For small business owners, this is the year of mobile marketing. Hundreds of thousands of consumers are using mobile applications to shape, inform or comment upon spending decisions, real time. They’re turning to user reviews, providing instant feedback on services and promoting brands in a manner that’s quickly compelling business owners to adapt and get in the game.
Nearly 92 million consumers are now using mobile Internet, according to Nielsen. The numbers and trends speak to the mainstream appeal of mobile technology and the increasing influence of consumer reviews and social networking on product purchases. For some small business owners, the challenge is finding the most effective way to connect with, incentivize and convert prospective and current consumers.
Enticement and Exclusivity
Whether it’s through Yelp, Foursquare or other services, check-ins represent a unique opportunity for business owners. Create a special offer, a unique discount or some other promotion for consumers who check in. Businesses are already seeing stronger conversions and greater affinity with the promise of free or discounted products. Consumers love to feel like part of the cool, insider’s club. They also love to contact businesses that cast a compelling net. A check-in offer can prove the tipping point that pushes tech-savvy shoppers to give you a try.
Embrace the Interactive
There are varying schools of thought on this, but business owners shouldn’t be afraid to ask customers for reviews. This isn’t anything new—think about how many business cards you’ve dropped in fish bowls after filling out a restaurant review with a golf pencil. The same tenets can apply today.
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But the communication sphere is now a two-way street, which demands that entrepreneurs reply to reviews and interact directly with consumers. You can send notifications and alerts with updates on new products and services, discounts and other important consumer-focused news. Also, make sure you’re taking steps to manage your online reputation through social media monitoring and Google alerts.
Small business owners on Yelp can glean a ton of great data, from how many people viewed their business page or checked in to how many people called or generated directions. From this data, you can cobble together patterns and input to inform your local search marketing strategies.
Get Beyond Your Site
Consumers are searching for information about businesses outside the confines of singular applications. It’s important to remember that millions of mobile Web users simply fire up a search engine or head to social hubs like Facebook, YouTube, Google Places and Twitter. Business owners need mobile solutions to ensure they have a solid presence (and a path for interactivity) in each of those major hubs. Relying solely on your website is no longer enough. Neither is just a couple of static photos and a thin About Us page. Quality content breeds credibility and conversions.
Earn the Love
This isn’t a new idea, but it’s one that is easy to forget in an age of iPhones, push notifications and social media “Likes.” Businesses that are committed to making customer service a cornerstone are best positioned to garner positive reviews and legions of fans. It’s much easier to stretch a mobile marketing campaign around a solid base of expertise and expert service than to hope bells and whistles can overcome shoddy customer cultivation.
Chris Birk is director of content and communications for VA Mortgage Center.com, the nation's No. 1 dedicated VA lender. A recovering journalist, he also teaches at a private Midwestern university. Follow him @cjbirk.