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. And although the pace of technological change has given businesses the chance to try innovative techniques and ideas, there are still opportunities for more traditional kinds of mobile marketing, like text marketing 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 SMS (short messaging service) messages are usually read.
What's more, the mobile phone has become the first place many 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. And because people are using their phones in these ways, your business can benefit hugely from intelligent mobile marketing.
In fact, with mobile internet access exploding, potential customers are going to try and reach your business via their mobile phones whether you like it or not. That means you really must consider the experience they have.
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.
If you're more ambitious, you can create your own mobile app. Whatever you do, you need to build a mobile-optimised website so that anyone that searches for your website from their phone can find what they are looking for in an easy-to-read and navigate format. You can also drive customers to website pages by using QR codes in your print advertising.
But with the mobile landscape changing so swiftly, it's important you 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.
As mobile internet access becomes more widespread, you'll have to consider mobile users whenever you're sending a marketing email or changing your website. You can't control how or when people use their mobile phones - and as other mobile devices like tablet computers become more widely used, the mobile world is only going to continue to grow.
When it comes to mobile marketing, small firms often have an advantage over big brand names because they already have a personal relationship with their customers. As a result, contacting them by mobile phone does not appear intrusive.
Many types of small business can benefit from mobile phone communication - for example, local entertainment businesses such as nightclubs and restaurants can use text and email marketing to advertise special events, while 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 phones offer some interesting targeting opportunities. Many of them 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 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.
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