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5 Tips to Getting Started on the Mobile Web - Tips to Help Hotels Increase Marketing Efforts and Reach New Mobile-based Customers

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March 01, 2009
Mobile | Technology
Mark Watson - mark@volantis.com

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© 2009 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

Now more than ever, people are turning to their mobile phones for Internet access. iPhones™, BlackBerry® smartphones and other mobile devices are giving individuals the freedom to plan trips on the go. Mobile phones are an easy way for travelers to stay connected as alternative Internet access is often an additional inconvenience when traveling. When people get off a plane, the mobile phone is the first device they turn on and is constantly on when traveling. The importance of a strong mobile Web-based presence is increasing as travelers are relying on their mobile devices for convenient Internet access. 

While many businesses have an online presence, most are unaware of their potential reach across the mobile Internet. Globally, small businesses that have created mobile Web sites are experiencing a competitive advantage over those still in the dark ages of mobile marketing.

The good news is that it’s easy to establish a presence on the mobile Web and to begin attracting customers on the go. And the best part is that it doesn’t need to cost much. Here are five simple steps to get started.

1. Create a mobile site.
A mobile Web site is the first step to building a brand on the go that will unlock the door to mobile marketing dollars. When creating a mobile version of your Web site, ease of access and usability should be key. Unless you’re a multimedia programmer, chances are that you’re looking for a quick and easy solution.

A great place to start is Ubik.com, an award-winning, free-to-use online service, which allows anyone to publish compelling mobile Web sites. With a simple step-by-step approach, Ubik.com leads you through the process of setting up a mobile site in less than 15 minutes. By removing the clunky, mobile-unfriendly components of your traditional site, you can create a simplified version that conforms to the parameters of small mobile phone browsers. Coding for the thousands of mobile devices on the market, with varying screen dimensions and resolutions, would be an impossible task. Ubik.com achieves this for you, all you need to do is provide the text, images and reservation information.

Dozens of scenarios could be used to demonstrate the usefulness of having a mobile Web site. Here’s one: During a long road trip, a group of friends decide they want to spend the night, but don’t have previous plans made. Wondering what hotels are in the area, someone flips open their mobile phone to find out. Here, your mobile site is ready to reassure them that your hotel has vacancy and is within driving distance. 

2. Make it simple.
Hand-held devices make life convenient and easy for people on the go. Avoid inundating them with text and slow-loading pictures. Mobile customers are looking for simple solutions that they can act on quickly, so keep your messages short and close the sale. Even in these days of all-you-can-eat domestic data plans, many users are still paying for every byte they download.

Mobile customers need something far simpler than the average PC Web site. Say they are making accommodations while already on the road. Adapt the mobile site to highlight information that’s key for people on the go: pricing, directions, contact information and vacancy information. Keep the look and feel consistent with your brand, while keeping the navigation simple, linear and specific to the content that’s provided. If you focus on quick and convenient access to pertinent information, you’ll help drive new customers through your door, instead of your competitor’s down the street.

3. Texting.
Your customers are your community. SMS marketing is designed to generate an immediate response from them. People carry their mobile phones all the time, so keep in touch with them by offering an opt-in text messaging system to let them know about special deals, to give them electronic coupons and even to give recommendations for local restaurants and activities. They are more likely to read and respond to text messages than many other forms of communication.

In fact, according to the Mobile Marketing Association, 89 percent of companies will use text and multimedia messaging to reach their audiences in 2009, with nearly one third planning to spend more than 10 percent of their marketing budgets on advertising in the text message marketing medium. Also, the cost of text marketing is fairly low.

As a means to boost sales and edge out the competition, many businesses are introducing mobile ordering services via text message. Typically, the customer creates an account on your Web site, activating the text message ordering service by entering their mobile number and notifying your hotel when they would like to make a reservation. This message lets you know to reserve an extra room when a text message arrives.

4. Map your way to success.
Mobile users are, by definition, on the move, and seek instant gratification. The latest handsets come with location-based capabilities and mapping software. How do you make sure your business is listed when someone nearby is searching for what you can offer?

One answer is Google Maps for mobile, one of the most popular applications for use on smartphones. This free, downloadable application puts your business listing, maps and location directions, directly in the hands of mobile users. Google’s local search engine allows people to search for your businesses by name or by type. Customers will find your business: your address, hours of operation, photos of your hotel, contact information, accepted forms of payment, coupons, ratings and will be able to call or text you within a single click.

To add your business to Google Maps, visit the Google Local Business Center and click on Add/Edit Your Business page. Before creating a new listing, it’s important to verify that your business isn’t already listed. One way of avoiding duplication is to search for your business name within your city. If a business is already listed, select Claim Your Business and, if not, continue to signup in the Local Business Center. The process is easy. You have the option to receive your personal identification number, either by phone or by mail. This PIN must be entered into the account before listings are activated, which can take up to a month.

You can also link directly to your Google listing from your Web site. Embedding Google Maps on your landing page allows you to provide an interactive means for customers to map their way to your location. To locate you, all they have to do is click on a link within your Web site and they are taken to an accurate road map with directions.

5. Bringing it all together.
Mobile marketing is not an island; today it’s all about the multichannel approach. To most effectively communicate with your current and prospective customer base, integrate your mobile marketing strategy with traditional ads and other aspects of online and e-mail marketing. Make your mobile community part of a wider marketing community, not something you run alongside it.

For example, sending someone a piece of direct mail about the latest special offer puts something physical in the hands of the consumer, but won’t guarantee that it’s available to them when they need it.Consider delivering special offerings to customers on their mobile devices, so they are stored and ready to use, or use the traditional marketing to let people know about your text messaging services, for example, by offering short code addresses to get them started.

By adding the mobile messaging component, you can expand your marketing reach to the multitasking, on-demand generation that would otherwise have tuned out or away from traditional media. 

Mark Watson is CEO of U.K.-based Volantis Systems, a provider of mobile Internet middleware solutions. He can be reached for comment at mark@volantis.com.

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