Mobile advertising is becoming more popular as people use mobile devices to access websites, shop and make purchases. For business owners, now can be a good time to start experimenting with mobile advertising -- especially while it's still highly affordable.
If you're on the fence about whether advertising on mobile might be right for you, consider some new research from Williamsburg, Va.-based research firm Borrell Associates: nearly half of small-business owners are somewhat or very likely to purchase mobile advertising in the next year, while more than one in four expect to increase mobile ad spending.
How can you figure out how mobile advertising might best benefit your business? Here are five tips to help you determine its value and to get started on the right foot:
1. Determine where your customers are.
Most mobile ad networks allow geo-targeting so that only mobile users in a defined area see the ads. But narrow targeting to only a zip code or two will likely yield few prospects and little new business.
Mobile ads offer the best return on investment for businesses that can serve clients who are located anywhere, or at least throughout a major metropolitan area. A jewelry designer who ships anywhere or a motel owner near a popular tourist destination might be a great match for mobile advertising. But a massage therapist who relies mainly on local customers probably should spend her ad dollars elsewhere for now.
In a couple of years, however, that may change as technologies improve and mobile users begin to outpace computer users in conducting local internet searches.
2. Define your conversion points.
If you develop a mobile advertising strategy, you not only want to tell mobile users your business exists, but also encourage them to take action.
What can people do on their smartphones or tablets that can help your business? Plenty. They can call or email you, submit their contact information via an online form, make an appointment or reservation, follow you on social media, sign up for your email newsletter or text alerts, register for your events, or buy something from you online.
These actions are measurable "conversion points." Tracking your conversion rate (number of mobile site visitors divided by the number of actions taken) is how you'll discover which kinds of mobile ads work best.
3. Build a mobile landing page.
Your existing website, even if it's mobile friendly, might not be the most effective destination for your mobile ad. You need a useful landing page designed to convert mobile visitors into customers.
Your mobile landing page should link to your main website, of course. But it's even more important that it display your address on a map, list your phone number and hours, indicate the region you serve, and offer features, such as online appointment scheduling, that are directly relevant to the pitch you made in your mobile ad.
If you can build a mobile landing page in your existing website platform, that's great. If not, your mobile landing page doesn't need to be part of your main site.
You can build a simple mobile landing page with Google Sites (free the first year) and access analytics data about traffic to the page and users' activity on it. DudaMobile also offers free mobile landing pages with analytics, but for $9 a month you can get more pages and features such as click-to-call and integrated maps and directions. You may want to set up more than one mobile landing page if you're running multiple campaigns targeting different market segments or making different pitches or offers.
4. Start with Google AdWords.
Search ads are currently the biggest part of the mobile ad market, and Google's AdWords offers a variety of services for mobile advertising. Plus, these are text ads, so you don't need to create an ad banner to get started.
You can set up a mobile-specific AdWords campaign that targets only mobile devices with full web browsers. You also can set AdWords bids for mobile searches only.
Control costs by setting your own maximum daily spend, starting at, say, $30 to $50 a month. Then, track your AdWords mobile performance and stay focused on conversion rates.
5. Explore other mobile ad networks.
You'll need to supply a mobile banner ad for other networks, most of which deliver ads to apps and some mobile websites. AdWords users can use Google's display ad builder, but you also can create a mobile banner with any design software.
The cost, reach, targeting and other features of these networks vary widely. Most allow you to specify your maximum daily spend. The MobiThinking "Guide to Mobile Advertising Networks" offers useful overviews of the different types of networks and detailed reviews.