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SCORE: Mobile marketing for small businesses

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Main Street tends to be cautious about changing the way it markets, but local business owners are now embracing mobile marketing at a remarkable rate, including SMS (text messaging), mobile banners, email, paid search, mobile video, proximity campaigns, sponsorships, coupons, loyalty programs and deals.

That's one finding of "Main Street Goes Mobile," a new study by Borrell Associates, a media research firm. As business owners see more customers staring at small screens, they are taking notice. Trade magazines are full of stories about mobile marketing successes. Even trade shows for funeral directors offer mobile marketing seminars.

New research shows that half of local businesses plan to use mobile marketing this year, devoting 20 percent of their ad budgets, on average. Meanwhile, customers are spending more time on tablets and smart phones, and less on PCs and laptops. If you aren't using mobile marketing, you should know that other small businesses are upping their spending on it this year by 41 percent. Borrell predicts that spending on local mobile marketing will double yearly for the next five years.

The mobile trend creates yet another challenge for small businesses: How to grow with social media and mobile marketing – at the same time. The mobile part is critical because social media marketing is a real-time experience; not something people do only when they're in front of a PC. Now they carry the experience in their pocket, purse or hand.

I turned to Daniel Kehrer, Founder & Managing Director of BizBest Media Corp., a nationally-known, award-winning expert on small and local business, start-ups, content marketing, entrepreneurship and social media for some comments on this trend. Here is what he sees as some benefits, tips and advice on joining mobile marketing with social media:

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1. Mobile expands your options:There's only so much time you can spend in front of your computer, so adding mobile capabilities can free you to monitor, manage and update your social media marketing wherever you are. This makes it easier for you to make timely responses to customer questions or comments.

2. Increase your QR Code mileage:QR codes are an excellent, low-cost way to extend your digital reach and are well suited to mobile. Customers can scan the code with their mobile device (using a free code scanning app), and be taken to a Web page or content. It's far easier than searching online. QR codes offer one of the best ways for mobile devise users to interact with your business.

3. Adjust your content for mobile:Content intended for distribution to a mobile device should be formulated with that purpose in mind. Make it short, simple, clean, easy to access and easy to share. If you have a blog, make sure you have a mobile version.

4. Mobile sets the table:While some mobile marketing can result in immediate leads or sales, getting someone to fill out a form or make a purchase from a mobile device is difficult. Instead, think of mobile-social marketing as one more "touch point" that lets you connect with customers and prospects. Your goal is to offer helpful tidbits that set up the opportunity to connect in more substantial ways later.

5. Tap existing social tools:You don't have to create mobile-social marketing from scratch. By using existing, mobile-based social networks such as Foursquare as a base, and then spreading the word via Facebook and Twitter, you can begin to meld mobile with social marketing. A good site to learn more is ShopTalk: Social Media (www.shoptalksocial.com).

Dean Swanson is a volunteer SCORE counselor and past chairman of the Southeast Minnesota SCORE chapter.

Related Topics: SMALL BUSINESS
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