What should I do about mobile marketing?

The main reason to create an app is to take advantage of a smartphone or tablet's fancy gadgetry. Otherwise, skip it.

We are a plugged-in, tuned-in, mobile breed. As a business person in the 21st century, you know you have to have a mobile marketing strategy. But before you jump online and let loose, make sure you’re going about it the right way and ask yourself these five questions.

Who is my mobile audience?

Before you can start designing a mobile campaign, you need to know who your audience is. Start with your business’ current in-person or online audience – how will this audience morph through mobile mediums? For consumers who need info quickly while en route, a simplistic, icon-heavy front page featuring your most popular content is probably a good idea. For those visiting your site from an over-stuffed chair, hot tea in hand, feel free to play a little with style and text.

How do I effectively reach my audience?

Part of being effective in reaching your audience is making sure you catch them at a good time. Pushing out content at the wrong time is akin to calling your friend while she’s trying to get herself ready for work, her kids ready for school and the dog from eating everything in sight. Don’t be that person. Know when your audience is online and receptive to new content and schedule your posts accordingly.

What’s the best content to send via mobile?

OK, so you know who your audience is and how they’ll access your site. Take that info and run with it, keeping in mind what mobile users want: visuals, inspiration and information, all in a bite-size package. Pair your info with a pic, if possible, and keep it short and sweet.

How do I measure ROI (return on investment)?

The bottom line of any business investment is: is this helping the company? To know if your mobile marketing campaign is working, you need to know how to measure your ROI. And to do that, you have to get a little “OCD-like” about your data. User-test the different data trackers out there (Google Analytics is just one of them) and find the one that works best for you. Keep monthly reports so you can track your progress over time.

I know I need a mobile-optimized site, but what about an app?

When considering whether or not to design an app for your company, you need to weigh the costs, which can be high, against profits. Apps can be rich in features and work with the phone’s native apps (think: providing directions via GPS or scanning barcodes with the camera). But mobile-optimized sites are designed to work on any phone and require no user set up. So, unless you plan to take advantage of a smartphone’s built-in technology, put app development on the back burner.

But wait, I really want to make an app! Why can't I?

Oh, I guess you could go with a mobile app. Then your users could enjoy this wonderful set of experiences:

1. When they come to your site, they are met with a splash page telling them to download your app.
2. They are redirected to the app store to download it. (Let's hope they can remember their password.)
3. They wait for eternity to download the file.
4. They try to determine, without any context or incentive, whether to accept your "push" notification request.
5. They launch the app and then try to find the one thing they were searching for to begin with.
6. They get regular updates to the app requiring the use of more bandwidth (which contrary to popular belief, isn't free.)

Again, The main reason to create an app is to take advantage of a smartphone or tablet's fancy gadgetry. For example, if you want to create an in-store experience by using the phone's camera to scan barcodes and give you price comparisons -- a la ShopSavvy -- you need to create an app for that. Otherwise, skip it.

- Jane R. LeBlanc