Bringing Business Inspiration & Marketing Motivation to Mill Valley

Every small business person that I know sings a similar song: “I’m overwhelmed!”

Furthermore, for most of us, whether you are an entrepreneur or founder of a small business, the “rules” seem to keep changing. These days, there’s more to having your own business than just figuring out how to make money. For example, motivation matters and the whole meaning of “marketing” has changed. And that’s just for openers…

That’s why I’m honored, delighted and (no exaggeration) super-excited to be bringing my beloved friend, the extraordinary business coach, author, and leader, Andrea J. Lee to the SF Bay Area for a one-day workshop called “The New Rules of Business and Social Media Success.” She and I will be co-presenting an uplifting, informative and highly interactive “Playshop” that will include everything from decision making and relationship building to creating online video and social media marketing. All of this will be live and in-person on Monday, January 25th from 10am – 5pm in Mill Valley. You can register here. And, I even created this special video invitation just for you 😉

 

Please let me know if you have any questions whatsoever.

I look forward to seeing you there!

[callout title=”The New Rules of Business and Social Media Success” button=”I Want to Learn More or Register” link=”http://www.combridges.com/event” buttoncolor=”blue” target=”_blank”]An Inspiring, Highly Interactive, Experiential Playshop: Monday, January 25th, 10am – 5pm, Mill Valley, CA, USA[/callout]

Major Website Design Learning: Squarespace Makes It Fun Again

Our new Squarespace website design options—both a done-with-you process and lower priced projects—have taught me important lessons while also helping me to help clients better and to enjoy my work more.

[testimonial author=”Will Lopes, owner, William Patrick Design Builders”]”The future of website design is here! Squarespace in the able hands of Jon Leland was a revelation. He guided me through a re-design more quickly, elegantly and affordably than I imagined possible. Now, I have a modern, good-looking, mobile-friendly website; AND it’s on a platform that empowers me to have FUN evolving it by myself. I couldn’t recommend Jon’s unique approach more highly.”[/testimonial]

william-patrick-buildersI think the testimonial above says a ton!

As I’ve continued to experiment with Squarespace as a more cost effective and easier to use platform (vs. WordPress) for small business websites, I’ve not only learned lessons about the need for clarity in differentiating these fresh approaches; but, even more importantly, I’ve uncovered new ways of serving clients that are both better for them and more fun for me.

Not “One Size Fits All”

I recently did a “1-to-1 Get-It-Done” Squarespace website session with Christine Fischer via Skype. She lives in Spain and conducts Truffles Tours there.

While Christine appreciated her experience as “fun” with results that she said are “functional and elegant,” she also gave me some valuable, “constructive feedback.” sitka-servicesShe told me that she wasn’t completely clear when we started that the 1-to-1 Get-It-Done package was just a session and not a complete website project.

I was really glad that I took the time to listen to her feedback and I’ve already incorporated her suggestions by positioning the “1-to-1” offer more distinctly, as she suggested. I explained on the “1-to-1” offer page that this session is a way to build a “foundation” for your website and be empowered to move forward on your own. That much I can promise. A complete website in three hours, I can not promise. 😉

I took that input, updated the offer page and then went a extra step by creating a new 3-column chart that’s now featured on my website’s “Website Design Services” page.

A New Chart to Visualize the Differences

web-design-development-options-chartNow, hopefully, thanks to this chart, people can quickly and easily understand the differences between the various ways that we are now serving up new client websites.

Truthfully, for me, doing this chart was also useful because I’ve been experimenting by developing this offers and they needed to be more clearly articulated.

Now, as these new approaches to website design and development have become successful in terms of completing both sessions and projects (please see our new Squarespace website design portfolio page for examples), and, as I’m seeing 1-to-1 Get-It-Done clients complete their own websites, my whole experience with Squarespace has become more and more satisfying.

In fact, it’s become downright enjoyable!

And that’s the bottom line: I love sharing my expertise and being hands on. Doing these projects and sessions have given me a new way to be helpful and one that is empowering for clients. Yay!

Yes, Squarespace has made web design fun again.

How Small Businesses Can Save $1,000’s on Websites Using Squarespace vs WordPress

Time is Money and So Is the Right Technology

The Truth About Websites-videoframeWhen it’s time for a new website or a redesign, suddenly there are some serious differences to consider when choosing the platform. Specifically, WordPress is no longer a no brainer.

I want what’s best for you, and so I research and test technologies so you don’t have to. Websites are a core component of my business, so I especially stay on top of website design platforms in order to offer you the best options.

“I know that I can count on you 100% to know the latest and greatest marketing communications technologies… You know what’s over-hyped and what’s for real… We trust you to lead us in that way.”
– Randy Haldeman, CEO, Code-N

After a very successful run with WordPress, now—for smaller businesses where simplification can save tons of money, time, and aggravation—I am now recommending Squarespace over WordPress.

I want you to understand why. So, I’m doing Free Webinar on the advantages of Squarespace over WordPress. It’s coming up this Thursday, May 28th at 10am PT. Please click here to register or continue reading. This blog post and the a personal video invitation below—as well as the webinar—include more details.

Free Webinar Registration

The savings for small businesses by using Squarespace rather than WordPress are not only direct costs, but also significant reductions in wasted time and technical hassles. The benefits of Squarespace include beautiful templates that are always responsive, a smaller learning curve, and a more efficient work flow, especially if you don’t want to always be dependent on a web designer or developer. Here’s your video invitation:

The “Done-With-You” Revolution

Plain and simple, Squarespace has helped me to help more people in a way that’s more fun, more efficient and more collaborative. While anyone can use Squarespace in Do-It-Yourself mode—and there’s nothing wrong with that—it has also enabled me to offer 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Websites that are literally one-half the cost of our WordPress customizations (which we still do for larger organizations with more complex needs).

“I’m very pleased with the 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Website session that I did with Jon Leland at ComBridges. In less than the time it takes to play a round of golf, we had my new website designed and published… Prior to this session, I had wasted many hours over a couple of months trying to update my website. I finally reached out to Jon and in just one afternoon, he saved me a ton of time, money and effort.”
— Jim Draper, President, Draper Creative Group

We call this kind of collaboration a Done-With-You service vs the more traditional Done-For-You type of service which takes considerably more time—for both the client and the vendor—as well as more money. Please click here if you want to learn more about how this service works.

How Squarespace is Different & Why This Matters

Squarespace brings together a lot of features that I’ve been looking for in a website design platform, all in one compact, hosted package that provides everything most small businesses need with almost none of the hassle. Some of the features and benefits of Squarespace that I’ll be explaining and showing in more detail during the Free Webinar include:

  • Elegant, beautiful, modern templates that are on a par with the best of WordPress.
  • All templates in the latest version of Squarespace are mobile-friendly and the responsiveness doesn’t break when you customize pages.
  • Because it’s a closed system, maintenance could not be simpler. Upgrades are built in. No plug-ins. No getting hacked. No unexpected expenses.
  • The system is user-friendly so that almost anyone can learn quickly to make their own website updates.
  • Squarespace provides 24×7 support via chat and fast-turnaround email.
  • There are an impressive array of built-in, highly-customizable features including:
    • Response forms
    • Video and audio embeds
    • Animated picture galleries
    • Editable social media icons
    • And more

And all of this is provided without having to research and shop for plug-ins and without needing to worry about possible plug-in conflicts that can be an issue with WordPress when you install and/or upgrade.

If you want to understand these benefits better, I hope you will click here to register for free for the webinar where I will explain all of this and show you as much as possible via on-screen video demos—all in less than a half hour.

Free Webinar Registration

“Who knew that creating a new website could be so fast, easy, affordable and fun? Jon is a master of all things internet, and he brings a warm and enthusiastic spirit of partnership and creativity. If you are looking for help designing a quick new website, look no further.”
— Dara Ackerman, singer-songwriter

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to follow up with me in ways other than the webinar, here are some options:

You Taught Me Well! Valuable Insights from Our Services Survey

First, I read a little ebook called “The Audience Revolution: The Smarter Way to Build a Business, Make a Difference, and Change the World” by Danny Iny. This ebook inspired me to get in closer touch with you, my dear readers, tribe members, followers, and clients.

Services Survey welcome pageSecond, I created a ComBridges Services Survey in order to ask those of you who follow me on social media and/or subscribe to my ComBridges “It’s a Wonderful Web” enewsletter, “How I can serve you better?”.

I’m glad I did because what I learned is extremely valuable!

So, now, here I am sharing those learnings with you and saying a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who participated. You made a big difference. Please allow me to explain…

A Path to a Bigger Difference

I stated on the survey’s welcome page (shown to the right):

“I don’t want to make more noise.
I want to make a bigger difference…
to YOU.”

And I meant it. Even better, it worked. Here are three of the most valuable things I learned:

1. “Online Marketing Mentor” Describes Me Better

The funny thing is that “Online Marketing Mentor” was not something that I was even considering calling myself before I did this survey. JL personnas survey resultUntil last week, I was fond of calling myself a “Humanistic Marketing Wizard.” It was fun while it lasted.

On the marketing consulting side of things, my friend Marty Perlmutter says that I am a “Chief Strategy Officer” (CSO) and I used that to craft my CSO-to-Go offer.

For my more spiritual work, I enjoy calling myself “The Ambassador of Ease.” And so forth.

When I was writing the survey and crafting that question, the idea of “Online Marketing Mentor” just sprang to mind, perhaps because of the group mentoring program, The New Media New Marketing Playground that I ran last winter. It sounded good, so I just casually included it. As you can see from the results image, it’s a clear winner.

Now, with 20-20 hindsight I can see that it’s a much clearer description of what I like to do.

After all, I’m collaborative by nature. So, this descriptor reminded me of what I wrote in a blog post in January about why I like being a small business mentor rather than a “consultant.” It works. I’ve already started changing my social media profiles to reflect this new title.

And, “online marketing mentor” also reflects another important pivot that is already underway in my business. People like the idea of Done-WITH-You Services.

2. It’s More Fun & More Productive When We Create TOGETHER

Recently, I began offering a “1-to-1 Get-It-Done” collaborative website design process using Squarespace. Done WITH You Survey ResultsThis was my first experiences of offering a Done-With-You service. It’s been a great experience. It’s more fun and far more efficient for you and for me. Clients have been very pleased. (For example, there are two raving client testimonials in this blog post about the first two Squarespace websites that I produced this way last October.)

So, I was not very surprised when 75% of responders to the survey said they prefer an approach to our services that is either Done-With-You or a combination of Done-With-You and Done-For-You; but I have to say that this is a very valuable encouragement or nudge for me to keep moving in this direction. And, it was an eye-opener to see Done-For-You coming in dead last with only 10%.

3. You Reminded Me That I’ve Been Neglecting LinkedIn

LinkedIn social media prefs surveyAs I told the people in my New Media New Marketing Playground, LinkedIn is the best social media network for B2B (business-to-business) companies. But, to be honest, I haven’t really been walking my talk in that regard.

Now, thanks to the feedback from the survey, it’s clear that I need to be spending more time there. For my people, LinkedIn is a clear second social media preference (after the obvious social media networking leader, Facebook).

And, there were other important results like your preference for “Insights, Resources and Trends” as the kind of information sharing you value most (with “Spirituality in General” coming in a surprising second), and for “Videos or Webinars” as the ways for me to share content online that you find most useful and appealing, among other things.

If you’d like to see more of exactly what the respondents had to say, please click here to view the completely updated results of our survey.

And there’s more!

Beyond all this seriously actionable data, taking steps directed by you, my peeps, tribe, and clients, has also given me new motivation. I feel like I’m learning to build my business in a way that’s more aligned with what people actually need and want. What a concept! 😉

The Audience Revolution is a Seriously Fresh New Mindset

audience rev coverFor this last piece of learning above, I really want to thank Danny Iny for the inspiration of his little book, “The Audience Revolution.” The Audience Revolution is a simple concept that’s really common sense; but one that is very rarely practiced.

Putting the audience first, rather than leading with a product or service that you think they might want is actually kind of radical. I feel like I’ve made a positive step in a very positive direction thanks to the clarity of this book. Further, I appreciate the simplicity of his focus and the fact that he focuses on something that, as I hope you can see from this blog post, can really make a difference.

I Love the TypeForm Survey App

And finally, (in part because you told me you like to learn about new tools and resources) this experiment convinced me that I’ve found an online application for surveys that I love. I was attracted to TypeForm because of the elegance and openness of their designs, but I had never used it before.

Now I’m sold.

Not does it look good, but it’s easy to use, very flexible and has all of the functionalities I could ask for. I really like the variable ways that you can structure questions and the notifications. And, the reports are as elegant as the design templates. For example, here’s a link to a public view of all the results (note, more people have completed the survey since I did the screen grabs above).

There’s lots more for me to explore using TypeForm, for example their Stripe e-commerce and Google Spreadsheet integrations. I look forward to getting to know it better.

All-in-all, this was a very useful experiment and I couldn’t have done it without you! 😉

Thanks again.

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Thanks in part to all the blog comment spammers, comments are turned off on this blog (at least for now). However, PLEASE, I would LOVE to hear from you, including any comments, criticisms, suggestions or whatever, via any of the social networks linked at the very top of this page. Thanks.[/alert]

Google SEO Update: Your Website MUST Be Mobile-Friendly & How Squarespace Might Help

Having Your Website Be Mobile-Friendly Is No Longer Optional

I’ve been writing about how important mobile-friendly websites are for almost two years. Between smartphones and tablets, my website is seeing almost 20% of its traffic come from mobile devices. Industry standard is more like 30% and often more. That should be reason enough to make sure that your site is optimized for “the mobile experience.”Mobile-friendly websites are no longer

However, now, there’s another major reason to address this issue. Google has just announced (in a relatively unprecedented manner, i.e. in advance) that within the new search engine algorithm update that’s coming on April 21st, 2015, “we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal… (and it) will have a significant impact in our search results.” 

In other words, beyond not being user-friendly to mobile browsers, your website will very likely LOSE web traffic if it is not mobile-friendly. And, this change in search results will be most dramatic among those searching and finding your website via mobile devices.

But none of us wants to lose ANY visitors, do we?

Are You Ready for Mobile-Friendliness and Mobile Search?

There is no single approach to having your website become mobile-friendly. And, the bad news is that most approaches add cost and complexity. The exception is turnkey systems like Squarespace.

Overall, your approach to mobile-friendliness will vary depending on your website authoring and delivery platform, and this is a moving target that few small businesses understand.

If you are using WordPress, for example, there are themes that are “responsive” which means their layout varies depending on the width of the device being used to view the site. This is a good thing, and that’s the way that our ComBridges.com website is currently done. It works, but there can be complications. For example, when you update content or want to make layout changes of almost any kind, you must consider how those changes will look in mobile. It’s an easy thing to overlook, but if you are committed to WordPress, then for many small businesses, responsive is the way to go.

Another approach is to build your website with “mobile first” within the architecture of its construction using CSS components from the ground up (including a custom theme if you are using WordPress). For example, I’m currently supervising design and production of a website pro bono for a large non-profit and I’m very pleased with the results of this approach. It looks great on mobile and on the desktop, but this approach does add significantly to the cost of the site. And, it’s really only viable for new websites or a complete redesign. Because of their limited resources, few small businesses want to make that kind of investment.

And, some businesses actually do a separate version of their website for mobile viewers, sometimes using a mobile plug-in and sometimes a separate app. While this can optimize “the mobile experience,” this also means maintaining a separate version of the site. So, every time you do an update of any magnitude, you have to update the mobile version; thus, the cost for maintaining this kind of website increases. Again, not so good for small businesses with limited resources.

But, there is a low cost solution that is as bullet-proof as any technology will allow…

Squarespace to the Rescue

Recently, I’ve been doing more and more websites for small businesses using Squarespace. I like the simplicity of the system, the elegance of the templates, and now, mobile-friendliness is another key benefit. As Squarespace explains in this 2013 blog post, Mobile Is a Big Deal… Why Isn’t Your Website?:

“Comprehensive website solutions like Squarespace do all the work for you by providing templates that are designed with beautiful, functional mobile use in mind.”

The trade offs are that there are far fewer templates on Squarespace than there are WordPress themes and not all of the bells and whistles features, but most. So, if you agree with me that the templates that Squarespace does have are elegant and modern, then one advantage that you get is that you know your website is built from the ground up (like a more custom mobile site) with mobile-friendliness in mind. And, as you go forward, you can rest assured (within reasonable limits) that your website updates will not break the template or theme, another blessing of operating within a closed system.

Other Actions You Can Take to Address the Google SEO Update

No matter what approach you decide to take, there’s no doubt in my mind that being mobile-friendly is no longer an option. Your organization needs to look good on mobile devices for both mobile browsers and, now, for Google and the other search engines.

No matter how you proceed, I highly recommend you (or your web master) check out this post from Search Engine Land which offers a very practical set of steps you can take to assess and improve your website’s mobile status, starting with a free test. As they say in their post’s title, “Take These 3 Actions To Get Ready For Google’s Mobile Search Update.”

Here’s the “1, 2, 3” bottom line:

  1. Identify & Improve Your Mobile Web Optimization Status including use of Google’s free “Mobile-Friendly Test” tool. Click here to get a mobile-friendly assessment of any webpage.
  2. Assess Your Mobile Web Search Visibility & Traffic Behavior
  3. Establish Your Mobile Web Search Competitiveness & Monitor Your Performance

Tech-savvy details for this kind of evaluation are included in that post.

Done-For-You vs Done-WITH-You

And, for those of you who may not have heard, if you are interested in a Squarespace website, ComBridges is pioneering a collaborative process we call “1-to-1 Get It Done Websites.” It saves money and time. Please click here to learn more about this innovative approach.

And thanks for reading!

[alert type=”notice, warning, success, error, info” close=”true”]A Note About Comments
Thanks in part to all the blog comment spammers, comments are turned off on this blog (at least for now). However, PLEASE, I would LOVE to hear from you, including any comments, criticisms, suggestions or whatever, via any of the social networks linked at the very top of this page. Thanks.[/alert]

Announcing a New Way to Have Fun & Get Better at Online Marketing

New Media New Marketing PlaygroundIt has been a dream of mine to offer an on-going education and mentoring program, at an affordable price, and to use that to create an online virtual community (or tribe). This dream is now being realized with The New Media New Marketing Playground.

And, because of the very special pricing that I am offering for the first ten people who sign up—and there are only a limited number of slots left—this program is clearly going to get off the ground in September (early sign-ups will get special free programs and early access during August, as well as special pricing). I don’t want you to miss out on these savings and this opportunity. Please click here for more details.

More than ever, I am basing my coaching/consulting/mentoring on my values of ease, fun and authenticity. Thus, I know that if you join us, you will learn how to do marketing with more ease, my enthusiasm will help us all have more fun, and I will support you to connect with your own authentic voice in order to attract and build relationships with your ideal clients via the Web.

So, if you think it would support your online efforts to have a place where someone very knowledgeable, who you trust (you trust me, right?) is available to answer your questions about online marketing technologies and strategies, as well as to share with you what’s new, what’s working, and what mistakes to avoid… and to have this program be very affordable so you can make progress in your business step-by-step and feel good about it, I would love to make myself available to support you via The Playground.

Please click here to explore this offer.

I hope to see you there!

(and, of course, if you know someone who might be interested, please share this page with them; OR if you just want to help me share the love please click one of the abundant share links on this page. Thanks!)

New Video: Authenticity Rant #1, KISS Meets the Meaning Behind Your Brand Messaging

Image via @gapingvoid. Messaage via @briansolis

Image via @gapingvoid. Messaage via @briansolis

Ease. Fun. Authenticity. These three words summarize what I’m about and what differentiates the most important dimensions of how we serve our clients.

Our new focus on these values is a quantum shift for the ComBridges brand. It makes saying “We are a web design company” seem pedestrian. Even my clarity about being “an Internet marketing strategist” pales in comparison to this more meaningful description of what lights me up and what I think makes the biggest difference when I work with people (and their organizations). 

Thus, the video embedded below is  a walking-my-talk-style expression of this commitment to focus on the qualities that are most meaningful to me. At the same time, this short video also includes a strong recommendation that you bring the human qualities of your brand to the forefront of your marketing communications. And, finally, thanks to my partner-in-crime on this Google Hangouts video, Peter Klein, we also underscore why, in today’s media-cluttered world, you need to do this kind of positioning as simply as possible. Not bad for only four minutes, right? 😉

I’ll blog more about this trend toward the human dimensions of marketing communications in the near future; but for now, one addition link that I found valuable recently is Bryan Kramer’s post on Social Media Today, There Is No More B2B or B2C: There Is Only Human to Human (H2H)

If you don’t know, KISS is means Keep it Simple Stupid.  😉 As always, I’d love to hear your feedback and appreciate any sharing or commenting you feel moved to do. Thanks!

Webinar Video: Internet Marketing Success in 4 Easy “Booster Rockets”

Webinar via YouTube: Internet marketing... success

Last week, we recorded a live webinar as part of the re-launch of New Marketing University (NewMarU.com). I entitled it, “The 4 Booster Rockets of Internet Marketing Success” and we covered four key areas that are high leverage for any small business that wants to expand the effectiveness of its online marketing, including why these strategies are important and an overview of how we approach them.

The good news, if you are just passing by, is that I felt that this webinar was such a valuable introduction to how ComBridges approaches these kinds of innovations in Internet marketing as well as a taste of the kinds of useful information that will be available more and more via NewMarU.com, I decided to post this recording free and open to all on YouTube with no email registration required. In fact, this 45-minute video webinar is embedded below on this page so you can just click and enjoy it right now. 😉

In case you want to know what’s covered without watching anything, we discuss the following four strategic Internet marketing tactics:

  • Lead capture and lead nurturing along with the need to design a sales funnel process
  • Truly interactive Facebook Pages that go “beyond the Like”
  • Authentic engagement and what makes video content marketing more effective
  • Cost effective small business mobile apps to reach the rapidly increasing number of website visitors using smartphones and other mobile devices

All this and more in only about 40 minutes plus Q&A. Please check it out and comment, here or on YouTube. And if you want more, click on the “YouTube” logo to subscribe to our YouTube channel or register at NewMarU.com. Thanks! We look forward to hearing from YOU.

This Week’s “3 Geegy Amigos” Tech Talk Show via Google Hangouts

3geekyamigos-logo

We had fun today and I think there’s lots of useful information for you, as we live recorded this week’s episode of our new tech talk show, “3 Geeky Amigos” (live almost every week, Tuesdays at 3pm PT). We learned a lot including how to do lower-third graphic titles inside of Google Hangouts On Air and talked about everything from iPhone apps to Gmail’s upcoming interface update, Moz.com to free WordPress training, Internet marketing (of course) to social analytics software and even a little bit of Twitter’s Vine video app. Note: All of the links that are mentioned in this edition are right there for you in the YouTube video’s description. So click on the video title in the embedded video below if you want the links. Audio-only version also offered below, just in case that’s more convenient. You can even download that one.

Enjoy and we’d love your feedback!

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/96188513″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Mobile Apps and Mobile-Friendly Websites for Business: 
The Next Big Thing in Internet Marketing?

Shortly after Internet accessibility via mobile phones started to take off, marketers started to encourage businesses to build mobile versions of their websites. But there is always a gap between innovations and those who follow up in order to take advantage of the latest technologies.

mobile-friendly website with responsive WordPress theme

ComBridges’ new mobile-friendly website design uses a responsive WordPress theme

But, now that there is a meaningful volume of web visitors checking out every website (yes, even yours!) via mobile devices, spanning this gap is becoming more of a requirement. And yet, there are still a very significant number of businesses who don’t have mobile-friendly websites. The really bad news, particularly for those who are falling behind, is that the gap is widening between those who are meeting the demand for mobile-friendly web communications and those who are not. The good news is that there are a new generation of business communication tools arising in the form of apps and new kinds of websites that make meeting this need increasingly accessible. Illuminating these trends with specific examples is the purpose of this blog post.

The Mobile Web is Exploding

These changes are unquestionably dramatic. While the Web was born on desktop computers, it is obviously no longer simply a desktop medium. By May 2012, fully one tenth of the world’s web traffic was arriving on your digital doorstep via mobile phones and tablets. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the “developing” world that is truly leading the charge. In those countries where cell phones have long outnumbered landlines, more than one-half of web use is now coming via mobile devices. This demand for mobile delivery is now forcing the issue and providing further fuel for the shift in how websites are designed. In this environment, for a company to ignore the need for the mobile-friendly delivery of its Web content not only limits that company’s engagement opportunities because they are essentially “dissing” a significant segment of their audience. In the US alone, mobile is now estimated to be about 15% of web traffic. Bottom line, this form of resistance to change (or upgrades) will also exclude that company from a significant component of how the next billion people will get online.

Chinese woman with iPad

Photo by Robert May, April, 2013

Not Your Father’s Website Design

Web development for the mobile age itself is advancing quickly. One of the latest innovations is called responsive website designs. Because responsive designs automatically adjust their layout to suit the device being used, they offer a relatively simple solution that can eliminate the complexity of having to create a separate mobile-friendly version of your website. But this means that those—like my company recently—must invest in a redesign in order to keep pace with the mobile revolution. But that’s not all. The pace of change does not slow down. It accelerates.

Span the Gap with an App

Now, at least for marketers who are committed to the leading edge of engagement with social media savvy users who love their mobile devices, a responsive design may not be enough. Mobile apps are yet another important innovation because they combine the emergence of ever-expanding Web access via mobile devices with the ability to communicate directly, in a native form (i.e. within the mobile medium) via customized business-specific functionalities from Facebook feeds, to special offers, to location-based components.

A recent article by SmartMediaTips on mobile statistics points out that over 50% of an individual’s time spent on a smartphone is spent using apps. In 2011, smartphone users downloaded 17.7 billion apps, and this number is expected to increase to 108 billion by 2015. As a result, more than 300,000 apps were developed in the last 3 years. In a sense, apps are the new websites (just like “60 is the new 40.”)

The good news is that some newly developed Web-based SaaS (software as service) resources are make building basic apps far more accessible and affordable than previously imagined. The result is a new trend in mobile marketing: the development of business apps that can be used by companies of virtually any size. Of course, many large, enterprise-level businesses have already jumped on the app bandwagon, including banks, Starbucks, Google, and even Walmart’s new checkout app. Now, there are mobile apps for the rest of us.

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Websites

A business mobile app means that your website can be programmed to offer mobile users an interface for your website and social media content that is all the more friendly, not only with a vertical layout that fits a smartphone screen, but with an interface that features icons (rather than web-style text links) that are also a natural for the touch of a screen. Thus, an app offers more than a responsive website design. An app gives your business a mobile presence that can put local or social media interactivity in a more prominent position. In particular, an app allows your loyal customers and followers to retrieve content, like audio podcasts or video commentaries for example, that are more conveniently accessed while on the move. Likewise, Facebook posts and tweets, which are commonly accessed via mobile, can become part of your business app’s featured content.

One logical strategy is use the app to make your social media marketing and content marketing outreach more accessible. For example, when individuals are standing in line at the bank or at the grocery store, with an app at their fingertips, they will much more easily be able browse through your Facebook posts. In fact, they are certainly more likely to visit your Facebook Page while on your app rather than from Facebook’s own app where they are far more than likely to be distracted by their family’s photos, etc.

Likewise, if you host a contest, offer a coupon or some other form of promotion, those who get involved with your app can much more quickly check contest updates from an app and receive automated notifications (with permission of course). The app makes waiting for your responsive website to load, asking the user to find the contest page, then wait for that page to load, etc. seem prosaic. An app simply makes any interaction with your web content immediately available with a simple touch of an icon, rather than forcing a web page and more complex navigation through the smaller screen.

Learning from Experience

Small Business mobile app example

ComBridges’ Facebook Feed in our test mobile app

By way of example, as a boutique web design and marketing agency, our company, ComBridges used to have a mobile-friendly version of our website that was visible via smartphones. This was developed using a WordPress plug-in called WPTouch Pro. Recently, we have redesigned and relaunched our own site with a responsive WordPress theme.

What opens up the opportunity for a small business like ours (and so many others) to have its own app is online software services like Conduit.com’s Mobile. While these apps do require a small, additional monthly hosting fee, they are easy for developers like us to implement. So much so that some do-it-yourselfer small businesses could even build apps on their own. It’s a work in progress, but if you have a smartphone, you can preview our first generation mobile app via any mobile device at combridges.conduitapps.com.

You will notice that what you see on our app looks very different than what you see on our website. It’s designed for mobile interaction. In fact, thanks to Conduit, much of the content is automatically derived from our Facebook Page, Twitter feed and more. As you can see, many of our social media pages are featured along with easy options for contacting us, including click to call functionality.

Greeting the Mobile Future

According to Morgan Stanley, 91% of individuals who own smart phones keep their phone within reach 24/7. And 5.1 billion of the 7 billion people on earth own a mobile phone. With these numbers in mind, why wouldn’t every business want to make it easier for their customers, blog readers, Twitter or Facebook followers to engage with them via a mobile app?

Another benefit is that if you develop your business app now, before the gap widens further, you may well be seen as an innovator. At the very least, you will prove yourself smart enough to get an early jump on the next wave of mobile marketing strategies, rather than letting the gap widen between you and your competitors, as well as between you and your customers.


Jon Leland is author of “Internet Marketing: 8 Key Concepts that Every Business MUST Know” and is the president of the boutique web design, video and Internet marketing agency, ComBridges.com. He was assisted in this article by Tara Hornor who also writes for PrintPlace.com, an online printing company.