Small business + iPhone app = opportunity

Disclaimer: I simply have to admit that it’s unlikely that I would buy an iPhone until Apple decides to discard AT&T, or Steve Jobs’ gang adds a better cell carrier to the mix. I’m simply not willing to deal with those guys if I don’t have to.

And yes, I’d probably get over it if the right opportunity (or idea) came to me.

My AT&T issues aside, your business could benefit a great deal from taking advantage of the fact that there will be even more iPhone users out there – with what appears to be the best mobile application platform built to date.

Let’s talk about a few possibilities.

Let’s say you own a restaurant. Imagine if an iPhone owner, their spouse and another couple are driving around deciding where to go for dinner.

They call up an app called TonightsSpecial on their phone. Because the iPhone has a GPS in it, it knows where you are. It displays the current specials at restaurants within a 15 minute drive (or 5 or whatever the iPhone owner decides) of their current location.

It shows the wait time for seating (if you so choose), price range, cuisine, and how to get there from the iPhone’s current location – again, since your phone knows where you are and where the restaurant is.

And with a touch, it tells the restaurant to hold a table for 4 for seating 15 minutes from now, because you’ll be right over.

Or maybe you own a motel. And some poor, tired traveler has been driving all day to get to Mount Rushmore, the kids are tired, their spouse is after them to find a motel and everything is full because it just happens to be the first weekend in August – ie: the Sturgis motorcycle rally.

Except that this traveler’s iPhone has an app on it called EmptyRoom that tells them where all the empty hotel room inventory is within 30 miles of their current location. And since you registered your hotel with EmptyRoom’s service, it knows when you have a vacancy.

Instead of that family driving past Rapid City because every hotel they checked was full, they turn left just past the airbase and follow the directions on a phone to a room that cancelled 23 minutes earlier because a biker got held up by some rain (ok, ok, that wouldnt happen with a REAL biker, but I digress).

Rather than having a room-night go up in smoke, you just did 2 things: Rented a room for the night that was probably going to go to waste and 2, pulled a tired driver off the road and made their spouse and kids a lot happier and safer.

Or, you’re a Realtor. And you have built an iPhone app that automatically notifies a client on their phone when a home that matches their needs comes on the market.

You’re busy, out making a sale, or at a closing – yet your iPhone app is telling the client where the newly-listed home is, how to get there, what the price is, and if they tap a button in the app, it’ll make an appointment using the open times in your shared Google calendar (or me.com, or whatever) to tour the place.

And of course, it’ll only do that for people you have under contract, if that’s how you want it to work.

Or, you belong to a network of independent coffee shops. Starbucks is your arch enemy, other than the nice thing they did to sell everyone on how cool it is to buy $4 cups of coffee:) So when you join the independent coffee shop network, your shop appears on someone’s iPhone when they open that app.

Again, since a GPS is built-in, it can show me the closest independent coffee shops to the iPhone’s current location. This one can be cloned for just about any independent business. Bike retailers. Pizza shops. Dry cleaners, etc.

No matter what business you’re in – and especially with service, retail, restaurants and lodging, there are a pile of iPhone application possibilities here to make your business even more personal, to deliver even more value and to take advantage of an opportunity that most competitors wont even recognize.

Sure, all of this can be done now, from a web page, or the Yellow pages. You have a chance to bring it into their hand, without extra effort, so you can draw them specifically to your business – and that’s exactly what they want, otherwise they wouldnt be using that iPhone app in the first place.

Pre-sold buyers. Everyone likes them.

5 thoughts on “Small business + iPhone app = opportunity”

  1. Last week my Cable company went down resulting in the loss of HDTV & Internet access. I attempted to find our Yellow Pages to call them, but was unable to find a copy. I realized I was so used to Googling for phone numbers that I hadn’t used a Yellow Pages in more than a year.

    Mark, many people may scoff at your ideas, but I think they’re right on the money. Years ago we were used to the Yellow Pages and people would have thought searching the Web for phone numbers would be impractical. Just as people would never have thought searching the net for numbers would be practical, people may think your ideas won’t work.

    I think you’ve just forecast the future. Want to take a look at my stocks?:-)

    Glenns last blog post..Three Key Employee Groups You Need To Reach When Implementing Change

  2. Glenn,

    When the phone book comes to my mailbox, I just leave it at the post office. I should toss it in the troop trailer for fire starting backup.

    As for the future – It’s been a tough week not to snag a MacMini and start coding. I held back, didnt want to make the post too long. Ill bet there are lots of great ideas out there thatll change someone’s entire market.

    Mark
    PS: You really dont want me looking at your stocks:)

  3. Mark,

    Good article. The iPhone is certainly continuing to progress the wireless industry. Living in real time (information-wise) and having a plethora of information at our fingertips is becoming so well established. It’s almost scary!!

    I am curious though, why the animosity towards AT&T?

    ~the GURU

    The Small Biz. Gurus last blog post..Do You Like Being "Always Home"?

  4. @SmallBiz,

    Not really animosity toward AT&T as much as it is, I’m just not willing to punish myself by dealing with them again.

    Numerous issues over the years with billing, fraud management, wireless, and customer service.

    If you want to test them, try calling their customer service to resolve a billing or account issue. If you can get through that without being annoyed, you’re a better person than I am:)

    Mark

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