iPhones, Droids, iPads, and Apps:

What Next-Generation Mobile Tools Mean for Your Online Marketing Plan

By Les Kollegian
Jacob Tyler Creative Group

With more than 50 million iPhones currently in use, Droid quickly approaching a similar number, and over a million iPads sold in the first month, next generation mobile devices are starting to make a heavy impact on the way we live and work. But while everyone seems to agree that they’re cool, convenient, and cutting-edge, the question for most companies remains: how do we integrate them into our marketing and public relations mix? And should we?

I wouldn’t pretend there is any one answer to that question, but neither would I recommend two of the most popular options I’ve seen: ignoring new mobile technology completely, or going overboard and spending millions of dollars chasing the latest craze. Reaching buyers on iPhones, Droids, and iPads can require a few new tricks, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely change what you’re doing now.

To get you pointed in the right direction, I’d like to offer four tips on marketing to the tens of millions of next-generation mobile device users out there:

Make your content accessible. The most effective thing you can do to iPhone, Droid, and iPad users is also the easiest – make sure that all of your content, from your company’s homepage on down to your blog posts and Tweets, can be accessed by mobile devices. It’s never been easier to stay in touch on the go, and as a result, more customers than ever are coming to you from on the road. The last thing you want is for them to not be able to find what they’re looking for.

Besides, making your online materials and mobile-friendly usually doesn’t require a complete overhaul, although it might mean ditching the use of Flash anywhere on your Web site. Certain technologies don’t play well with mobile devices, and Apple founder Steve Jobs has made it clear that there aren’t any plans to integrate some of them in the future.

Go real-time. The Internet has always been about speed, and today’s mobile devices certainly aren’t doing anything to change that trend. By giving people round-the-clock access to information, they create a demand for instantaneous updates. In other words, if something is happening today, post it today, not tomorrow or later in the week. Keeping up with industry news and breaking developments are one of the biggest reasons people go online, especially when they’re on the move, so try to be a current resource.

Develop apps. Since it’s always better to have people coming to you than vice versa, why not give them plenty of reasons to come in contact with your company every day or week? Other than breaking news and expert advice, perhaps the best way to tie in to your customers’ daily lives is by developing apps that help them do their jobs or manage their time more efficiently. The more programs you have for visitors to download and install, the more often they are going to think of you and your brand – especially if your app is one they can’t live without.

I should throw in a word of caution here though: apps tend to be good for developing client relationships, but bad for generating quick profits. With the numbers of next-generation mobile device users exploding, certain developers have been recommending apps as a way to get in on the gold rush. As great as that sounds in theory, the reality is that most of the millions of apps available cost more to produce than they’ll ever earn back in sales. Keep that in mind as you consider development bids, and consider the investment part of a long-term strategy, rather than a short-term boost to the bottom line.

Think fast. Why not ask your customers what sort of information they’d like to have at their fingertips while they’re on the go? Not only does asking this simple question engage your customers and improve relationships, but the answers can often help you find holes in your current mobile strategy. It’s a classic win-win situation That’s because a lot of the information that people want from you when they’re mobile – like account details, product information, customer service numbers, etc. – could be buried somewhere deep within your site. If that’s the case, consider moving them all to one easy-to-access place. iPhones, Droids, and iPads are all about convenience, so try to make it easy for people who are using them to find what they’re looking for quickly.

If you haven’t thought about what happens when your customers come to you through mobile devices, then now is the time to start integrating some of these strategies into your marketing plan. Not everyone has an iPhone, Droid, or iPad yet, but the trends are clear – with nearly 100 million Americans poised to own at least one of these devices by this time next year, now might be a great time to adopt some of these tips and stay ahead of the curve.