"I am also in the group of people believing a mobile friendly website is a much more flexible and inexpensive way to cater to your mobile visitors."
You should have both, nowadays both are easy and affordable. I think a lot of people believe this, but this will change. Already creating mobile apps is fast becoming more affordable and easy to do, so small businesses will be able to compete finally with bigger competitors. And it will do all the things we already think of: help branding, spread the word, engage with clients/customers. These are all important things, but mobile marketing technology does not only have to be used to cater to your mobile visitors. In general I believe small businesses will begin to use this technology to be better organized and up to date. You can create an app for your company to be used by you and your employees as a way to stay on top of your statistics: sales, competition, your social media presence. If you are a company that sends out sales representatives, having an app is a way to keep your employees up to date to the second on what you have in stock, how much, who is on what call , who is in what area. So when you have a representative getting a question from prospective client, they dont have to call back into office to see what the most recent updates are on company products in stock in what color, size, etc. Rather, they can get on their phone.
Of course mobile apps will allow small businesses to engage customers in all the ways we already think of as well: you can give clients the opportunity to get your app to have updated coupons, discounts, news, etc.
One site that is unique in that is lets small businesses create their own apps with virtually no knowledge of the technology:http://www.viziapps.com/Default.aspx
Here you can design and publish an app for 1/10th the price and time of hiring a freelancer or outside company to do it for you. And there is no coding involved so it is as easy as creating a powerpoint document! I think this sort of technology is going to pick up in the future and since anyone without expertise will be able to afford this technology I think eventually it will become a standard and useful tool for small businesses of all types.
Maybe ten years ago, small businesses never thought they would need or want to send email newsletters to customers or have a website. They thought it would be too much money and time spent on something that small businesses didnt need, but those thins became standardized. I think the best thing about these new technologies is that it gives small businesses a fighting chance to really compete with bigger companies that have more resources.