Is 2011 The Year of the App for B2B Marketers

Many folks claim that 2011 will be the year of the “app” or mobile application. Here’s my interview with Aron Ezra, CEO of MacroView Labs on the potential of apps for B2B marketers:

1. Briefly define what an app is

MVL: In the mobile world, an app, short for an “application,” usually refers to a software program that runs on a smartphone or tablet. A video game on your phone is an app, as is an alarm clock, banking program, or HR toolkit.

2. What role does an app play in an integrated marketing communications mix?

MVL: Gartner estimates that by 2013 more people will be accessing the Internet via mobile phones than personal computers. Mobile technology is huge and growing fast — it plays a key role in influencing how target audiences make decisions, making it an increasingly important communications and marketing tool. Apps allow companies to interact with their internal and external audiences at any time and from anywhere; they can offer location-specific, targeted outreach to specific internal and external stakeholders; and they integrate seamlessly with social media tools and feedback tools. What’s more, apps and mobile sites allow organizations to gather get very helpful analytics data unavailable anywhere else.

3. Why should B2B companies use apps? Isn’t it for B2C’s?

MVL: While B2C has taken up the lion’s share the press, B2B apps are quickly growing in popularity thanks to a track record of excellent results. Our B2B work falls into two areas: apps for external stakeholders like clients and prospects, and apps for internal stakeholders like board members, new employees, sales teams, HR departments, and vendors.

There are hundreds of different functionalities that can be incorporated into these types of apps, so it’s tough to sum up succinctly what they can do. A consulting business might use an external B2B app to allow clients to access the firm’s white papers and consultant directory; a recruiting firm can build apps to more easily present candidates to clients and solicit resumes; while a trade association might create an app for their annual conference. (An example of this is the app we did for NetVU, an insurance organization:

On the internal side, we can create apps that allow staff to get a mobile intranet that allows them to check payroll and benefits info, get wellness reminders, find where other members of the team are, schedule shifts, do multimedia sales presentations via iPad, create apps for boards of directors, take continuing education classes on the go, and more. Those apps can be privately distributed without making the info available in an app store.

4. What is a stand out B2B app that you admire?

MVL: Our goal isn’t to just build apps – our goal is to make our clients more efficient and profitable using mobile technologies. A good app advanced the business metrics of the owner. The apps we admire and build go beyond merely duplicating a client’s website, they take advantage of the features of the mobile device and contribute to the bottom line.

5. Which B2B sectors could benefit most from an app, in your opinion?

MVL: Any organization with more than about 100 employees and a good number of clients can benefit.

6. Can you make 1 prediction about mobile B2B in 2011?

MVL: We’ll see mobile continue to grain traction in the B2B market as more companies transition from the older generation of smartphones to the latest machines. 2011 will be a year of experimentation in the space, and there will be a lot of opportunities for businesses to generate great financial/operational results and terrific PR from those early successes. In 2012, I think those models will be copied by a much broader range of companies, and we’ll see B2B apps become very widely used.

(CC) Image courtesy Cristiano Betta