When is a Phone not a Phone? Lessons in Mobile Marketing

Sep 5, 2012   //   by John Tabita   //   Business, Internet Marketing, Marketing  //  No Comments

In a previous article, I confessed that, despite my claim of being a web marketing geek, I did not own a smartphone. Recently, however, that changed when my company gave me a Droid HTC Incredible.

Frankly, I’ve been a bit underwhelmed by the entire smartphone experience. Maybe it’s because the person on the other end sounds like they’re standing on the deck of the Titanic as it makes its final decent into the swirling waters of the North Atlantic. Or perhaps it’s the battery life that plummets faster than RIM’s stock prices. Or maybe I’m just asking too much.

Since I’ve had it in mind to convince my employer into upgrading my phone, I’ve been eyeballing other people’s devices. A friend recently got the Samsung Galaxy S III, which is being touted as one of the best phones on the market. As I probed my friend about its call quality, he made an interesting comment: “I really don’t use it much to make calls.”

You don’t use your phone to make phone calls? WTF?

My friend is a part-time mechanic on the side, so a primary use of his phone is locating and ordering parts online. Looking at the size of the Galaxy S III’s screen, you can see why that’s easier than you might think. Smartphone screen sizes have been increasing over the past few years, but the Galaxy S III has one of the largest. At 4.8 inches, it’s more than three-quarters of an inch larger than my Incredible’s. That makes it a powerful alternative to a desktop computer.

A recent survey found that 71 percent of smartphone subscribers use their phone to make voice calls. Or, put another way, a full 29 percent do not use it to make voice calls. What would Alexander Graham Bell say?

Like my friend, who “rarely” uses his phone to make phone calls, people are increasingly using them for other things. They spend more than an hour a day on social networks, browsing the web, email and texting—and only 12 minutes a day making voice calls.

It’s not that people are making fewer phone calls—although you could make the case that texting has replaced a certain percentage of voice calls—it’s that people use their phones for things they can’t normally do when away from a computer.

What does this mean for small business marketing? As I’ve said before, stop regarding smartphones as phones—but as mini-computers carried in the purses and pockets of your potential customers. Consumers use these devices to find local businesses, products, and services.

And because they’re on the go, they’re more likely to call or visit your location. In fact, 70 percent of mobile searchers take action within one hour, by calling (61%), visiting (59%), or making a purchase (44%). Now more than ever, it important for you to be found in a local search.

So when is a phone not a phone? When it’s a computer, of course.

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Want to know more about how consumers use smartphones and tablets? Check out this new Google study, The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior:

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