By Kalin Kassabov, founder and CEO of ProTexting.com.
As someone who's been in the mobile marketing industry for some time, I'm amazed by how quickly this industry is growing. And there are many new ways for small businesses to benefit. While my own specialty is text (or SMS) marketing, that's only one of the ways that businesses of all kinds can use mobile to engage with customers. Best of all, most of these techniques don't require a huge budget or advanced technical knowledge.
Here are a few key tactics for small businesses to benefit from the mobile revolution:
Optimize your website for local search.
A recent study found that as much as 60 percent of searches today are done on mobile devices. That figure will only rise in the coming years. Small businesses need to be especially focused on local search.
Suppose, for example, your business is an Italian restaurant in Boston. A large percentage of your potential customers will be searching on their smartphones or tablets, using terms such as "Italian restaurant Boston." They're also likely to use local terms for neighborhoods, such as "Italian restaurant Back Bay." The same principle holds true for any type of business in any location.
To optimize your site for local search, make sure you're listed under Google My Business with all of your information, such as location, phone number and business hours. Think of local SEO when you create any content for your website. Put in plenty of local search terms (city, region, neighborhood) matched with keywords that people are likely to use when searching for your type of business. This will help you get more business from people on mobile devices.
Accept mobile payments.
You can make things much more convenient for your mobile customers by giving them mobile payment options. There are many services now, such as Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Venmo and others, that make this easy. This is more important for some businesses than others. If you sell products online, it's essential. However, even brick-and-mortar businesses can benefit from this approach by letting people order and pre-pay on their mobile phones. You can also sell gift certificates this way.
If you're selling items or services online, make the buying process as simple and streamlined as possible for mobile users. Certain social sites, such as Pinterest and Instagram, now have "buy" buttons where customers can make purchases without leaving the social site. This hasn't quite caught on yet, but this could very well change. You certainly have nothing to lose by using "buy" buttons where available. Aside from this, make sure customers can easily navigate your shopping cart or get to your order page. Test the process frequently and fix any glitches or hiccups.
Make your social media campaigns mobile-friendly.
The growth of mobile devices and the rise of social media are two trends that are closely related. People using smartphones and other mobile devices are spending a great deal of their time on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. That's why it's essential to cultivate your social media efforts with mobile users in mind.
First of all, give your audience the kind of content they really need and appreciate. One problem I often see with clients is that they simply send out links to offers. Remember, people on social media want to be informed and entertained, not get lots of sales pitches.
Make your content mobile-friendly. This means focusing on shorter content, as people on mobile devices don't want to scroll through lots of pages. Mobile users also favor visual content such as images and videos. Test everything to make sure your images and other content are optimized for mobile.
Mobile is only going to get bigger in the coming years. Every type of business needs to adjust to this reality if they want to stay relevant. Responsive website design that's accessible for PC, as well as for mobile users, is the best approach. However, as mobile devices are overtaking laptops and desktops in usage, you should start thinking about a mobile-first strategy. If you assume that most of your customers are using mobile, you can't go wrong.
Kalin Kassabov is a founder and CEO of ProTexting.com, a fast-growing enterprise level text message suite of services.