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Taking Your Business Mobile: The Basics

April 16, 2012

Taking Your Business Mobile The Basics

Forecasters have been proclaiming the age of m-commerce for a decade now. Yet small enterprises keep doing business the old-fashioned way: online and via email. So I can hear you saying, "Mobile biz? Again? Really?"

As we all know, technological advances typically outpace consumer adoption and social transformation. Remember when wireless broadband was being hailed as a game changer? It was about the time you were thrilled to find dialup service in hotel rooms.

So heads up. M-commerce is close to critical mass:

Clearly, it's time to mobilize. These basics can help get you started. Once you identify what works, you can scale up.

First, optimize
While everyone increasingly works and plays on the go, many websites don't even appear on the mobile Web, owing to design or software incompatibilities. Other sites take too long to load or have too much content to render on mobile screens. So your first step is to make sure mobile users can find you.

An online search will turn up several companies -- including OnSwipe, Mobicanvas and GetGoMobi -- that offer free or inexpensive plug-and-play platforms that set up a mobile site independent of your website. Or ask your IT consultant to design a microsite optimized for mobile screens, which means a page or two with only essential content -- say, a logo, a mission or product statement, a clear call to action, contact info and/or social media signups.

Montreal-based Web designer Amanda Aitken says mobile sites should have a "maximum width of 970 pixels, so most visitors won't have to scroll too much when viewing the site on a mobile device." She also recommends a WordPress plug-in called WPtouch "that does a great job of stripping out design bells and whistles."

Also, don't forget to keep all your branding consistent between your mobile site, your website and whatever other marketing you're using.

Next, strategize
Before moving on to apps or offers, get a handle on how your customers use their devices, advises Elaina Farnsworth, a mobile marketing consultant based in the Detroit area. "Companies must formulate a unique offering for their audience, then appropriately plan and brand their offer to allow customers to easily access it," she says.

To explore your customers' mobile habits, use a free online survey service, send an email questionnaire, set up an online comments page or simply call some customers.

Don't be too quick to commission customized apps. Text messaging, features on your mobile site, and social media offerings can be more effective -- and more affordable.

Then, prioritize
To begin, try these popular options:

Says CFO Beau Sorensen, "We're able to save $500,000 annually in rent, labor and travel costs. At the same time, we're increasing cash flow, boosting security and compliance, improving clinical outcomes and reducing employee turnover."

It looks like the next game changer has landed.