As Small Business Month came to a close yesterday, a group of industry experts held a live video chat online to talk about how small businesses can leverage mobile technology.

In a 25-minute livestream of a Google Hangout, ME Consulting’s Mark Evans, IBM Canada’s Alon Kronenberg, and Yellow Pages Group’s Melanie Gale talked about how small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) can take advantage of mobile and search platforms to reach customers.

Evans, Kronenberg, and Gale had a few key points for SMBs planning to jump into mobile:

First of all, as an SMB, you must have a presence in mobile.
That doesn’t mean your business can be found through searching on a mobile device – it also means having a site that is mobile friendly.

For example, if an SMB business owner runs a restaurant, his or her mobile-optimized site might allow users to directly book reservations using a smartphone or tablet.

While social media like Facebook pages are another great way to build an audience, they shouldn’t be the only way customers can reach a business’ site through mobile. Instead, social media should be seen as a way to drive traffic to the mobile site, Kronenberg said.

“It’s beyond just presence and being in mobile search. It’s once you appear in mobile search, and someone lands on your mobile page, how do you make sure you engage in a way that’s relevant and a way that’s meaningful to them?” Kronenberg said.

Put content relevant to mobile on your mobile-optimized site.
It’s not enough to just put a quick blurb on the site explaining core business objectives. Instead, SMBs should ensure they have a good selection of mobile-optimized text, images, videos, and reviews on their sites.

“More and more users are relying solely on ratings and reviews to make a decision on a business,” Gale pointed out during the Google Hangout.

Don’t rely on app development to establish a mobile presence.

A lot of SMBs think developing apps for their businesses is one of the best ways to reach customers. However, it can be hard to get customers to download them and continue using them. A mobile-optimized site may have more reach.

“[Developing apps] is really not something that we tend to recommend for the level of investment, the devotion of technological development. It’s really part of the last, last step of the process,” Gale said.

Finally, don’t get overwhelmed by all of the options.
During the Google Hangout, Evans asked Kronenberg and Gale whether SMBs are reluctant to start developing a mobile strategy.

It may not be that SMBs don’t want to enter the mobile space – instead, SMBs may be slower to embrace mobile because there are so many offerings out there, which can be confusing and overwhelming, Gale said.

“There are so many ways of developing a mobile presence, and there’s no one clear cut way of getting on board. When it comes down to it, SMBs are really just focused on running their business,” she said.

The key is for SMBs to decide on a digital strategy that includes not just their Web site and social media, but that also embraces mobile. There are a lot of options out there, Gale noted – it just comes down to knowing what an SMB wants to accomplish with mobile tools at their fingertips.

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