You’ve heard all the stats and read all the news: smartphones are a big deal, right? But with all that noise out there, how can a small business owner actually get customers and make money from those smartphone junkies? Here are seven tips, tricks and techniques to help any small business owner go mobile without busting the bank.
1. Claim Your Business and Your Location
With smartphones, a consumer searching for a hardware store will automatically be shown the nearest hardware stores relative to their device’s GPS signal. That means you want to be sure your physical facility shows up (even if your office is just the location for people to call).
So what can you do to be “found?” It’s pretty simple really – just be sure that you visit each site such as Yelp, Bing, Yahoo Local, Google Places, Foursquare, and Facebook and “claim” your business and its location.
2. Mobilize Your Website
Mobile searches have grown 400 percent since 2010, according to Google. And when they find you on their phone – consumers visit (59%) or they call you (61%).
So, be sure you can be found. This means making sure the website you initially launched back in 2000 is accessible by mobile phones, or “mobile-optimized.” There are a number of new and reasonably priced tools to help make your site mobile-optimized. But, before you plunk down any money, check out Google’s “GoMo” site that has a testing tool and resources to help businesses with their websites.
Cost: Free (depending on your site)
3. Make Your Coupons Mobile
Have you ever been in line at a store and watched a clerk refuse to honor a coupon on someone’s phone. Claiming “no, you need to print that before I can accept it” just sets the consumer off even more.
Don’t be that business. The days of clipping coupons has come and gone. Now, most consumers would simply prefer to open an email or webpage with your coupon, flash it to you on their smart phone and get the discount. Make it clear that showing the coupon on your phone is sufficient and consumers will thank you for being mobile-friendly. Plus, you’ll avoid an awkward confrontation with your store clerks.
Cost: Free (other than the cost of your coupons)
4. Monitor Your Reviews
Did you know that 81 percent of consumers say they read reviews before making a purchase and 51 percent of consumers say they’ve used the Internet IN SHOPS before making a purchase? If you have a bevy of negative reviews or poor feedback, that consumer may decide to shop, eat, drink or pay somewhere else.
The first step to keep tabs on your reviews is to set a Google Alert for the name of your business. Watch for any reviews, postings or other news that you might need to address. Then, find out the review-focused sites people use regularly to review your business, like Google Places, Yelp, and Angie’s List. For a more detailed tracking service, try Reputation.com for Business that monitors and provides real-time alerts for your business.
Cost: Free (for Google Alerts); Starting at $34.99/mo. (for Reputation.com)
5. Talk to Your Customers
Guess what? Consumers want to talk with, and hear from, brands they like. In fact, 43 percent of consumers “like” at least one brand on Facebook and 53 percent of individuals with a Twitter account recommend products or services in their tweets. And, more and more consumers are using social media on the go.
Both Facebook and Twitter are free to setup and utilize – so schedule time daily to engage. Put links to your accounts on your website and in your facility (if you have a physical location) and talk to your customers: respond to questions or concerns, and consider offering deals for fans or followers. The most important lesson? Talk like a human not a brand. Remember, as consumers are out and about, they are talking to you, about you and with you – so be a part of the conversation.
You can manage most of these conversations using the standard Facebook or Twitter platforms. If you want something more advanced, try Hootsuite.com which can help you manage your efforts, schedule messages and track conversations from a single interface.
Cost: Free (Hootsuite provides free basic social media plans)
6. Be Able to Take Money Wherever you Are
Quick, how much cash do you have in your wallet? Enough to buy something over $100? Over $50? Over $20? People are becoming more reliant on credit cards for all of their transactions, so rather than force someone to run to the nearest ATM (and pay the enormous fee for withdrawing from a non-bank ATM), consider taking payment right on your mobile device.
With services like Square or Intuit GoPayment, providing a device that plugs into most smartphones to take a credit card on the spot is actually quite simple. Plus, new technologies are coming along to allow you to pay without needing any hardware at all.
Cost: Free (other than the credit card processing fees)
7. Tried Text Messages?
According to the Pew Foundation, 73 percent of cell phone users utilize the text messaging function on their phones. And, 44 percent of Americans have opted into at least one text messaging marketing campaign. So, why not share deals, information and updates with your customers via text.
To get started, check out Tatango’s Beginner’s Guide to SMS Marketing.
Cost: Varies depending on the SMS Marketing Software partner
This year, with more people expected to be using mobile than ever before, business owners must think about how they can interact with these potential customers. With the simple actions and activities listed above, any business can go mobile to create a positive environment for their customers, leads and partners.
About the Author: Eric Koester is the founder and COO of Zaarly, a mobile, real-time marketplace. Eric is a former securities lawyer who has testified before Congress on matters of startup and small business financing, immigration reform and business taxation. Zaarly provides tools for small-businesses and consumers to transact right from their mobile devices. For more information or to sign-up for mobile alerts, visit www.zaarly.com/business.
Want to be our next guest author? Click here for details…