Technology seems to move faster than businesses can run. We see what the breakneck speed of the Internet has done to print media and consumer perceptions of price and value: independent and mainstream bookstores are struggling to stay afloat in the midst of the flood of free literature and e-readers. One area in particular that is tough to keep up with is marketing; one minute consultants are saying social media is where you need to be and the next minute infographics are the hot ticket to increase web traffic and sales.
This year will be no different. New innovative ways to promote your business are emerging and as a small business owner, you will have to determine whether they are worth your time and money. Among the innovations that will affect small business in a real way, the evolution of the mobile marketplace takes the cake.
This is not much of a surprise; mobile use has been increasing steadily over the past two years. This past holiday season saw the sale of an incredible number of mobile devices (iPads, iPhones, Android tablets/phones, e-readers, etc.), which underlines the growing ubiquity of mobile Internet. Many companies have optimized their websites for use on smartphones and tablets in order to get ahead of the trend. Others have designed applications that allow customers to interface with their brand on the go. These can be effective marketing tools, and are advisable to any business serious about riding the mobile wave. For small businesses that don’t have an app-crazy clientele, the key is geolocal SEO.
“What is that?!” you ask?
The basic idea behind geolocal marketing is targeting consumers in your area on their mobile devices. There are multiple services that small business owners can use to capitalize on this growing trend, and most of them are cheap.
It’s hard to find a locally owned business that hasn’t had an experience with Groupon, good or bad. Their new service allows you to create deals, post them and set the time it’s good for. The idea is that if you’re having a slow day, you can post a deal that’s good for the next four hours in order to pull a few more customers through the door than you would have otherwise. Groupon Now targets customers on the go and emphasizes extemporaneous visits rather than the cherry-picking nature of its larger counterpart.
If you run a mid-sized bed and breakfast in Chicago, it can be hard to stand out against a backdrop of Chicago hotels like the Ritz, Drake and Trump. AdWords Express works almost exactly like AdWords Proper except that it gives priority to small, local businesses for appropriate search terms. It also emphasizes mobile search so that when potential customers are trying to find a place on the fly, your establishment will stand out from the high-profile alternatives, giving your business a more even playing field than it would have otherwise.
Then there are participation apps like foursquare and Yelp, which you can use to interface with regular consumers and attract new ones based on the strength of your review. Many businesses offer small discounts for “checking in” via these apps, and that has proven effective in raising the digital presence of many small businesses. These aren’t new techniques, but they are expected to become more refined and influential in 2012 as the mobile market continues to grow.
And it will grow. Whether mobile Internet is the second coming of the World Wide Web and frees us from the fetters of wired desktops remains to be seen. But with as many as 100 million mobile web devices out there right now, do you really want to risk passing it up?