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Mobile Apps for Everyone

-- 2011-04-08 3:00 am --

I've just spent thousands on my website, and now I need a mobile app? Small business owners once balked at the costs and necessity of developing a branded mobile application. Smartphones and mobile commerce pace the digital parade. And, until recently, bootstrappers weren’t invited to the party. The explosion of mobile apps have driven developers to level the playing field with an affordable solution – in some cases, free.

A simple strategy and a nominal investment can extend any business into the hands of today’s educated and discriminating buyer. Ideating, building, and growing an app is not cost prohibitive. And just like your website, mobile apps will soon become an integral part of all digital marketing plans.

Pick a Platform

Two options exist: open the vault and hire a developer, or side step sunk costs by using a shared platform. Your business can invest heavily – up to $100K – in original programming and support from a custom shop, or choose a “do-it-yourself” application, with less functionality, from a myriad of online software programs. Plan B’s speed-to-market and enormous cost savings gentrify the decision.

Simple programs requiring no coding experience reduce start-up costs and development windows. Scan the market and align your app needs with a worthy software partner. Some are free, while others charge a monthly fee. This do-it-yourself avenue represents a strategic approach for testing the mobile market, with minimal investment.

Find Your Functions

The best mobile apps adopt a “less is more” strategy. Focus on two key functions core to your business and maximize their impact. A simple, elegant interface screams “user-friendly” and is more likely to be adopted. Formulate and strategize your mobile app like a new product launch.

Canvass your customers and uncover pressing needs, wants, and desires for engaging you outside the office. Sketch a plan around your products, people, and vision, broadcasting your story to a wider audience. Isolate a customer service pain and fix it with a function. Then, strike a balance between fun and utility and you’ve got a stealthy marketing tool.

Techie Talk

This new model – easy and affordable - also packs a punch. Browser-based programs transfer web content and social media feeds, driving your message directly to the source, the smartphone. Some offer interactive media platforms capable of audio, video, and motion graphics. Mobile ad integration allows small business to quickly monetize their app. Pick your functions and OS options and then launch your app. Development is measured in hours, not months.

Three distinct OS platforms battle for supremacy: Apple, Android, and Blackberry. Apple pioneered the app world and gate-jumped the competition. Android, Google’s contribution, has swiftly closed the gap, using its industry leading smartphone to ignite mobile app sales and downloads. Blackberry’s RIM OS is losing the race, but not backing down. If possible, get your new app approved by all three.

Mobile apps are like a virtual street team, finding new customers, nurturing existing ones, and evangelizing your brand. Now you can afford one.