“One of the biggest mistakes companies make is they think they need to build their own app,” says Touradj Barman, entrepreneur and social mobile expert, recently from his office in the San Diego region. “Whatever the application is, it needs to have sustainable value,” he says.

“If I owned a restaurant, what I would do first is look at the landscape of mobile applications already available and see what people are using. They may be using Yelp, OpenTable, Levelup and others. Instead of creating my own app, I may just optimize my website for mobile, because that could be a better use of resources and benefit my customers in the long run. It depends on the business and your goals overall,” says Touradj.

Touradj, who lists in his profile, “Celebrated Technologist of Masterful Proportions,” is seeing the trend of localization and that adds value to many applications. It gives the user the ability to find things they need that are nearby. And it gives the developer the ability to target, in a non-obtrusive way.

Clearly, the trend toward mobile and smart phones is growing, and quickly. Smart phones account for more than half of the phones in use today, and most of the apps used are on them, significantly higher than on laptops and desktops.

The future looks bright for many advertisers who are trying to use mobile marketing to distribute their messages. First of all, mobile travels with customers, wherever they are. No coupons are forgotten at home anymore. Messages quickly get responses or non-responses. Targeting is 1 to 1, so customization is much easier to accomplish.

Our sharing circles may be getting smaller, as maybe we only want to share that great moment with five friends, not 500 of them. But that may be better because we’ll only get those messages from people we really want to hear from, not those with a sales pitch to deliver.

What may happen, says Touradj, is that the ads become so relevant that for the most part, we won’t even notice them as ads. They will be integrated into the content, so we will feel that they belong in the message, thus making the impact even stronger than in a separate display ad spot.

I’ve created some tips for marketing with mobile, but please add additional ones as you see fit. These are by no means the only ones.

Seven tips for marketing using mobile:

  1. Research what apps your customers are using now. By looking at what your customers are using, you will have good insight into customer trends, patterns of usage and preferences, by users of your products. You can break down the categories into heavy users, medium and light users of your product/service and see what you learn from that segmentation exercise. Ask them what apps they could not live without. That will be indicative of the needs they consider most critical.
  2. Look at your competitive landscape and see what trends may change mobile in the next six months in your industry.  Your competition is out to get your customers. You need to beat them to the checkout, and by looking ahead, you will be in a better position to anticipate trends rather than react to them. Who, of your competitors is the biggest threat to your survival? Would you consider partnering with them in some areas? Yahoo! Just purchased Tumblr! And that seems to be an acceptable acquisition for the digital environment so far. Is there a trend you want to know more about? Attend an industry trade show and focus on that specific area of business, so you can become more of a resource for your firm.
  3. Consider your sustainable value to customers, if any. What value do you bring to your customers in the long run? Are you just a “cool” company to many, or do you really offer advantages in the marketplace that can be differentiated and that people need? How can you prove your value is lasting? There may not be a clear answer to these questions today, but be prepared to answer them in the future. If there is no sustainable value, perhaps you should re-tool for a better product/service offering.
  4. Mobilize your current website, if feasible. Maybe your current website is not performing as well as it can to potential customers. Maybe they are coming to find out about your company, but the site is difficult to scroll, or even see. There are hard costs involved here, so consider this carefully. (For more specifics on how to do this, read How to Build a Mobile Website on the 60 Second Marketer blog.)
  5. Become familiar with analytics tools. There are free analytics tools, but you need to use them in order for you to know how your campaigns perform. Google Analytics is probably the best known and respected tool for evaluating traffic to your website. Radian6 is also a good tool, I’m told, but the cost to subscribe could become a barrier to smaller firms.
  6. Measure your ROI and compare to your expectations. How many new customers did you sign up last month? How much was your marketing budget? Do the math and determine if you are spending too much, too little, or just making the wrong decisions on your marketing plans. Be willing to be honest with yourself on this measurement. You will not know how every customer came to you unless you ask them.
  7. Revise and repeat the process. You’ve measured your ROI and asked your customers many of the questions above. Now is the time to return to #1 and consider changes to the apps, the competitive landscape, sustainable value and if you are using the right technology tools.

Those are some thoughts on getting started in mobile marketing. What tips and techniques do you use? Share them in the comments section below.

About the Author: Mary Beth McCabe, DBA, is the lead faculty of Marketing for National University, the second largest private non-profit university in California. She is starting a new program called, Mobile Marketing and Social Media, which is an area of concentration in the MBA. She has been active as a marketing consultant for more than three decades.

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