I’ve been blogging about online distribution channels and the reverse value chain, and how important they are as a marketing tool. Custom applications are just another extension of that idea of using custom-made tools to improve your marketing – online and off. But, I think they are a seriously underutilised resource for any marketer today. They can provide priceless data on your clients, which can hugely influence the effectiveness of your online marketing communications.

Developers like us specialise in creating custom applications for our clients, where we can tailor the application for a specific client objective. But if you want to go down this road successfully and unlock the value of the information you can collect on your customers by using a custom app, you must have real passion and dedication to consumerism and social networking. 

Getting back to the idea of the reverse value chain, a marketer should be guiding the customer to the product, not the other way around. And this sort of information you can get by understanding the types of technologies your customers are using on a regular basis.

Of course, it all sounds simple enough, but unless you spend all day, every day researching all of the available applications in the market today, then it’s fair to say you’d probably be fairly lost in what is right for your objective (and you’ve probably got other things to worry about like getting ROI on your marketing communications).

It’s because of this abundance of information in the market that it’s fundamental that a marketer engages with a digital expert who actually understands the space and what is available as part of the distribution mix. The most important question you need to answer in the digital space is: where does the customer live online? What types of technologies do they like to use to communicate? And your digital partner should be able to guide you in the right direction to answer that question and look at how these technologies may change over time.

Once you’re guided in the right direction it’s almost like having a free customer service department online. You’re able to receive free data through different social technologies. It could be critical or empowering but whatever the case, it’s real, truthful data that hasn’t been manipulated by some mechanical process, and that’s almost priceless.

Imagine what you would spend on focus groups – which have their place – where people tend to mediate their responses and where their responses are again translated to you. Custom apps give you real time, unmediated information that is essentially free.

Naturally the end result of using a custom application is how to get your customer to touch your product by stepping into their environment online, it should never be product to customer.