About 2,000 mobile apps are published every day, making them "the fastest-growing consumer segment in the history of commerce," says Scott Hirsch, citing research Mobilewalla announced in December 2011.
"With more than a million apps downloaded every month at Apple's iTunes alone, how does a single small business owner ... grab any attention?" asks Hirsch, cofounder of appsbar.com, an online resource for building and publishing smartphone apps. He provides the following answers:
1. "The first advice I give any small business owner is to embrace the idea that apps have matured from simple games and funny noisemakers to robust marketing tools. Every digital platform, including app stores, should be viewed as new ways to engage customers."
2. "Most businesses think charging for an app will boost a bottom line. Apps should be free. You wouldn't charge someone to visit your website, would you? But that doesn't mean an app can't help drive sales. A robust app offers online catalogs and order forms, digital coupons and calendars of events to drive customer orders."
3. Make an app a two-way marketing vehicle. "By leveraging the right collection of tools, an app can provide customer touchpoints—including market research, customer service and customer relationship management."
4. "It helps if the app is interesting and provides a function, like an exclusive discount or coupon to loyal customers."
5. "The single most effective way any small business can see any ROI from their app is to let the world know it's available, whether that's a sign in their store, part of a signature on every email sent—and, of course, sending it across all available social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter."