Small Business

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March 02, 2015

Mobile Marketing is 'Next Big Thing' Says Mediacom Boss

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The fundamental differences between mobile marketing automation and web marketing automation must be thoroughly understood by marketers so they can provide a great user experience “across all touchpoints.” This is according to Ben Phillips, Medicom’s head of mobile.

While advertisers have pushed automated content on mobile devices for awhile now, an ambiguous view of how people switch between platforms has marred efforts. A form of mobile automated marketing that “goes beyond” the standard mobile app is set to become more ubiquitous as proximity triggers and push notifications increase in use.  

Phillips emphasizes the idea that mobile is no longer limited to phones, and that brands must take this into consideration. He notes the most successful advertisers are those who have designed creative mobile strategies first and “appreciate how their audience chooses to engage with them and provides the correct response.” In retail, for example, it’s a good idea to connect the experience with CRM, and personalize ads with relevant context rather than pushing random ads to shoppers as they browse aisles.  

The Mediacom boss also notes the role creativity will play in automated mobile marketing, “as many brands start to build 'mobile first' content that is relevant to the consumer regardless of point of engagement. Automated mobile marketing will enable deeper CRM learnings and processes that lead brands to a more personal one-to-one dialogue with their consumers.”

Audience data is essential to craft personalized dialogue with customers, and Phillips predicts “the race this year will be to obtain a persistent tracking identifier for an individual across platforms. By this I don’t just mean mobile and desktop, we need to be able to verify individuals against wearable devices, a smart TV a connected car and internet of things.”

Brands must step up their automated mobile marketing game and fully understand the wide spectrum that is mobile. Medicom is arguably ahead of the game, as the company is working on partnerships similar to its relationship with advertising technology platform Celtra. This means Medicom can create rich media ad units for both desktop and mobile.

“I believe [brands] aren’t doing enough because they aren’t being directed, taught or educated in the right way,” remarked Phillips. “Our industry will begin to consolidate and roll up into digital within the next year. The 'systems' lead thinking approach will win out as it becomes ever more apparent that mobile sits in every marketing and advertising discipline and not as a siloed specialist function.”

The consumer is at the heart of any mobile strategy, so focusing on a well-rounded marketing ploy that includes multiple platform and advertising options is key. Phillips is correct in recommending brands determine how their audience opts to engage them, and to build a mobile marketing strategy from there. The companies that take advantage of this idea are the ones who will figuratively blow competition out of the water in the next few years. 

 

February 23, 2015

6 Ways to Improve Your Mobile Marketing Strategy

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In-app push notifications and geo-targeting messaging platforms may be popular mobile marketing tools, but text message marketing still wins out as the choice advertising vehicle for small businesses. If looking to infuse fresh blood into your text message marketing campaign, check out the following tips: 

 

1) Encourage Customer Interaction

Today’s consumers have come to expect regular engagement, both at home and on the move. Try promoting brand awareness by using text to interact with digital signs. For instance, customers might send texts to a shared short code to receive an immediate, positive experience, such as seeing their name emblazoned on a billboard. Because this strategy doesn’t require downloading apps, it’s a quick and effective means of piquing customer interest. 

 

2) Implement a Multi-Channel Strategy

Today’s brands focus on multi-channel marketing strategies that takes full advantage of how consumers look for and process information. Almost every cell phone currently in use is SMS-capable, and as such all marketing campaigns should feature an SMS call-to-action. For example, an email offer that includes a way for consumers to sign up for mobile coupons is an excellent idea. Using SMS as a way to enter a Facebook competition also works. 

 

3) Keep Content Timely & Relevant

Delivering timely, valuable, and exclusive content to consumers is key in SMS marketing success. Promote existing campaigns, current coupons and discounts, and anything else that’s relevant to the “here and now” and for the “VIP text list” only. 

 

4) Create Actionable Local Advertising Campaigns

Local advertising should include an SMS shared shortcode and keyword that feature special discounts or offers. An ideal way to generate responses and track offline marketing channel effectiveness, this strategy is a much more streamlined, effective option than providing a phone number or a website and waiting for customers to call or click. 

 

5) Offer In-Store Recommendations

Improving consumers’ in-store experiences via easy access to product information, recommendations, and special discounts through SMS is yet another way to enhance your mobile marketing strategy. For example, a specialty store featuring a keyword that when texted provides customers with access to a special coupon, discount, or product recommendation, is an ideal way to attract new customers while satisfying current ones. 

 

6) Take Advantage of Opt-In Loyalty Lists

It’s essential that retailers have mobile opt-in loyalty lists that operate on a national scale as well as in individual store locations. “Even relatively small lists can drive significant sales, because they keep the store top-of-mind with their best customers,” notes Adam Lavine of FunMobility. 

So there you have it: a few tips for streamlining your mobile marketing strategy, with text marketing at the top of the list. 

 

How to Write an Effective Marketing Text Message

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SMS messaging is the only messaging medium with a truly global reach. A text message won’t be junked into a spam folder, and 95% of them are opened and read within minutes of receipt. It’s not hard to see why mobile marketing campaign managers are so fond of SMS messaging. 

When devising a mobile marketing strategy, the inherent properties of a text message amounts to a head start - but only when you’re competing with businesses that lack a mobile strategy. As more and more industries latch on to the potential of SMS it becomes harder to make your message stand out from the crowd. To get started, follow these rules-of-thumb for an effective text marketing campaign:

Know Your Audience

To maximize the response rate for your SMS messaging campaign, first establish who you are targeting and adapt your language and call-to-action accordingly. This might mean dividing your contact list into different demographics and creating a different message for each group. 

Time it Right

Most people have their phone with them at all times. But that doesn’t mean all bets are off when it comes to timing your message. Studies have indicated that mid to late afternoon is the most effective time to send a message. If your business serves multiple time zones, remember to stagger the ‘send’ times  - a surefire way to alienate customers is to wake them up with a special offer at 3am!

Grab Their Attention

Even more than other kinds of marketing, the space limitations imposed on SMS messaging means you need to grab the attention of your audience quickly. Lead with the offer - the ‘thing of value’ - and remember they will see the first few words of your message as a preview before they open the text, so make them count.

Test that Text

This should go without saying, but sending a test message to your own phone - and those of employees and friends - will help you iron out any kinks. You can’t really judge the impact of a text message until you see how it will appear to the recipient. Once your campaign starts, the testing stage isn’t over. Make small adjustments to your message each time you send a new one and you’ll be able to work out which elements of the text are most effective.

 

February 18, 2015

How Do My Customers Use Mobile?

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In order to develop a highly-effective mobile marketing campaign, you must first understand how audiences, specifically your audience, interacts with mobile technology. Ask yourself the following essential questions and gain invaluable insight into consumer mobile habits: 

How Are My Customers Using Mobile? 

Utilize analytics to determine how your target audience is using mobile. Are they using tablets or smartphones? Android or iOS? Are there certain times of day they shop the most, whether in store or online? Which mobile advertising tactic is therefore the best option? Once you discover exactly how your target customer base is using mobile, you can develop a customized marketing strategy to reach them through the most effective channel.  

Who Are My Competitors?

You and your entire team should download competitor apps and learn how they keep their customers engaged. This provides ideas, and otherwise helps you understand what’s working for other players in the space. Once you know what’s working (and what’s not), you’ll be better equipped to devise a plan that eclipses them. 

What is the Cost Per Download? 

Knowing the cost per download (or per customer acquisition) while launching your app is important when it comes to budgeting. Development is just one side of the coin. The financials also have to make sense when devising a proper price point.

Should I Use In-App Advertising? 

Popular apps such as Twitter allow in-app advertising and mobile advertising. This is an effective way to market your app or business to the masses, but it’s important to choose well-known and relevant apps that make sense for your consumer base.  

What About Social Media?

Mobile social media platforms are another efficient, effective marketing option, and one that offers near-immediate access to app downloads and web site conversions. 

Apps versus Mobile Sites?

At this juncture, consumers tend to favor apps over mobile sites, such as social media, email, and news apps. A mobile-friendly website is still a good idea, however, whether or not your company offers an app. 

Location-based Advertising?

If you haven’t jumped on the location-based advertising bandwagon yet, now is the time. With the massive proliferation of mobile phone use, location-based mobile marketing presents a highly-efficient way to attract new customers while keeping current ones engaged. Experiment with geo-fences and iBeacons, and craft marketing interactions with users as they enter or leave stores. Whether it’s sending suggestions, exclusive coupons, information about daily promotions, or anything else relevant to your brand and consumer base, it’s definitely a good idea to try location-based advertising via mobile web and text marketing. 

Do a little research through trial runs before committing to one or several mobile marketing strategies. Without knowing what your customers are after, you’ll be hard-pressed to create a mobile marketing campaign that works. 

 

February 17, 2015

Why Mobile Shopping Apps are Less Popular Than You Think

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Mobile shopping apps may be the latest buzz in the mobile marketing realm, but user behavior presents a different story. Consumers are all about convenience and exceptional customer service, and aren’t finding much help from mobile shopping apps at present. Apple is one company hoping to change that. 

The main reason these apps aren’t popular? Many of them take too long. Simply going to the store to make purchases is still considered the faster, more efficient option by many consumers. Users also believe in-app shopping doesn’t help “get past checkout” any quicker, so again speed is a huge factor.  

Having to “leave the app” to obtain shopping assistance also contributes to mobile shopping apps’ lack of popularity. One in four shoppers are likely to abandon their purchase and the brand entirely when this occurs, because the app is simply too complicated to deal with.

"You would never consider creating a shopping experience where a customer would have to completely leave the showroom floor to get assistance," says John Hibel, director of marketing at Contact Solutions. "That would be a horrible customer experience, and you know it would jeopardize sales. In the same way, you should never consider building a mobile shopping app that forces the customer to leave to app to get assistance."  

The lack of useful discounts and coupons is another mobile shopping app complaint, as 54% of shoppers in a recent survey noted such perks would significantly increase their interest in mobile shopping apps. 

So how to make mobile shopping apps more user-friendly? Apple might have the solution, at least in regards to the payment issue. The tech giant launched Apple Pay in the fall of 2014, and promised a secure, much faster digital platform for purchasing anything and everything, both in-store and online. Supposedly safer than checking out via debit and credit cards, the app is expected to have an “immediate impact” on mobile shopping. 

Consumers do the majority of their mobile shopping in the comfort of their homes, and are hankering for easier, more effective ways of shopping with various personal devices. 

"Mobile commerce is growing rapidly, and there’s an amazing race going on to win customer mindshare in the mobile moments that matter," Hibel notes. "Most consumers have a handful of apps they use frequently, and the rest get used rarely or just sit idle and forgotten. You want to do everything you can to be one of those frequently used, top- of -mind apps. To do that you’ve got to find ways to make your app sticky and get your customers to engage with it regularly."

February 11, 2015

South Africa's Mobile Future

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In Europe and North America, mobile marketing relies on an even-handed mixture of text messaging, mobile-optimized websites, apps, push notifications and targeted advertising. In the U.S., where smartphones comprise 70% of the mobile market and tens of thousands of new apps are launched each month, constant change is the name of the game.  

Not so in South Africa. An estimated 70.6% of the population use feature phones. Devising a mobile marketing campaign capable of reaching the masses requires a heavy reliance on SMS messaging, with less attention paid to the latest digital advertising buzzwords getting American execs in a tizzy. 

The beauty of text message marketing is you don’t have to worry about differentials between operating systems. It doesn’t discriminate by device. Ads necessarily have to follow the same format: concise messages with small images (or none at all). In developing economies like South Africa, mobile marketers must be as cost-sensitive as their audience if they want to synchronize. 

Despite the proliferation of feature phones - which have limited internet capabilities and can’t support apps - voice usage is declining in South Africa as much as everywhere else. Mobility 2014, a study conducted in association with the First National Bank, little more than half the money spent on mobile by Millennials goes towards voice (down from 66% in 2012). Data spend, however, has increased from 17% to 24% - an impressive rate of growth for a country with notoriously expensive data packages. 

Although it’s currently a supporting player, smartphone usage is growing in the region. According to the South African Social Media Landscape 2015 study, YouTube’s South African audience grew by a staggering 53% between 2013 and 2014. This audience will continue to grow as data costs become proportionate to the rest of the world.

Mobile evolution might be moving more slowly in South Africa, but it is moving. A forward-thinking mobile marketing campaign will cover both bases. It will recognize that diverse countries require diverse strategies. For most businesses, SMS messaging will be the fulcrum of a good mobile marketing campaign. 

That’s not to say that a text message marketing campaign in South Africa is a picnic. With 11 official languages and a wide social strata covering everyone from rural farmers to globally successful entrepreneurs (Elon Musk is a Pretoria native), mobile marketing in South Africa demands a wide-ranging approach. Keep one eye on the dominant feature phone and the other on the growing data economy and you won’t go far wrong.

February 10, 2015

5 Mobile Marketing Lovebombs for Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day might be harvest time for the jewelers, florists and chocolatiers of this world, but almost every industry can tweak its marketing strategy to take advantage of the holiday which, after Christmas, sees more spending than any other. 

According to recent research from the National Retail Foundation, Valentine spending will go up 13% from last year, and much of that revenue will come from smartphones and tablets, with mobile coupons and special offers playing a significant role. To give your mobile marketing strategy some heart-shaped oomph this year, try these six ideas to help your audience get engaged in more ways than one!

 

1) ‘Bring a Partner’ Discounts

For Valentine’s-themed mobile coupons, why not offer a 2-for-1 deal? Intuitively suitable for restaurants, spas, hotels, mobile coupons can drive traffic to virtually any type of business.

 

2) Social Media Makeover

In the run up to the big day, overhaul your social media presence to give off a hearts ’n’ flowers vibe. Facebook should be a primarily visual medium, so focus on creating strong images with a lovelorn bent (a themed variation of your logo is a good start). Humor is key, as it makes your posts more shareable, so if you can find a way to poke fun at the holiday whilst invoking its warm center, you’ve hit the Valentine’s mobile marketing jackpot. Whatever you do, social media should be front and center of your mobile marketing strategy.

 

3) Dedicated Microsite 

To reinforce your Valentine’s Day message, create a separate landing page or microsite. Forget about using it as a direct sales channel. Instead, hand it over to your most creative people to showcase their talents. Run a themed competition such as a Saint Valentine quiz with a romantic vacation as the prize. A separate site provides a chance to amplify the themed design elements and show your customers you’re serious about whatever Valentine offers you’re making. Plus, the SEO value of a dedicated holiday site is huge. If it works, use the same tactic for July 4, Thanksgiving and any other national holiday you can make use of.

 

4) Be Ready for ‘the Last Minute-men’

In 2013, Adobe found that spending on gifts steadily increased throughout January and early February, but spiked during the last five days before the 14th. Much like at Christmas, there’s a significant portion of consumers who leave their Valentine’s shopping until the last minute, so pushing last minute mobile coupons and other mobile marketing tactics can really pay off. And with Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday, the ‘last minute’ effect promises to be even greater this year.

 

5) Originality Breeds Attention

Ok, so this applies to all mobile marketing tactics, irrespective of the time of year, but if your strategy has been lacking in originality, Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to try something fresh for Q1. Encourage user engagement by asking them to share love stories, or take a leaf out of Tiffany’s book and try something along the lines of their ‘Concierge of Love’ campaign. If you have the resources to create a Valentine’s app with your original idea, go for it - you can resurrect it every year to maximize your ROI.

Whichever mobile marketing strategy you adopt, be sure to combine your approaches in a creative, engaging fashion. Give your mobile marketing strategy some love this Valentine’s Day and your bottom line will come up smelling of roses.

 

February 09, 2015

Real Estate Tech Opens Market to Small Investors

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It was about one year ago that RealtyShares created a new way for investors to put small sums of money into real estate projects. The company is likened to a “LendingClub for Real Estate,” as it provides a platform for crowdfunding real estate development. They subsequently allow investors to put as little as $5,000 into single and multi-family homes, as well as commercial real estate projects. Project cost ranges from $100,000 to tens of millions. 

If you’re a developer looking for funding, RealtyShares makes the process pretty darn simple, as it offers an easy way to obtain said funding. The company funds between 10 and 20 projects per month, and it takes about four days for each RealtyShares investment to receive funding. Compare that to weeks or months for traditional funding and you’ve got a great way to develop real estate projects. 

RealtyShares eschews banks and big-time investors in favor of collecting larger volume on smaller investments. The total value of properties funded through the site is already more than 70 million, and projects are generally funded about 12 to 24 hours after they’re listed. Additionally, sponsors and borrowers don’t have to worry about managing their investors, as RealtyShares does all the paperwork and payment processing. 

Led by General Catalyst, the company recently raised $1.9 million to make their new offering available to more developers and investors. Additional investors include E*Trade COO Greg Framke and president of Gold Bullion International Savneet Singh. Investors can pool money--as little as $1,000--in equity investments where they own part of the property. This results in quarterly or monthly cash flows from rental income as well as sale profits, though investors may also become property lenders and receive a fixed monthly income. 

The company has pointed out five specific markets with growing tech and real estate sectors that offer the opportunity to invest. These markets include Austin, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, and Miami; RealtyShares hopes to connect borrowers and investors in a more efficient manner.

Such market-specific products allow developers to find funding from local investors interested in developing in their cities. Investors also enjoy the benefit of profiting from “better yields” in markets--ones that have yet to be overdeveloped.

RealtyShares was part of the seventh 500 Startups Accelerator Class, where it received much praise for putting money into projects generating a quick return among other services. 

 

February 08, 2015

Former Ad Tech Exec Investing Millions in Mobile

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Longtime mobile ad exec Nihal Mehta used to focus on ensuring advertisers invested in mobile ad platforms. Now he’s interested in assisting the new generation of mobile businesses. 

Mehta retired from mobile ad tech firm LocalResponse in 2013, now known as Qualia, where he served as CEO. He wanted to focus on mobile startup investment full-time via the firm he co-founded in 2009, Eniac Ventures. The firm raised $55 million to invest in the mobile tech landscape, and is looking to put the money into early-stage mobile startups. Mehta noted his firm is especially interested in companies who have not yet “raised a funding round,” are still in product development, and probably haven’t generated revenue. 

The areas that piqued the interest of Mehta and crew in regards to mobile startups include connected devices, personal utility, app development tools, messaging and communications, enterprise, marketplaces, and commerce. Mobile ad tech that “spans several categories” will also be high on the firm’s to-do list according to Mehta, who pointed out the increase of free ad-supported mobile apps such as Snapchat and Instagram, neither of which run standard display ads.

"The next big wave of mobile ad tech companies will be bigger than we've ever seen because they're going to be forced to deal with a supply of new inventory. It doesn't live anymore in banner ads; it lives in messaging, communications, interstitials, natively," Mehta remarked recently. He sold his mobile-marketing firm ipsh! to Omnicom in 2005.

Eniac Ventures was co-founded in 2009 with three fellow University of Pennsylvania graduates. It has stakes in Airbnb, Circa and SoundCloud, and also invested in several ad tech companies, including Mehta's former company Qualia, as well as Adtrib, mParticle, and Localytics.

As of now the company has made eight investments, including in password replacement tool LaunchKey, on-demand parking service Luxe Valet, and social commerce company Strut. Mehta and the Eniac Ventures team want to invest in at least 15 more companies by the year’s end. 

Eniac Ventures plans to initially invest $500,000 in each of the 35 startups, which equals more than the $250,000 per company. Mehta noted Eniac Ventures is setting aside two-thirds of the $55 million fund as “follow-up money”, which he plans to reinvest in the companies as they grow and become successful.

The follow-up money is essential because "in today's market you can get money from anybody," said Mehta.  "Funds that can't follow can create a negative signal to the marketplace. And oftentimes entrepreneurs want to know they're getting in bed with somebody who can support them all the way.” 

Companies Eniac Ventures invested in and have subsequently been acquired include Mobile ad-targeting specialist Metaresolver, which was sold to mobile ad-tech company Millennial Media in 2013. Ad-tech firm Beanstock Media bought mobile publishing technology company Onswipe in 2014, while Twitter acquired mobile retargeting firm TapCommerce the same year. 

 

February 05, 2015

Twitter Buys Indian Mobile Marketing Startup

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If you’re a mobile marketer, your marketing message might just be the next big thing in India, all thanks to a microblogging site’s ambitious investment abroad. Last week, Twitter purchased a startup corporation in India, called Zipdial.  

Indicative of the current ubiquitous nature of mobile phones and the decrease in their manufacturing costs, India has grown to one of the largest users of mobile phones worldwide. But the country has yet to get fully connected to the internet via mobile technology. Many people still use the mobile internet on a pay-per-site basis, with fewer than 40% of the populace having any kind of mobile internet access.

Zipdial, however, has revolutionized advertising for the burgeoning economy of the developing country. The startup allows its users to call a business’ phone number, then simply hang up. The business then registers the incoming phone number and responds with free text messages, app notifications, and even voice calls with advertisements.

This method of advertising has been dubbed “missed call” marketing. It allows users of Zipdial to receive advertisements from businesses they are interested in without having an internet connection. And best of all, there is no mobile cost to the consumer for receiving these ads. It's an effective way in, providing solutions in places many mobile marketing campaigns cannot reach.

So why is Twitter so interested in India? Because it is now one of the most rapidly growing mobile markets in the world. As cited last week in a Mobile Marketing Watch article, the Internet & Mobile Association of India and IMRB International report that the mobile internet industry of India has had unprecedented growth in 2014 – and 2015 is on par to surpass even that. Mobile internet growth increased over 25% in all of 2014, and is forecasted to grow another 23% in just the first half of 2015. Also reported in the article, rural use of mobile phones in India is expected to grow another 18%.

Zipdial boasts that its campaigns have reached nearly 60 million users, and the company is run by just over 50 employees. Mobile journalists have predicted that this technology will be effective in other countries as well, like Brazil and Indonesia. And according to reporters, these markets are key for Twitter, as 77% of Twitter’s monthly active users hail from outside the United States.

Twitter did not disclose how much they paid for the firm. But this purchase certainly exemplifies the notion that mobile technology and text marketing are proliferating immensely throughout the developing world.