Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mobile: The Next Crazy-Making, Must-Know Marketing Skill

Kim Dushinski, founder of Mobile Marketing Profits and author of The Mobile Marketing Handbook, writes that, very soon, all businesses will have a mobile marketing presence. "Mobile" includes our cell phones, natch, but also refers to any sort of away-from-home device that can access the Internet through Wi-Fi: basic flip phone to smartphone to iPhone, PDAs, sub-laptop sized computers, even gaming units.

“It’s the new technology and it’s coming quickly,” she says, noting that in Asia it’s already omnipresent (check out Digital Korea). Over half the population of the planet has a mobile phone already and in some places mobile phone use is reportedly 100% (not sure how babies are using cell phones, at least not yet). In the U.S. only about 80% of us have cell. Overall, use is growing at 42% per year and is predicted to have a $7.6 billion impact by 2013.With its importance as the Seventh Mass Media (along with print, recording, cinema, radio, TV, and the Internet), marketers will be called upon now or sooner to fit mobile into the marketing strategy.

Success, of course, will depend on our finding something of value to provide customers via mobile. Target groups who are already mobile savvy include people under 30 (born with flying thumbs), business data plan users (who cares how much it costs?), and Latinos. Busy women top the up-and-coming market. Don’t try to sell stuff to mobile users, though. Younger groups especially are wary of advertising, marketing, and anything commercial, especially spammed text messages. In this market, we'll have to figure out how to make money when we're giving it (whatever "it" is) away.

To seduce mobile users, then, we'll need to offer something that will add value to whatever they're doing at the moment. For now, top mobile marketing strategies include location-specific information (addresses, driving directions, maps, storefront photos); timely information (pricing alerts, flight info); tips to make life easier (menu options, calorie counts); a financial incentive (coupons); entertainment (games, trivia, contests, recordings); and connection (social networking like OrbitzTLC).

B2C businesses have an edge in mobile marketing so far. Social media are the natural partner to mobile marketing, though, so here’s where service-based or information businesses have an edge. “Your focus will be about building a presence and staying connected to your customers,” Duschinski says.

Getting involved will be complicated. Mobile marketing is 100% opt-in, so we've got to find a way to persuade customers to ask for what we're offering, then make it easy for them to sign-on. Curiously, the move to mobile marketing may give more traditional strategies like direct mail a renewed raison d'etre.

When we get into serious mobile marketing, we'll need to partner with vendors who provide transcoding, 2D bar codes, connection aggregators, mobile platform providers, minature website design, abbreviated dialing codes, and a plethora of other mobile-specific technology. If you haven’t heard of “short codes,” you will.

Like social media, it's going to drive us crazy, but mobile marketing is sure to spawn new marketing strategies, which could be fun. For example, location-specific mobile marketing is already employing such old-fashioned tactics as billboards or people walking around in t-shirts that feature a message with a short code. Duschinski’s book, for example, imagines a t-shirt with “Want a FREE lunch?” on the front, and “Text LUNCH to 12345 [the short code]” on the back.

Finally, whatever else we do, our text messages will have to be 160 characters or less, so there’s sure to be even more work for copywriters who can say something significant in a few words.

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