Mobile Apps for your Business

9 09 2011

It seems like today there’s an app for everything. Many small businesses can benefit from the use of a mobile app, and see the value in creating their own apps, but having a strong foundation in coding or the money to hire a professional developer are often the pitfalls of creating one. However, there are more and more affordable DIY options cropping up everyday to help businesses get those apps made—even with zero to minimal tech expertise. Mashable did a cover of the top 4 Tools for Building a Business Mobile App about which we’ll go into a little more detail here.

Bizness Apps

Bizness Apps is an app builder that focuses on industry-specific features. The app builder was created specifically for small businesses and allows users to pick an industry specific template to start building. Apps can be built for the iPhone, iPad, and Android and can also be built for HTML5. Apps that are created are native apps and can be found in the iTunes store or the Google marketplace. Creating an app on Bizness Apps doesn’t require any programming knowledge whatsoever. It also includes a content manager in which you can customize your app and increase functionality across many mobile platforms. Any changes you make with the content manager are effective immediately and don’t need to be sent to Apple or Google for updates. Bizness Apps also has 30+ features that you can integrate within your business’s app. A few worth mentioning are Tell-A-Friend, Event Listings, Push Notifications, and Mailing List. In addition, you can include your social media outlets ( Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube) and even your email marketing strategies (Constant Contact, MailChimp, Get Response). Pricing for Bizness Apps starts at $39/month for the iPhone with $10/month extras for iPad, Android, and HTML5.

MobiFlex

MobiFlex is another app that requires no coding knowledge. You design your app visually online with a drag-and-drop wizard and download the app to your smartphone. Apps are also able to go native, using all the native on-device resources. MobiFlex integrates with back-end data sources and incorporates functions like the phone’s camera, speech recognition, and GPS into its native apps. Right now, apps are only able to run on the iPhone and Android but they have iPad and tablet functionality currently in the works. Designing and testing your app is free and you only have to pay when you decide to publish your app. Pricing starts at $10/month for the most basic of plans but can go up to $200/month. Pricing is determined by number of end-users and pages.

AppMakr

AppMakr is the app you’ll want to use if your main goal is to distribute content. This code-free app is able to add content through multiple RSS feeds, upload a photo gallery, and send push notifications. Other features include Analytics (to monitor the downloads of your app), Conversation (see what your users are saying), and Monetize (place ads in your app or charge for ads). You can also share video and podcasts from within the app. AppMakr boasts that you can create an app in minutes. To get started, all you have to do is enter your business URL on the main page. As far as pricing goes, if you’re looking for an option that’s free, you found it (though app store fees may apply). All they require is that you register. Availability is for the iPhone and Windows Phone 7 only with Android in its beta version.

Red Foundry

Red Foundry offers options to intermediate coders as well as newbie app creators. If you choose, you can design your app with an xml-based coding system or you can pick one of Red Foundry’s templates that is fully customizable. You can also add video, music, photos, audio, catalogs, blogs, menus, maps, event calendars, conference schedules, and visual sales presentations. Features you may not find in other app builders include location and customer specific promotions, digital book and magazine publishing, inventory tracking, route information and orders, submit and retrieve data from the field, administer testing, and communicate with customers, employees, and vendors. The app builder can also integrate social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, WordPress and just about any other public API. You can also monitor usage through their analytics and use push notification services to target your mobile alerts and promotions. Red Foundry can only create native apps for the iPhone and iPad. Pricing starts from free plans and can go upwards to $600/month.

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Your Social Media Needs Quality Time from you to Grow

5 09 2011

If your business is going to engage in social media as a marketing tool, you need to be sure you’re using it correctly. Many businesses are under the impression that they can manage their social media marketing on a part-time basis, but strategically managing your business’ online presence takes a full-time commitment. If you’re going to jump into the social media pool, you need to be ready and willing to dedicate the time and effort into it.

That being said, your business really does need to engage in social media. Social media marketing is such a powerful tool for your business. A study found that 58 percent of all consumers with access to the internet research a company’s product or service online before giving them their patronage. And while you may think those consumers are going directly to the company’s main website, they’re not. They’re visiting third party sites like Facebook and Yelp to look for relevant information and reviews about businesses and their products or services. It’s social media that’s making up the minds of consumers everywhere. It’s this new brand of word-of-mouth advertising that’s making or breaking businesses all over. Positive online reviews can do wonders for a business. Likewise, negative online content can be detrimental.

This makes being actively involved across social channels more important than ever as it gives your business an opportunity to effectively write your own reputation. It’s what you say in your social media marketing that’s so important and builds your brand in that space. Be sure your content strategy is built to reach a specific target market and monitor the buzz about your business and your conversations in the social media marketing space you’ve built. Look at social media as a continuous flow of viable information from clients and consumers. Really engage them and take their feedback seriously. This will open up opportunities to improve your products or services and maybe even give you ideas for creating something new to offer. In doing this, you can be sure you’re getting the most benefit from your social media marketing.





It Really is What You Say (and to Whom, Where and How You Say It) that Counts

2 09 2011

Have you heard the conversation about how the effect content marketing can have on your social media campaign? If you are a business owner and have engaged your brand in social media marketing, you may want to tune into the newest “best-practices” for content marketing with social media.

Marketing data provider Bizo conducted a survey regarding content marketing within the context of social media. What exactly is content marketing? Engaging in content marketing is freely sharing information in the hopes of converting leads into actual customers and repeat buyers. It’s not marketing in the traditional sense, as in an interruption from a radio or tv ad, but rather the deliverance of requested information that allows you to build a relationship with those who you’re marketing to. It’s only natural that content marketing would go hand-in-hand with social media. The followers and Likes you obtain through your social media outlets are purely voluntary. As a business, you should delight in this fact and also take advantage of it.

Currently, content marketing is a leading strategy with 45 percent of businesses preparing their marketing campaigns for the holidays. Businesses are supporting their content marketing efforts through social media and email, which are focus points for 65 and 46 percent, respectively, of the survey participants. But here’s the thing: there needs to be consistency between social media, pay-per-click advertising, article marketing, and email marketing to obtain the best results. Accurately analyzing social media marketing results is still an issue with a lot of businesses. Most business marketers simply base their success on the number of followers or Likes they have. This isn’t always a solid indication of user engagement or sentiment. The key for best results is in the integration of content marketing, social media, and the other online marketing outlets listed above.

When you engage yourself  in social media, PPC advertising, article marketing, and email campaigns, the quality of your content and the conversations shared is what’s important. It’s not a numbers game—who has the most followers or Likes. In the end, it’s how you reach out to people and the relationships you build with your customers. Social media is a great outlet for doing so but to really build brand awareness, it’s important to engage in other web marketing outlets, as well.





You GOTTA Try at Least Two of These Social Media Measurement Tools

31 08 2011

There’s no getting around it: social media is here to stay. Every now and then you’ll hear the naysayers saying that its 15-minutes of fame is almost up. How anyone could say that, I’m not really sure. We live in the internet age where online marketing is just as viable as traditional marketing is—maybe even more so. Because businesses are spending so much time, effort, and money on social media, they’re undoubtedly going to want tools to help monitor those efforts. Below is a roundup of 6 tools that can help you measure your social media efforts.

Dlvr.it

Dlvr.it is a free to use website that grabs RSS feeds from your blog or website and automatically posts them to social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. It also uses real-time engagement stats to let you know where your content is getting the most attention. If you use Bit.ly to shorten links, you can connect your account to Dlvr.it. In addition, you can connect your Google Analytics account to Dlvr.it. Dlvr.it can also automatically add search-friendly hashtags to your tweets for you.

HubSpot

HubSpot is an all-in-one inbound marketing software solution. It aims to attract and engage your target market thus earning quality leads and loyal customers. The all-in-one feature set allows users to create content and build websites without the need for IT support, improve your search rankings, access analytics to measure the effectiveness of your marketing, and nurture your leads by helping them with their buying through targeted emails. This social media-related service is the most expensive out of all on the list, ranging from $3,000 per year to more than $18,000.

Janrain

Janrain uses a platform that consists of three products. The products can be used separately or together to manage all aspects of user engagement and measurement of your social media network. Jainrain Engage allows your website users to login using social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Janrain Capture collects and stores user profile data that was gathered when a new user registers on your site. Janrain Federate enables users to sign-in once to your site and seamlessly navigate to each of your online properties or partner sites with one login. The end goal is to allow marketers to offer personalized content, email marketing, and tailor a user’s site experience based on what it learns about the visitor. Pricing ranges from free to $1,000 a year or more.

North Social

North Social offers a number of Facebook social media applications to businesses for business use. The goal is to dramatically increase the Likes on your business or fan page. Some really cool apps to note are:

Photo Showcase (which allows you to display large images; optional “Buy Now” buttons can turn the app into an online store)

  • Sign Up (create contact forms, surveys, and invitations to obtain valuable feedback directly from your fans)
  • Show & Sell (turns your fan page into a social mini-store where you can sell products or services)
  • North Contact (a free social CRM extension for the North Social apps; creates user forms, list management, and outbound emails and auto-responders)

North Social is available for a monthly fee. Fees range anywhere from $20/month to $150/month depending on the type of business you have (entrepreunerial, small business, global brand, etc.). On the plus side, one account gives you access to all of North Social’s apps.

Squareberry

Squareberry allows businesses to plan and schedule events, messages, and promotions in advance. Squareberry will deliver them across social media sites, to email subscribers, mobile devices, and web calendars. You can also monitor social keyword mentions, see comments and replies, and respond to followers on Facebook and Twitter in one location. Digital promotions and events draw people directly to your business and promote social sharing. Prices range from free to $29/month.

Wildfire

Wildfire helps businesses build and launch social media campaigns and promotions that run on their company website and Facebook fan page simultaneously. Campaign formats include contests, coupons, and virtual gifts to name a few. The end result is to generate leads and build brand awareness. Pricing depends on how long you choose to run a campaign and the account type you want.

 No matter your social media budget, marketing (of any kind) without measurement is a waste of time. Invest your time and or money into one of these tools to be sure you’re getting the best ROI from your social media marketing efforts.





On the Go Marketing 101: Mobile Web Design Should be a Given for an Website

9 08 2011

Okay, without delving too deeply into the design side of your website, do you know if it’s mobile marketing-ready? In other words, when you pull it up on your smart phone or tablet, do you have the option to adjust the screen width or does it upload within the screen window? Or, like many websites, does your content run off the page?

Mobile marketing web design is now the norm, not the anomaly, as most target markets continue to increase their use of pads or tablets, and smart phone sales vault 85% as each year passes. Business owners are often too far away from the why’s and how’s of their business website’s functionality to be aware of the mobile marketing effectiveness on a handheld smart device.

There are a few guidelines to follow when you redesign your website for mobile marketing. Take notes and get your web development team on it tout de suite, as every day without mobile marketing functionality for your website is a day of marketing and sales potential lost to the 5.3 billion mobile subscribers (that’s 77 percent of the world population).

Mobile Marketing Tips for Smartphones

Avoid Flash, fixed-element layouts and complicated navigation.

Mobile Marketing Tips for Tablets

Think less-is-more. Clean lines, easy navigation and eye-catching but relevant graphics.

For both of these mobile marketing mediums, keep the user experience at the top of your priority list. Like pc-based web design, keeping the information that site visitors are seeking as easy to find as possible is the main goal. Keeping pages uncluttered and easy to follow will not only increase your conversion potential for any site visitor, it allow for the fastest page loads in the mobile marketing realm.

With more than 428 million smart phones in the first quarter of 2011 combined with the tablet sales  estimated to reach 19.5 million this year, be sure your website is mobile marketing ready so you can get your slice of the mobile marketing pie.





How Do You Meet New People? A Quick Note about Joining the Conversation with Social Media

18 07 2011

Join the Conversation“. Anyone researching or using Social Media Marketing, SMM, has heard this overused phrase. Even we’ve been guilty in the past of using it to give direction for the uses of SMM for both B2B and B2C clients. It’s white noise by now for all the excessive usage in reference to harnessing the powerful interactivity of Social Media profiles, pages and sites.

That being said, think of the last time you attended a business networking event. As you stood at your tiny cocktail table surveying the room for potential new clients or partners, what was your goal? Would it have been enough just to “Join the Conversation?” What if the conversation was about a topic not related to your goals for the evening, or perhaps the two-some or threes-ome you approach was already acquainted? Maybe one of them was a competitor of yours and was driving the conversation towards their business. How would you proceed?

Simply put, it is not enough to simply “join in” with the ongoing flow of the conversation, either at the networking event or on your Social Media sites. To effectively promote your business, you need to turn the conversation or topic towards the benefits you bring to the (literal or figurative) table. It takes a little finesse – no one likes someone who runs the conversation with “me, me, me, I,I,I” statements. So how can you effectively turn the attention to your business within your SMM sites without blatant promotions? (HINT: These points will work for those face to face networking meetings as well)

  1. Answer Questions. Prove your prowess in your industry by answering site member questions on topics with which you have extensive knowledge. Be thorough and direct your answer to the person who asked it, not the general population.
  2. Show and Tell: Notice a question that fits a recent presentation you have given or see a trend of information that may be sought by your target market? In lieu of just answering the question on a per person basis, send an invite through groups or connections to attend a webinar to get the answers. (Tip: Brand the presentation with your logo and obtain email addresses for opt-in follow ups as a lead generator.)
  3. Listen More than You Talk. Use SMM monitoring tools like group discussion topics, forums and metrics tools like Radian 6 to listen in to your target market’s needs, interests and goals. When the time comes for you to give your two cents, you can be sure that you hit the pressure points that matter to your potential clients.

So stop “Joining the Conversation” and make the effort to turn the attention to your brand. A well-thought-out marketing plan and informative engaging content, you will see the benefits. Period.





From eMarketer.com: Social Marketing’s Benefits Rival Email for Small Businesses

6 06 2011

Take a look! Great stats here:

http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1008425