The rise of smart phones, apps and mobile internet access has made the mobile phone a key battleground in the fight for new business and customers' attention.
Although the pace of technological change gives you the chance to try innovative techniques and ideas, there are still opportunities for more traditional kinds of mobile marketing, like text message campaigns.
One of the main attractions of mobile marketing is that mobile phones are almost always switched on and people usually have them to hand. That means text messages (also called SMS, for 'short messaging service') are usually read.
Mobile internet is growing fast
What's more, the mobile phone has become the first place people turn in all kinds of situations: to check for directions or to look up the price of a product, for example — indeed, to find any information online. Because people use their phones in these ways, your business can benefit hugely from intelligent mobile marketing.
In fact, the majority of people in the UK now access the internet from mobile devices. This means potential customers are going to try and reach your business via their mobile phones whether you like it or not. You really must consider the experience they have.
Mobile marketing improves satisfaction
For small businesses in particular, the mobile phone offers exciting opportunities to improve customer service and satisfaction. Texting and emailing customers on their mobile phones can be part of a better, more personal service. Sending details of promotions and events can boost business.
With the mobile landscape still changing swiftly, don't regard mobile marketing as separate to your other marketing efforts. In particular, it's becoming harder to determine where online marketing ends and mobile marketing begins.
With mobile internet access commonplace, you must consider mobile users whenever you're changing your website or sending a marketing email. (Statistics suggest most emails are now opened on mobile devices, so it's vital your emails are readable on small screens.)
You can't control how or when people use their mobile phones. And as other mobile devices like tablet computers become widely used, the mobile world will only continue to grow.
Using mobile phones to inform your customers
When it comes to mobile marketing, small firms often have an advantage over big brand names because they already have a personal relationship with customers. As a result, contacting them by mobile phone does not appear so intrusive.
Many small businesses can benefit from mobile phone communication. For example, local entertainment businesses such as restaurants can use text and email marketing to advertise special events. And retailers can text details of sales or vouchers timed to catch shoppers in the right place.
Businesses that work by appointment, such as opticians or hair salons, are ideally placed to use text messages or apps to send reminders and to alert customers when it's time to book their next appointment. What's more, they can send special offers and details of last-minute availability.
Mobile marketing targeting
Smart phones offer some interesting targeting opportunities. Most are equipped with location services, which means they can determine their location via GPS.
Your mobile app or website can use this facility to direct customers to their nearest branch, or to display special offers when people are in your neighbourhood.
With the right timing, this sort of targeting is valuable. Contact shoppers when they are on the high street - at the weekend - and you increase the potential for new business. But whatever you do, never send intrusive messages at unsocial hours.
Finally, remember that if you intend to contact customers via text messages or calling their mobile phones, you need permission - just as with all other direct marketing.