Mobility Can Energize Your Business
By Faisal Hoque
Mobility, intuitive cloud-based tools, smartphones, tablets and social media have forever transformed global business ecosystems. Today, no one is tethered to a desk or landline.
As the number of consumers toting smartphones continues to grow at a steady clip, small and midsize businesses must embrace the mobile revolution or end up empty-handed. The Small Business Mobile Survey released in May by Web.com Group found that while 69 percent of small businesses consider mobile marketing crucial to their growth in the next five years, a majority of them haven’t fully leveraged mobile marketing.
Here are six ways to make sure you keep your head “in the clouds” and your business mobile for the future.
1. Move away from desktop browsers.
Any company that started out or built its business with a Website for desktop browsers needs to go mobile—if it hasn’t already. And every new startup should make mobile presence a top priority.
More and more consumers are using handheld devices to shop or search for services. Only businesses with a mobile-friendly or a made-for-mobile site or app are going to attract these customers. Nobody’s going to attempt to navigate tiny print that’s not designed to fit a small screen.
While 60 percent of small businesses surveyed by Web.com have a Website, just 26 percent have a mobile-friendly Website, which has the same layout and content as a standard Website but is adjusted to suit a smartphone’s small screen). Only 14 percent of small business owners have a stand-alone mobile Website, in which the content and layout are designed specifically for mobile purposes.
2. Think global, sell local.
Sure, mobile devices are one of the many ways to compete from anywhere in the world, but did you consider courting customers that might otherwise walk or drive by your business in favor of one with a mobile presence?
On any busy city block, you’ll see people on their smartphones looking for someplace nearby to eat, shop or get something done. They’re more fixated on the screen than they are on the signs outside.
According to the Web.com survey, 36 percent of small business owners say their biggest motivation to embrace mobile is to attract more local customers, compared with 38 percent who say it’s to provide better service to existing customers and 34 percent who seek to gain competitive advantage. How can you gain a competitive advantage if you don’t pop up on a mobile device search?
3. Put your finger on new business.
What’s keeping you from taking your business mobile? Mobile marketing is fast, cheap, broad-reaching and highly targeted. You can’t afford to not do it.
A mobile marketing campaign can also be easily integrated with other marketing campaigns, such as TV, radio or a traditional Website. A busy person is more likely to visit a mobile site than write down or remember information from an advertisement.
Consumers are also apt to share a mobile ad via text, email, Facebook or Twitter. When is the last time someone besides your Great Aunt Edna sent you a newspaper ad clipping or called to tell you about a TV commercial?
The vast majority (84 percent) of the 14 percent of the 500 small businesses that have a stand-alone mobile Website said they’ve experienced a jump in new business activity due to their mobile marketing efforts.
4. Connect with the three Cs.
Your potential clients, consumers and competitors have handheld devices. It’s obvious that you can reach new customers with a mobile presence, but did you think about how essential it is to be available to clients at all times? Without an immediate response, many will go elsewhere. Nobody is waiting for a voicemail in the digital age.
Mobility can help you scope out the competition. It’s essential to keep your customers close and your competitors closer. As with any enabling technology, mobile marketing and sales need to be properly managed. Get a lead on clients and stay ahead of rivals by making your mobile presence stronger and more accessible.
5. Consider customer service and satisfaction.
Nobody but your Great Aunt Edna wants to call a toll-free number to get a problem resolved. More and more people are using their smartphones to shop because it saves time. Those customers will never go back to your site if you don’t make reaching customer service as easy as placing an order.
Busy people like the convenience of paying bills, contacting a representative, making an appointment or doing anything they can do on a laptop or desktop right from their handheld device. And the demand for such services is growing rapidly.
6. Look to the cloud.
Going mobile means ditching that dinosaur hard-drive and other old-time technologies that bog you down. For starters, it saves money on start-up costs because there’s no software or hardware to buy.
Cloud solutions are typically subscription, pay-as-you-go services, so your immediate and ongoing costs are predictable and manageable. There are no more maintenance and support fees or expensive upgrades. They come free and automatically in the cloud.
In addition, you’ll be more productive. With your data in the cloud, you can access it anywhere you have a browser and an Internet connection. Web-based data also enables collaboration, with every team member able to access the same information from a handheld device. As your business grows, you can quickly add new users and collaborators.
Choosing a cloud provider may be the trickiest part, because the market is new, and there’s no proven long-term track record. Here are few things to consider:
· It’s essential to understand both the capabilities and the limitations of each provider, and to be sure it’s the best fit for your enterprise.
· Depending on your existing enabling technology platform(s), you may need more than one cloud provider to meet your growing needs.
· As with any strategic decision, examine the future potential of your provider and its likelihood of staying afloat in a burgeoning market.
· Perhaps most importantly, investigate the provider’s ability to recover from hardware, software and network problems by studying its performance history with a focus on outages.
· As with any legal document, examine the service-level agreement (SLA) to be sure you’re getting what you need to support your technology architecture over time.
· Finally, look into the person behind the platform and make sure it’s someone you want to do business with.
No business owner or entrepreneur should wait before creating a mobile presence and offering the same services from a smartphone as from a desktop or laptop. Tech-savvy businesses are sprouting up in every industry and from every corner of the world, and they know how to court the new generation of customers. Existing businesses that haven’t already made the leap need to act fast or get swept up in history.
Whether you’re reaching out to your own neighborhood or to the entire world, you need mobility to connect with your customers.
Faisal Hoque is founder, chairman and CEO at BTM Corporation, as well as the founder of research think-tank BTM Institute. His newest book is The Power of Convergence. © 2012 Faisal Hoque. Follow him on twitter @faisal_hoque.