10 Mobile Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices to connect to businesses of all shapes and sizes. From optimizing your website to capturing holiday sales on mobile devices, these tips will help improve your mobile marketing strategy.

Consumers today are moving to mobile at a rate that shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, according to Strategy Analytics, the number of smartphones in use around the world topped 1 billion in 2012. As more people use mobile to connect with your business, it leaves you no choice but to bolster efforts to market to these mobile consumers on the devices they use.

For many small businesses, it's difficult to keep up with constantly changing technology and the many different mobile devices in the marketplace, as each device and mobile operating system has its own unique features to consider. To find out what mobile marketing tips are trending, CIO.com spoke with leading mobile marketing vendors and experts to come up with this list of 10 top mobile marketing tactics.

1. Assess Your Readiness for Mobile Marketing

Mobile Applications

Before you invest in mobile marketing, Mark Strecker, president and chief operating officer at mobile advertising firm Amobee, says you need to ask, "Are you ready for mobile?" There's no sense in driving consumers to your mobile brand — whether it's your website or a mobile app — if you don't create a great mobile experience for the consumer. "You need to know what you want from mobile and decide what your objectives are for mobile marketing campaigns, including the key results you want to achieve," he adds.

2. Launch a Mobile-friendly Version of Your Website

"Mobile Web surfers are a demanding bunch. If they visit your website and it's not optimized for both the device they're using and the different ways [that] mobile users behave, they will get frustrated and leave," says Ken Barber, vice president of marketing at mShopper.com.

Tips: How and When to Build a Mobile Website

"Your new mobile site should be built to keep up with constantly changing mobile technology (phones and tablets), be designed for a hurried and distracted user, limit the amount of data entry required and also have very fast page load times," he says. Incorporating sign-up forms to receive text messages is a very effective way to communicate with on-the-go visitors, too.

3. Use Responsive Design for All Pages Great and Small

One current mobile marketing trend involves the concept of responsive design, which automatically adjust the layout and content of a webpage depending on the type of device and size of screen. Jeff Shearer, marketing manager for Egencia, the business travel company of Expedia, says responsive design lets you build your marketing content in a way that will display great for all users, regardless of which devices they're using.

Related: 7 Tools to Build Websites Using Responsive Design

"Responsive design absolutely essential for Web design today, and may even end up saving time for marketers, as you're able to cater to a mobile audience without building a completely separate mobile website or app," he says.

4. Target New Device Owners for Holiday Marketing

Strecker recommends that you take advantage of the tremendous number of new devices in the market after the holiday season. "Targeting new Google Play or iOS registrations to specifically reach new device owners is effective. We've worked with many brands that feature messaging targeted directly to the new device owner," he says.

Such offers can include a free app download for a new iPhone, holiday deals for your new smartphone or 20 percent off the first purchase made using a new iPad. As a general holiday marketing rule, Strecker recommends you give audiences a sense of urgency and include a time-limited offer.

5. Keep Your Mobile Site Simple, Easy to Navigate

Mobile users are best targeted with simple apps and calls to action that are easy to navigate. "If your mobile marketing efforts direct users to an app, keep the app simple," says Matthew David, chief digital strategist of Compuware's Mobile Solutions Group, adding that the most functional apps, such as Instagram, are task-driven and straightforward. "Not only can simple apps be built quicker, they are easier to navigate … [and] load faster. If your content takes more than three seconds to download, you increase the risk of losing your potential customer."

Strecker reminds mobile marketers to make sure creative assets are mobile-friendly. "A few simple additions can engage users," he says. "Always include mobile-friendly calls to action, such as 'Tap to Explore' and 'Download Now.' If the call to action is 'Tap to Download,' include the Apple Store icon or Google Play icon in the mobile ad."

6. Be (Extra) Smart With Text Message Marketing

Text Message Marketing

Barber says any text message sent to a mobile shopper must offer something worthy of the very personal interruption. Research by mShopper.com shows that mobile subscribers respond best to specials that are limited-quantity (Only 10 left!) or limited-time (48 hours only!), as well as those that offer exclusive information (We've just launched a new product!) and helpful tips about how to use a product (Watch this helpful video).

How-to: Increase Sales With SMS Text Messaging

Be "very careful" with the frequency of your text messages, Barber adds. Start by sending twice a month; monitor click-through and unsubscribe rates to decide if you should increase to weekly. Smart mobile marketers provide a sign-up category called Weekly or Daily Specials, which allows the consumer to decide how often they want to get contacted. Lastly, don't be afraid to survey mobile subscribers periodically and ask what they'd like to receive, he says. "You'll be surprised how forthcoming they will be with feedback."

7. Take Advantage of Mobile Social Media

Don't discount social media in your mobile marketing strategy, says Compuware's David. "Today, more than two-thirds of Facebook users access the service via mobile at least some of the time, and more than one in six people exclusively use mobile phones to access Facebook." Boost your mobile marketing strategy by complementing it with the real-time aspect of social media, he says.

8. Don't Silo Mobile Marketing

Identify the client's underlying business goals as they relate to mobile, as opposed to solely focusing on their mobile goals, Amobee's Strecker says. "Mobile needs to be a meaningful part of a brand's marketing strategy, not just a series of campaigns."

Case Study: How Starbucks Brews Its Mobile Strategy

Understand mobile's place. It's important to understand where in the mobile funnel a brand sits — and where it eventually wants to be. "Brands need to continue to build awareness and differentiation amongst competitors while driving direct sales activities across devices," he says.

9. Optimize From the Ground Up; Make It Live Off the Device

Mobile isn't an extension of desktop, Strecker says; your mobile campaigns must be created from the ground up to optimize for mobile to be most effective. From creative to targeting to measurement, mobile campaigns need to take full advantage of the medium to get the best results. If executed correctly, targeted mobile advertising provides brands with the ability to measure precise brand engagements, behavioral analytics and app rank.

Make your mobile strategy live off of the device, too. Doing mobile is more than just delivering ads on another screen — it's a medium and tool for interaction that has the ability to take and share pictures, scan QR codes, augment reality, track location and even listen to music and television. Strecker says a brand can be the gateway for all these types of interactions.

10. To Succeed, You Must Test, Test and Test Some More

Egencia's Shearer says it's best that you constantly test, because the content, design and functionality that works great for desktop visitors may not always be as effective for visitors on tablets or smartphones.

Product News: Xamarin Hopes to Simplify Mobile App Testing with New Service

"You need to create an excellent experience for these users, often on the go, looking for succinct information that's quickly and easily digestible on a smaller screen," he says. "Test different versions of your webpages to determine if a different color palette, headline or call to action works better for mobile users."

When testing, it's important to isolate one variable to test at a time. Your tests could include the color palette, the words in your headline, the placement of your forms or different images. "Big changes to the design and content of your pages can be beneficial to attracting and converting mobile users, but you may also find that the smaller, simple tweaks to your pages can have a big effect as well," Shearer says.

Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal has been covering small business, electronic commerce and Internet technology for more than a decade. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

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