If you’re like me, your smart phone is loaded with apps. It is no surprise that tens of millions of apps are downloaded every single day. Technology has transformed smart phones into an all-in-one multi-function device.
You no longer need a digital camera, a video recorder, a GPS device, a webcam, video games or a streaming portal for TV and video; all you have to do is download a few apps and your smartphone or tablet can get turbo-charged to do virtually anything.
For marketers, there has been an “app gold rush” to take advantage of this new technology.
The first wave was driven by novelty and entertainment apps. The second phase has seen companies develop apps with the goal of building their brands with more substance, information and utility to connect with customers.
The third phase is what I am most excited about: where mobile marketing meets mobile business. At SAP where I work, a big focus is on mobility, helping a business owner run their business better, anytime and anywhere. Businesses no longer need to be tethered to a desktop or a mainframe to run a business process; they can run it from their smartphone, their tablet or their laptop.
This is part of the global evolution to a mobile society. More and more consumers and business owners are going mobile. The companies that will be most successful in this mobile society and marketplace will be the ones that successfully tie together their business, their marketing and technology to create an impactful user experience.
A recent story in the New York Times (http://r-i.co/Gx) highlights how deeply mobile and cloud-based technologies are penetrating the most unusual secors.
When you think of businesses, it does not get more traditional than farming. While the agriculture industry uses technology and sophisticated software to run commercial farming businesses, it was hard to imagine that technology being used by the farmer directly in the field.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, two entrepreneurs started a software business designed to address the specialized needs of farmers. Jesse Vollmar and Brad Koch started FarmLogs, a company that would provide cloud-based software to enable farmers to track all of their field activities, providing a log of what was done on each field, such as tilling, spraying, fertilizing and other processes.
Another agriculture mobility venture called Farmeron is focused on livestock management. A third, called Solum, provides soil analysis, which is critical to farming.
While the farming industry isn’t completely online yet, I like the approach FarmLogs, Farmeron and Solum are taking. All three have identified clear business needs in their target industry. Their solutions are simple to implement, making it relatively painless to have farmers go from notebooks and spreadsheets to web-based solutions that can be run from a laptop or hand-held device. And finally, they are affordable.
While branding is my passion, creating an app without a strong business strategy will not sustain long-term growth and success. In some industries, where processes are still paper-based, the adoption cycle is going to be longer.
When trying to penetrate an industry where inventory management is a clipboard and a #2 pencil, it is unrealistic to expect quick traction. In the case of these three agri-business ventures, they recognize the realities of their market and their prospective customers.
- They are solving a clearly-defined problem for the farmer
- The farmer does not need a lot of technical know-how to implement because it’s cloud-based
- The cost makes it an affordable investment
- The solutions are scalable and integrated
These are examples of how sound and simple marketing principles can grow a business.