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Native mobile applications are easier than you thinkNative mobile applications are easier than you think

Time. That’s all David St. George of the East Hill Flying Club has invested in a custom mobile application for his business. The result of a little hard work and some patience means his club is now literally in the pocket of hundreds of current and potential members.

The decision to develop the application was easy for St. George. His philosophy is that marketing has to be across many channels. “Ten years ago everyone had to have a website,” he said. “Now it’s passé. Communicating with people is critical. If you can live on your phone, you’re closer to their heart.”

Although native applications can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 or more, St. George decided to apply his own programming skills learned over years of managing the club’s website. He started working at it on a weather day in September, and slowly built it up over a period of a few months. Although he says there are programs available that make developing applications quite easy, St. George decided to continue the evolution of his responsive website (meaning it works well on any device) by using its built-in capability to design for mobile. He then used a third-party software to submit the application to Apple because the company requires applicants to have a developer’s license.

Including a two-week turnaround from Apple, St. George spent about four months between lessons, mowing grass, and shoveling snow to create the application. The result is a nice package that brings the club directly to the members. In its first week out he says there were 150 downloads.

Like any marketing channel, the application can be targeted to whomever the developer believes will benefit. In the case of East Hill Flying Club, St. George thinks that’s current customers. He does include information on learning to fly, but the primary focus is further engaging the users he already has. “This is internal marketing if you will. It’s directed at people who are already members and hopefully upgrading ratings and certificates and definitely actively participating in our everyday events,” he says.

To that end, St. George sees the app’s biggest benefit as its push notifications. These are the little messages applications can bring to the forefront on the mobile device to alert users to news, products, messages, and so on. So if the weather is nice and he’s trying to get a group together to go flying, St. George can now push a button and alert all the users at the same time. It’s more immediate than email but less intrusive than a text message.

He also sees the application as “one-stop shopping” for everything from aircraft scheduling to weather. By offering the resource St. George hopes members will turn to the application for these essential tasks, bringing them in touch with the club that much more often.

If you don’t have the programming capability to develop something like this, St. George recommends enlisting a member or student or help, possibly in exchange for airplane time or something else the person values. The result could be a relatively painless way to get your business in front of new customers or further engage the ones you already have.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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