Don’t Hang up on the iPhone

By Beacon Staff

Earlier this week, Steve Jobs announced the new iPhone and talked about the new software tools for it.

You probably haven’t seen too many iPhones around the Flathead because you currently have to use AT&T for your cell service – which we don’t have here.

Despite that, things like programmer-accessible GPS functionality and what looks like a great set of tools means the smart small business owner could really get an edge from the right iPhone application.

So let’s talk about the possibilities.

Let’s say you own a restaurant. Imagine if an iPhone owner, their spouse and another couple are driving around deciding where to go for dinner.

They call up an app called TonightsSpecial on their phone. Because the iPhone has a GPS in it, it knows where you are. It displays the current specials at restaurants within a 15 minute drive (or 5 or whatever the iPhone owner decides) of your current location.

It shows the wait time for seating, price range and how to get there from your current location – again, since your phone knows where you are and where the restaurant is.

And with a touch, it tells the restaurant to hold a table for 4 for seating 15 minutes from now, because you’ll be right over.

Or maybe you own a motel. And some poor, tired traveler has been driving all day from the Midwest to get to Glacier Park. They’re tired. Their kids are tired. Their spouse is after them to find a motel, and because it’s the first weekend in August – ie: Sturgis – there are no rooms at the inn, not even in a manger.

The driver’s iPhone has an app on it called SleepTight that tells you where all the empty hotel rooms are within a 20 minute drive. That is, a 20 minute drive of your current location, since there’s a GPS in the phone. Instead of that family driving past Rapid City thinking every room is full, they turn left just past the Air Force base, following the mapped out directions on their phone to a room that cancelled just moments earlier by a biker whose daughter just went into labor.

Rather than having a room-night go up in smoke, you just did 2 things: Rented a room for the night that was probably going to go to waste and 2, pulled a tired driver off the road and made their spouse and kids a lot happier.

Maybe you’re a Realtor and you’re trying to hang on in today’s not so giddy marketplace And you have had someone build (or you signed up for a service that offers) an iPhone app that automatically notifies a prospective buyer (your client) about newly listed properties that match their needs.

You might be fishing, golfing, or in the middle of a closing. Meanwhile, that iPhone app is telling the client where the newly-listed home is, offering driving directions, and offers to make an appointment with you to meet there. Based on your calendar’s current openings, of course.

Or, you belong to a network of independent kayak stores. So when you join the independent whitewater store network, your shop appears on someone’s iPhone when they open that app. Because they broke a paddle, or want to rent a helmet, and so on.

Again, since a GPS is built-in, it can show me the closest shop to the iPhone’s current location.

No matter what market you’re in – and especially if you’re in the retail, restaurant or hospitality business, there are a pile of iPhone application possibilities here to make your business even more personal. That’ll give you the chance to reach customers you never knew you missed and take advantage of an opportunity that most competitors won’t even see until they’re 6 months behind the curve.

Certainly, some of this can be done now, from a web page, or the Yellow pages, with a lot more effort on the part of the customer. You have a chance to take care of them that you might not have had – and that’s exactly what they want, otherwise they wouldnt be using that iPhone app.

Who doesn’t like having pre-sold buyers drive up to the front door?

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at

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