B2B Mobile Marketing… there’s an app for that
It’s predicted that nearly 6 billion mobile app downloads will occur in 2010 according to Marketing Charts and ABI Research. Of course the growth in smartphone sales (up 20% in 2009) is driving the development of apps.
So I started thinking about how B2B marketers could benefit from apps beyond increasing brand engagement. A more powerful use of B2B apps is to enable greater personal productivity and connectivity. Find out what would make your customers and prospects more productive. Based on my work with B2B high tech and industrial companies, the following list offers ideas for B2B mobile apps:
- Let’s say you provide a B2B software application. Is there a dashboard or other view that would simplify a process for your customer? For example, a busy plant manager spends a lot of time working throughout the plant. Could an app connect that person to his or her desktop and your software application from a mobile phone or device? Most likely, the answer is yes.
- In a similar manufacturing setting, could a mobile app enable more efficient equipment reliability and maintenance? For example, the use of a mobile application that would allow a machine operator to connect to the equipment manufacturer for troubleshooting.
- In regulated industries such as food and pharmaceutical, could a mobile app help streamline regulatory compliance or avoid non-compliance for processes such as commissioning and qualification, hazmat handling, etc.?
- Connect your app to location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla, where it can enhance productivity by optimizing support resources and improving customer response time. (Ok… that one may seem like a stretch today, but not in the near future.) Read more on Geo Location Trends from Mashable.
- Calculators and reference tools are popular B2B apps, especially for the technical audience. Whether it’s ROI, popular engineering formulae or productivity/efficiency calculations, calculators can be an effective B2B app for boosting your brand and your customers’ productivity.
How much does a B2B mobile app cost?
B2B mobile app development costs vary widely. Apps can range from $10K to $300+K depending on the complexity of the app, number of platforms on which it will operate (iPhone, Android or Blackberry) and interface with other platforms or systems such as a CRM sytem, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Typical rates for developers range from $50 per hour to $100 per hour. Despite the wide range of pricing, the average cost to develop a robust app appears to be around $30K, although I’ve heard of less robust apps coming in at around $5K.
Consider how the app will be used to determine whether it should be free or fee-based. If your B2B mobile app is designed to help further engage prospects within the buying cycle, then a free app may be justifiable based on the potential return on investment. If the mobile app is an integral part of your product offering or a value-added service, then consider a fee-based mobile app or a free trial period.
When determining the cost of a B2B mobile app, you should also factor in promotional costs. After your app is developed, you’ll need a marcom plan for promoting the app and driving users to download it.
Should you be “app agnostic”?
With more than 125,000 apps and growing, the Apple iPhone is one of the most popular destinations for apps . However Google’s Android OS is quickly gaining popularity along with Blackberry and other devices. As B2B marketers, consider what device your customers are primarily using for business connectivity. The Blackberry is a popular device among enterprise users and a likely destination for B2B apps. You may wish to consider other devices such as iPads and Windows Mobile OS devices as viable alternatives. You’ll have to weigh the development costs of each to determine what is feasible.
Measure the success of your B2B mobile app
The number of downloads is one metric, but it only tells part of the story. Consider the category in which your mobile app will reside and seek to be in the top for your category. For example, the “lifestyle” category is one of the most popular. Of course, the more specialized the app, the less crowded the space. When developing your app, consider building in tools to monitor usage such as AppViz, Heartbeat, or Pinch Media.
A B2B mobile app can be another element in your marcom mix designed to move prospects to the next step in the buying cycle or as an added value to your product.
I’d love to hear more from other B2B marketers and mobile app developers on what you’re seeing in B2B mobile apps. Thanks!
More information on mobile apps for B2B:
BEST PRACTICE: Seven rules for developing iPhone apps — James Hepton shares practical advice for developing B2B mobile apps.
What Offers a Bigger Opportunity Than Paid Mobile Apps? — Paid or free mobile app?… Rob Weber offers advice.
Marketing Your App is More Important than You Think — iCombat provides a good review of how to market your mobile app from a gaming perspective… worth a read.
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