Welcome to the Mobile World Should Your Marketing Include Mobile Sites and Apps?

As most practices have finally realized the benefits of running a consistent marketing campaign that includes utilizing both traditional and online marketing, the new mobile arena presents as many questions as solutions. What is mobile search? What is the difference between an ‘app’ and a mobile website? What does all of this mean for my practice? This article intends to explain this new platform, and how a successful medical business deals with technology that is always changing.

To understand where we are, we have to understand how quickly the mobile platform has progressed. Mobile telephones were introduced in the 1970’s and were a novelty luxury item through the 1980’s. By 1990, approximately 12.4 million people worldwide had cellular phone subscriptions.

“…many prognosticators predict that the mobile platform will soon outpace the usage of personal computing.”

At the close of 2009, that number had grown exponentially to 4.6 Billion. With Apple’s introduction of the ‘mobile computer’ in the iPhone, the pairing of mobile usage and internet technology were forever married. Apple was the first to reinvent the device and host a proprietary App store that would allow developers to create software for the end user. This virtual store feeds nearly a half million apps to millions of iPhone devices worldwide. With the introduction of the iPad, a non-phone mobile device, many prognosticators predict that the mobile platform will soon outpace the usage of personal computing. Apple’s success in the mobile device market has sparked Android, Blackberry, RIM and others to develop their own mobile platforms, meaning more and less expensive resources for the end user, which will continue to spur the growth of mobile search. Mobile search is blossoming and specific mobile technology is required to stay current – even for the Vein practitioner based in “Anytown USA.”

What is a ‘Mobile Website’?

As with all technology, the mobile platform has it’s limitations. Screen resolution, flash capability, load time capability, and navigation are just a few. To combat these limitations, you can either create a mobile friendly website that allows users to easily utilize your existing website on a mobile device, or alternatively create a completely different mobile version of your website that provides concise information and maximizes the different technological architecture available on the mobile platform. Before deciding what the best solution is, one must understand their audience and web visitor traffic.

“The biggest question a medical provider needs to answer before deciding whether to build a mobile friendly site versus an independent mobile site is “why” people visit your site from a mobile device.”

The biggest question a medical provider needs to answer before deciding whether to build a mobile friendly site versus an independent mobile site is “why” people visit your site from a mobile device. Are they looking for specific contact information, treatment information or a skilled phlebologist? Are these new potential patients, or current ones? Did someone just hear your radio ad or see your billboard, and they want to find out more about your practice? This utilitarian versus marketing debate is one that can be understood by analyzing your specific web traffic, but the trends of the industry are clear – for a medical based business, most people are looking for information and you have 60 seconds to provide it to them – otherwise that potential patient is lost.

So, after analyzing your specific situation the ultimate question becomes, “is it worth it?” Mobile traffic to medical service based websites is approximately 5%, but the number is rising. With respect to reach, at the beginning of 2010 the number was just above 1%, and by the 2nd Quarter of 2011, the number is predicted to be over 10% of overall website traffic. given that a mobile friendly website requires an investment of money and time, and if done properly is not a ‘patch’ to your already created website, a complete reproduction of your website in a mobile version may seem like overkill for only 10% of your overall traffic. The best compromise may be a parsed down version of your website that presents only the most relevant information to your target audience, including physician competency, a summary page of treatments provided, and of course contact information.

I Have A Mobile Website – How Do People Find Me?

Once you understand mobile website technology, it’s crucial to understand mobile search. currently, more than 4 of every 10 searches done in the world are done via a mobile platform, which equates to millions of search queries every single day. currently, google owns the lion’s share of mobile search, accounting for upwards of 95% of all searches. What is not widely known is that google utilizes different mobile search algorithms as compared to traditional search. So, you could rank very well for certain keyword terms on the Internet from your personal computer, but be nonexistent in the mobile world. Moreover, if you are utilizing a paid or local paid search campaign for your website, it likely does not reach out to mobile users in your vicinity.

“At the end of the day, having a mobile friendly website is only relevant if you have the traffic to justify the investment.”

The solution to these issues is not only understanding your relevant positioning, but also employing a campaign to dominate mobile search. The relative infancy of the market and overall competition makes the barrier for entry low and potential for regional domination high. Your marketing group should develop a plan that includes mobile web optimization, google local positioning, and mobile paid campaigns to drive traffic to your mobile website or mobile friendly site. At the end of the day, having a mobile friendly website is only relevant if you have the traffic to justify the investment.

The Rise Of ‘Apps’ For Medical Use

It is clear that Apps have changed the landscape of the mobile world. Apple’s iPhone, introduced in 2007, allows people access to more than 500,000 various approved Apps via iTunes. These Apps include games, news, shopping, entertainment, and of course, medical, and are generally designed to save time, create expedited access to information and generate business – but the question is, do you need one?

The simple answer is usually no. Although the use of Apps on mobile devices are almost unavoidable, the creation of a practice specific App is left for only the most entrepreneurial minded Physicians. The average medical practice simply will not need a custom App. Apps should provide a purpose – essentially something outside of your website that would draw in users. Medical device companies, EHR companies and national directories are much more likely to find a purpose for Apps since they want to reach a large national audience.

In the future, we foresee the creation of Apps to determine risk factors associated with vein treatments, allow for on the go information to be shared within the office, and manage the day-to-day operations of your practice.

What Will The Mobile Future Hold?

Although we have seen a complete shift in thinking of what mobile technology is, no one can predict what will happen in the coming years. That being said, current trends provide insight into the future. We know that an increase in mobile traffic is even more likely as iPad and other tablet-style mobile devices start to utilize the same framework as mobile smart phones.

“The first computer to utilize mobile framework is set to launch in 2011…”

It’s predicted that mobile traffic will replace personal computing traffic by the end of the decade and more search will come from handheld devices than any other channel.

We can also expect a boom in Apps, as Apple and other Pc companies are promising complete computer systems running versions of “App stores” as opposed to traditionally installed software. The first home computer to utilize the same mobile framework as the iPad is set to be launched in 2011. competitors such as Dell and Lenovo are not far behind, especially in the newest laptop markets.

Finally, we are sure to see an even greater push towards geo location mapping, or using someone’s specific location to draw in traffic nearest to them. Using algorithmic tools such as google Universal and google caffeine, geo location serves a greater part in mobile marketing than it ever has before.

As you plan your future marketing campaigns, ask yourself: Will that potential patient find me on their mobile device? The answer to that question right now is becoming more important than ever.

Samuel E. Peek ([email protected]) is the Incredible Executive Officer of Incredible Marketing, an Interactive Marketing Agency focused on Custom Website Design, SEO, Social Media Marketing, Branding and Mobile application development for medical professionals around the world. Sam is a frequent speaker on SEO techniques,
and new trends in Internet Marketing. For more information, please visit www.incredible-marketing.com or call 800.949.0133