Small Business, Big Mobile Tactics

Christine Birkner of the American Marketing Association offers tips for small businesses looking to get started with mobile marketing.

More and more small businesses are tapping into the power of mobile to reach customers on a hyper-local level.

Here are some tips for getting started. If you’re a small-business marketer and you haven’t yet tried mobile marketing, now is the time, experts say. By the end of 2012, there will be 137 million smartphone users and 132 million users accessing the mobile Web, according to Cambridge, Mass.- based Forrester Research Inc. Over the next year, half of small to medium-sized businesses are very or somewhat likely to incorporate mobile elements into their marketing efforts and 72% are expected to increase or maintain mobile spending, according to Borrell Associates Inc., a Williamsburg, Va.- based research firm.

Small businesses that are incorporating mobile into their marketing strategies are, indeed, seeing powerful business results. Sixty-five percent of small-business owners think that mobile is important to their businesses’ current success and 74% believe that it will be important to their future success, according to an October 2012 study by Bank of the West and Harris Interactive. Here are some tips for crafting a mobile strategy for your small business.

Set your marketing goals.

Figure out your marketing objectives before you map out your mobile strategy, says Jennifer Wise, researcher for interactive marketing at Forrester. “You have to be careful with mobile because it’s such a hot channel right now. Make sure you’re not just using a QR code because everyone else is doing it. You want to be strategic and to do that, you should know who your consumer is, how they want to interact with your brand and what type of relationship you want to have with them. Then you can focus on your business objectives, and then the strategy and technology.”

Launch a mobile website.

The first step to going mobile is creating a mobile-friendly website. “We’ve become used to having nice mobile experiences and people expect that now. If you’re searching for a restaurant and you get a desktop site, or you’re on an iPhone and you get a flash website that doesn’t load at all, people just aren’t going to give you the time of day,” says Michaela Morris, director of client services at Punchkick Interactive Inc., a Chicago-based mobile marketing agency. WordPress plug-ins for blogs can automatically detect whether a user is looking at your site on mobile and Google also offers a service, GoMo, with step-by-step guides and other resources for mobilizing your site.

Modify your content.

“If you’re building a mobile website, you need to realize that mobile’s a different medium … and consumers are looking for a different experience, especially when they’re out and about on their smartphone,” says Michael Becker, managing director for North America at the New York-based Mobile Marketing Association. A basic mobile website should include your phone number, address, simple product descriptions and coupons. Check with your Web designer to determine your website’s most popular pages and add them to your mobile site, he suggests.

Adapt the content of your mobile ads as well, says John Jantsch, founder of Kansas City, Mo.-based Duct Tape Marketing, a consultancy for small businesses. “A lot of people want to take the half-page ads they’re doing, shrink them down and call them a mobile ad. Really look at the creative. It needs to be very punchy, [have a] call to action and be very simple.”

Go local.

Make sure that your mobile search listing is optimized so that the wandering customer can look up directions to get to your business, Wise says. “You can send text notifications to someone who is nearby informing them of an in-store deal. You can also use the mobile phone to connect online and offline channels. If someone is at a local bus stop near the store and [your] company has an ad there, [you] can include a QR code with a location relevant message that the person can scan and grow interest in the brand.”

Create pages on local sites that have mobile directories, including Yahoo, Bing and Google+ Local, and consider buying local ads in Google, Jantsch says. “If someone is out driving around and they’re looking for a pingpong table to buy, and they do a search and find that 3.2 miles from them, there’s a store that has a ping-pong table, that’s pretty darn high ROI for a Google AdWords play.”

You also can reach local customers via apps, as the Pickerington, Ohio-based Columbus Sandwich Co. did in 2011, adding its daily specials to the Seven Lunches mobile app, which shows users daily deals. The company’s app listing increased foot traffic and boosted revenues, Wise says.

Get SMS-savvy.

Having a text messaging strategy can be beneficial for some small businesses, especially appointment-based services such as salons, which can send texts notifying customers of openings. “If it’s a Saturday night and you’re a pizza shop, and you have too much pepperoni on hand, you could create a text alert system that says, ‘2-for-1 for a large pepperoni pizza,’ ” Becker says.

Be a good mobile citizen.

Make sure that your customers are opting in to receive your text messages so that the messages are not construed as spam. “It’s like e-mail. You want to work with a vendor that’s going to keep you on the good side of mobile messaging and definitely make it completely opt-in,” Jantsch says.

Integrate mobile into traditional marketing channels.

Put QR codes or mobile calls to action on fliers or coupon mailers, Becker suggests. “Turning traditional media into an interactive channel not only gets the consumer engaged and interacting with you, but it also helps you develop your CRM strategies in your database for future consumer engagement.”


No matter which mobile tactic you use, the most important thing is to get started, experts say. “Your consumer’s walking around with this device everywhere they go. It’s always turned on. They can constantly respond to brand messages and search for your brand. For small businesses, this is a huge benefit,” Wise says. “Marketers who aren’t delivering on that already are [at] risk of losing the customer.”

Becker agrees: “The biggest mistake small businesses make in mobile is they’re not doing it. Your customer is mobile and if you’re not, you’re losing business.”


This article was originally published in the December 31, 2012 issue of Marketing News, the flagship publication of the American Marketing Association. For more information, visit