5 Ways for B2B to Use Mobile Apps
Sean Flaherty and I met at Teardrop in Portland to catch up after the New Year. Sean’s company, ITX, offers software product development services from strategy to support to serve marketers needs (web site and mobile app planning, design, architecture, production, comprehensive support and analytics) across devices. He is not only a marketing techie, but also a cocktail geek. He introduced me to a classic cocktail, The Old Pal. What a wonderful drink with a mixture of dryness and lightness and a touch of lemon, bitter orange and quinine flavors. Cheers, Sean! (See the Sean’s special recipe below)
Half way through our conversation, he proudly showed me the mobile app ITX just developed for its customers. I asked him why they developed a mobile app for the specific purpose of presenting project status updates, when this information can easily be accessed through the existing ITX websites.
Start with a purpose
Sean had a purpose in mind when he created that mobile app. I will touch on that in the third bullet below. Sean made a point of explaining that any marketing effort need to have a clear purpose. Mobile apps are no exception. You need to understand “WHY” you create your mobile app. Clearly articulate the purpose of the mobile app and the benefits to users when they use the app. Don’t create an app unless you know what end-users need it will address. Amen to that, Sean. I emphasized a similar point in my book, Global Content Marketing. It all comes back to your purpose and your audience.
Sean continued to identify three potential reasons to create B2B mobile apps. I added content assessment and corporate communications as two additional reasons.
5 Ways for B2B to Use Mobile Apps
- Sales Enablement
- Employee Productivity
- Customer Retention
- Content Assessment
- Corporate Communications
This is the most common usage of B2B mobile apps. Depending on the features and design, this type of mobile app allows the sales team to demo products and access sales presentations and product information across devices. If the mobile app is well-design and user-friendly, you can track usage analytics to better understand how and what content is being accessed. Triangulation with account coverage, sales feedback and CRM databases enables further quantification of the sales impact of your mobile app.
Paychex provides payroll and HR services for small and large enterprises. They strive to create world class payroll services for their customers, yet their own employees were calling the company’s call centers to get help understanding their paycheck status. To address this issue, Paychex created a user-friendly and easy to understand mobile app for entering virtual time cards and displaying detailed status of paychecks and other employee benefit related information. As a result, calls to the help center decreased to almost zero, reducing call center costs and improving customer satisfaction.
Sean discovered that
Mobile has become the preferred platform, even for work related activities. This led to the belief that the preferred method for tracking personal project status is also on a mobile device. By providing a mobile app, customers are now able to track the status of all project work at any time and anywhere as long as they have their mobile device. In addition, Sean added an escalation feature to this app. If customers are not happy or have further enquiries about a specific issue, they can hit a “call” button and reach him or the CEO directly 24/7.
With that ‘escalation’ feature, this mobile app is no longer a status-tracking app; it becomes an extension of the customer relationship function for the sales team and enables ITX to tout a ‘customer first’ message for marketing communications.
It’s interesting that one unique feature broadens the positioning of this mobile, but the purpose of this mobile app stays the same: to provide better customer experience and support!
To make subscribers feel exclusive, some companies create mobile apps for their paid subscribers to access public and exclusive content. This is popular with publishing, media companies and content aggregation sites (Harvard Business Review, The WSJ, Interior Design and Fliboard etc.). This can also be used to access companies’ Sharepoint or collaboration sites.
More and more enterprises are creating different apps for different functions within the companies. The most common mobile app is to access companies’ intranet sites. Intel provides airplane shuttle service between the Hillsboro Airport in Oregon and the Santa Clara Airport in California for their employees who frequently travel between those sites. A mobile app was created to allow easy booking and status checking. There is even a mobile app for new employees to look up Intel’s many unique acronyms.
For marketing professionals, we often need to determine which form factor (a website or a mobile app) will be most appropriate for our users. Sean contends that the question is not about a website versus a mobile app. He stresses that you need to ask yourself three questions:
- What purpose do you want to accomplish?
- What experience do you want to provide to your users?
- What will make it easy for your users?
Once you can answer these three questions, the answer of a website vs. a mobile app will naturally come to you. He also mentions that responsive or adaptive website design is a must.
Throughout the night, we tried different versions of the Old Pal with different whiskies and different bitter mixes. Who would have known that a classic cocktail could spark a blog post about mobile apps?! Sean, let’s get together again, when you are in Portland. I am looking forward to getting another cocktail recommendation from you. See you soon, old pal.
Bonus: Sean’s secret recipe. He calls the drink, the Older Pal. Give it a try!
2 parts Old Overholdt Rye
1 Part Amaro Nonino
1 Part Aperol
2 dashes of Fee Brother’s Orange Bitters