Dear Small Business Owner:
If you haven’t noticed, competition is fierce. It’s not your fault that you are a small business struggling to grow. After all, you work hard in your business every day. Long hours, tight margins and simply not enough customers make for sleepless nights. It’s a typical small business dilemma. It’s not your fault. The downturn in the economy in 2008 is still affecting most parts of the country, even though the government tells us we have been Recovery Mode for more than four years. It’s not your fault not everyone has recovered. The consumer didn’t get any bailout. It’s not your fault that people have less money to spend.
What is in Your Control is Another Matter.
With most consumers using local search to locate and access the goods and services they need, you have to adjust your marketing, or else your business will go the way of the dinosaur. If you haven’t kept up with technology and commercialization, it is almost a guarantee that your business will suffer and die.
Another economic change is the consumer demographics. The population worldwide is growing. The average user is younger than the typical buyer, and many have grown up in this digital age. Baby Boomers have been the drivers of the economy for what seems like forever, but they are either retired or heading for retirement. This aging consumer has fewer needs, controls their income for retirement, and as youth replaces the aged, the market is shifting. This new consumer is Internet savvy, relies almost exclusively on their mobile devices, and seeks instant gratification. This sway in where money is input into the economy makes things that more difficult.
More Bad News
Another thing that falls outside of your control is the rise in competition. Since the Great Recession hit, most large companies shrunk their workforces, making money tight for expenditures in general for a huge segment of the population. Many of the unemployed went into business for themselves as a means to “control their destinies,” just to keep some money coming into the household. This rise in competition has created new technologies and shifts in buyer habits. Traditional marketing was all about pushing marketing messages out to the consumer, which has now reversed course. The consumer is now in charge of the buying cycle. They search the Internet for information, reviews and location for the best products, customer friendly service, and convenient access. They determine when and with whom they will share their money. Local search is what is happening now.
A Digital World
The Internet is 25 years old, and the number one factor in Internet technology is the notion of CHANGE. Marketing has been turned completely on its head, so all of the old rules and techniques are out. Marketing Strategy is IN!
The digital landscape has changed tremendously, as the Internet is the way the vast majority of consumers are now researching, reviewing and searching for local providers to satisfy their needs. Since the rise in Smartphone usage, the search function (which used to come from desktop computers) is now being conducted from anywhere and everywhere the busy consumer is at the moment of the buying decision. They’re also performing these search functions on their mobile devices. They’re watching videos and listening to music and audio programming on their Smartphones. It has become an appendage. Nearly 100% of Smartphone users have them turned on and with them 24/7, or at least at arm’s reach. When they want something, they use their mobile device and perform a search.
Smartphones outnumber people on the planet; 8 Billion phones vs. 7 Billion people. Consider the massive use of tablets, laptops and other viewing devices like eReaders, and mobile search has overtaken desktop search 18 months earlier than predicted. With all of this advancement, search engines like Google are regularly changing the search rules and driving more searches based on location. Local marketing is the latest push by the consumers AND the Internet gods.
Google + Local
Google, which controls about 94% of Internet search has made it very easy for customers to find local businesses to locate and access. It’s all about supporting local businesses, and Google is here to help. Huge international corporations are spending millions and millions of dollars in marketing their products in local marketing methods but haven’t figured it out just yet. The local business focuses on the local consumer.
Mobile is the fastest growing industry in the history of the world. Changing buyer behaviors, improvements in technology, Internet search revisions to accommodate local businesses, a rise in competition and cash-strapped consumers are all outside of your control. It’s not your fault.
The Shift to Mobile is Now
If you haven’t made the shift to mobile, do it now. With the mobile industry exploding, those with their marketing focused on the consumer and mobile together will not only survive but thrive. Every business needs a mobile website. The consumer’s demand for instant information mandates that need. Our entire lives are moving at a pace unheard of just a generation ago, and the pace isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The consumer not only expects instant gratification, if they do a local search and cannot find the information they desire instantly, but they also will never visit that particular listing again. We need to make things as convenient as possible for the consumer to get what they need immediately.
Mobile Marketing Strategy
Every business needs a mobile website, but some need them more than others. Any business person worth their salt knows that without a business strategy there will be chaos, and a mobile strategy should be part of that planning. A mobile strategy for some is more critical than for others. Business to business marketing (B2B) is significantly different than business to consumer marketing (B2C). Here is what I mean.
B2C marketing has a more critical need to include a sophisticated mobile strategy to grow and retain their customer base. The transactions are usually smaller in dollar amount, are nearly always instant supply and demand, and are already depending on local business from the community in which they serve. B2B, on the other hand, is less critical, but they should still develop a mobile marketing strategy that is representative of their particular vertical and niche in which they operate.
The Decision-Making Process
Like all business decisions, owners and operators need to invest the time and attention to determine what must be done, include it before it becoming critical, and how well-defined and implemented their mobile marketing strategy should be. As mentioned, some businesses might require an all-out blitz campaigns and some might require drip feed actions. It depends on factors like industry and vertical, as well as their target buyers.
Businesses whose customers physically come to them need to develop a strategy that is perhaps all-inclusive because they experience a significant amount of Internet traffic. These consumers are looking for location & directions, hours of operation, a phone number and product offerings. These are businesses like restaurants, movie theaters, arts and entertainment as well as salons and the myriad of retail type businesses.
Still, other companies that provide services the consumer might need either immediately to come to them, or for appointment setting purposes such as taxi and limousine, legal and professional, medical doctors and dentists, and service businesses where appointments may be necessary to access the service. Whichever sales focus, companies, should not go it alone; they need professional direction. Consulting companies that specialize in mobile marketing strategy development and services as opposed to general purpose marketing makes the most sense.
Statistics About Mobile
Here are some stats that come from a Google study late last year. This study consisted of 500 small and medium sized businesses across many verticals in numerous markets. The study tracked “click-to-call” usage that is present on mobile websites. These percentages reflect consumer activity by industry on actual mobile website businesses that supply that feature.
– Restaurants – 43%
– Taxi & Limo – 28%
– Auto Repair – 22%
– Home Repair – 20%
– Construction – 18%
– Medical – 16%
– Professional Services – 16%
– Beauty & Spa- 13%
– Retail Stores -12%
When one looks at the overall average of the click-to-call percentage of consumer activity, one finds remarkable stats. An 18% average overall, but when compared to lead follow up generated by users utilizing desktop search at less than 3%, the difference overwhelmingly supports the usefulness and need for a mobile website. Additionally, Google found that 75% of mobile searches evoke follow-up action. Typically these are a purchase, additional research, visitation to a retailer or service provider or phone call. Sharing the information on social networks, the new word-of-mouth is also an action generated by mobile search’s click to call feature and website in general. On the average, mobile search is the motivator producing nearly at a 1.7 out of 2 follow-up actions. That’s amazing.
Still 8 Out of 10
Remarkably almost 8 out of 1o websites are not mobile optimized, nor have an actual mobile site. This time last year it was slightly more than 8.2 out of 10. With the unheard of growth of mobile, early adoption is still in a business’ favor, but the gap is closing quickly. Early adopters of a comprehensive mobile presence gain the benefit of defining the leader in a community, as the search results will position them higher than non-optimized or mobile-focused businesses. Prospective customers will have a much easier time finding the companies with foresight and early action, while competitors fall further and further behind with no mobile presence.
Consumers that search for a particular business type, say hair salon or restaurant and DON’T get a mobile optimized website will have a negative experience because of time lost. Not getting the information in which they seek frustrates consumers who depend on instant information, so they often punish them by negative reviews, negative comments on social media, and worst of all, never visiting them or their site again.
Let’s face it; you don’t know what you don’t know. Having a mobile optimized site is not the complete answer, despite what your web designer may have told you. Not all platforms are mobile responsive, meaning that when opened on a mobile device the home or landing page fits the screen without having to scroll left/right or only viewing a portion of an image. Other older sites are built with Flash, which is not supported by the search engines. Besides, mobile search is about the
Big 4, location/directions, contact number, hours of operation and pertinent information.
Everything else is merely cluttering up the search results. Some companies have hundreds or thousands of pages and having all of that data flowing through a mobile search will cause load times to be excessive. Today’s consumer has little patience when it comes to accessing information. If you don’t have an optimized desktop or even if you do and the Big 4 cannot be found in 5 seconds or less, you are going to lose that potential sale.
Defining a mobile strategy is paramount to your company’s survival, it is just a matter of when you decide to act, not if. Is your business worth the time to find out more about the future of mobile and how your business should fit into it?
Speaking of opportunities, bearing in mind that almost 8 out of 10 still don’t have a mobile site, the market for mobile sites is enormous. Helping those businesses gain a mobile advantage is an opportunity in itself.