Smartphones have taken the country by storm, and the iPhone is leading the pack. Tens of millions of iPhone users fire up their phones every day to play, to work, to hunt down products and services, and even to talk, occasionally. If your small business isn’t taking advantage of the opportunities that iPhone apps present, you’re not reaching everyone you can.
That said, it’s not always easy to know where to start, especially for someone in small business. Let’s take a look at some of the basic ideas behind iPhone apps, and some of the different ways you can grow your business using this technology.
A new frontier
There’s something you need to recognize from the start: iPhone app marketing is a relatively new thing. Very few companies (large or small) have figured out how to truly make the most out of iPhone apps. There is a lot of room for trial and error. That said, the more carefully you choose your app developer and the more time and resources you put into designing the app, the better your chances of seeing some truly positive, even amazing, results. Understand that it’s not as honed a marketing tool as, for example, the sales letter.
The two iPhone app marketing avenues
There are a couple of ways you can promote your small business using iPhone apps: either by advertising on someone else’s iPhone app, or by app development companies and publishing your own app. Both are viable methods, although creating your own app is the surest way to connect with your potential customers directly.
Paying for ads
When you advertise on someone else’s app, you’re essentially doing placement advertising. It’s not much different from a TV or radio ad, or even a billboard. The biggest downside to this method is that your ad has to get noticed, and it has some limitations as far as what it can actually accomplish.
There are two potential uses for advertising on someone else’s app:
1. Increase brand awareness. Most small businesses aren’t – and shouldn’t be – terribly concerned with brand awareness. As your business gets bigger and expands beyond geographic boundaries, it becomes a bigger concern, of course. Still, there are some niches where a small business can put brand awareness to work.
2. Elicit a response. Ideally, when you pay for an iPhone app ad, you’ll generate a response from the reader. That response could be calling to order a product or service, or it could be filling out a contact form from your webpage. It could even be “liking” your Facebook page. Give your reader one action to take in your ad, and focus your efforts in that direction.
The real potential lies, however, in publishing your own iPhone app.
Your custom iPhone app
When you have an app that’s designed to help market your small business, you need to keep a few things in mind. First, you need to be ready to offer it for free. No one wants to pay you to hear your pitch. Second, you need to give the user a reason to download the app: it should be entertaining, informative, or useful. If your app doesn’t provide ongoing value to the user, they’re going to stop using it, uninstall it, and forget your business altogether. Finally, your app should be relatively simple and – as is the case with other marketing efforts – attempt to elicit a specific response from the user.
So, with those things in mind, you can approach an app developer. Make sure you choose someone with experience, who has a proven track record at helping small businesses get the word out using iPhone apps. Most of all, you need to choose a developer who’s willing to really listen to you when it comes to your business, your target market, and how you think the app should function.
Complementary marketing efforts
Ultimately, your iPhone app marketing strategy has to live in harmony (and preferably synergy) with your other marketing efforts. You’ll need to promote the app through a variety of marketing channels, such as your website, customer mailings, or electronic advertising campaigns. Likewise, a good app will give the user the opportunity to contact you, order your products, find your business on a map, and interact with you in other ways. Your iPhone app doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it should work well as part of your overall marketing system.
With enough planning, the right approach, a strong development team and a little bit of luck, you can use iPhone apps to propel your small business forward, increase sales, and reach untapped markets.