The best way to get someone’s attention is to offer something for free. 
The best way to keep someone’s attention is to offer something valuable for free.

It’s a simple rule but one that’s working for a number of companies that have learned that free apps are a great way to advertising online. Here’s where online advertising through gaming parts ways with online advertising through app building. Gaming is fun and in some cases works as a great business model. However, in a day to day business environment, it’s useful tools that lead the way.

Most of us work on the go and that’s just the name of the game in a mobile-efficient world. Successful entrepreneurs are still lingering in bed, getting the crusties out of their eyes while tackling their inbox. It’s about working through the small moments, taking advantage of the time we have (even if it’s while waking up), and using the right tools to get the job done. A recent poll furthers this fact with 72% of small businesses saying they use a mobile app, and 40% adding that their “business most likely would not survive – or would be greatly challenged – without mobile apps.”

Now multiply this basic business characteristic with the over 66 million Americans that use a smartphone and you’ll develop a powerful picture showcasing apps’ relevance.

What better way to advertise online than to create a useful app? Apps can be created for just about any use, from general needs to fanciful apps created just for your customer basis. The most successful apps will range from need-based apps that cater to convenience, all the way to apps that spark creativity.

Business owners can take a cue from one small business that really took a bold move in this direction. A regional holiday décor retail shop, Miss Cayce’s Christmas Store, created Show Me Decorating to showcase their holiday decorating ideas. While the investment cost them a steep $20K, the two-women team felt it would be a solid investment and a cost-effective re-useable solution compared to traditional print marketing.

Traditional print marketing gets you a couple ads that ultimately get tossed in the bin. You have no way of tracking analytics, of knowing how many people are downloading the app or how often. Every app download, every visit, reinforces your brand and creates a connection. Meanwhile its counterpart – the traditional print ad – has already been recycled into something else entirely. Your ad is essentially dead before it even starts in traditional print ads. Mobile ads are also fleeting, though trackable. Businesses get just a window of time to feature their ads, with the time span depending on their budget.

Though getting a custom app built is expensive for smaller businesses, they’re essentially getting an “ad monument” in digital stone versus something far more transient. Investing in online advertising through ap building also creates value for your business and brand. You have something to offer and customers have something to flock to you for. Even though Miss Cayce’s Christmas Store is regionally-based, I can only imagine how many Christmas enthusiasts would have delighted at the app, and how many would then have also learned of the shop. How many more would visit their site and make a purchase online at some point?

However, you don’t have to fork out $20K to build an app. There are plenty of reputable and cost-friendly app building tools. You just have to figure out what you’re going to offer and how you’re going to design the app. You just need an app strategy.