Tag: networking

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.

For however much you may know about a particular subject, there’s likely to always be more. What you don’t know, can help you. When setting out to create a mobile app, utility or game, you likely have a vision of how the completed app will work, how it will look, and all of the things it can do. It is worth taking some time to go even deeper.

One of my recent projects involved creating a scenario for The Falkland Islands War between England and Argentina in 1982. That’s a very small project in comparison to my World War II “War in Europe” projects. The Falkland Islands was a small war, lasting only about two months with each country fielding only about 2 brigades each. Yet, for its small size, it includes all of the complexity of much larger conflicts.

In games like this, typically only a few things are really needed – the map, the units involved (Order of Battle), the equipment in the units (Tables of Organization and Equipment), when using a game platform like The Operational Art of War. With this collection of information, one can roughly recreate any type of battle from Alexander the Great to Napoleon to modern warfare engagements.

But a wide range of other factors can be taken into account. Nevertheless, even considering all of the things that you can apply to a game’s design or an app’s functionality, there are a lot of things that are easily overlooked. It is safest to presume from the outset that will be the case.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Turning to other professionals to get their insight can transform an average app or game into an excellent one simply by listening to what they have to say. This can work for any number of social and professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn, Quora, MosaicHub, and others.   Most especially, sign up to groups relevant to what you are working on.  Explain what you are aiming to do and ask if anyone has anything they would like to see included.

The devil is always in the details and it can be that extra little complexity that makes your app unique enough to stand out against so many other apps, utilities and games. You might be making a utility app for medical students, but getting the input of doctors, nurses, insurance processors, possibly pharmacists, can broaden your potential list of functions. Ultimately, you decide which functions you will include but without reviewing the input from each user segment can mean not implementing some really easy things that will help your app shine.

Enough people are happy to lend their expertise to more than justify the effort. The level of professional input I received on this particular game project exceeded my expectations several times over. Most of it was easily implemented and essentially “makes the game complete”.

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:

  • making sure everyone who works for your business is aware of any specials you may be offering through social channels,
  • better enable your employees to promote specials to their friends and family,
  • promote better customer relations and recognition,
  • drum up extra business and customers on a slow day or night.

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:

  • special sales events,
  • promoting local artists, musicians or non-profit groups,
  • local school sports programs,
  • town beautification day,
  • creativity is your only limit.

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.

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Your goal is to accelerate the penetration of your app within your audience. You are likely competing with many other developers, many other apps. Your means to success is based upon a simple process – get two of your friends to show your app to two of their friends. If you managed to repeat this every day for a month, you would literally achieve global domination.

But, nothing works that simply or that consistently.

While it takes extra effort, developing relationships with groups and organizations can help you accelerate your marketing efforts.

What are these groups? They could be:

  • individual businesses,
  • blogs and media venues of all types,
  • membership sites,
  • clubs and professional associations,
  • non-profit organizations,
  • non-government organizations,
  • gaming guilds and sports teams,
  • you get the idea?

This starts with having something to offer and a friendly or professional relationship with a decision maker in the group. This is the old fashioned way of networking. Obviously, you want to approach groups that would have a specific interest in your app.

Consider that the recommendation of a respected professional within an organization is likely to be followed by many others. There’s the potential for guest articles, backlinks, reviews, interviews, collaborative projects of all sorts. This is directly in line with building “authority alliances” and grassroots networking.

Social networking is good. Approaching people one on one can take a lot of energy. Approaching leaders and advocates who are able to influence groups of people helps maximize your effectiveness.

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