I was having a chat recently with my company’s strategic advisor, and we were reminiscing over some of the ideas I had a year and a half ago when I started my company – and how a few of those ideas have changed. Some changed slowly over time as new experiences injected fresh insights while others changed dramatically and swiftly to meet a discovered need in the market we could meet.
One of the best lessons I’ve learned as the founder of a startup is that it is possible to pivot, to shift original ideas to meet a market need without losing the passion or vision that inspired one to start in the first place.
I started APPCityLife because I saw the need for a better way to access information about my community in the mobile space. I still believe passionately in providing solutions for that problem, but I’ve gotten wiser over the past year and half as to what those solutions really are. Providing free finger-tip access to a wide range of information about a local community is still paramount to what we do, and the relationships we’ve built with city government and local business groups affirm that we’re meeting a real need in the community.
But one of the things I’ve had to “pivot” on is whether there is a need for small businesses to own their own iPhone app.
The visits I’ve had with small business owners from almost every business sector have convinced me that small business apps will do for this generation what television advertisements did in the ’60’s. Let’s think back to the introduction of TV’s. (Yes, I remember black and white cartoons, test patterns at night, and live commercials in TV shows.) When television was still a fairly new technology, early marketing innovators saw the value of promoting products on a device that was primarily for entertainment and information.
The mobile phone market holds many similarities. Introduced primarily as a communication device, until recently the term “mobile marketing” referred to moving billboards on busses. (Thanks, Adam Greenhood of Esparza Advertising, for sharing this bit of history with me.) Today mobile marketing is quickly growing into a multi-billion dollar industry, but most of it is still focused on banner ads, SMS ads, and, well, more banner ads.
We don’t think banner ads are the holy grail of mobile marketing, so we’re not even going there. We think that most consumers are a lot like, well, me. This is what I want from the businesses around me:
From my health club, I want to know when they’re offering a free trial of a new class I like or when they’re closing early for a holiday – or when they’re having a slow day and will get me in for a massage at a discount.
From the boutique clothing store I frequent, I want to know when they have new merchandise in stock and when they’re having a sale on something I’ve been eyeing.
From my insurance agent, I want to know how to file a claim after a major hail storm and where to send pictures from the damage of a broken water heater.
From my favorite restaurant, I want to browse their menu, check out drink specials, and purchase takeout food so that all I have to do is swing by and pick up dinner without any wait.
And I want to do it all on my phone, ready when I’m ready.
We think that when businesses can do all that – we think that’s the real holy grail of mobile marketing.
Which is exactly why we’ve made a pivot in our company to add small business apps both through the App Store as well as housed in our free CityLife guides. We’ve already signed strategic agreements with several new partners to bring even more powerful options to our apps, and we’re in conversations with several more. We’re gearing up to help businesses market their services and goods 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
Sure we all want madly discounted vacations and spa treatments. But we want so much more. And after this last pivot, APPCItyLife is ready to help businesses do everything that we as consumers want. It’s good for consumers, and it’s good for businesses.