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Going Mobile Is Critical for Success

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John S. Rizzo and V. Michael Santoro are managing partners with the Internet technology company Globe On-Demand, LLC. This article is derived from their new book, Niche Dominance: Creating Order Out of Your Digital Marketing Chaos. To learn more: NicheDominance.com.

It’s no secret that the mobile revolution is truly upon us, both as consumers and as business owners. Mobile phones are increasing in usage and capabilities. Major brands have already begun to experience a huge ROI by engaging with consumers via mobile devices. And the top Web companies continue to inform us of changing behavior.

  • According to Google (which actually describes itself as a mobile company, not as a search engine), mobile searches have grown 400 percent over the last year; one in three mobile searches are for a local business.
  • According to Facebook, more than 350 million active users, over one third of its total user base, currently access Facebook through their mobile devices.
  • According to Yelp, its mobile application accounted for approximately 40 percent of all searches on its platform.

Even though businesses realize that mobile marketing can add to their bottom lines, they face a challenge in grasping how to integrate mobile strategies into their business models.

The first step is understanding what mobile marketing is in a broad sense. The Mobile Marketing Association, a nonprofit organization and industry leader, describes mobile marketing as a “set of practices that enable organizations to communicate and engage with their audience in an interactive and relevant manner through any mobile device or network.”

In other words, mobile connects the dots across all marketing mediums by allowing businesses and people to interact with each other through their mobile phones and tablets. By developing a proactive mobile strategy you can reduce your overall costs and increase business with prospective and current customers.

The benefits include:

  • effective communication with your current customers in real time through their cell phones and other devices they keep constantly within arm’s reach
  • constant access to customers (often 24/7) for your impulse-driven campaigns
  • good relationships built by offering valuable information and discounts and specials for mobile customers only
  • a low-cost system for acquiring leads and for distribution
  • a list of mobile buyers that will add value to the worth of your business if you wish to sell it

The challenges include:

  • providing a seamless mobile experience from your current Web site so that consumers don’t get frustrated with your business
  • keeping your customer list current by ensuring that new customer numbers are routinely acquired and regularly added to your system
  • planning to schedule distribution of messages
  • avoiding shutdown of your distribution account because you sent text messages to customers without opt-in permission
  • legal issues

Making Your Site Thumb-Friendly

The images below show the way a traditional Web site displays on a mobile phone and the way a mobile-friendly site displays.

Traditional Web sites generally make it difficult, if not impossible, for mobile users to take action. If that’s the kind of site you have, then you are losing money, and if you are paying to advertise your business online and paying for clicks, the loss is more painful.

Take a moment and apply the mobile statistics mentioned above to your own business. Use them to calculate your loss if you are investing in a PPC advertising campaign and/or an SEO campaign to rank your Web site on Page One and mobile users cannot take action. Making your site mobile-friendly will increase your conversions even if you do nothing in addition.

To see how your current site looks on a smartphone, and get a free report with personalized recommendations about how your business can build a more mobile-friendly experience, use the Google tool (howtogomo.com). Then read on for more guidance.

Site Specifics

A mobile-ready Web site requires specific information and features and must load quickly. This is because users’ behavior is different when they’re using a mobile device. Mobile users are on the go and are looking to take action, not to conduct research the way they would if they were using a computer. Also, many mobile users do not subscribe to unlimited data plans and their mobile networks are not as fast as an Internet connection, which means that a mobile-ready Web site should not contain the graphics and content that a traditional Web site usually provides.

A mobile Web site must be structured to display properly on a mobile phone and provide call-to-action kinds of information and functionality. These include:

  • contact information
  • the location of your business (Google Maps needs to display the correct address)
  • a tap-to-call feature that doesn’t require dialing
  • instant access to a coupon or specials
  • a list of services and/or products that you offer

Moving to Mobile-Ready

Having your current Web site redesigned to be mobile-ready can be expensive. If you decide to invest in this approach, ensure that the redesigned site incorporates the click-to-call feature and all the functionality listed above.

Other options are worth exploring, and we advise discussing them with your digital marketing staff or consultant to see which one is best for your business.

One option involves third-party hosted solutions, which let you design a mobile-ready Web site online. If you choose this one, make sure the vendor you select provides you with browser detection code for your current Web site, because this code is what monitors your traffic and acts like a traffic cop.

When you use third-party hosting with browser detection code, Internet traffic will continue to go to your Web site, and traffic from a mobile network will automatically be relayed from there to your mobile-ready Web site. Avoid using a button on your current Web site that requires a manual click to access your mobile Web site, because mobile users may not be able to see the button and you may lose them.

One caution: Using third-party hosting for your mobile site means that you do not own that site or control it.

Another option involves incorporating an integrated mobile solution in your own domain in one of two ways.

The first way is to have a subdomain created on your current Web site and install a mobile-ready blog. For example, if your domain is www.MyWebsite.com, then your mobile site would be m.MyWebsite.com, and the browser detection code would be installed on your Web site as described above.

The second way is to register a .mobi domain name instead of installing the mobile Web site on your current site. It functions the same way but on a separate domain that you own.

Both solutions work well at this writing, and there are arguments for and against both. Some people question spending the money on a .mobi domain [$12–$14 a year], but we recommend investing in it and using it in conjunction with your current site for two primary reasons:

First, it is wise to register all your major business domain names (.com, .net, .org, .mobi). This protects your business and brand. If you don’t register them, nothing prevents a competitor from registering one or more to compete with you on Page One. Imagine building your brand to the point that people are searching for your business and having a competitor steal some of those potential customers because the competitor registered one of your available domain names.

Second, if you build a standard WordPress-based mobile site on a .mobi domain today, you will be able to expand that site as the technology changes to keep it current and competitive while preserving the integrity of your current .com Web site. And the browser detection code will continue to automatically forward the traffic from your current .com site. This approach allows you to transition over time instead of forcing you to build an entirely new site in the future because your current Web site can no longer support your business.

Once you have a mobile Web site, you can build customer loyalty with a mobile texting campaign, and you can offer a mobile app or apps. These capabilities should be incorporated along with the capability of building an email customer list. They are important tools for reselling to your current customers.

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