Speaking Geek: A Business Owner's Guide

Speaking Geek: A Business Owner's Guide

So you're a new business and you need to establish your presence online. Or perhaps you've been in business a while and your online identity could use a bit of an upgrade. But where do you start? It can be intimidating talking to someone about your Web site. It's your livelihood and outsourcing the creation and/or maintenance to someone else that may or may not understand your business is known to cause heartburn until trust is established.

When searching for the right person to establish or reinvigorate your digital branding, it's important to know what to expect.

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What is Mobile Marketing?

What is Mobile Marketing?

Earlier this month, I was privileged to speak at the Tempe Chamber of Commerce's Hot Topics luncheon on the topic of mobile marketing. As the technology landscape shifts, the methods of marketing continue to evolve and businesses need to adapt or be left behind. The prevalence of mobile devices opens many avenues to engage customers with a more valuable, relevant experience.

WHAT IS MOBILE MARKETING?

When most people think of mobile marketing they picture a mobile app or Web site. In reality, mobile marketing is so many things, but, at it's core, mobile marketing is reaching out to customers with relevant, timely marketing that reaches their mobile device. Businesses can now interact with their customers using Push Notifications, mobile apps, responsive Web sites, mobile search ads, text message marketing, and location-based advertising. Each of these methods has unique advantages and drawbacks depending on demographic, available budget, and the nature of the business. But why is mobile marketing so important?

WHY MOBILE MARKETING?

If you've ever sat in a shopping district food court, sipping a latté and people-watching, you've probably noticed the amount of time individuals spend looking at their smart phone or tablet. According to recent studies, the average person checks their smart phone every six minutes, 150 times per day. Approximately 40% of a person's time is spent on a mobile device and of that time, and 80% of that time is spent in some type of app.

Mobile devices are becoming the go-to choice to look up information and search traffic originating from mobile devices has increased 200% year over year. In early 2014, statistics show that 1 in 3 Google searches originated on a mobile device and the 2013 holiday shopping season showed us that people use smart phones to look up business information and directions on the go and tablets to purchase. Because email and business information are both commonly accessed on a mobile device, being able to provide a fluid, intuitive experience to potential customers, regardless of how they choose to access your information, is key.

Perhaps the most compelling reasons to be mobile-ready are simply to appeal to customers and what they want. Over half (57%) won't recommend a business with a poorly-designed mobile site and 70% of mobile searches lead to action within one hour. This means that when a potential customer is looking us up on their smart phone, they are looking so that they can purchase, and purchase soon.

WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

As with so many things technology-related, there are serveral options of varying complexity and effectiveness. But it comes down to three that can have the greatest impact on the bottom line: mobile search ads, app-based marketing, and location-based marketing.

Mobile search ads aren't really anything new, but there are some features that are. Google AdWordsBing Ads, and others all offer ways to bid on keywords to display your business in highly visible positions on a page. These ads, while highly visible, are also highly coveted and many of the common keywords are priced at prohibitively expensive bids, especially for common businesses where you go up against large companies with marketing budgets bigger than the entire income numbers of many small businesses. One of the recent features added to Google's AdWords layouts is the addition of a "Call" button for mobile ads displayed on a smart phone. These can be highly effective since they give the potential customer a way to instantly contact a business that is relevant.

Mobile search ads can be expensive, but when carefully crafted can increase conversion from potential customer to customer. Because they are highly relevant and timely, these can be very effective, but require a minimum spend of $100 to $500 per month depending on the keywords, industry, and many other factors.

App-based marketing really consists of several different variations on the same type of advertising. Through different advertising providers, such as Google's AdMobFacebook ads, and mMedia, you can provide targeted advertising to users in their favorite apps.  These ads can include images, text, or video. Video ads will gain the highest conversion, but  text or image banners will be served to the greatest number of apps and devices.

Lastly, Location-based marketing is a recent addition to the mobile marketplace. If you've ever had someone throw the term "geofencing" or "beacons" at you when giving you a marketing pitch, they're likely talking about location-based marketing. This kind of marketing is all about localization, personalization, and location history. It relies on access to the GPS location information provided by modern smart phones. When someone installs an app or visits a Web site that uses location-based marketing, they are asked if they would like to give that Web site or mobile app access to their GPS location data. In the case of mobile apps, these permissions are passed through to referenced advertising providers. GPS information can be "fine" or "coarse". Coarse GPS location provides a position that is accurate to approximately 100 to 500 meters. Fine GPS location means the position is accurate to 100 meters or less.

For the purposes of geofencing, where software detects mobile device entry to an area from the size of a city block to an entire city, the accuracy of the information is important because the variance could put someone outside the zone for timely information and easy travel or access to the source of the advertisement. In general, this practice is perfect for brick-and-mortar shops. By advertising with a platform that implements geofencing, you can block out an area immediately surrounding your location and advertisements (in the form of push notifications) will only be sent to devices that indicate their location is inside the "fence". For businesses such as restaurants, sending advertisements just before lunch time to devices currently inside the fence or as they arrive within it can provide a boost in sales. Over time, more targeted advertisements can be created based on the history of a device's locations.

Another type of location-based marketing is even more localized, targeting customers who are already shopping inside a store. Through the use of beacons, which use bluetooth (the same technology that allows you to talk on your smart phone using a wireless headset), push notifications can be sent to devices which have a compatible app alerting customers in the store to sales and specials in their immediate vicinity (bluetooth is typically limited to a range of 50 meters).

Both types of location-based marketing are paired with advertising platforms, notably Foursquare and Swarm. With paid advertising (and, in the case of beacons, specialized hardware strategically placed in a retail location), a personalized, easily accessible product or service can be provided to customers in a position to to act on it immediately.

All this sounds great, but it is important to consider the perceived privacy consumers have come to expect with their information and ensure you provide a relevant, valuable experience. Failure to do so could lead to consumers to disable location sharing or, worse, delete the offending app or Web site. Once that happens, it's very difficult to win them back.

These are just a few of the options available for mobile marketing. There are others, but they have been on the decline or have a limited appeal. These include QR Codes (those strangely abstract squares begging to be scanned for the information they contain) and SMS (or text message) marketing. These can be effective for certain demographics so it is important to know your customer base and understand their communication preferences.

MOBILE MARKETING TIPS

When it comes to mobile marketing, there are a lot of ways you can engage your customers and provide them with a relevant, timely experience. In order to provide the best experience, it's important to consider the medium. Mobile devices, while very powerful, have limited space to display an advertisement and still be readable. Cramming too much on the screen leads to overload and confusion. It's important to stay clear and concise in mobile advertising. Twitter is a great benchmark for messages. If it can't be said in less than 180 characters, you should probably rethink your message or medium. A short, 20-second video can be a great way to get a complex point across and circumvent the space limitation.

Location-based marketing takes this to the extreme, but it's important to optimize your advertising for the viewer's location. Sending them a push notification for coffee at 2 AM while their phone sits on the nightstand next to them might not be the best use of advertising (not to mention that it could wake them up if they haven't silenced their phone - and nobody likes to have their sleep disturbed). If you're using geofencing, keep the monitored area to within a few blocks of your retail location. If you can get location information, do everything you can to make sure that what you show the viewer is nearby, easy to get to, and available when they arrive.

You should also consider your audience. What works for one demographic won't for others. What devices are they using? What apps do they favor? Are they fans of the "check-in" or would they rather have you send something to their email? All of these questions can affect how you advertise and the medium you use.

Finally, experiment and measure. In order to answer the questions we mentioned above, you need data. Sometimes customers will happily tell you the information, other times you have to try something to see what happens. Try variations on text in different locations and check the response. Measure ("benchmark") your results to see what advertising is working and bringing you business and what's not helping. Mobile marketing is an on-going process and needs to be revisited every few months ( at a minimum - almost daily when you're first getting started) and adjusted based on the results.

Mobile marketing is a complex topic, so it's important to meet with someone who knows the ins and outs and can help you focus your efforts. Keep these tips in mind and get to know your customers.

Hot Topics: Marketing Technology

Technology is used in nearly every business function these days and it can be most effective at marketing and growing your company. Peter Adams, founder of Sol Minion Development, and Brian Dunham, Marketing Specialist at ManageStaff Inc, will talk about how embracing emerging technology to grow your business and stay relevant in a rapidly shifting, technology-driven marketplace. We’ll focus on Search Engine Marketing, Social Media, and Mobile Marketing and cover what should be considered to create an effective marketing plan.

Brian Dunham, Marketing Specialist at ManageStaff Inc., will teach how to get noticed online, achieve high SEO rankings and leverage them to increase sales.

Peter Adams, founder of Sol Minion Development, will show how to incorporate mobile platforms into your marketing efforts to increase customer engagement. Attendees will learn practical methods to implement his lessons.

Sol Minion Development Gets an Upgrade

This morning, we rolled out an updated Web site. While much of the design remains the same, we have upgraded to Joomla - a modern content management system. When we aren't working on making our clients shine online, we will continue to make changes to our site and add additional features to better serve our clients.

Looking to make a change to your online presence? Contact us or gives us a call and we will be happy to provide an estimate.

Sol Minion Development Now Microsoft Partner

Sol Minion Development is now a Microsoft Partner. We were accepted into the program this week and can now offer a variety of services on the Microsoft platform, including custom .NET development and other services in the Microsoft and .NET ecosystem.

Looking for custom development? Contact us for a custom proposal and let us help you succeed.

Peter Adams Begins Business Development Council Term

Today marked the first day of Peters chairmanship of the Tempe Chamber of Commerces Business Development Council. Over the next year, he will help members locate and implement new technologies, apps, and resources to benefit and connect them with consumers. The Chamber offers many programs and training opportunities, such as Hot Topics & Lunch, Coffee Connections networking groups, and solution/education clinics for both members and non-members.

Peter Adams to Chair Business Development Council

In addition to being a Tempe Chamber of Commerce Ambassador, Peter Adams, owner of Sol Minion Development, is the incumbent chair of the Business Development Committee. The committee is responsible for cultivating resources and educational programs as well as facilitate networking opportunities.

For more information on the Tempe Chamber of Commerce and its member businesses, see their Web site at www.tempechamber.org.

Benefits of a Custom Web Site

Let's face it, there are a lot of options out there when it comes to establishing or updating your online brand. 61% of customers click away to a competitor site after visiting a Web site that isn't optimized for their mobile device (Source). It's just a matter of when your online brand gets a makeover.

These days, Google incorporates responsiveness into their page rankings and there are numerous services offering to host a mobile-optimized Web site - "no coding experience necessary".

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