Business owner, please meet the mobile app developer

You don’t have to be mobile to take advantage of mobile.  You just need to know someone who is.  This is a continuation of Friday’s post on Using Mobile to Help Grow Your Business.   In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, everyone was introducing their local web site developer, “I know this guy who can make a killer web site for your business, he can set you up with anything…”  Voila, the Internet as we know it!  Well, a part of it anyway.   Now there’s this mobile thing and to be honest about it, unless you are well ahead of the bell-curve as a small business owner you may well have a hard time seeing how it can work for you.

First, while PC’s have been around, forever…  Mobile apps and the mobile app market as we know them today are relatively new.  While mobile does go back to the late 1990’s, Apple’s App Store only started in July of 2008, with the predecessor of Google Play starting one month later.   That helps provide some context.

Most business owners who set up a web site likely found  there was more involved than just having a web site to help monetize their business – advertising, seo, social networking, building email lists of customers, producing newsletters are all part of doing business online, too.

While some may see Mobile and PC/Internet as two different things, they really are the same thing seen through a large screen or a small screen.  Essentially.  Where personal computers and laptops focus on software, mobile devices focus on apps (software by another name) to extend their functionality and value.   Overall though, Mobile Devices are becoming more and more like Personal Computers, in terms of power and functionality, but imminently more convenient.

Applying Mobile Apps and Advertising to Your Business

First, it is important to underscore that Mobile Internet Traffic exceeded Personal Computer Traffic back in January of 2014.  If you are focused on the otherwise “traditional” internet user (one who uses personal computers or laptops), you are reaching less than half of your potential audience.   Having a mobile-friendly web site for your business – one that is easy to view on small screens is one objective for your mobile customers, discussed separately.

Mobile offers you four broad possibilities for you to explore for your business:

  1. Mobile Advertising is very competitive with traditional online advertising on both costs and engagement.
  2. Mobile Apps offer the potential to put a “small part of your business” on your customer’s smart phones – something that can be useful and valuable to them on an ongoing basis.
  3. Even if you don’t need a custom-designed app for your business, you have the potential to collaborate with mobile app developers in their own in-app advertising.
  4. You can make use of many existing apps to support your business – and in some cases, combine several apps to work together for unprecedented customer engagement with the likes of “If This, Then That.

Your Common Ground with Mobile App Developers

Mobile app developers come in all sizes, including SME’s and large corporations, but you will likely want to connect with solo developers, small teams, or possibly a collective of developers, local to your business.  The heart of this discussion gets to two core points.

  1. Do you share a common audience?
  2. What are you able to offer each other (to include each of your customers)?

Let’s look at a few examples in defining a common audience.

  • If the developer specializes in games for preschoolers and your business has school supplies, children’s clothes, toys, educational services for young children, or even products/services useful for parents, you probably have a pretty good match.
  • If the developer specializes in health-related utility apps and your business provides medical, health care, fitness, diet, perhaps even LOHAS (Lifestyles of health and sustainability), you could have a good match, too.
  • You might also look at expanding your products and services to better match the types of apps the developer is already producing.

Simply, the match does not need to be exact to be beneficial.  It may involve adding a special service, offering new product lines, or expanding to reach a new audience.   These all stand as the kind of considerations small businesses should be examining and evaluating anyway.

If there’s a match, you are able to enhance the value of a developer’s mobile app by offering discounts or specials to their end-users with coupon codes.  In turn, the developer is able to help you to reach more new prospective customers – through their app AND through their customer newsletters.

This is the beginning, but only the beginning of forging a good networking and business relationship.  You will need to work out the costs for running promotions, perhaps explore an affiliate or commission program along with how to track it, possibly look at some form of cooperative marketing effort for promoting the app.

The key point here is that many developers of mobile apps are stronger on the tech side than they are on the marketing side.   That can be a great fit if you are strong on the marketing side and weak on the tech.

Sponsoring Apps and Developers

One very important point to understand about the mobile app ecosystem is that most developers are not making a profit on their mobile apps.  Over 90% of mobile apps are distributed for free with developers relying upon in-app advertising and/or in-app purchases for their revenues.

Developers are going to develop apps “anyways” – as in most cases, it is a function of “time” (not money).  Most small developers do not consider their time as part of their “bottom line” when it comes to creating an app.

They have the ability to write code and create programs that can do a lot of cool things.  The time to write and test code on different devices precludes learning or applying to a lot of other things – like marketing, advertising, branding, networking, etc.

Understanding these dynamics can be useful and profitable for both of you.  Sponsoring the development of an app means providing upfront funds for a portion of the app’s overall development cost in return for things like:

  • a portion of the app’s advertising space,
  • inclusion in the developer’s other advertising channels – web site, newsletter, etc.*
  • possible press releases about the sponsorship arrangement
  • possible revenue sharing opportunities

Additional opportunities could also include serving as an agent for the app developer in finding other sponsors and engaging in promotional activities on their behalf.  These matters are all matters of traditional business negotiations.

The main point is that you do not need to be a mobile developer to benefit from mobile apps across several channels of activity.

Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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