Do you run a small business?  If so, you know how important the World Wide Web is to your marketing efforts.  Are you reaching out to customers and potential customers through mobile technology?  If not, you are missing out on one of the best opportunities out there right now.  Digital analytics company comScore recently published a study stating that there are over 100 million smartphone users in the United States right now.  On top of that, it is estimated that around 68.6 million people shop on their smartphones.  That is a huge audience of potential buyers.

Despite this tremendous opportunity, only a relatively small percentage of small businesses are taking advantage.  Web.com did a survey of 500 entrepreneurs running small businesses to see what marketing strategies they were utilizing online.  How many had websites optimized for mobile device display?  Just 14%.  Despite that, 69% of those surveyed agreed that mobile marketing is important and will only become more so over the coming years.  There’s a surprisingly large gap there between those who acknowledge the importance of mobile strategies and those who utilize those strategies.  This is especially odd when you consider that 84% of the businesses that have implemented those strategies have reported a boost in their sales.

With such a high incidence of success, you would think more small businesses would jump onboard.  So why aren’t they?  Mobile is an intimidating field to venture into for a lot of entrepreneurs.  It’s well worth it to get started, though.  The benefits are clear, and if your business begins marketing to mobile customers, you will have a real edge over your competitors.

How Does Mobile Marketing Help Small Businesses?

These days, a lot of people want to remain connected to the internet all the time and not just when they are at home.  They want to be able to surf, communicate, and shop while they are out and about.  They bring their phones and tablets with them everywhere so that they can search for information, products, and services while they are on the go.  According to a study by eMarketer, around 88.1% of US internet users will research products online over the coming year.  Around 83.9% will make an online purchase.  When you make your website mobile-friendly, you become visible and accessible to all of these users.  You are reaching out to millions of potential customers who love to research and shop while they are on the go.  This can broaden your reach and boost your profits.

How Do You Get Started?

Now that you know why it is important to reach out to mobile users and how it can benefit your small business, you need to know how to get started.  To begin with, you need a website which will display well on a mobile device.  Why can’t you just use a single standard version and have users load it on their mobile device?  While some sites may load fine on any device, most suffer somewhat because of the smaller screen on a tablet or smartphone.  Large images and videos are problematic, Flash elements are unreliable, and text is often resized and spaced improperly, sometimes rendering it unreadable.

You don’t want that.  You want your website to display cleanly and professionally on all devices.  Otherwise your site is not particularly useful, and may even be off-putting.  You don’t want a site that drives customers away.  That’s why you really need a mobile version of your site.  You will want to test drive it to make sure it displays well and is easy and pleasant to use.

There are other steps you should also take to reach out to mobile users.  Learn to make use of text messaging to communicate with customers.  Offer a contact list which users can join to receive deals, discounts, and other updates.  Try to come up with deals and discounts that will specifically be useful to mobile users if you can.

Also look for ways you can tie the mobile world and the physical world together, if you have a physical store.  Quick Response (QR) codes are incredibly handy, and you can use them for dozens of applications.  Stamp these QR codes onto your physical marketing materials (brochures, advertisements, etc.).  Make sure customers know what the benefit is if they scan a QR code!  Far too often businesses skip this step, and simply stamp a QR code on an advertisement or package without explaining its purpose.  Some users also do not have scanners, so let them know where they can get one.

You can also boost your revenue by putting ads up on mobile websites.  You may find that you make more money from these ads than you do from the ones you put on your standard website.  Why?  The competition level is not nearly as high.  The sooner you try this, the better, as the competition is growing and that particular advantage will not last.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Mobile Marketing

Before you jump into mobile marketing, it is a good idea to know exactly what you’re getting into.  Here are the strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths

Build more personal relationships with your customers.  Communication in both directions is instant; you can reach out to customers no matter where they are and what they’re doing, and they can also reach out to you any time they want to.  This opens up the channels of communication and facilitates sales and improvements.

Expand your reach.  With mobile, you can expand your reach throughout your region and country and even extend your reach around the globe.  Target your marketing campaigns for the best results.

Cost effective.  You can save money with mobile marketing compared to traditional outreach strategies to reach people who are on the go.  Print ads and advertisements on television and the radio are quite expensive.  Mobile also reaches more customers than these other channels.  So the overall value is quite a bit higher.

Go viral.  While going viral is not as easy now as it was in the early days of social media, you can boost your chances by targeting mobile users.  Remember, mobile technology facilitates instant communication.  That doesn’t just mean communication between you and your customers, but also between your customers and those in their social circles like friends and family.  Make it easy for these users to discover and share your products!

Collecting analytic data is easy.  You can use automated software to help you track your campaigns.  Analyzing the data empowers you to figure out what is working and what isn’t, and to utilize your strengths.

Weaknesses

Ads do not always display well.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  The first is that mobile screens are often quite tiny.  The second is that the screen sizes and shapes can vary quite a bit, and that means that there are no standard ad sizes which you can trust to display well on all devices.

Privacy issues.  Mobile technology is a mixed bag here.  On one hand, some customers may be more willing to share information with you, and may even be willing to engage in geolocation-based marketing programs.  On the other hand, some customers are actually more protective of their privacy on their mobile devices than they are on their home computers.  Why?  They feel more personally attached to them.  These customers may not be all that easy to market to.

With these weaknesses, mobile marketing efforts do have some hurdles to overcome, but that is the case with all forms of marketing.  And with many strengths playing to your advantage, it is well worth your time to market to mobile uses.  In fact, because mobile marketing is so cost-effective and provides such a wide reach, it could well represent the future of small business marketing.