As a small business owner, you should always find a way to make your business easier to be found by customers. One of the best ways to do it is via a mobile app developed specifically for your small biz.
Sure, brochures, flyers, and swags still work out pretty well, but they are somewhat losing their effectiveness. Why? Because the trends say that you need to deliver your messages in the most convenient ways for your customers and prospects.
Having a website is a must. If you still don’t a website and/or a blog to support your small business, you are losing out potential customers. Having a Facebook fan page or Pinterest business page is proven to be a great way to drive interest – and sale – to your small business. But this blog post is not talking about why you should have a business website or social media account (because you should have done so!) – this blog post is talking about mobile apps – why your small biz need it and how to build it.
Why mobile apps?
Websites are great; social media pages are cool; but with mobile apps, you can deliver much more for your target market.
It’s still a young industry, and the market is receptive toward businesses offering real value via their mobile apps. You need to devise a mobile strategy and here are some reasons for you to do so:
1. Mobile device user base is HUGE
As of 2011, there are 6 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. Plus, there were 1.7 billion mobile phones sold in 2012, which 700 millions of them are smartphones. The figures are growing steadily (source: http://mobithinking.com/mobile-marketing-tools/latest-mobile-stats/)
To say the least, the world has been taken over by mobile devices. You can reach your potential customers via their devices using apps – wherever they are, whenever you want.
2. Your potential customers spend more time on apps – they are more engaged, too!
Mobile device owners spend more time on apps than on websites (mobile and desktop.) In term of brand marketing and lead generation, more time equals more opportunity.
Check out this infographic to learn more about mobile apps vs. mobile website…
3. Reach your customers via offers – delivered right to their devices!
You can engage your customers via app; and if you build your app right, you can funnel your app users into buying your products or services via in-app purchase features.
Want to launch new products? Just send a push notification to your app users (the one with sound and short message popping out on your mobile device.) More potential engagement, at your finger tips – literally.
Okay – I’m convinced: But how to build one?
Now this is a tricky question. The more precise question should be “how much are you willing to pay for a mobile app?”
It’s easy to build a mobile app – without touching any codes yourself; the differences would be on the functionality of the app, and available services to get your app to the market – and, again, how much you have in the budget.
You can go for thousands-of-dollar app development or even free. To help you decide, here are 3 options you have:
1. Hire a freelancer
As most small businesses are bootstrapping, I wouldn’t recommend you to go for a $10,000-app. Instead, you can spend way lesser than that by outsourcing the app development to freelancers – try Freelancer.com or oDesk.
If you are cash-strapped, you can always go to Fiverr. For $5, you can have a mobile app created for your small business. No joke. Browse the services here.
I’ve heard some great stories on how an app becomes successful on AppStore and Google Play Store thanks to outsourcing. You can build an app that is worthy to compete head to head with those of big companies – at a fraction of cost; cool?
2. Build your own mobile app
Unless you are an app developer yourself, building an app is definitely not a walk in the park. Or is it?
Due to the mobile trends today, there are more do-it-yourself mobile app building tools than ever available on the market. A year ago I tried to look for one and it’s not that easy, you know. Today, the choices are abundant!
I was with Conduit Mobile (note: I’m not affiliated with them) – It’s free for a limited functionality, but for an affordable $39/month, you can get more functionality and you can get help for your app to be listed on major app marketplaces, like Apple’s AppStore and Google Play.
If you want to explore deeper about the options, I recommend you to read this article from Entrepreneur.com.
3. Partner with an app developer
Partnership is the backbone of business – it allows us to cross-promote and bring more value on the table without involving any monetary value. In term of app building, you can partner with a local app developer to develop one for you in exchange for a visibility on the app (e.g. “This app is developed by…” or a page dedicated to the app developer.)
As you can see, building a mobile app for your small biz is not that difficult after all. But before you decide on anything, I would like to remind you that going mobile for the sake of going mobile is not a good strategy.
“Why? Everybody does it!” is not a good reason to go mobile; you need more than just a trend follower – or else, you will end up as, well, a trend follower. You need a solid reason; you need a strategy.
You need to know what kind of information and tools you will give to your potential customers. Are you going to offer them information only? Are you going to offer a special promo code for app user only? Are you going to actually offer a tool to help your app user achieve what they need (like Trulia’s real estate app)? Even better, are you going to launch a game with your branding (like this Oreo games)?
Once you have devised a proper plan, then you can start building your app. Only then you will start seeing results of your mobile app investment.
Well, how about you? Do you have a mobile app for your small business? Please share your experience in developing and marketing one.