Thanks to the explosion of smartphones apps, it's easier than ever to stay productive while you're out of the office.
You can do nearly anything on your smartphone, from checking emails and arranging meetings to updating several social media platforms at once and working on documents.
The range of apps available to you will depend on what kind of mobile device you have. However, most popular apps are available for Apple iPhones and iPads, as well as Android phones and tablets.
If you use a Microsoft Windows Phone, you may find that you have a smaller selection of apps from which to choose.
Which are the best apps for businesses?
There are apps for every conceivable business task. You’ll find tools to help you organise your task lists and prompt you with reminders and there are apps to help you remember your passwords. There’s also plenty of choices when it comes to storing and sharing files securely on the cloud. You can even organise your thoughts with mind-mapping apps.
Social networking apps allow you to keep up with the conversations on Twitter and manage your activity on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks.
There are also many location-based apps. These use GPS technology to guide you to an intended destination (always forgetting where you parked? Some apps even allow you to tag the exact spot!), but also to show potential customers where your business is located.
Can I develop my own app?
Many businesses have developed their own apps. However, think carefully before you create one for yourself or your customers.
If you want to build an app for you and your staff to use, there's an excellent chance that an app already exists to do what you need. If you haven't found it yet, it might just be that you haven't looked hard enough.
Alternatively, a mobile app can be a good way to build a closer relationship with your customers, but only if it delivers something they want and can't get elsewhere.
With over 1.5m apps available for Apple devices alone, yours must be really special to stand out. It's easy to spend a lot of money on an app that attracts very few users, so think carefully and do plenty of research before going ahead.
Successful entrepreneurs solve problems in a way that we could not have imagined. When you look around you, every product and service you use were all created to solve a problem. You wanted to get from one place to another faster, you got a car. You wanted to get from one country to another faster, you got planes.
So, look for problems in your daily life and list each one of them. Once you have an exhaustive list, then start to think on how you can resolve them and shortlist the ones that make most sense.
How do I develop my own app?
Step 1: Identify the need. Validation will prove that a demand exists for your app. You can validate your idea by using the Google Keyword Planner tool to look for the number of people seeking out what you’re trying to do. You could also build a landing page that broadly highlights your app idea and seek user interest through an email signup.
Step 2: Layout the flow and features. Validation of your app idea means that you’ve got something that people want to use. Now is the time to detail your product onto a document, or if you want to go the extra mile, use a wireframing tool.
When putting your idea down on paper, remember to be as detailed as possible. Include the flow of how the user will navigate the app as well as all the features envisioned. This will help your developer to clearly understand your expectations.
Step 3: Remove non-core features. From the flow and features document you prepared, start looking closely at features that you can remove. Offer only the core value of your app idea. Do not build features in the first version that are "nice to have" and can always be added later as an update. This will help keep the initial costs of development down and also help you get to market quicker.
Step 4: Put design first. I have heard many entrepreneurs saying they want a very basic design and want to focus on just developing an app. They are so wrong! Design is not just about how your app looks, but it’s about how a user will experience the app.
Step 5: Hire a designer/developer. Seek a development company that has great design talent and a solid development team. While hiring a developer, go online to check on their credibility and the apps that they have created. If you really liked an app they created from their portfolio, chances are, they could be the right one for your product.
Step 6: Create developer accounts. You must register for a developer account with the respective app stores to be able to sell your app through their platform. Google’s Android charges $25 a year and Apple charges $99 annually. You have the option of registering as an individual or as a company, if you already have one formed.
Step 7: Integrate analytics. Analytics help you track downloads, user engagement and retention for your mobile app. Make sure you use tools such as Flurry, which is available for free, and Localytics, that has a free and paid version.
Step 8: Get feedback quickly and improvise. Once your app goes live on the app store, the first set of customers' usage and behaviour will give you insight into how to improve and enhance your app. Enhancements and changes are constant, so keep an eye on user feedback and keep building.
Step 9: Introduce features. You built version one with limited features and only the core offering. Now is the time to evaluate and introduce the remaining features that were left out in the initial version. You will know through analytics and feedback whether the features are relevant anymore.
These steps are not sacrosanct, but rather a guideline to building your app in the most effective manner based on my experience. Once you’re ready to start, you must also know that building a mobile app is the easiest part. Getting customers is where the challenge lies.
More than 90% of UK adults have a mobile phone, and it goes everywhere with them - making it the ideal way to get your messages read.
The rise of smart phones, apps and mobile internet access has made the mobile phone a key battleground in the fight for new business and customers' attention.
Although the pace of technological change gives you the chance to try innovative techniques and ideas, there are still opportunities for more traditional kinds of mobile marketing, like text message campaigns.
One of the main attractions of mobile marketing is that mobile phones are almost always switched on and people usually have them to hand. That means text messages (also called SMSs, for 'short messaging service') are usually read.
Mobile internet is growing fastWhat's more, the mobile phone has become the first place people turn in all kinds of situations: to check for directions or to look up the price of a product, for example -- indeed, to find any information online. Because people use their phones in these ways, your business can benefit hugely from intelligent mobile marketing.
In fact, the majority of people in the UK now access the internet from mobile devices. This means potential customers are going to try and reach your business via their mobile phones whether you like it or not. You need to consider the experience they have.
Mobile marketing improves satisfactionFor small businesses in particular, the mobile phone offers exciting opportunities to improve customer service and satisfaction. Texting and emailing customers on their mobile phones can be part of a better, more personal service. Sending details of promotions and events can boost business.
If you're more ambitious, you can create your own mobile app. But whatever you do, you need to mobile-optimise your website so that people using smart phones can find what they're looking for.
With the mobile landscape still changing swiftly, don't regard mobile marketing as separate to your other marketing efforts. In particular, it's becoming harder to determine where online marketing ends and mobile marketing begins.
With mobile internet access commonplace, you must consider mobile users whenever you're changing your website or sending a marketing email. (Statistics suggest most emails are now opened on mobile devices, so it's vital your emails are readable on small screens.)
You can't control how or when people use their mobile phones. And as other mobile devices like tablet computers become widely used, the mobile world will only continue to grow.
Using mobile phones to inform your customersWhen it comes to mobile marketing, small firms often have an advantage over big brand names because they already have a personal relationship with customers. As a result, contacting them by mobile phone does not appear so intrusive.
Many small businesses can benefit from mobile phone communication. For example, local entertainment businesses such as restaurants can use text and email marketing to advertise special events. And retailers can text details of sales or vouchers timed to catch shoppers in the right place.
Businesses that work by appointment, such as opticians or hair salons, are ideally placed to use text messages or apps to send reminders and to alert customers when it's time to book their next appointment. What's more, they can send special offers and details of last-minute availability.
Mobile marketing targetingSmart phones offer some interesting targeting opportunities. Most are equipped with location services, which means they can determine their location via GPS.
Your mobile app or website can use this facility to direct customers to their nearest branch, or to display special offers when people are in your neighbourhood.
With the right timing, this sort of targeting is valuable. Contact shoppers when they are on the high street - at the weekend - and you increase the potential for new business. But whatever you do, never send intrusive messages at unsocial hours.
Finally, remember that if you intend to contact customers via text messages or calling their mobile phones, you need permission - just as with all other direct marketing.
John Wanamaker famously said: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." With a clear strategy, you can maximise the results you get from your advertising.
What are your goals? The first step in any media advertising campaign is to set your objectives. Your goal could be to raise awareness to pave the way for a sales drive. You could be advertising to drive response, perhaps by promoting an offer on your website or flagging up your stand in an exhibition guide. Or you could be aiming to change customer attitudes by highlighting specific benefits of your products or service.
Targeting your audienceThen you need to work out how to reach your target audience. Local papers and free magazines could provide the right audience for a small business operating in a specific catchment area. Business-to-business firms can use industry publications and events to advertise to specific groups. Always negotiate - rates are rarely set in stone.
Your advert needs to convey a clear message with a call to action. Your strategy should be based around promoting a single, solid benefit, so you need to understand what motivates your target audience to buy.
The look and feel of your advertising should be in line with your brand values. A cheap-looking advertisement can damage your reputation.
Return on investmentToday, no matter what type of advertising you do, you can measure the results. Analytics tools enable businesses to measure and fine-tune every aspect of their online advertising. Media advertising can be measured by using specific response mechanisms - dedicated telephone numbers, web pages, email addresses and even QR codes.
After running your advert, you need to look at the response levels you generated. Did your advert deliver a good return on investment; in other words, has it brought in more new business than it cost to run? What adjustments can you make in the future?
Fulfilling the enquiryFollow up is the final piece of the jigsaw. An enquiry from an ad is often just the first step towards making a sale, so make sure you and your sales staff are ready to make the most of the increased interest that your advertising brings.
Advertising strategy faq's
1. What sort of businesses does advertising work well for?
Most businesses need to advertise at some stage but for many, PR, events, direct selling, email and use of social media will also achieve excellent results.
Online advertising is now generally the most cost-effective and easiest way to reach a large audience; national media publications are losing readership. However, local papers and magazines are still widely read and some specialist journals can also hit the mark if you want to reach a niche audience. Pay-per-click advertising is also a useful way to gain exposure for a niche or local business.
2. What can my advertising realistically achieve?
A good advert might attract a lot of enquiries but lead to few sales because it is poorly worded or badly targeted. Measuring the effectiveness of your advertising is absolutely key.
A well-designed advertisement can serve several purposes - generate sales or enquiries, improve your company image, create awareness of your products or services, support a sales promotion offer, or help establish you in new geographical areas. It is important to decide what precise purpose you want your ad to meet - before you design it. Remember to lead with a customer-focused proposition. Clear is better than clever.
3. How do I plan a campaign?
The best time to advertise is when your target audience is most likely to buy your product or service. Set out what you want to achieve, which might include:
The campaign should cover the placement of adverts, budgets, design, timing and follow-up.
Try to make your adverts stand out so that your limited budget goes further. It's important that your advertising is memorable.
You need to decide the following:
4. HOW MUCH DO I NEED TO SPEND?
Consider how much you normally spend and how effective it was in relation to your business objectives. Assess what your competitors are doing, as if they are advertising heavily you might need to do the same to ensure your message is heard.
Consider how far you are from achieving your objectives. For example, if you are launching a new product you may need to spend heavily to increase awareness. Consider what your advertising is worth to you. Calculate how many extra sales you need to make to justify your spend.
If you want to get value for money, only undertake campaigns that can be tested and revised as you go. Online advertising allows you to manage and control costs. By measuring results you can also refine your online campaigns and improve their return on investment.
5. Where can I find out about advertising opportunities?
Talk to an online advertising expert to find out more about the costs and rewards of advertising online, including pay-per-click advertising.
Find information about newspapers in your area and how to advertise in them on the News Media Association website at www.newsmediauk.org. Check circulation figures verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulations on the ABC website at www.abc.org.uk.
Look in the BRAD directory (available in good reference libraries) for lists of newspapers and specialist magazines. Look for a publication whose readership is close to your target niche or segment.
Order a media pack that will include a rate card and a back copy. Check the circulation figures (which should be ABC audited), but be aware that this may be very different to the number of people who will actually read the publication and see your advert.
6. Where should I advertise?
Always match your customer profile with what the target segment reads or visits online. If you are uncertain, sample a few target customers and find out. Measure each of the approaches you are considering in terms of the cost per thousand target viewers. This comparison sometimes yields surprising results.
For example, a poster in the high street may seem cheap, but it might only be read by a small proportion of your target audience. To reach a thousand people, it may have to be there for several weeks, making the actual cost higher. A small advert in a specialist magazine may initially be more costly. But if it reaches the target audience immediately and works out cheaper on a cost-per-thousand basis, it may be a better deal. Using pay-per-click to get to the top of search results, could pay off even more quickly.
7. Should I use an outside agency?
As a rule of thumb, only consider using an advertising agency if you plan to spend more than £10,000 on advertising. Typically agency fees will amount to around 15 per cent of your advertising budget.
Look for an agency that has experience of your industry or type of business. Look at samples of their past work. Ask for ideas to get a feel for what they can offer you, but do not expect too much without paying for it.
Whether you decide to do your own advertising or use an outside agency, remember that your advertising creates an image of your company. It is better not to advertise at all, rather than have a poorly thought out, mediocre piece of advertising that damages your reputation. If you decide to do it yourself, get as much help as you can from people you know with experience in this field.
8. What sort of look should I go for?
On average, a casual reader will spend about two seconds looking at your advert. If it has not caught the eye or grabbed their attention in that time, this reader will move on to something else. How your ad looks is therefore very important.
An eye-catching headline is essential. It may be in the form of a question, a statement, an
invitation or even a testimonial based on what your customers tell you. In the same way, well-chosen illustrations and the use of colour can help your advert stand out from the clutter.
Always leave detailed design to the professionals; poor design can tarnish your reputation. The image of the advert should reflect your market position and carry through the same values and content.
9. How long does it take for an ad campaign to work?
If you monitor the effectiveness of your campaign, you will get a measure of how long it must run to achieve its objectives. If you are not getting the anticipated results, tracking what is going on in this way will show you when and how your advertising needs to change. The quickest results tend to come from online advertising.
Advertising should not be used as a quick, short-term fix, only brought into play when something is going wrong. It should be planned to support your overall marketing strategy and to complement all your other communications.
10. Should I try to match my competitors' advertising?
You should keep an eye on your competitors' advertising, as this can give you valuable insights into their marketing strategies. But don't try to copy them.
Marketing is all about creating a competitive advantage. Just doing the same as your competitors does not put you ahead of them. Either do better or be different but above all, work to your own strengths and don't feel the need to compete with your competitors for the sake of it. It is much better to put your energy into creating a customer offer that is attractive and profitable.
Have you thought about creating videos to promote your business? Video can boost your search engine rankings and is an effective way to increase customer engagement. But how do you go about making a video?
According to YouTube they have more than a billion users - almost one-third of all people on the Internet. That’s impressive. But perhaps even more impressive is YouTube’s status as the world’s second biggest internet search engine.
My point - because I'm not just singing the praises of YouTube - is that video has become a hugely powerful medium. Dig past the plethora of cute kittens, TV clips and skateboard accidents, and you'll find businesses everywhere are incorporating video into their marketing strategies.
The power of videoHere's an example. A friend of mine decided it was time to buy a new tent. She intended to buy one that was reasonably priced, but found herself veering towards the Outwell brand. It meant going over budget but she soon figured out how to persuade her other half.
How? She showed him Outwell's website and played him the videos so that he could understand why it was worth paying more.
Outwell is a great example of a business that really understands what information customers want and how to communicate it.
Video is known as rich media content and it can boost customer engagement, increase the time spent on a site and help convert sales. Used cleverly and with a purpose, video can transform your website into a dynamic interactive site that will attract repeat visits.
And it’s not just YouTube. Video is available via many different platforms and services. Vimeo, for example, is a video sharing site that is similar to YouTube, although tends to feature more professionally-produced, arty clips and recordings.
Most video services allow their users to discover your videos via their own websites and apps. You can also usually embed videos on your own website - and in other locations, such as your tweets, Facebook pages and Instagram posts.
What can I put in my videos?How you use video will depend on your type of business and the services or products you offer.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
This is just scratching the surface, of course. You can use video in any way you choose. And as shooting, editing and sharing video is much easier and cheaper than ever, you can try different things to see what works for you.
How easy is it to create video?Making a video is no longer the preserve of professionals and nor is it a costly exercise.
Having said that, professionals can produce sophisticated, polished videos from around £250 each. This can be a worthwhile investment for high profile projects, although with a little time and effort you can get great results by doing it yourself.
There are many online services and pieces of free software that make it easy to upload, embed and share video content. For instance:
You can shoot video with virtually any digital camera or smart phone, although it may be worth spending up to a couple of hundred pounds on a dedicated video camera.
Think about what sort of video you want to shoot. For instance, if you plan to interview customers, consider a model with a connection for a separate microphone, so you can record the interview clearly. If you want to shoot action sequences, a rugged model like a GoPro might be a better choice.
Make sure your video gets foundOnce you’ve created your video, upload it to video sharing websites such as YouTube and Vimeo as well as social media sites:
Make sure you add interesting titles and clear descriptions to your videos, to give them the best chance of getting found and viewed.
Finally, encourage viewers to share and embed your video so they spread it for you.
Lisa Hunter is an experienced Marketing, Events and Project Manager. She has over 10 years’ experience working in the IT and marketing industry, delivering strategic marketing support and managing creative projects for a wide-range of clients. In this blog she shares her knowledge and experiences…we hope you enjoy it.