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Take Charge of Mobile Commerce

When you can connect with customers wherever they are, you're ahead of the game.

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Cell phones are already the most ubiquitous electronic devices in the world. And with more than 40 million Americans who are now active monthly users of the mobile internet via smartphones and mobile browsers, the is quickly becoming the most popular device for browsing the web. Throw in the fact that people are often on the go when they're looking for information about a business, and you can see why it is fast becoming a requirement that businesses are "findable" via a mobile browser.

Following are a few tips to make sure your business is doing what it can to reach these mobile prospects, as well as serve your existing customers better by utilizing the mobile platform.

Mobilize Your
For starters, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. You should strongly consider having a separate site for mobile visitors that is separate from your full-featured website. Make sure to link to your mobile site from your main website so that your customers know they have this option. Also make sure to register your mobile site separately with , Yahoo! and , and denote it as a mobile site, so that it shows up in their mobile search results.

Mobilize Your Existing Customers
Use mobile features to make your customers feel like part of the "in crowd." There are numerous ways to do this. One technique is to send text messages to your customer base, alerting them to special limited-time offers or discounts. For example, suppose you run a deli in an urban center or in an office park complex. Just before lunch time, you text your clients a description of the day's specials, which makes their stomachs growl and makes your cash register ring. Repeat the drill in the late afternoon to alert them to that evening's take-home meals.

Use your imagination. Mobile communications is a flexible and powerful medium. Unlike print or traditional broadcast advertising, it costs next to nothing. This means you can communicate frequently for little more than the cost of your time. It also means you can experiment with messages and initiatives to better serve your customers. Send them a text-message coupon good for 10 percent discount. Suggest that they forward it to their friends to help drive in new business.

Creativity is the key to exploiting this medium, but use discretion. Don't bother your customers with telemarketing calls. Instead, send short text messages, which are much less disruptive and off-putting than phone calls. Find the line between engaging your customers and pestering them. Most importantly, make sure your customers are "opting-in" to being contacted on their cell phones, and understand what the benefits are for letting you communicate with them this way.

Close the Deal
Your customer's cell phone is a two-way communications device. With the proper setup on your end, you can easily transact business by having the customer pay you via cell phone. Whether you are delivering pizzas to dorm rooms or repairing boat engines down at the local marina, you or your field rep can accept electronic payments right at the point of service via cell phone. Quick, safe and convenient for both you and your customers, mobile transactions can also be easier on the environment. Rather than a generate paper invoice, you can simply send an invoice in the form of an e-mail or text message. (Full disclosure: we've recently launched a product that does this at Intuit called GoPayment.)

Leveraging the capability of mobile devices can help create a community of customers who are more loyal and involved. By engaging with them when they're not at your storefront or at their computer, you'll stand out from the crowd, and be with them when they are most likely to need your services.

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