – a “best practice” solution can quickly homogenize your offering, making it as common as the 100 other companies using that very same product. Have a clear idea of what you what before engaging in the technology and customize a solution to suit your needs, not the other way around.

In the coming posts I will dive into each of these 4 areas of focus with examples and tactics to move them forward.

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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