Categories
Buy Local Getting new customers google Hospitality Internet marketing Positioning SEO Small Business Travel marketing Web Analytics

Wanted: Smoking hot hotel room in Kansas City Kansas

Google-Fiber-Rabbit

Of course, I mean a “smokin’ hot internet connection”.

Late last week, I was heading north through western Missouri, I planned to make an overnight stay in the Kansas City area.

Knowing full well (though with a little jealousy) that Kansas City, Kansas was the first winner of the Google Fiber lotto, I thought it would be nice to stay at a hotel in KC hotel that offered Google Fiber.

So I searched for “hotel kansas city kansas google fiber

While there are plenty of search hits about Google Fiber, most were stories about Google Fiber’s choice of KCK and deployment in the area. The only thing that even comes close to a hotel room in the search responses is a story about a “Home4Hackers“, an AirBnB property that offers Google Fiber.

Either there are no hotels in the Kansas City Kansas area that have Google Fiber (a distinct possibility), or the ones that do offer it need to work on their search engine positioning. A simple Google Local entry would have been first in my search, if it existed. Simple. Five minutes work.

What are people searching for when they look for you and don’t find you? Have you asked them when you meet or speak with them?

Finally – be sure you’ve taken care of your local listing on Google and Bing.

Categories
Automation Business Resources Customer relationships customer retention Direct Marketing Email marketing Entrepreneurs Getting new customers Internet marketing Marketing Recurring Revenue Restaurants Retail Sales Small Business systems The Slight Edge Web 2.0 Web Analytics websites

Six simple questions about your website

I received these questions in an email from Tony Robbins last year.

The premise was to ask if you could answer these questions without doing a bunch of research, much less if you could answer them at all.

  1. How many visitors come to your website per month?
  2. How many of those turn into sales?
  3. How many emails are you collecting per month through your website?
  4. How long has the site been up?
  5. How many emails are in your database that have been collected through your website?
  6. What are you doing to follow up with visitors and close sales?

Seems to me they’re as important now as they were in 1995, much less last year.

A lot of businesses pay attention to #1. Many pay attention to #2.

Number 3 and 5 get plenty of attention from some, not so much from others.

The Big One

Number 6 is the one that I see the least effort on across the board.

Are you assuming they’ll come back? Are you doing something to get them to come back? Are you doing something to keep them as a customer over the long term?

So many questions…

Rather than being overwhelmed by it all, deal with the lack of an answer one at a time – particularly if it requires work.

Having one answer is much better than having none.

Categories
Advertising Amtrak Competition Creativity design Direct Marketing Email marketing Getting new customers Internet marketing Lead generation Marketing Restaurants Retail Small Business Travel marketing

How to Win The Three Inch Tourism War of Words

tourismbrochurerack

When I’m on the road, I always take a look at tourism brochure racks.

Take a look at this rack in the Havre Montana Amtrak station.

It’s a typical floor-standing tourism brochure rack that you might see around your town or at the local chamber of commerce office.

I took the photo at this height and angle because I wanted to simulate the view the “average” person has when scanning the rack for something interesting to do or visit.

The critical part is that this is also the likely view they have of your brochure.

If you’re the tourist and this is your eye level view:

  • Which brochures get your attention and provoke you to pick them up?
  • Which leave you with no idea what they’re for?

A critical three inches

The critical question is this: Which ones easily tell their story in the top three inches?

Those top three inches are the most important real estate on a rack brochure because that’s the part everyone can see.

Everything below that point is meaningless if the top three inches can’t provoke someone to pick it up and open it. That cool info inside and on the back? Meaningless if they don’t pick it up.

Whenever I see one of these racks, I always wonder how many graphic designers put enough thought into the design of these rack pieces to print a sample, fold it up and test drive it on a real rack in their community.

If they tried that, do you think it would change the design? How about the text and background colors how they contrast? The headline? Font sizes? Font weights? Font styles?

I’ll bet it would.

I guarantee you it isn’t an accident that you can clearly see “Visitor Tips Online”, “Raft”, “Rafting Zipline” and “Fishing”  from several feet away.

Brochure goals

The primary goal of a brochure isn’t “To get picked up, opened, read and provoke the reader to visit (or make a reservation at) the lodging, attraction or restaurant”, nor is it to jam as many words as possible onto the brochure in an attempt to win an undeclared war of words.

The first goal of the brochure is to get someone to pick it up.

That’s why you see “Raft”, “Fishing” and “Visitor Tips Online”. Either they care or they don’t. If they don’t, you shouldn’t either. From that point, it needs to satisfy the reader’s interests and need to know. If you can’t get them to look at your brochure – all that design and printing expense is wasted.

Is that the goal you communicated to your designer when you asked them to make a brochure? Or was it that you wanted it to be blue, use a gorgeous photo or use a font that “looks Victorian”?

None of that matters if they don’t pick it up.

Heightened awareness

I wonder if brochure designers produce different brochures for the same campaign so they can test the highest performing design.

Do they design differently for different displays? What would change about a brochure’s design if the designer knew the piece was intended for a rack mounted at eye level? What would change if the brochure was designed to lay flat at the check-in counter or on a desk?

Now consider how you would design a floor rack’s brochure to catch the eye of an eight year old, or someone rather tall? Would it provoke a mom with an armload of baby, purse and diaper bag to go to the trouble to pick it up?

This isn’t nitpicking, it’s paying attention to your audience so you can maximize the performance of the brochure.

“Maximize the performance of the brochure” sounds pretty antiseptic. Does “attract enough visitors to allow you to make payroll this week” sound better?

Would that provoke you to go to the trouble to test multiple brochure designs against each other? To design and print different ones for different uses?

This doesn’t apply to MY business

You can’t ignore these things if your business doesn’t use rack brochures.

The best marketing in the world will fail if no one “picks it up”, no matter what media you use.

What’s one more visitor per day (or hour) worth to your business? That’s what this is really about.

Categories
Amazon Automation Box stores Business model Buy Local Community Competition Customer relationships customer retention Customer service Direct Marketing Internet marketing marketing to the affluent Marketing to women Retail Small Business

The Amazon Prime Directive

Moving away from the light....and into the darkness of night
Creative Commons License photo credit: mendhak

What did you learn from – and change in your business – after Amazon launched Amazon Prime?

If you aren’t aware, Amazon Prime is a membership-based service that provides access to Amazon video-on-demand and free Kindle books from the Kindle lending library – but more importantly, it upgrades all purchases to from regular ground shipping to free two-day shipping.

The question remains – what did you take away for your business from the launch and subsequent success of Prime? Did it provoke you to change anything about your business and how you work with customers?

Even if you don’t do retail, there are lessons to be learned from what Amazon is doing.

The Fresh Prime of Bel-Air

Plenty has been written about the success of Prime and what it’s done for customer loyalty.

One quote from the Small Business Trends piece (linked above) that might get your attention – a comment from a Morningstar analyst who researched Prime:

What we found is that, generally speaking, last year Prime members spent about twice as much as non Prime members. (emphasis mine) They spent about $1,200 dollars compared to $600 for non Prime members. What’s also interesting is that the average person shopping online last year spent approximately $1,000. What that says to us it that Prime members generate more incremental revenue per than non Prime shoppers. They are doing most of their online shopping on Amazon as opposed to going to other sites. Prime members generate more income.

Recently, Amazon took the service a step further with the introduction in Los Angeles of Amazon PrimeFresh, which expands upon their Seattle-based test program.

What can you take away from this and implement at your business? Do it for them. Deliver it for them. Automate it for them, as appropriate. All with more personal touch than Amazon can afford to do *in your community* and *in your market* with *your customers*. Yes, automation *can* result in more personal touch.

The key is the emphasis on your community, your market, your customers. I’m not suggesting that you try to clone Amazon.

Behavioral shifts

There’s much more to this than automation allowing you to buy produce via your web browser. Customer behavior is central to what Amazon does.

When Amazon saw that Prime members behaved differently, then they could work differently with them. Simply by buying a membership in Prime, a buyer is telling Amazon “I am going to buy more, more often.”

If your customers could send you a signal in advance like that, how would you use it to improve what you do for them? How do you care for your best customers? How do you encourage new customers to take advantage of what you offer like your best customers do? How do you make buying friction-free and easy?

Now reverse that. If you look at customers who buy more and more often from your business, what are you doing to take care of them? What if you did those things for more of your customers – would it turn some of them into Prime-like customers?

Amazon, WalMart, You

We’ve talked repeatedly about “When Wal-Mart comes to town“. Amazon’s taken WalMart’s game and made it more convenient and logistically efficient.

Take from them what makes sense for your business and implement it a step at a time, even if your implementation looks completely different. The lesson is doing what matters for your customers, rather than blindly cloning what Amazon or WalMart do.

For example, let’s say you sell high quality, organic meats that your area’s chain grocer doesn’t carry.

Do your customers forget to stop by your place? When they’re at the grocery, do they grab something there because it’s in front of them? That convenience can cost you a $25 sale. How many can you afford to lose each week?

While you probably can’t afford to provide same-day delivery like Amazon does in Los Angeles, you can serve your neighborhood or small town in a similarly convenient way. Maybe you deliver on Thursday evenings so people have their weekend meat supply for campouts and family gatherings in advance of their weekend grocery shopping. A part-time employee could deliver their pre-paid orders.

You don’t have to cover the whole state 24 hours a day, just your market area (or part of it) as convenient.

Make quality, local buying easy. That’s the local Prime Directive.

Categories
attitude Consumer Advocacy Customer relationships customer retention Good Examples Internet marketing Small Business Social Media Video

How much trouble do you go to for your customers?

Most companies go to a little bit of trouble to create content for their customers. Some go to a lot. Some exert little or none.

Hubspot exerts more than most for a video on their unsubscribe page.

How hard are you working for your customers?

Hat tip to PRDaily for the find.

 

Categories
Advertising Business model Competition Customer relationships customer retention Direct Mail Direct Marketing Email marketing Getting new customers Internet marketing Marketing Positioning Retail Sales Small Business Strategy

The unexpected message clients get from you

Ruins
Creative Commons License photo credit: Nicholas_T

Have you ever received a new-customers-only offer from someone that you already do business with?

In particular – Have you received one and found that the “new customer deal” in the ad is better than what you’re paying?

As an existing customer of that business, how does that make you feel? To me, it devalues whatever relationship I might have with that vendor.

What message is that vendor sending you when they make new-customer-only offers that you can’t take advantage of?

It might feel something like this:

Dear Old Client,

Today, we’re going to offer a great deal to people we don’t know because we really want more new customers.

Because you’re already a customer, this discount isn’t available to you. Yes, we realize that we have a customer relationship with you, but we’re going to ignore that and the fact that you may have been one of the key customers who helped get us where we are today.

Again… discounts are just for NEW customers, so please don’t ask us to give you the same discount they get.

Until next time,

Some Business Name, Inc.
“Your (whatever) vendor”

I doubt that’s the message you wanted to send them.

So do I hide my new customer offers?

Discount offers intended only for new clients aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but they should never appear in front of an existing customer unless you’re using mass media.

With mass media, it’s going to happen because you can’t control who sees the ad and who doesn’t. Radio, TV, newspaper, magazine and billboard come to mind as possible places where long-time customers might be exposed to your “new customer deal” ad.

If you’re going to place ads in a media that you can’t control access to, there are some options for minimizing it – such as your choice of radio time slot, TV time slot, TV show your ads are shown with, magazine location and so on.

Still, some customers are going to see/hear the ad.

Why? Because you’re advertising in a place where you expect to find people who resemble the customers you already have. If your customers restore experienced sailboats and you advertise in “This Old Boat” magazine, people who are already your customers are pretty likely to see your ads.

So what do you do?

What else do you have?

Normally I would encourage you to use a direct, personal means of reaching the new prospect. If you did, an existing customer would be unlikely to see those ads. Thing is, you should already be doing that, and that doesn’t apply to mass media (yet).

When your ads are targeted at a new customer, it’ll be tempting to assume that existing customers won’t call or email to respond. They will. They might even want to add new people, new location(s) or new services to their account.

If your sales team’s response is so formally scripted that they can’t  (or aren’t allowed to) adjust appropriately to a response from an existing customer – you could lose that customer. You need to have something else (presumably better targeted) to discuss with customers who call to ask about the probably cheap thing you’re hanging out there to attract new customers.

Mature, advanced, special

Your newest customers tend to have less mature needs than your long-time customers. What would attract new customers that long-term customers already have and are unlikely to express interest in? That’s your new customer deal.

For example, long-term customers probably don’t need startup services and entry level products – unless they are starting a new venture. In that case, they should qualify for the deal you’re offering and you’re nuts not to let them have it.

When existing customers aren’t starting something new, be prepared to discuss advanced offerings with them, even though they called about your new customer ad. A meaningful conversation with long-time customers is more important than a discussion of the thing you frequently sell to new customers. Your offer might include more, better, more frequent, more frequent *and* better, extended hours, access to senior staff, exclusive services and so on.

The point is not to bait and switch – after all, your ad was targeted at new customers. The existing ones will contact you despite that, so engage them in a conversation about something that really matters to them.

Categories
Customer relationships Direct Mail Direct Marketing Email marketing Getting new customers Internet marketing Lead generation Marketing marketing to the affluent Marketing to women Positioning Small Business

Talk is cheap, conversation is priceless

How we talk, write, stand, sit or hold our hands and arms plays a huge part in how effective we are in helping others understand what we have to say, much less keep their attention long enough to finish the message.

If they don’t get it all, at best you may as well have said nothing. Worst case, the other person could misinterpret your message and think or react the opposite of what you want.

Imagine that you make a trip to an Eastern European country.

You arrive by boat and step onto the dock with your bags in your hands.

A young Lithuanian man standing on the dock looks at your feet and says something to his friend. By the way his voice rises at the end, you’re sure he either asked a question or made a joke about your legs. Too bad he isn’t speaking your language. If he was, you would know that he was telling his friend that a camera fell out of the unzipped side pocket of your bag.

If you don’t understand the man, you might keep walking without paying attention. Once the man realized you didn’t understand, he would take another step to let you know what he was saying. He might make eye contact with you, repeat his comment and point at the camera.

As with the Lithuanian man, your business communications – from marketing messages and press releases to ads to fill staff openings – will be ineffective if they don’t use the right language and the right context, much less speak to the right person.

What is the right language?

The man’s effort to make eye contact and point is no different than speaking in a language you understand. By establishing eye contact and pointing, he brings context to the conversation – a context you care about.

The language and context you bring to conversations with your prospects and customers is equally important. The right language provokes your audience to think, act, react, remain attentive, follow your instructions (or advice) and believe in your message.

Or not.

Robert Collier famously suggested that writers “join the conversation already going on in the prospect’s mind”. Collier wasn’t encouraging you to be creepy and spy on your prospects and customers. He’s encouraging you to get to know and understand them, including their needs, desires and fears.

The right language…like the empathy that the video gets across so well… requires listening, paying attention and understanding what’s going on behind the face they put on.

Until you make the effort to learn, listen and observe these things, how can you begin to join their conversation? How can you engage with them in a conversation they care about? How can you understand what they lose sleep over? How else can what you say begin to address what’s critical to their decision-making process?

All of these things help you use the right language and the right message, whether you’re on the phone, writing an email or composing text for a billboard.

You wouldn’t walk up to a few people who are actively chatting at a gathering, interrupt them and start talking loudly about something they don’t care about – yet that’s exactly what most marketing does.

It helps me to imagine that I’m speaking directly with a single person who is exactly the type of person whose needs, desires and fears my message will resonate with in the strongest possible way. Notice that I didn’t say “the group of people my message targets”, or that I said “speaking with” rather than to.

Think about how important the positioning and context of your message must be in order to move from broadcasting like someone yelling at passersby on a random big city street corner, to that of a personal conversation with a trusted advisor.

Hippity Hop

If you overheard just a nibble of a conversation about hops, you might guess that someone was talking about the communications via the internet, frog jumping competitions or rabbits.

On the other hand, they could be talking about craft beers or microbrews. You’d have to listen to more than just one word (hops) to figure out the topic – and that’s the key.

Listen. Observe. Develop empathy and understanding. Join the conversation.

Disclaimer: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.

Categories
Advertising Business Resources Buy Local coaching Direct Marketing Email marketing Famous Last Words Internet marketing Marketing to women Small Business

Famous Last Words: “We can’t afford to market our business.”

Tyres!
Creative Commons License photo credit: mickyc82

This past weekend, I took one of my favorite drives of the year – that first drive after removing studded snow tires.

I enjoy the feel of a performance tire in a tight turn and that’s something studded tires just don’t offer. As I waited for my tires to be swapped and munched on Les Schwab’s complimentary popcorn, I looked forward to that first drive.

While I waited, a friend who works there mentioned a new restaurant in town – a place he’d first heard about the day before despite the fact that they’d been open for over six months. Neither of us could remember seeing any marketing from them. This doesn’t mean there wasn’t any, just that we hadn’t seen it.

Today, I remembered something they’d done. It was a good way to introduce what they do to those likely to visit their place, thanks to an affinity with another business.

One (apparent) marketing effort in six months is not ideal and is usually the result of a single, often fatal, mindset: “We can’t afford to market the business.” The reality is that you can’t afford not to.

If cash is tight, what can they do?

Frugal but effective

First, know that there is no magic pill, despite what so-called “gurus” will tell you while trying to sell you a shovel. “Shovel sellers” is a reference to those who made a fortune selling shovels during the California Gold Rush, yet never used a shovel to work their own claim and thus learn which (much less IF) shovels are best for the job.

Marketing is steady, don’t ever stop kind of work. If you don’t have a bunch of cash to invest, you’ll need to find inexpensive, effective ways to share what you do with those who would be interested.

Getting Local

Have you filled in your business info at Google Places? How about Bing for Business? What about local business directories?

There are plenty of free and paid directories out there. These can consume a lot of time and capital, so use them wisely. Try a few Google searches to see how their results place. Talk to someone who uses the directory (they’ll be listed). Ask if they get good customers from these listings and what techniques they’ve used successfully. The most effective local directories are likely to be those run by local people, so do your homework.

Registering is not marketing

Is your business registered on Trip Advisor, UrbanSpoon, FourSquare, Facebook, FoodSpotting, Twitter and Yelp?

Registering is only the first step. Each of these outposts require regular attention. Investing five or ten minutes per site every other day (worst case) will give you enough time to answer questions, comment on reviews, post a daily tip/menu item or recognize a customer, supplier, neighbor or event (remember: give first).

The business I’m speaking of is registered in several of these places, but appears to have done little to build and maintain an active presence on them – a critical step. Remember – these sites are about attracting and engaging people who self-identify themselves as “interested”.

Keep the mobile user in mind. Encourage reviews. Reward the mayor. Reward check-ins. You don’t have to throw a pile of money at them. A free cup of coffee or a dessert is more than enough. Make them customer of the day – and find a simple, inexpensive way to make that day special. So few businesses recognize mayors (much less check-ins) that you’re sure to stand out.

Doing The Legwork

Keep your customers informed without the hard sell. Stories evoke interest.

Start an opt-in email list and make it worth reading. Send postcards or a monthly flier/event calendar to locals so you stay on their radar – same as you would by email. Print up plain paper menus and drop them off at local retailers and motels.  Offer the front desk/register staff a sample tray now and then so they can make a legitimate recommendation. Listen to their feedback.

Follow Tourism Currents and similar rural / tourism / local marketing resources. They frequently talk about strategies and tactics other small rural businesses have used and offer valuable tips about connecting with locals and tourists.

None of this is free, but all of it is inexpensive.

If you don’t market your business, how will your situation improve?

Categories
Books Business model Competition Getting new customers Improvement Influence Internet marketing Marketing Positioning Small Business

Giving away what you do – strategically

While looking for new post fodder in my drafts folder, I found this unpublished post from 2009. I hope you enjoy looking back over it, while considering how things have changed with “free” since that time and how those things affect your business today. Note that four years later, the Beacon is bigger and stronger than ever and the news business has continued to react to the things this post talks about. Enjoy. – Mark

Before I got around to listening to Free a few weeks ago, I’d tossed some thoughts together in my Beacon column about ESPNChicago and (soon) ESPNbigcitynearyou.com, partly in response to a local writer’s consternation about ESPN’s entry into the local sports/newspaper scene.

As you might expect, I segued into how that relates directly to what you do, but I had other motives as well.

Those other motives? I wanted to stir the pot at the Beacon a little bit.

In 2007, the Flathead Beacon was the new media darling (news-wise) in Northwest Montana.

Primarily, it had 3 things going for it.

  • A new coherently-designed website, driven by a modern content management system.
  • Up to the minute news and opinion written by news professionals (myself excluded) who were exclusively educated at the U of Montana journalism school (hometown rep), earned their reputations at places like CNN, then became “comebackers” by returning to the Flathead to work for the Beacon
  • Content published in its entirety online, with a subset published in print on a weekly basis.
  • Free. The Beacon is advertiser supported (and 2 years later, solvent).
  • It offered an alternative voice to the media-conglomerate-owned, long-time daily in town, whose site was little more than an afterthought of their business.

2 years later, despite numerous ongoing improvements and definite success, I have concerns that it could slide back into the comfort of old media and compete with the newspapers who don’t get it, such as those publishing news online only after it has gone to press.

Myers’ story about ESPNChicago.com and the ensuing move into NYC, Dallas and LA was the perfect opportunity to talk about it and get a column on the books as well. Two birds.

Meanwhile, as yet unreleased post that uses the newspaper biz as an example while focusing on changes in technology and their impact on your business continues to languish at 4000-5000 words (note: that turns out to be this post).

Seth v. Malcolm

To that end, I recently got around to reading what Seth said about the whole Free thing and particularly what he said about Malcolm Gladwell’s comments about Free (these 3 make an interesting triad of ‘arguing’).

While in the middle of reading the dustup between Malcolm, Chris and Seth, Seth says this: “People will not pay for yesterday’s news, driven to our house, delivered a day late, static, without connection or comments or relevance.”

When you describe a newspaper that way, it sure sounds quaint and outdated. And that’s exactly what many of them have become.

While “people will not pay” might not be 100% true today, that day is rapidly approaching as my parents’ generation ages. Take one look at the financials of the newspapers across the U.S. if you need evidence.

It’s obvious to state that people may not pay for it online either, but figuring out how to make it work is the premise of Chris Anderson’s Free. If you’re asking “Who is Chris?“, there’s your answer. It’s worth doing your homework on this topic, so have a listen (or read) Free and consider how it might reinvent your business.

One thing is certain: When my parents’ generation is gone, the news business is in for yet another shakeup.

Paging Mr. Cialdini

Beyond the financial obviousness, an awful lot of this Free thing goes back to what Robert Cialdini talked about in Influence.

Reciprocity. Guilt. Call it what you will.

Meanwhile, as you read/listen to Free, you almost get the idea that all of this is somewhat new fangled and currently relates primarily if not exclusively to (as Anderson puts it) products “made from pixels rather than atoms”. Obviously that’s not the case.

Who hasn’t accepted a tasty snack-sized nugget from a nice grandmotherly type, enjoyed it and ended up tossing a box of that item in the cart? Sam’s Club and Costco sure didn’t invent that strategy, but they use it.

Meanwhile, how exactly do you get home with a box of deep-fried, fudge-coated wookie bars that you’d never buy intentionally? Reciprocity? Guilt? Or is it about that nice grandmotherly person?

Should you give it away?

If you have trouble with ideas on this, think about what would be most painful if your strongest competitor started giving it away. Likewise, what would pain that competitor the most if you gave it away? It’s a place to start the thought process and might even identify a new value proposition for your business.

All of this is about finding a way to reinvent your business more so than just that Free thing. Not necessarily because your business is broken, but because reinvention forces you to improve strategically rather than being forced into it in an attempt to survive.

That’s what Free (as a tool, rather than book) did to the record companies, some newspapers and many other businesses. Better to act strategically than to react to someone else’s.

It’s interesting that the book “Free” isn’t free.

Categories
Business Resources Buy Local Competition Direct Marketing Facebook Getting new customers Internet marketing Restaurants Retail SEO Small Business SMS Social Media Web 2.0

Why the tourist drove past your business

Changes2005vs2013Photo credit: AP

You’ve probably seen this AP image contrasting the crowds at St. Peter’s in Rome over the last eight years.

The first photo was taken by Luca Bruno in 2005 during preparations for the public viewing of Pope John Paul II’s body – almost two years before the iPhone was first announced.

The second photo was taken by Michael Sohn in March 2013 as the crowd waited for the first balcony appearance of a newly-elected Pope Francis I.

No matter how you feel about mobile devices, smartphones, the mobile browsing experience, the quality of smartphone photos, the always-connected lifestyle and how these things relate to your personal life, ignoring the business impact of the widespread adoption of these devices is done at your peril.

So what?

Seems like just yesterday that I did a series of speaking gigs with groups of local business owners about social media, getting found via local web search, the growth of mobile and the impact of these things on local businesses. Fact is, it’s been closer to 18 months since that series concluded.

To their credit, some have picked up on what we talked about and are interacting with their prospects and clients via social media. At least one local business that I frequent offers occasional coupons for subscribers to their text message (SMS) based opt-in list.

While most local business sites display acceptably on today’s tablets, the story is altogether different on a phone, where a smaller number have made efforts to improve the experience of a website visitor using a phone. Let’s refresh why it’s important to deal with this.

It’s not uncommon to hear “So what?” when this topic comes up in discussion. That’s not the right question.

First impressions

Again, you must set aside your personal likes/dislikes about these devices because it isn’t about you. It’s about your customers.

If these customers are tourists whose first impression – and purchase decision – is tied to the usability of your site on their phone, it’s worth considering whether your site is helping them (and you).

You might be thinking “Well, they have smartphones, but do they use them for that?” It’s a good question. I can tell you 25% of visitors to the Columbia Falls’ Chamber website are using mobile devices – a number that grows every month. I’ve been told churches see an even larger percentage of mobile users.

So what do you do?

A mobile website checklist

Let’s talk about mobile website basics:

  • Do you have a website that is actually usable on a phone?
  • Does it clearly describe what you do, when you are open, how to get there (using Google Maps, et al) and how to contact your business?
  • Restaurants, is your menu visible on the phone or does it appear on a phone as tiny print because it’s in a PDF intended for desktop users?

To start this process, claim your business on Google Places for Business and setup a Facebook Page (not a Facebook user account) for your business. Both of these will give you a basic summary presence on mobile devices that includes hours, contact info and location.

Compare these two mobile search results:

flathead beacon mobile search result dmbdgoogle

The one on the left (without a Google Places listing) is tougher to read on a phone and requires additional screen taps to get answers to the basic questions listed above.

The one on the right (with a Google Places listing) gives you everything you need to make the next choice. One tap to call, get directions or view their site.

Which of those do you want your prospects to see?

Why’d they drive by?

When your website makes it easy for mobile phone users to learn about your business, it helps them decide what to do, where and when to go, and how well your business fits their needs/wants.

So why did the tourist drive past your business?

Three reasons:

  • They didn’t know your business exists, or they didn’t know enough about your business
  • The info they found didn’t help them make a decision.
  • The info they found helped them make a decision to go elsewhere.

The last reason is acceptable. You shouldn’t expect everyone to be your customer, much less to stop in simply because your business is easy to learn about and find online.