By Chris Wallace
April 8, 2013
Get off the computer and take your business mobile
My friend owns a restaurant, and he’s struggling. After enjoying dinner there last week, he sat at my table and talked about the typical problems he’s facing — slow nights and not enough new customers through the door, despite a great location, terrific food, and good reviews in local media.
It only took me a few minutes to figure out what was wrong and offer him some useful advice. He was baffled because he’d paid a web designer for an attractive website, which few people seemed to visit. Although he had a Facebook account, it only had a couple hundred ‘Likes.’ He updated it once or twice a month, typically with a post that promoted a special or an event.
In layman’s terms, I broke down the changes he needed to make. My fingers are crossed for him that my advice will stick and be effective. If you’re feeling his pain (and your own), here are the steps every business needs to immediately take to keep up with the mobile revolution driving the web.
1 Make Sure Your Website Works on Mobile Devices
My buddy’s site looks great on my computer, but guess what? I can’t read his menu on my iPad. The Apple vs. Adobe feud over Flash isn’t likely to end soon, and most web designers have adapted by creating ‘bells and whistle’ sites for computer browsers, paired with simpler mobile sites that automatically load on tablets and smartphones.
If you use an Android device, borrow an iPhone or iPad immediately and check that your site loads quickly and properly (and vice versa).
In 2013, it’s estimated that web traffic via mobile devices will surpass internet usage on regular computers. If your company’s website doesn’t read properly on phones and tablets, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. It’s an easy fix for web designers, and most online site templates include a mobile-friendly version, featuring smaller photographs and more simple menus that are designed to load lightning-fast on devices.
2 Socialize, Update and Engage
“When would I find the time to update my Facebook page?” asked my friend during our conversation. My answer to him? “All day long.”
The good thing about social media is that you don’t have to do it from a computer. Any time you have a free moment — on the bus; waiting for your spouse to get out the door — take a few moments to post a Tweet or status update.
Success in social media marketing boils down to how well you engage. Getting online in the morning and posting about a special that day is better than nothing, but it’s responding to comments and keeping a conversation going that will make your page visible and attract new followers. Thanks to mobile devices, you can reply and interact from anywhere.
3 Build An App
Having an app for your business can be great, or it can be completely ineffective. Ask yourself if people will find a use for your app every day. If not, focus on your mobile website. Apps are not simply another place to dump the same information you put on your website. They should serve a purpose and make peoples’ lives easier in some small way. If you don’t have an idea that accomplishes that, skip the app, or you’ll find yourself with bad reviews.
With that caveat, if an app still seems like a great idea, they’re easier than you might think to build. Most web designers are now knowledgeable in app creation and can customize your idea to your liking. Alternatively, online templates like Bizness Apps, iSites, and AppMakr can be an outlet for the DIY business owner or the app-maker on a budget.
4 Launch a Loyalty Program
Foursquare was the original ‘check in’ app, allowing people to share their location with friends through a mobile network. Since 2009, it’s grown into one of the most successful loyalty programs. These days, ‘checking in’ can really save you money, from a few dollars off a purchase to deep discounts for referring friends.
The trend has caught on, with plug-in applications like Perkville and PunchTab syncing across Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Just like loyalty cards allow customers to collect stamps for free stuff down the road (ie. ‘Buy 6 sandwiches, get 1 free’), loyalty apps work seamlessly within users’ phones. For brick-and-mortar business owners, it’s a terrific way to give themselves an edge up when it’s decision time for potential consumers. Who wouldn’t pick the place where they earn free stuff?
What other ways have you gone mobile with your business? Do you agree that focusing on mobile is a smart marketing decision for companies in 2012 and beyond?
Guest blogger Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of personalized pens and other promotional products such as imprinted apparel, mugs and customized calendars. He regularly contributes to Promo & Marketing Wall blog.