Using mobile to build a loyalty customer strategy is a smart idea.

[This is Part 1 of a series detailing how to create and implement a variety of advanced mobile marketing strategies]

Earlier this week, Hazel passed out some timely tips for improving your mobile ads strategy – and we’re going to extend the conversation by laying out some ideas that will help you to build your loyalty customer strategy by including mobile as one of the primary pillars in that plan.

Mobile, when used wisely, can be a big draw in setting up a venue to interact with loyal customers, and by extension, their referrals.

Do you have a mobile strategy yet?  And does it include a loyalty component?

The first step to making sense of anything mobile related is to determine just what goals can be achieved by using mobile.  Trying to create a program without a strategy is like trying to build a house without a set of blueprints – it can be done, but the results aren’t normally very livable.

[WORKSHEET DOWNLOAD: 3 Steps to Creating a Mobile Strategy]

Take a good look at your business, and at your business model.  Do you already have a loyalty customer program?  Or will this be a new addition to your current marketing efforts?  If you have a loyalty customer program, what are the rewards, how are they earned, and how can this be transitioned most simply to mobile?

This recent article discusses the fact that 50% of people NEVER download a new app, so it’s unlikely that creating a stand alone app for your business will get much traction, and it’s likely going to be a complete waste of time.

I was quoted last week in the MRC Cup of Joe blog

“Probably the most common misconception that business owners/managers/marketers have is that app discovery somehow takes care of itself,” says Kim Stuart, COO of Atlas Rewards. “As with anything else, there is a HUGE investment of time, effort and dollars in order to promote a successful app. (My definition of a successful app is one that at least breaks even on the initial and ongoing dev costs to support it. )There are more than 2 million apps in the App Store and roughly the same in Google Play, so the odds of anyone finding an app randomly are up there with winning the lottery. It’s very expensive to market an app, so most business owners should really think about WHY they believe they should build an app.”

Unless you have a very large user base, this should also be a sign that going the stand alone app route is more likely to turn you into an IT guy, as opposed to leaving you with time to market your business.

What are the easiest mobile options for a small business owner?

I preach this list of three things all the time.  It’s really like a mantra, and one that reaps rewards for those that stick with the plan.

#1 – Aggregator apps.

If you’re not familiar with the term, don’t worry about it.  All it means is that you put your business into someone else’s app.  If you own a restaurant, get a good listing in Yelp (including advertising if that’s what it takes to get noticed).  If you’re a real estate agent, suck it up, spend the money, and get some Zillow love.

These are two examples, but there’s at least one aggregator app for nearly every industry, and consumers are more likely to use these apps than a stand alone app for a single business.   This also decreases your cost of acquisition by about a thousand percent, and it means that you’re not the only one invested in the success of your app.

#2 – Social and search inclusion.

Google My Business.  Facebook Business Page.  LinkedIn Business Page.  These are not posting accounts, per se, but actual pages that you set up to tell the world about your business.  These guys also have apps, and getting your data into their database means you’ll be more likely to be found in their apps.  Don’t make people hunt you down, since they won’t do it.

[LISTEN: How Mobile Affects the Shoppers Journey PODCAST episode]

There are so many Google searches that are location relevant these days – “__________________ near me” type of searches – that you are killing your business if you don’t participate in the Google Business program.  Yes, I know it’s all crickets in Google+ but that’s the doorway to getting into their good graces, so you can either spend the money on Adsense or you can spend the time on adding your business, doing the snail mail confirmation and making sure your phone number, hours, location, etc are kept up to date.

And again with Facebook.  They own the world, basically, and any time they offer to list you for free, take them up on it.  You (nor I) have any clue what they’ll do with Messenger or FB mobile app next, and they could very well decide to take on Google’s location results.

It doesn’t take long to set up your page, and it takes even less time to toss a post or an article in there once a week.  You can use the same article in G+ and in FB, (and in LinkedIn for that matter).

#3 – Mobile wallet marketing.

Yes, this is our business.  That’s what this website is all about.  I’m not going to bore you with the details of how it works, why it works, or what simple things you need to do to make it work – the blog is chock full of how to pieces, why to pieces, and what to do to make it effective pieces.  You can find those by looking around for 2 minutes.

Leveraging mobile wallets like Apple Wallet or a variety of Android wallets is pretty much the ultimate in aggregator app placement.  Nearly every iPhone in existence has the Wallet in it, and Apple does a lot of the user acquisition marketing for you.  So does Starbucks, Sephora, Whole Foods, United Airlines, and every other mega-sized company that’s using the Wallet for payments, discounts, coupons, customer loyalty programs, boarding passes and so on.

This is the basic mobile strategy in a nutshell.  Adding a loyalty customer component is pretty easy after that.

Here’s a great little article from MarketingTech about customer loyalty and mobile for you to chew on.   It’s got a few more, and different, examples to check out.

Is there a demand to combine mobile with loyalty? Nearly half of consumers would like to engage with the loyalty programs they’re subscribed to through their mobile device.

Obviously consumers love loyalty programs – otherwise no one would care what airline they flew, what restaurants gave points for meals purchased, or whether there was a good 500 point bonus available from Sephora this week.

So what’s the takeaway here?

Rushing headlong into creating a loyalty customer strategy without a decent overall mobile strategy is a disaster waiting to happen.  Take the time and think things through; write down your goals and objectives on a notepad and then decide what the priority is going to be for achieving them.  Only then can you pair up your ideas with the best implementation.