While seated at Albany’s 5th Annual Small Business Day this week, I had a chance to hear from a Verizon Wireless representative from my area. He was there to talk to business owners about the opportunities that lie in the area of mobile applications. He let us know that 52 percent of the phones he sold last week were smartphones – Web-enabled phones that customers are using to access information on the go. And that number is only going to grow, especially as Google continues to become further and further entrenched in the space.
When it comes to mobile applications, not all apps are created equal. But for every iBeer and PhoneSaber, there’s a business-focused application that can help you engage, build your brand and even help you make smarter business decisions. Below you’ll find a handful of mobile apps that provide big SMB benefits.
Social Networking Mobile Apps
If you have an iPhone or Android device, you’re probably already using this application. If you haven’t heard of it, Bump allows users to “bump”their phones together to share contact information, photos, calendar information, or connect on social networks. Though it may sound silly, it’s actually quite helpful at networking events, when discussing potential partnerships or any other time you’re meeting a new business contact. As an added bonus, it also drives BlackBerry users crazy when you “bump” in front of them.
The same social media sites you use via your desktop can also help you connect with customers via the mobile Web. Whether it’s responding to a tweet while on the go, uploading a photo of your business to Facebook or creating a new status update on LinkedIn, these social apps allow you to keep customers and colleagues up to date on your business even when you’re not sitting at your computer. I also feel they help in taking that social relationship to the next level. There’s something very personal about the business owner who takes a photo of a pie that just came out of the oven and immediately uploads it to Twitter or Facebook. You reach people in the moment and drive them into your store. Because we’re all using our phones, it seems more intimate and more connected.
If you’re using a WordPress blog then you may also want to pick up the WordPress mobile application that will let you post, edit and approve comments to allow you to manage your blog on the go. You can also configure WordPress to cross-promote your posts to Twitter and Facebook to help share them with those audiences while you’re out and about. I often rely on this application to approve blog comments when traveling or stuck in line at the post office. It’s a lot easier to whip out your BlackBerry while seated on the train than your laptop.
Mobile Apps for Doing Business
Evernote is a mobile productivity application that pretty much amazes you the first time you use it. How it works is that you either take a photo of something, record a snippet of audio (maybe a blog post idea or a receipt amount), enter text, etc., and Evernote will then save what you enter and make it searchable. That means if you’re in a meeting and someone throws up an impressive slide, you can take a photo and have it be searchable later. Or, if you’re out researching new computers, you can take a photo of the spec sheet and then bring it up later by searching. Because Evernote can actually “read” the text and record it, it makes whatever you scanned/entered completely searchable. It’s pretty cool.
The premium version of this application offers bigger upload capacity and other advanced features at just $5 a month.
As the name suggests, this is a shopping application. With it, SMB owners can use their phone’s camera to scan barcodes and find the best prices online and in-store for the item they’re looking at. It may sound like this is one of those frivolous, sheep-throwing type applications, but it can really save your small business quite a bit of money. Use it when you buy office supplies, new electronics, educational books or magazines, or anything else you may purchase for your business.
Or, if you’re a local retailer, either upload your items to Google Base (which you should be doing anyway) or provide ShopSavvy with your API and you can include your items in their database. It’s a great way to expose your business to targeted customers in your area. After all, if customers don’t know about your items, they can’t buy them. Make sure you get your products listed with ShopSavvy to help them find you.
Shoeboxed iPhone App
If you’re currently sporting the iPhone, then Shoeboxed has a great application to help you track expenses. Just take a photo of your receipt and the application will extract the data and post it to your account. From there you can create expense reports, track receipts and more. Perhaps the only flaw with this application is that, to date, it’s only available for the iPhone. I’d love to see one for the BlackBerry.
If you’re using an Android device, then Cashbook is a pretty good alternative. I’m still trying to find one I like for the BlackBerry.
Docs To Go
With Docs To Go, SMBs can create, view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files directly from their mobile devices. If you often find yourself working on the go or trying to access files, this is a handy app to have around. As I mentioned earlier, it’s often a lot easier to grab your mobile device than your laptop. Zoho Mobile is another great application for creating docs or spreadsheets on the go, if you prefer that suite.
Those are some of my favorite mobile apps, but as an SMB owner you should be working with any application that ranks well and is relevant to your business or can help you work smarter. Which mobile apps are you currently using?