This is a guest post by Shea Glenny, a solopreneur and founder of IM for Solos: Internet Marketing Plans & Tutoring for Solopreneurs, a full-service strategic marketing agency.
She believes a bright future will come through the success of solopreneurs, and she’s doing her part to make it happen.
It’s an important question: What is mobile marketing and does it matter to solopreneurs? While there are exceptions to every rule I believe that after reading this you will know whether marketing your small business through mobile is right for you now, later or never.
First Things First
The mobile revolution is underway. It is happening every day, every month, every year and it’s growing more and more disruptive to your business. Consider what ExactTarget.com’s Subscribers, Fans and Followers Report #9 says “Expecting this highly-touted revolution to arrive with a BANG, we failed to recognize that the ‘Year of Mobile’ is happening all around us — not as a unified cultural experience, but in a moment of personal awakening for each individual, triggered by a single purchase: the smartphone.”
What is Mobile Marketing?
Mobile is not a channel. It is a platform. When marketers say “mobile marketing,” we don’t mean marketing through a specific channel. We mean marketing through a mobile device (think smartphone or tablet computer) that supports many channels.
Mobile marketing for solopreneurs means reaching your current and future customers on their mobile devices to build a long-term relationship for greater success and profitability. Mobile marketing is done through many channels such as mobile apps, mobile search, text messaging and more. And as you’ll learn certain channels present unique opportunities for solopreneurs.
What Are Some Key Statistics About Mobile?
At the end of this post there is a list of resources with lots of statistics on mobile if you’re interested. I’ve pulled out some of the most interesting for you here along with some great infographics from MarketingZeus.com and ExactTarget.com.
• 70% of all mobile searches result in action within 1 hour. (Source: Mobile Marketer)
• Mobile coupons get 10 times the redemption rate of traditional coupons
• 91% of all U.S. citizens have their mobile device within reach 24/7.
Infographics: How Smart Phones Have Changed Our Lives
What Are the Different Mobile Marketing Channels You Mentioned Above?
When I defined mobile marketing for solopreneurs I mentioned that marketing through mobile actually occurs through various mobile channels. Here is a brief overview of some of those channels.
Mobile Apps are like mini software programs for mobile devices that each perform a very specific and simple function. Examples are time tracking apps, email apps, Facebook apps, gaming apps, recipe apps, etc. Apps are one of the most rich and exciting features to a smartphone user. Apps have to be built specifically for each mobile operating system and downloaded from an online store that sells apps for that operating system (think iTunes App Store or Android Market). So, if you build an app you need to build a different version each for the iPhone, Android phones, Blackberry, etc. Plus, your new app would require a full marketing plan to get the app well circulated. Because of the time and effort involved in building and marketing effective apps, I don’t recommend this channel to most solopreneurs.
Mobile Search and Mobile Web Sites (Mobile Sites)
Most mobile devices, even older feature phones (remembering my beloved old Nokia flip phone), come with a built-in mobile browser for surfing and searching the web. Depending on the size of the screen, the operating system and other technical features of the device this can be sadly reminiscent of the dial-up days or feel comfortably close to surfing on your laptop. The mobile browser can access the same world wide web content as your home computer however both mobile browsers and search engines now favor sites and content optimized specifically for mobile device viewing. So, a Google search for “Italian food” on your home computer might deliver very different results than a search for “Italian food” on your mobile device. This is partially due to location-based services, marketing strategy and mobile-optimized web sites.
Mobile sites are pared-down versions of your web site made specifically for mobile devices. People have a different mindset on mobile than they do when they use their home computers. This affects their buying habits. When you understand who your target market is, then further understand how their mobile browsing and search habits differ from those done on their home computer, you may see they have specific needs on mobile. So, you select content for your mobile site that meets the unique needs of a mobile visitor. Then you put that content into a site that is programmed and coded for speed and ease of use on a mobile device.
Solopreneurs who optimize for mobile search and implement strategic mobile sites can see up to 40% response rates and returns of 500% or more. Mobile search and mobile sites present some of the most exciting opportunities for solopreneurs.
Text Messaging (SMS & MMS)
Text messages can be text-only or multimedia (photos, videos, songs, etc.) A text-only message is referred to as SMS (simple message service) and usually operates off of a character limit of 160 characters per message. A multimedia message is referred to as MMS (multimedia messaging service) and has its own file size limitations. Text message marketing is an extremely intimate form of marketing and must be treated with the kind of tact you would use if you were invited into your target market’s kitchen. It is usually very affordable and can be bought as a service from an agency or run in-house with specialized software. This form of marketing is most effective in building customer loyalty through time-sensitive deals, contest entry or polls.
Location-Based Services (LBS) and Geo-Location/Geo-Targeting
Location-based services, geo-location and geo-targeting all refer to delivering services or marketing messages to a mobile device based on its physical location. It is possible to determine a user’s location through the phone’s built-in features. When you use navigation or map apps on your phone you are enjoying the benefits of this technology.
There is a trend with many social media sites that allows users to “check into” a place (Facebook Places, Foursquare and Gowalla are some examples) using LBS. When a user does this, it notifies their network of where they checked in at and usually unlocks an incentive for that place. For example, I may visit my city’s art museum and check in on my social media apps to discover biographical information on a featured artist.
Marketing costs for LBS-type channels can vary from free to requiring investment in expensive technology. Through strategic integration with your other marketing channels this can be accessible and effective for solopreneurs.
There are banner ad placement services that help you run your ads inside mobile apps, on mobile sites and in mobile search results just like on the non-mobile Internet. There are various pricing models for placing affiliate ads (such as pay-per-click or cost-per-impression). The larger brands like Coca-Cola and Amazon have more money and more resources to monopolize prime placement and exposure, making this a difficult mobile marketing channel for solopreneurs to have success in. If you do venture into mobile affiliate ads please do so with a specific goal, a closed-loop process, and place your ads through an ad placement agency.
There are web sites that distribute coupons to mobile users (like Yowza) based on users opting in to receive coupons based on their preferences and location. You can pay to have your coupons sent to these users or deliver them via text messaging, on your mobile site or through a social media app. The statistics of the success of mobile couponing are favorable (they get 10x the redemption rate!) but make sure you have good onsite redemption processes that connect the offline purchase to the mobile coupon. You also need to have a process in place to get the mobile coupon user to opt-in to future deals via email or text messaging so you can further nurture the relationship.
Mobile Social Media
Mobile is inherently personal and so it fits with social media like a hand in a glove. Facebook is the 5th most used feature on people’s smartphones. Yet many brands still haven’t effectively used their Facebook Page to engage their target market, let alone optimized their Facebook presence for mobile. No one knows your neighborhood like you do, so outsiders can never speak with the kind of insider knowledge that you have. Use that to your advantage through mobile social media and you can build a fortress against corporate takeover.
If 70% of smartphone users check their email throughout their day, you can bet they’re opening those emails on their mobile device. In fact, a smartphone user in your email list is more likely to open your email on their phone than they are on their home computer. Many businesses aren’t taking this into consideration in their email message, offer, design or function. Remember, mobile devices don’t operate the same as a laptop or PC so they can display email marketing templates very poorly if the templates aren’t built for mobile viewing. Your marketing message needs to drive the mobile user to take action the moment they read the message through simple layout, clear content and user-friendly links.
Email marketing is a wonderful channel on or off a mobile device but you should consult a marketer on how to build effective email campaigns that build your brand rather than tarnish it.
Which Mobile Marketing Channels Are the Most Effective For Solopreneurs?
From the list of channels above here are my Top Picks for mobile marketing for solopreneurs:
1. Mobile Search & Mobile Sites — If you’re a local solopreneur, this is one of the quickest ways to attract new customers.
2. Mobile Social Media — Let a professional build your social media plan for you and then you take the plan and implement it. This is also an easier way to test mobile couponing and location-based services before investing more in those channels.
3. Text Message Marketing — This can double your customer loyalty quickly at a low cost. It is easier to choose which service or software to use if you first calculate your current customer lifetime value, then make a realistic goal of how much you want to increase that by.
Once you have maximized your presence and success on those channels, here’s what you might consider next:
1. Mobile Couponing — Remember to have processes in place to track the purchase offline once it leaves the online space. This will help you make the most of future couponing efforts.
2. Mobile Email — You will likely need a mobile email template that can be reused and repurposed across multiple campaigns.
3. Location-Based Services — Once you increase income from your first mobile marketing successes then you can explore some of the exciting technology and options available through location-based services.
And, in general, I’d suggest leaving these to bigger small businesses and large corporations:
1. Mobile Apps — Until you have marketing money to experiment with, I usually advise against trying to market your solo business through this channel.
2. Affiliate Ads — Often solopreneurs find their marketing budgets drained because of paying for too many clicks that just didn’t end up converting to paying customers in the end.
What Part of Mobile Marketing Can I Do Myself?
You wouldn’t attempt surgery on yourself and probably wouldn’t risk being your own legal counsel. Mobile marketing is a full-blown professional industry that now requires formal education to master. However, just as you can be an active participant in your health and legal matters so, too, can you participate in your mobile marketing efforts to cut back on costs.
Once you have a strategic plan in place, you can act as your own marketing manager in implementing the various campaigns from your marketing plan. The learning curve for text message marketing and mobile social media is relatively low, which means you can even do those campaigns yourself by following detailed instructions. And if you’re really ambitious, with a few hours of tutoring you could learn how to monitor and analyze the success of your own campaigns so you know what’s working, what’s not and how to adjust.
What Are Pitfalls of Mobile Marketing For Solopreneurs?
By far the biggest pitfall of mobile marketing for solopreneurs is relying on a single channel for results. There is no one form of engagement that will attract new customers or increase customer loyalty in a measurable way. You must have strategy that employs multiple campaigns across multiple channels that creates a closed-loop experience for your target market. Sorry, no magic tricks here.
Another pitfall solopreneurs must be careful of is using mobile marketing for selfish reasons. As I said before, mobile is inherently personal. People report lost wallets days after the loss but report lost phones within hours. Our mobile device is a technological prototype of who we are, storing passwords, personal contacts, private texts and emails, credit card info, social security numbers and more. You wouldn’t stuff a flyer into a woman’s purse as she walked by so don’t push self-centric marketing messages to your mobile users. Think about how to use mobile marketing channels to build long-term relationships, not just to make a sale or acquire a new contact.
How Do You Help Solopreneurs With Mobile Marketing?
My bachelor’s degree is in Internet Marketing and my strength is strategy. I also happen to believe that when solopreneurs are successful, all of society benefits. So, with this in mind I create flat-rate, strategic Internet Marketing Plans especially for solopreneurs. A plan includes 3-5 integrated campaigns over a 12 month period that are designed to accomplish a SMART Goal we agree on. Mobile marketing channels are often included in the campaigns. In addition to writing Internet Marketing Plans, I also perform specialty services such as SEO (search engine optimization), web design, email marketing, social media and mobile marketing for solopreneurs.
I’m energized by other hard-working, dedicated soloists like myself and see your success as part of a bright future for my kids and their kids. If you mention this post, I’d be happy to give you 5 free hours of marketing consultation as a personal investment in our future.
Where Can I Learn More About Mobile Marketing?
If you have the time to learn more there are plenty of resources on the mobile marketing industry. Here are a few of my favorites:
You can also learn more about how mobile marketing fits into Internet marketing strategy or Internet marketing for local solopreneurs on my site, IMforSolos.com and get marketing tips on my Facebook Page, faceboook.com/IMforSolos.