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.
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:
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.
Let’s look at a few examples in defining a common audience.
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.
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:
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.
Monday we examined collaboration between non-mobile businesses and mobile developers particularly on advertising. Most business owners are likely aware of GPS-based advertising – the ability to target customers who are physically near your store to pop-in. And, many business owners may have considered whether a mobile app for their business would be useful and profitable. We’ll explore both of these in greater depth, but there are both easier and more complex ways to realize advantages in connecting with your local mobile app developers.
Let’s start on the easy side – Training. You may not need and may not be able to afford a customized app for your business. Small business owners and “do it yourself” often go together, but it can pay to bring someone in who is intimately familiar with the mobile market, mobile apps and mobile advertising. Mobile app developers could help your business better integrate the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare or any of countless others into your daily business routine. A few of the practical considerations:
You may be able to do all of this to include training your employees yourself, suffice that someone who designs and develops apps may have some special tools, tricks and recommendations for your business. Plus exposing them to your business has a good chance of getting them to think of methods and means of making mobile more useful for you.
On the more complex and somewhat abstract side there is the incubating of community development projects and events. This involves taking a lead networking role in bringing several businesses together to achieve what each could not individually. This can go in a couple of directions. The easiest and simplest is developing a local initiative to promote more mobile integration through existing apps and services, as mentioned above and applying to a broader training program.
It’s one thing for one or two businesses to be active across different social and mobile channels. It’s something very different when a dozen or dozens of businesses concentrated in a few city blocks actively engage customers. It’s even better when there’s some coordination involved. Ideas include:
This can facilitate new levels of community interaction, new cross promotional opportunities, lead to regularly hosted events – all in conjunction with free advertising from your local newspapers, television and radio stations. These events are usually good for all participants. If you have a flair for bringing people together and organizing events, stepping up as a “community organizer” can be very good for your business.
Most small business owners probably don’t have several thousand dollars to invest in customized apps for their business. A dozen small businesses contributing to finance a local community oriented mobile app can achieve much greater effect not only through their numbers, but with the added possibility of getting additional financial help from local governments, corporations and community sponsors.