Mobile technology, an opportunity for small businesses
April 13, 2012
By Linda Diachendt (from SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine)
Mobile technology; when you think of it, you likely think of all the things you can do with today’s smartphones and tablet devices. Perhaps you’re an avid social media user from your cell phone, or you use it to find directions to restaurants, or download coupons that the grocery cashier can scan, or use it to make price comparisons and get product reviews on potential purchases while shopping; all extremely useful – and all benefits from a consumer viewpoint.
But what if you’re a business owner? How can mobile technologies (and I do mean technologies – plural; more about this later) benefit businesses, particularly small businesses. The answer may surprise you.
During the last two to three years you’ve likely heard and read a lot about the benefits provided by Mobile Marketing. And it’s true, it’s an excellent option – particularly for small businesses that are typically trying to maximize the ROI of every dollar they spend. It’s an exceptional channel for marketing because:
- it achieves average response rates of 12 – 15 percent (many verticals achieve response rates as high as 60+ percent) vs. two to three percent for most traditional marketing channels.
- 84 percent of cell phone users have their devices within 10 feet of them at all times, which means they’re always accessible.
- 97 percent of people who receive a text message review them within 15 minutes of receipt, which means it’s highly likely they’ll see your marketing message
- it’s a low-cost, high-impact marketing channel.
But there are many other less obvious business uses for the wide variety of mobile technologies as well; technologies such as Bluetooth, GPS, RFID, QR codes, mobile apps, mobile websites and more.
Sales and customer service is a use of mobile technology that businesses are just beginning to explore as a way to increase functionality for consumers, as well as increasing staff performance levels and company productivity. Examples include:
- Mobile Ordering/Payments – enable customers to order and pay for products or services via cell phone with a mobile website or app – you don’t even have to involve a staff member!
- Client Management – utilize cloud-computing technology to enable staff to access company records from wherever they are via mobile devices.
- Showcase Products/Services – use video technology on a mobile device to help sales staff more effectively communicate the benefits of your product or service.
- News/Updates – important, time-sensitive customer updates can be sent directly to opted-in clients using SMS (text) messaging; send updates about product launches, product updates or upcoming events.
- Emergency Notification – SMS (text) messaging is a great way to notify employees or customers during an emergency. Send critical updates during natural disasters, last-minute event location changes or cancellations caused by weather.
- Customer Service – offer customer support and problem resolution via text; also enable customers to check order status, confirm appointments or reservations, change reservations and track packages via apps or mobile websites.
- Customer Payments – use mobile technology to allow field staff to take customer payments via mobile; get immediate payment and protect customer’s credit card information, risk-free!
- Lead Generation – offer value in exchange for signing up to your ‘opt-in’ list; provide prospects a link to a white-paper, a special discount, a video, or other standard B2B strategic tools in exchange for ‘opting-in’. Use mobile to gather additional info about prospects as part of the ‘opt-in’ process to enable effective targeting during future mobile campaigns.
- Trade Shows – use mobile at trade shows to exchange information with prospects; allow them to enter contests, request and receive company info, or see a product/service video. Send text alerts to event attendees about your next presentation so they’ll have time to get there before it starts!
Utilize QR codes or RFID mobile technologies to track warehouse inventory and enable automatic updates as stock levels change:
- Preserve Revenue – keep shelves stocked and replenish items quickly.
- Assure Product Quality – quickly find and remove expired products from circulation.
Fleet Tracking / Staff Dispatch Management
- Employee Assignments – dispatch employees to their next customer location via text; provide location info (and a link to a map), customer details, and work-order information.
- Track Company Vehicle/Staff Locations – utilize GPS technology to track the location of company vehicles and personnel.
- Decrease Staff Response Times – enable staff to respond more quickly to customer locations thru utilization of GPS mapping technologies.
There are many more business uses of mobile technology and ways it can be utilized in a wide variety of verticals including: healthcare, manufacturing, education, travel, transportation management, utilities, and more. The bottom line? Mobile technologies are advancing rapidly and changing the way we do business, therefore, it’s in your small business’s best interest to explore how mobile can be employed to increase productivity and profitability for your company!
Linda Diachendt is the Executive Director of the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan, a Co-founder of Mobile Monday Michigan, a Co-host/Co-producer of the international mobile marketing podcast series, ‘The Mobile Marketing Review’, and one of Michigan’s leading proponents of the use of mobile technologies and mobile marketing for businesses of all sizes. She is a recognized business expert with 20+ years of corporate, small business and franchising experience, and an accomplished marketer and award-winning blogger on the use of new media in growing a business. Reach Linda via email at Linda@GoMobileMichigan.org, via the website at http://GoMobileMichigan.org or via Twitter at http://twitter.com/GoMobileMI.